Sometimes a student has difficulty executing a skill they’ve been performing well for months. How come? Surely that’s a problem?

There could be many reasons a technique stops working: lack of practice or bad posture, poor alignment or loss of connection to one’s opponent, bad timing or too much tension, loss of concentration or compromised stability, wrong balance between strength and relaxation or over thinking the whole thing… Each of these could easily make a skill less effective.

Perhaps a student has been used to performing the throw on a particular ‘shape of person’ and instead of learning to ‘feel’ the skill and the ‘connection’, he’s learnt it as a mechanical step process (step this amount, move this far). A step-by-step guide is less effective when limbs change lengths and bodies become different shapes…

When a skill doesn’t work, what happens after that is quite interesting. …and it says a lot about the student’s future development.

  • Do we jump to fix it, looking for ‘THE answer’?
  • Do we blame our opponent for ‘resisting’?
  • Do we argue that we were ‘taught something else’?
  • Do we think, “I can’t do the skill, my training is useless. How come they gave me this belt?”
  • Do we become obsessed with that particular skill and make it our personal mission to ‘fix’ everyone else because they’re obviously doing it wrong too?
  • Do we see it as an interesting puzzle to unravel?
  • Do we avoid the skill in future classes?
  • Do we persist, or do we give up? … and when do those reactions each kick in?

What effect does failure have on you? Surely that’s the more important question to consider.

No matter how proficient we become, there will always be an occasion where a skill doesn’t work as well as it might have. Now, I don’t want to encourage making careless mistakes, but failure can be a very positive experience. When we fail at a skill we are actually opening ourselves up to new learning/understanding.

In many ways Hapkido teaches us to become less fearful of mistakes. It teaches us to become more agile at learning, more tolerant of risks, more resilient and less paralysed by the negative effects of perfectionism.

Learning to be comfortable with mistakes is an essential skill of the Hapkido student, and an essential part of progression. In my experience, those who aren’t fearful of mistakes learn faster, better and enjoy the process more. When we remain fearful of making mistakes we inhibit our true potential.

The fear of making mistakes inhibits our potential

One thought on “The fear of making mistakes inhibits our potential

  • 16th October 2013 at 2:14 pm

    I think, I try very hard not to make mistakes in class. But they still happen all the time and although nobody tells me off or criticizes my mistakes in a bad way, I feel the need to perform better. So, in a way pressure builds up and I get tense and then it usually gets worse. I go away thinking: okay, next time, don’t get tense. Just relax and try your best and that then all of a sudden it works, well sometimes, which is really pleasing.
    Mistakes or not, I always enjoy class and I think this is what CHA is about, improving our skills, but also enjoying it while you improve. The learning atmosphere provided by Saboumnim and all the other class participants makes it easy for me not to dwell on the mistakes for too long, and just get on with it. I wish all learning could be like this.


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