Everyone experiences obstacles and adversity throughout their lifetime. Over the years, I’ve noticed that as a student progresses up the belts, their ‘Hapkido confidence’ develops, as well an ability to persevere through difficulties and withstand negative circumstances.

In many sports, the winner is not always the strongest or the fastest, but rather the one who maintains a belief in their ability to win right to the end of the game. Mental toughness, confidence and love for Hapkido is the fuel that pushes the martial artist through adversity, helping them to maintain an ability to navigate obstacles and cope with any frustrations and injuries that they might encounter.

So where does such a belief in one’s capability come from?

A belief in one’s capabilities has been termed ‘self-efficacy’, the origins of which lie in Social Cognitive Theory. This approach holds the position that an individual can play a part in their own self-development. Psychologist Albert Bandura defined self-efficacy as “belief in one’s capabilities to organise and execute the courses of action required to produce given attainments”. He identified four sources on which self-efficacy develops: performance accomplishments, vicarious experiences, verbal persuasion and emotional arousal. I want to explore how these are relevant to Hapkido practice…

  • Performance Accomplishments

When we perform a technique successfully, it strengthens our belief in our ability. Repeated success builds strong self-efficacy, which can also help mitigate against the effect of an occasional failure.  How a syllabus is structured, the choices an instructor makes about who to pair with whom, or the decisions about when to push someone or ease them back, is incredibly significant to a student’s development.

We’re never going to be successful all the time though. Just as success builds self-efficacy, significant and/or repeated failures can prompt efficacy to diminish unless the student is taught to redefine the focus from an unsuccessful outcome to effective learning and growth.

If we believe that the ability to overcome a setback is within our control, then failure and/or competition loss can be helpfully reprocessed as a chance to build future performance.

Successful experiences, and the ability to process unsuccessful experiences positively, is at the centre of our own sense of self-efficacy and lies at the heart of a well taught Hapkido class.

  •  Vicarious experiences

Classes of mixed belt levels offer students a whole host of benefits, not least the ability to see others performing their skills.  Giving people the experience of seeing others like themselves be successful prompts an individual to make judgements on their own capabilities.

‘If someone like me can do it, then I probably can too!’

This increased efficacy through experiencing others perform a task well is of particular importance to an individual when learning new skills.

As watching others is not enough itself, self-efficacy based purely on vicarious experiences will diminish rapidly however, if an athlete has significant unsuccessful experiences themselves.

…And (slightly off subject) that’s one of the many reasons why learning from a video or book is never as effective as being in a class.

  •  Verbal persuasion

School personality and the class environment is also instrumental in a student’s development.

Studies have shown that verbal persuasion in the form of instructor feedback, self-talk and the social support of family, friends and even spectators can all influence self-efficacy and enable us to significantly re-process experiences so that they become constructive and developmental.

Having a positive environment in which to train helps build individual and collective belief.  An instructor’s ability to create a positive and supportive environment is therefore essential for development. Equally each martial arts student plays a vital part in shaping the positive learning environment at Chang’s Hapkido Academy.

  •  Emotional arousal

What this means is that we learn to read our own physical and emotional states in a way that impacts self-efficacy. Happy and sad moods, for example, have been shown to influence a person’s efficacy and judgement in both interpersonal and athletic circumstances.

‘My heart is pumping, so therefore I must be … nervous…excited ….tired?’

Beginning every class with meditation and breathing exercises puts students in the best possible state in which to learn. Repeated practice of these tools also means that students become better at noticing what’s happening in their bodies and at developing the capability to control their own physical and emotional states.

In summary

When we view the Hapkido class experience through Bandura’s lens it’s no wonder confidence/self-efficacy grows as a student moves up the ranks.

When we believe in ourselves we try harder, longer and are ultimately more successful.

Robust self-efficacy developed through regular practice of Hapkido provides us with a strong foundation and the ability to persevere.

That persistence and belief can raise a mediocre athlete to exceptional one.

Further Reading

Bandura, A. (1977). Self-efficacy: toward a unifying theory of behavioral change. Psychological Review, 84 (2), 191-215.

Feltz, D. L., & Lirgg, C. D. (2001). Self-efficacy beliefs of athletes, teams, and coaches. In R. N. Singer, H. A. Hausenblas,, & C. Janelle, Handbook of Sport Psychology, 2 (pp. 340-361). New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Kavanagh, D. J., & Bower, G. H. (1985). Mood and self-efficacy: impact of joy and sadness on perceived capabilities. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 9(5), 507-525.

Lindsley, D. H., Brass, D. J., & Thomas, J. B. (1995). Efficacy-performance spirals: a multilevel perspective. Academy of Management, 20(3), 645-678.

Varga-Tonsing, T. M., Myers, N. D., & Feltz, D. L. (2004). Coaches’ and athletes’ perceptions of efficacy-enhancing techniques. The Sport Psychologist, 18, 397-414.


Perseverance, self-efficacy and Hapkido training

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