The Process of "Bonding" in the Martial Arts

Process of "Bonding" in the Martial Arts Printable Copy


When does the "bonding" first begin in a student’s Martial Arts journey? Does it happen when the Instructor stimulates the student’s interest, creativity or comprehensiveness in the Martial Arts? Is it when the Instructor instills the motivation and drive for a student to succeed? Maybe it happens when the Instructor uses training aids to explain the purpose and mechanics of a particular technique? Perhaps, it starts to develop with trust and respect when the student is developing the Student/Instructor relationship. Listed below are a few examples of vehicles that may be used as a catalyst to develop the process of bonding in the Martial Arts.


The disciplined nature of Martial Art training develops a deep sense of self-discipline. One cannot become a Black Belt immediately, so students are taught that their goals will require hard work, patience, and dedication, which should take several years, if not a lifetime. It is clear that if something is worth it, then one
bond1should work hard to attain it. Part of being a Martial Arts student is meeting new people and developing unique bonds with them.

The Martial Arts curriculum teaches the student control and concentration through discipline and mutual respect. In order to perform the techniques correctly, students must learn to focus. The added self-confidence and concentration gained through training can even help students with different learning disorders.

Discipline is all about doing what you need to do, even when you don’t want to do it. Martial Arts training instills discipline in the student by learning that there are no "short-cuts", patience and consistent training are just a few valuable keys to the student’s success.

A student in the Martial Arts often feels a strong sense of camaraderie or friendship with other fellow students. This feeling is based on mutual experiences and conquering the challenges they meet together. Learning the Martial Arts is a privilege and students learn to show humbleness, patience, and honesty to themselves, their peers, and Instructors. The lower rank students recognize the discipline and respect in the higher rank students in class and tend to bond with them.

The training in the Martial Arts builds a sense of self-esteem by providing challenges that helps to build character. Students learn that they can overcome the obstacles presented as they improve in their training. When challenges are met and surpassed, students feel a sense of pride in themselves and their newly learned skills. This pride and confidence enables them to interact better with others and to respond better to situations that involve conflict.

All Martial Arts styles teach students to value age, rank, expertise, and experience. Exercising the proper respect shows that you are worthy of the Instructor’s teaching and willing to accept his/her knowledge. This respect for Instructors and fellow students can often carry over to the workplace where the student uses his/her abilities to advance in the workplace and become a valuable employee.

The Student/Instructor Relationship

The Instructor has already experienced many of the same obstacles the student b2will face on the journey to become a Black Belt. But this doesn’t mean the Instructor will always make it easy on the student. As the Instructor begins to nurture the student the bonding and the Student/Instructor relationship develops. Perhaps, the challenges that we all face are the reasons we are who we are… Ultimately, the Instructor offers his/her knowledge but the student must choose to accept it.

The Instructor must be the example of a great student. By being a great student he/she will have a better insight to develop great students. The Instructor learns from the students on one level, while the students learn from the Instructor on another. A good Instructor knows he/she is always a student. The Instructor is responsible for what is taught; the student is responsible for what is learned. There are no bad students, just bad instruction.


The bonding of a Student/Instructor relationship must be based on honesty, loyalty, and trust. The student must be able to come to the Instructor openly and honestly, learning from his/her experiences and developing a trust. This can be very difficult for some people but, this is where the Instructor must excel if he/she wants the student to grow. Sometimes, the student may not realize that the Instructor has experienced some of the same challenges as the student. A Black Belt is a student that never gave up…


The Instructor must always have the students’ best interest at heart. If you are an apprentice learning from a master carpenter, should you be making suggestions about how to make a staircase, or should you just be quiet and do it the way he tells you to do it?

When the Instructor makes a correction, does it make sense to argue or make excuses? This only wastes time, trying to validate your ego. There really is only one kind of response, "Yes, Sir!" or, "Thank you, Sir!"

0011Perhaps, having faith and trust in your Instructor allows you to follow the instruction, even when you don’t fully understand, accepting the fact that the Instructor just might know something that you don’t.

The Instructor will not always give you the answer you’re hoping for. bond3Sometimes he/she will point out something that is painful to hear. But this is to help you grow – not only as a Martial Artist, but as a person.

The Master Instructor’s teaching methods in many ways are "hidden". By that I mean the student frequently doesn’t even realize he or she is being taught, and observed. What may appear to be a mistake, a change, or even seem to have a lack of reason, may be by design… The Master Instructor may even appear to not know something just so the student tries harder to figure it out on his own… A Master Instructor teaches even when the student doesn’t realize he’s being taught. The student might even think he or she is teaching the Master Instructor something, although it may be by the Master Instructor’s design…


From the Instructor’s perspective, and more importantly from the student, the attitude toward "training" and "practice" is a key factor for the student’s growth. A student with only average physical ability may develop quite successfully in his/her training through a healthy attitude toward training. On the other hand, students who seem to have all the advantages to become a skillful Martial Artist may fall flat on his/her face simply because of a bad attitude. A poor attitude may result in a student failing to bond in the Martial Arts.

Sacrifice and being coachable during the student’s journey allows the student to succeed. The amount of time available for practice is not the same for everybody. The key is to do what you do, as well as you can can do it. It is not what you do, but; how you do it. Become accountable for everything you do and those results have a profound impact in your everyday life. A poor attitude, thinking you are better than others, is just your ego talking and preventing growth. How you train, is how you re-act…

Mentoring Programs

There a host of programs designed to meet the needs of the students, as well as developing bonds between students and students with their Instructors, for example:

You may wish to develop a "Mighty Tigers" program for students that are 4-6 years old. This program may be designed to meet the needs of today’s active child. Some of the skills this program may focus on are balance, motor-skills, discipline, and attention span.

bond4Another example may be a "Juniors" program for students that are 6-12 years old. This program may be designed to blend the traditional values of the Martial Arts (Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self Control and Indomitable Spirit) with the mental and physical part of the Martial Arts. They start to learn that "sweat plus sacrifice equals success". An introduction to some of the various Martial Arts "games" allows them to have fun while they are learning the physical part of the Martial Arts, teaching them the value of "team work".

