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What is Discipline in a Judo Class

What is Discipline in a Judo Class

You need to know what I understand as Discipline when I am asked the question, "What is Discipline in a Judo Class?" It's not what you might think. 

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I am not one who believes that discipline means that all my students should be silent in the class, doing nothing without my approval and every student responding to my every instruction with “Yes Sensei”. In fact, there are and have been parents that have come into my classes and described it as controlled chaos.

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I take such comments as a compliment. I have worked as a leader of children since I was a teenager, over 45 years. I am a father of 4 boys and at the last count 9 grandchildren. I have learned many lessons but one of the most important was to Pick my battles. In fact, I have had parents come to me and ask why I have no trouble with their children and they do, to which I reply I don't find a lot of the things they fight with their children over to be important.

I used to think that discipline means to control but it does not, it means management. It means being an example and most of all it means never breaking another person's spirit, be it a child or adult and allowing children to be children.

I have lost students because I was not strict enough and I have lost others because I was uncompromising on my principles. I am very sad that I lost them but I make no apologies.

I am convinced that the best discipline is self-discipline and children cannot do that in a rigidly controlled environment. But they also have to feel safe and that means rules that do just that and someone who cares enough about them (the children) to want to guide them so they will succeed.

Discipline is not an exact science; my sons will testify to that. I have learned over the years that there are always better ways to do things. Hence, I do not consider this document, even with all the experience behind it, to be the final word in discipline but I do hope it is helpful.

There are two main principles that drive my approach to discipline in my Judo club:

Principle 1: Confidence

Principle 2: Integrity


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I love the movie Kindergarten Cop. The advice given to John Kimble (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) of “Have no fear” just epitomizes working with children to me.

I used to lead children’s camps and on one such camp one of my junior leaders asked me: “why do the children do what you ask them to and I can’t get them to do a thing”?

I replied by saying: “it’s because you don’t expect them to do what you ask them to and I do”.

Of course, it’s not quite that simple but within that one statement is the basis for all failures to manage kids. If you don’t believe in yourself then they won’t and no amount of techniques or training will change that.


In Martial Arts, we are always talking about integrity or we should be, but how often do we apply it in the discipline of children.

I am also a swim teacher and the most important factor when teaching children to swim, after believing in themselves, is trust.

When asked by new swim teachers what is the best piece of advice I can give, I always say: “Say what you will do and do what you said you were going to do”.

The trust of a child is very powerful but it is also very fickle. If I say I am not going to put you under the water and then I put you under the water because of some misguided belief that I am helping you get used to going underwater, I am done as that child’s swim teacher. They are most likely never going to let me near them again.

The same is true of Martial Arts. If I say “I’m not going to throw you” and then I throw you, regardless of my good intention, I have given away trust. Losing trust even if you don’t lose the student, significantly reduced your chances of getting them to do what you ask, when, how and where you want them to.

Don’t get me wrong cheating is fun sometimes, as is anything unpredictable but be sure that your students know you well before you do anything like that. They must know you will always operate within very clear limits of what is genuine fun; never do anything with malaise, significant disadvantage, dishonour or disrespect to your students.

Integrity incorporates respect. But that is a whole other article. Suffice it to say that if you don’t have the respect of those around you and you don’t show respect, you have no chance of controlling a class. Remember respect is earned it is not divinely bestowed.

Once you have these principles in place, all you need then are the tools and those I discuss in my free download "How I am Managing Student Behavior In Class." 

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