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"The Sixty Second Sabumnim"

(originally published in "Inside Taekwondo", in August 1995.)

With his hands on his hips, the instructor led the row of sweating white belts through their basics. He barked out his count, interrupting his cadence long enough to sternly correct the technique of a nervous youngster who had been unlucky enough to catch his eye. "Straighten your back! Keep your elbows in! You'll need a cast if you ever punch anyone with your wrist bent like that!" Chagrined, the young student straightened up and let his forearm brush his side as he punched. "No matter how hard I try, Master always sees something wrong.", he said to himself. "I don't think I'll EVER be able to do a technique well enough to satisfy him."

The above scenario is repeated nightly in dojo, dojang, and kwoon across the world. It is such a commonly accepted stereotype that many instructors unhesitatingly emulate it, without daring to question whether or not it is effective as a training method. After all, it's traditional!!

In his revolutionary 1985 book The One Minute Manager, Dr. Ken Blanchard states that "people that feel good about themselves produce good results." This concept had a huge positive impact on the way corporate executives and managers relate to and motivate their employees to achieve greater productivity. If we employ some of the concepts Blanchard suggests, perhaps we can become - The Sixty Second Sabumnim!

The book suggests three simple programs to implement - One Minute Goal Setting, One Minute Praising, and One Minute Reprimands. One minute goal setting involves setting definite goals, then writing them out in 250 words or less, so they can be read in one minute. This concept can be implemented for yourself, with your staff, and even with your students. With yourself, you can set whatever personal goals are important to you. Don't have any? Great - now is an excellent time to set some! With your staff, you can set goals such as a desired net enrollment or maybe retention percentage improvement. Encourage your students to set some definite target dates for personal goals every time they receive a promotion, such as learning a new weapon or completing your instructor's training program. Now, WRITE THEM DOWN! Writing them down gives them power. Review your personal goals every day. Give your staff a copy of your studio goals and discuss them at every staff meeting. Be sure and track whatever statistics apply to your studio goals (increased revenue, rising retention), and let your staff follow the trend. Send your students a copy of their written goal sheets and suggest that they review them regularly. Check in periodically with them on their progress. In each case - personal, staff, or student - it is vital that the people involved receive regular feedback on their progress. "Feedback is the Breakfast of Champions", proclaims Blanchard.

The second part of the One Minute Manager/Sixty Second Sabumnim is One Minute praisings. Blanchard says that the key to managing people is to Catch people doing something right.. As instructors, we can utilize this idea every day, in every class. Administering a One Minute Praising consists of four steps -
1. Deliver the praising immediately - as soon as possible.
2. Tell the person specifically what they did.
3. Tell the person how you feel about that (Pause & let it sink in)
4. Remind the person that they're terrific, and encourage them to do more of the same.

Let's say you have an instructor who just finished teaching a class in which he introduced a new training drill on the heavy bag. You might say "John, that was a super new drill you used in class tonight. The students enjoyed it and it really had them developing their power. It really makes me feel great to have an instructor like you that I can count on to do a great job of leading the class. (Pause a moment.) Keep those great ideas coming!"

Or perhaps you have a student who finally learned a form that was especially challenging. "Becky, you really nailed that form tonight. Your stances and transitions were excellent! I know that it really challenged you, and you were equal to the challenge. It sure is rewarding to me as an instructor to have a student like you who always does her very best. (Pause a moment.) You're going to be a great black belt - keep it up!"

Tests have been run in which an intravenous catheter has been inserted into people to measure their endorphins - biochemicals which give you energy. When you feel good about yourself, these levels go up in your body. Traditionally, however, the concept of positive feedback in the martial arts has been almost heretical. Although the benefits of increased self confidence, self discipline, and self respect are regularly touted, the traditional, taciturn teaching style often has produced the opposite result. The multi - color belt systems which have flourished and expanded have often been grudgingly tolerated as a concession to weak Western discipline. "Rank Chasing", which in reality was - and is - looking for positive feedback, has been frowned upon, especially by those of us who are already black belts.

The Sixty Second Sabumnim, however, feels that the belt rank system is one of the greatest and most positive innovations ever introduced into the martial arts. When supported by a well defined curriculum, the different colors provide regular, systematic feedback which enable the student to progress.

Part three of the One Minute Manager/Sixty Second Sabumnim concept is the One Minute Reprimand - the flip side of the One Minute Praising coin. Designed to be used for people with good skills, but a bad attitude, this is especially effective when teaching children. Administering a One Minute reprimand again consists of four steps -
1. Deliver the reprimand immediately - as soon as possible.
2. Tell person precisely what their offense was.
3. Tell them how you feel, and display emotion (anger, frustration, etc.), then pause and let it sink in.
4. Then remind the person that they are better than their conduct displayed - The behavior was bad, but the person is terrific.

Part #4 is most important because we want offenders to focus on the mistake, NOT on how badly they've been mistreated. If we give little Johnny fifty pushups in front of the class for talking in line, he'll do them, but he's going to be thinking on what a big meanie you are rather than on how he should be concentrating on doing his very best. If we chew out a subordinate instructor for giving a half hearted teaching performance, and end by threatening him with taking his class away, we're likely to have an instructor that's full of resentment on our hands. When, however, you let the person know that, although the performance was below your standard for acceptance, you know that he or she is a much better student or instructor than that, and that you believe in this person's great abilities, you can usually expect to see a dramatic improvement next time out.

A word of caution - don't praise first, then reprimand. This doesn't work because it ruins future praisings. The person is waiting for the other shoe to drop. ("Johnny, your kicks were great today BUT.....").

The principles of the Sixty Second Sabumnim can begin to do great things for your studio right away. Sixty Second goal setting will give your students definite targets to shoot for. Sixty Second Praisings will energize your students and staff, leading to longer retention and more productive and motivated mat and office personnel. And, when necessary, Sixty Second reprimands will help guide errant students and staff members back on course with a win/win outcome. But - don't wait to try it out. Start implementing these concepts right now, today! Just as in your martial arts training, developing skill takes practice. Very soon, you will become the Sixty Second Sabumnim.