In a dynamic world with ever-shifting demands and mounting pressures, comprehending the significance of prioritization and maintaining focus can prove to be challenging. Because of these mounting pressures and demands, we strive to accomplish our objectives swiftly and efficiently, seeking the most exponential methods. Unfortunately, many times we sacrifice quality in exchange for convenience due to our inundated schedules.
However, we need to remember that while being efficient is important, it is vital to maintain our focus – regardless of how it may impact our perceived timeline. Our straight line to the goal or task can become woven and erratic through a lack of focus. In addition, we also lose the ability to provide clarity with an objective viewpoint because our uncertainty takes over, and things become ambiguous and undefined.
When our children lose focus, we see the same results – a pathway to an end result suddenly becomes chaotic and insufficient. Children often lose focus due to:
- Easily distracted/daydreaming
- Difficulty following instructions/goals
- Inability to keep things organized (Stephen, 2020).
By nature, children are curious and full of energy, so we must remember that teaching them ways to focus will not only improve their outcome in the present but will also begin a positive foundation for efficient practices as they get older.
Let’s examine how gaining and maintaining proper focus within the practice of martial arts specifically is not only beneficial, but necessary…and how losing that focus can negatively affect our natural progression within the sport.
What is the culprit in most situations where an adult or a child loses focus?
Dealing with consistently shifting ideas and actions as adults, we are inundated with distractions. Distractions force us into an unintentional mode of multi-tasking which can be beneficial at times but can be overwhelmingly detrimental for some who struggle with multiple things occurring simultaneously. We think that a quick check of social media or a momentary daydream isn’t harmful – it’s only a few moments, right? In fact, according to Entrepreneur Magazine (2018),
“Unfortunately, those minutes-long expenditures are only the tip of the iceberg. The time you spend on the distraction itself is trivial in most cases, but you also have to incorporate, in that “lost” time, the minutes it takes your brain to regain its focus on your initial task. And according to a study from the University of California-Irvine, that return to your original focus, following a distraction, takes, on average, a full 23 minutes and 15 seconds. In other words, if you’re distracted at least once every 23 minutes, there’s a good chance you’ll never ramp up to your fully focused potential.”
Knowing this, can you imagine the time wasted overall when we continuously allow distractions?
On the other side, research shows that children tend to be distracted easily due to a lack of interest in the subject at hand. The natural curiosity of a child transforms them into sponges for distractions, making it crucial to eliminate any external influences that might divert their attention from where they should be focused.
When we are practicing martial arts, there are many pieces to a bigger puzzle that we’re putting together – micro movements that build into defensive techniques and forms. As we advance in rank and understanding, we know that each movement is essential to the one before and after: it is a song that sounds “off” when a note is skipped or scratched. It’s absolutely imperative that we understand how distractions negate our ultimate goals, and essentially sabotage our intent to become more proficient in the long run.
Creating a focused environment that is conducive to studying and training is one of the first things any student should accomplish that is practicing martial arts at home.
We must dedicate a specific space and time to complete tasks/training, where boundaries are set and distractions (like electronic devices) are put aside. While we may think that we can just ignore these things, it’s an unfortunate reality that many of us naturally accept these distractions. Maintaining this space and time just for training will become an automatic response after some time and your focus will kick in without much effort.
One of the most efficient ways to focus on your martial arts roadmap is to set S.M.A.R.T. goals to prioritize and create a basis of focus (Healthline, 2019).
Specific – Often, we are overwhelmed during the process of learning something new. It’s important to divide our overall goal into smaller, more easily attained goals. This is especially true for children: it’s difficult to regain their focus when it’s lost through distractions or simply being uninterested which often occurs when something is exceedingly long. This is one of the positive attributes of our program: our learning material was purposefully broken down for this reason.
Measurable – If we can see our progress, it generally makes the learning process more enjoyable. Make sure your goals are measurable, and you can track your progress. A great way to do this with children is to reward them for each small goal. They will love the attention from you and their instructors and will find interest in receiving it again. Research has shown that our leaderboard and star grading program accomplish this effectively.
Achievable – If something feels unattainable, step back from the goal and re-evaluate what you can change to make it more realistic for you. Adults and kids alike do not all learn the same way, and we cannot expect them to focus and retain information the same. Within our program, we offer multiple ways to view, practice, and perform challenges so that each student feels it is possible for them to achieve.
Relevant – Is your smaller goal relevant to the bigger plan? Take a moment to analyze your specific, measurable points of achievement and ensure they are a sensible step towards your ultimate goal. Our program provides a clear, outlined roadmap for each student’s individual journey.
Timely – While it’s important to take the time necessary to learn and focus on the way that works best for YOU, it’s always going to be vital to do it in the most efficient way possible. In martial arts, you certainly don’t want to take decades to learn something that is typically achieved within a few years. As mentioned above, children will often lose focus due to the process being exceedingly long. Another advantage to our program: our research has shown that training online with us has students reaching their next progressive belt almost 50% faster! Read more about this research in our blog here.
By establishing a SMART goal, one can transform a seemingly overwhelming task into a more comprehensible objective, enabling a greater focus on the immediate task at hand. SMART goals also serve as a valuable tool for teaching children how to concentrate without feeling overwhelmed, while simultaneously laying a strong groundwork for future prioritization and time management skills.
Research has proven that we retain information and are able to regurgitate it more thoroughly when we learn it through repetition (Healthline, 2019). We know that the brain preferentially stores information it deems to be important (which is why children lose focus, because as we mentioned above, they don’t see the importance or have interest in what they’re learning).
According to James Gupta (2016),
“Our brain strengthens and consolidates memories of things it encounters regularly and frequently. So spaced repetition – revisiting information regularly at set intervals over time – makes a lot of sense. Spaced repetition is simple, but highly effective because it deliberately hacks the way your brain works. It forces learning to be effortful, and like muscles, the brain responds to that stimulus by strengthening the connections between nerve cells. By spacing the intervals out, you’re further exercising these connections each time. It produces long-term, durable retention of knowledge”.
You’ve probably heard the term “muscle memory” either inside or outside of the dojo. Muscle memory occurs naturally as we repeat the same movement over time. The same thing occurs with our brain, and how we retain information and is even more important when we’re learning how to gain and maintain focus.
Practice martial arts around the same time every day in the same place, and ensure your distractions are permanently removed. You will notice that you (or your children) will automatically understand that they are there for an ultimate goal, and it will not take as much conscious effort to focus and retain the information you’re learning.
When you enter a classroom, you know you’re about to learn. When you enter a gym, you know you’re about to work physically. Our brains recognize that we are in a location for a specific purpose, and there is a goal in mind. Through repetition, we solidify this.
While we can differentiate priorities amongst adults and children, we need to remember that the principles of gaining and maintaining focus remain the same – removing distractions, setting SMART goals that allow us to separate something that may appear overwhelming, and habitually repeating these actions over time to create a “muscle memory” for our brains. The process of becoming more proficient within martial arts is attainable for everyone, and we can make the journey fun and interesting when we apply these principles to maintain our focus.
Entrepreneur Magazine. Distractions are Hurting You More Than You Think. (2018) Retrieved from https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/314677
Healthline. How to Stay Focused. 2019. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/mental-health/how-to-stay-focused
Stephen, Shireen. (2020, 3 July) 13 Mind Blowing Tips to Increase Concentration in Kids. Flintobox. Retrieved from https://flintobox.com/blog/child-development/13-tips-increase-concentration-kids