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Why The Small Things Matter

At the dojo it starts with your shoes

We do something very odd and unique at our dojo – we take off our shoes. Did you ever wonder why?

Well some of it is because of tradition. Another reason might be because it helps keep the dojo floor clean. But I think there is an even more powerful reason we take off our shoes and I would like to share it with the sincere hope it changes how you think and what you do. In the end, I think you will discover, this one seemingly simple task can profoundly change your child.

As we move to the new dojo we are going to do a much better job at helping you make sure both you and your child remove and put on your shoes up properly. This is important and one of my favorite saying with raising children is “You get what you tolerate!”. So, we are going to help you use this valuable training tool even better. Here is how to do this properly:

  1. The simple basic rule for everyone: Just remember and follow this “Only dirty shoes on the rough mat, only clean dry bare feet or socked feet on the clean floor!”

  2. Entering the dojo: Okay, so how do you do this? Enter the dojo and walk onto the mat. Do not go off the mat with your shoes. Instead, either standing or sitting, remove your shoes then step out of your shoes and place your clean feet directly on the clean dry floor. Do not step on the rough mat with your clean feet. Then just pick up your shoes and neatly place them on a boot tray.

  3. Leaving the dojo: Just reverse the process. Do not put your shoes on while on the clean dry floor. Instead pick up your shoes and place them on the mat. Then step directly from the clean floor into your shoes on the mat. You can tie/fasten them while standing or sitting. Now do not step back into the dojo and back on the clean floor with your shoes. You will have to take them off again.

  4. You can’t not teach: Parents, you really can only teach this or anything to your child by example. If you want your child to do this right, first you need to do it right. This will take patience, focus, hard work and precision . . . but as you will see, this is the point!

Okay, so why all this fuss and bother?

A good way to start this is with some advice Navy Seal Admiral William McRaven gave as the 2014 commencement speaker at the University of Texas. The video of his speech went viral and you can easily view it on YouTube. Many say it was one of the best graduation speeches ever given. In it he shared the 10 life lessons he learned as a Navy Seal. The very first lesson was:

  1. “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed!”

The reason - this is the very first thing you do each day. He went on to say “If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.” Every morning the Seal Trainee’s beds were inspected. To change the world and be a leader you have to be able to do the small repetitious mundane things well. How does your child take off their shoes and jacket at home and where do they end up?

Back to the dojo. We are here to help you develop the attitudes and character traits of the highly successful in your child. You can talk to your child until you are blue in the face. You can teach or show them what to do but most will never develop or embody these attitudes and character traits unless they experience them. Kids can only learn by doing. Can you imagine your child focused, intentional and driven to do everything, and especially the small things, perfectly every time?

How can you apply this “small things” lesson to your child? Start with the shoes. Next what do they do to get ready for class? Check in on the tablets, put their uniforms on, tie their belts. If you take care of this part we will do the rest. We get them to greet everyone in the dojo with the training theme. No horseplay. Go right over to the prep line with good posture. Then as the class before them finishes with closing their eyes and sitting in stillness they do the same. After their class, hold them to a high standard in how they leave. No throwing their uniforms at you! No lost belts or gear! Remember the last thing you do at the dojo – put on your shoes!

How about at home? How anyone starts their day is huge. Is your home where everything goes like clockwork all the way until you kiss them good bye in the morning. Or, does your morning start with you having to nag them repeatedly to get up? Do they complain or struggle as they get dressed and ready? Is it a challenge to get them to eat breakfast? Are you looking for lost things? Are you typically in a state of stress as you realize they are going to be late for school or the bus? Have you ever had a child that just starts the day badly and this same energy/emotion stays with them the rest of their day?

So, back to what you can do. Do they make their beds? One of my pet peeves is waking themselves up for school. Get them their own alarm clock. Teach your child the process and routine of starting strong. Do the small things well. Is this hard work on your part? Yes it is!

How about school? Ask your child or their teacher – what are the small repetitive but important things my child needs to do especially at the start of their school day? What are your routines and procedures for homework/reading at home?

In your child’s karate class we do new things but if you notice we do many, many small things over and over the same way in almost every class. There is a method to our madness. Do you know another word for these simple mundane tasks done repeatedly over time? They are your “HABITS”! . . . What habits are our child developing?

It is worth repeating this quote from Mahatma Gandhi:

“Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your character, Your character become your destiny.”

Master the Mundane,


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