Teens and Adults may have a program that provides the physical and competitive challenges in the Martial Arts. This kind of program may focus on strong bodies and minds. Recreational training to stay in shape and the spirit of competition start to take on a new meaning. Commitment now becomes the focus for those that are serious and goals become priorities.

Black Belt Clubs/Leadership Clubs are just a couple of vehicles that will bond students together. Commitment is now the focus and part of the plan to obtaining a specific goal. Responsibility becomes a requirement and leadership roles are established to go to the next level. Learning how to mentor students becomes a priority on the journey to become a Black Belt.

Family classes are designed to bond the family together. "A family that kicks together, stays together" becomes the slogan. Activities may be planned to enhance the atmosphere you are striving to achieve. The reasons to attend class as a family become clear as the family unit is involved in a physical activity that helps them to stay healthy in life and bond together as a family. The regiment of a structured Martial Arts class achieves a sense of accomplishment and develops social interaction in the student’s life.

Nurturing the Bonding Process

The Student/Instructor bonding process is an important part of a school culture. If a positive relationship exists, it benefits the student in many ways. Students that are bonded to their Instructor feel confident to articulate their doubts and questions freely. So, if a student develops a unique bond with his/her Instructor; it lends new meaning and shape to his/her life.

Learning is spontaneous and inquisitive for children; only a Qubond5alified Instructor has a latent ability to make a subject more interesting for the students. For the Instructor, it is imperative to keep the energy level high during class and draw-in even those students who do not want to learn or study. A good Student/Instructor relationship consists of quality instruction, interactions, mutual respect and the existence of a harmonious bond in the class.

One of the cardinal rules of teaching is that every Instructor must believe in the student’s potential. Students will not believe in you until you first believe in them. Not every child in the class is equally receptive and intelligent, knowing this fact; the Instructor must create an atmosphere that stimulates the student’s confidence level. For the Instructor this may be a challenge, to raise the academic and physical standards of a child whom other Instructors have written off as being un-teachable; this is why it is important to be trained by a Qualified Instructor. The Instructor impacts a student’s life in many ways and not just in the Martial Arts, the ‘life-skills’ that a student learns carries far beyond the class. Perhaps, in order to understand the bonding process in the Martial Arts, the Instructor has to determine if the student is a Student or a Customer. The "student" will follow the Instructor because he/she has faith and respect in him, even when the student doesn’t quite understand. The "customer" often behaves like they are making a purchase…

The Role of the Senior Students

This is the stage of development where senior students step up and become a part of the mentoring process. Every senior student’s responsibility is to maintain the school’s environment, and to be a role model for the student who is their junior. When new students enroll in the class they see the senior students as a mentor andbond6 start to bond with them. It is the responsibility of the senior students to maintain the atmosphere that has been established by the Instructor so they can grow and develop the right attitude.

A disciplined class that is focused on student growth greatly affects even the weakest, most distracted person. Mentoring a new student may be the most rewarding experience in a senior student’s journey to Black Belt. This mentoring process is an excellent way for the Instructor to monitor the growth and development of the mentoring senior student as well.

Friendly, but not friends

Getting too friendly with the Instructor, such as being on a first name basis; where the student becomes overly casual with the Instructor during class affects the development of the student. It is important that the student maintains a certain level of respect and discipline, even a reverence for the training, the atmosphere at the school, and the Instructor. This allows the Instructor to be the Instructor.

bond7Sometimes, socializing with students may make it difficult for the Instructor to treat them in an impartial way. Students are sometimes offended when the Instructor’s uncompromising attitude toward them in class seems at odds with the friendlier and more laid-back attitude they may enjoy socially.

If the fighting element was the only focus of training, then the common problems that occur between the student and Instructor becoming "friends" are less of a concern. However, where the traditional training of the mental and physical development of the student is stressed, there is much more at stake.

Crossing the line

There exists an imaginary line between the student and Instructor. Once the student or Instructor crosses the line it becomes more difficult for the student to learn objectively.

In the end, if the Instructor’s main interest is the student’s growth, it is very important not to get too personal. If the student’s main interest is to learn from their Instructor, the student will not want to create a situation that would jeopardizing this. Sometimes it is harder for the Instructor than the student to realize this.


There are many elements to the "Bonding" process in the Martial Arts. What causes people with different backgrounds, ideology, social standings, etc to bond together as life-long friends? Is it the training atmosphere? Is it the wisdom and experience of the Instructor? Is it the experiences, challenges and accomplishments that people share? Perhaps, it is the combination of many attributes of the Martial Arts. "Good timber does not grow with ease. The stronger the wind the stronger the trees." – Douglas Malloch.

It seems to me that the experiences, challenges and accomplishments we experience in training become more important if we share them with our peers and mentors in training. Many times, long after the student becomes the Grandmaster he/she still holds their Grandmaster in high esteem.

In many cases, the student that becomes the Grandmaster often is a care-giver to his/her Grandmaster that is now grown old in years. I have also noticed, the student seems grateful and humbled by the many sacrifices and commitments made by his/her Grandmaster over the years. Because of the bonding process of the Student/Instructor relationship, it seems the higher rank we achieve the more we appreciate our Grandmaster.

As a Grandmaster in the Art of Taekwon-Do, when I have the privilege to be with my Grandmaster, I realize he has forgotten more than I know…


Article Submitted by Grandmaster Robert Dunn – Founder of the Jun Tong Taekwon-Do Federation