Learn how structures drive development – an example from karate

One of our close friends had invited our family to watch their 10 year old son Joshua complete his grading for his Black Belt in karate. Having been training in karate since he was six years old this was a ‘Big Occasion’ for him.

A crowd of over 200 people had assembled in the local karate club’s hall to support children from the age of nine through to 14 complete the requirements for their various Black Belt or First Dan assessments. The formworks and kata were performed to perfection to the delight of everyone. This was followed by various fighting stick assessments, jumping and tumbling kicks & strikes, a nun-chuka formwork and finally wood breaking strikes. Considering the ages of the children their performances were very, very impressive!

Finally, six of the boys and girls who were also being assessed for a special leadership award (which is specific to this club) took it in turns to perform a speech about leadership. As each child gave their speech on their own in the middle of the gymnasium floor, no notes in hand, a structure for their speeches became apparent. The structure was:
1) Introduce yourself and your age
2) Identify your favourite karate activity
3) Name a high profile leader of your choice
4) Provide a ‘key-point’ history of your leader
5) Share a quote created by the leader
6) Explain how the quote relates to your own personal circumstances
7) Thank your parents for their support
8) Thank the audience

While I had been highly impressed by the various karate demonstrations, I was astounded by the performances of these six children. It was clear that they all had different personalities yet each of them was able to stand up in front of a crowd of predominantly adults and provide their speeches. One of the children spoke about Ghandi and provided great detail as he shared an accurate account (including dates) of Ghandi’s life. This boy was nine years old!

It was also interesting to watch each of the children stumble at some point in their speeches. When this happened, each of them drew a long slow breath, gathered their thoughts and then continued with their speech. Imagine the pressure that could have been mounting and the ‘self-talk’ that could have been going on in their heads. Yet they remained focussed and completed the task at hand. It seemed to me that the children had been well taught with regard to the structure that they should follow in providing their speeches, including what to do when they lost their train of thought. It really was a delight to watch.

To me the high level of performance that the children were able to achieve was due to a clear structure that they had been provided in preparing for their speeches. No doubt each of the children had also practiced and practiced this structure, much like they had practiced their kata and formworks. Imagine the confidence that these children will have in their lives going forward. Many adults would run away as fast as possible rather than provide a speech in front of 200 hundred people. Yet these children did it and did it well. They will have that experience to draw on for the rest of their lives. As each child finished their speech the applause sounded like it was coming from 1,000 people and not just 200. It really was extraordinary to witness!

This experience once again highlights the power of having structures to support the outcomes that you desire. While the structures that the children used for their speeches may appear simple on the surface, their importance is no less valuable. What similar examples do you have where a clear structure has supported your own or someone else’s development? What stories are you willing to share with our community? What key lesson stood out for you from your experience?

Gary Ryan enables individuals, teams and organisations to matter.
Visit Gary at http://garyryans.com

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