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Dynamite Discipline | Life Skill that is an Essential Building Block to Success

Some days, it’s tough to get out of bed.  Some days it’s tough to focus on school, training, progress on that homework project or on completing chores at home.  

That’s when discipline comes in.

Discipline is one of the life skills we emphasize in the ATA Leadership and Legacy programs, and is a vital component of success, whether in school, in competition, on the job or when pursuing your goals.

“Discipline is the mechanism that breeds success,” said Chief Master Tony Isaacs, 8th Degree Black Belt and ATA Hall of Famer with Integrity Martial Arts in south Florida.  “For My life personally, I can honestly say discipline has been a steady force.  My temperament is easygoing, slow and steady so it may seem different than those who are not, but without discipline, success would not have taken place at all.”

No matter one’s age, social status or rank, every individual is responsible for his or her own actions, whether they admit it or not.  To make sure those actions are positive, discipline, especially self-discipline, should play an important role, and it works best when learned and practiced at a young age.

“Without discipline, a young martial artist will never achieve the balance needed to be a black belt, world champion or Master of future leaders,” Isaacs said.

In the ATA Leadership Program manuals, Life Skills circle, discipline lies between honesty and belief. Discipline is to “obey what’s right” and that means more than just following a set of rules.  From demonstrating proper respect--saying “yes sir and “no sir”—to showing self-control when sparring, discipline should affect almost everything a martial artist does.

“Obeying what is right means practicing good habits, the behaviors that make us better human beings and comprise the life skill’s four levels of discipline: obedience, self-discipline, self-control and self-awareness. By being consistent, an instructor can help establish those qualities in students."

“First set boundaries,” Isaacs said.  “Discipline needs room to grow; rules help accomplish that.  Secondly, an instructor needs to be rational.  Rules without relationships lead to rebellion, so within an environment of discipline an instructor must be rational as well.  As leaders, we must look beyond the past and challenge the next generation toward the future.  We must inspire our ATA family to go beyond themselves.  Discipline gets us there.” 

Discipline begins with obedience- listening to our parents, instructors, positive role models, and law enforcement- the people who desire to keep us on the right path. For children, it’s as simple as brushing your teeth at night, because your parents care about your health and enforce this is as a habit. 

As we get older, we rely more and more on self-discipline, when we no longer need to be told to what we are told all of the time because we’ve developed a sense of right and wrong.  Soon you learn to brush your teeth on your own, without being told, because you understand it’s the right thing to do and because you respect the wishes of your parents.

Self-control is established when we are able to control our emotions rather than have them in control of us.  Not losing your temper when you don’t break a board is a good example of self-control.

Self-awareness is the highest form of discipline.  When this is achieved we are no longer just obeying our conscience or controlling our emotions, but understanding our importance of the universe. 

We realize our every word and action has an impact on others and that we sometimes have to take on tasks that are unpleasant because those tasks help achieve a greater good.

Taking a turn at helping to put away targets and other equipment after a training session, even if you’d rather get home to see what’s on Netflix, is a case of self-awareness in action; you realize it may not be fun at the moment, but the whole class will benefit from these actions. 

It’s not always as easy as it sounds.  Isaacs noted there can be roadblocks to establishing good discipline, especially in today’s society.

“I would say that there are three main things [that contribute to lack of discipline],” he said.  “Lack of parental involvement, too much social media and an unhealthy sense of entitlement that has invaded our culture.”

A minister in the Christian faith, Isaacs noted that the Biblical twelve disciples were “ordinary at best” and learned from a teacher to spread a message.

Being a true leader is making an impact and empowering others.  What better example of discipline’s benefits than that, Isaacs said.

The 11 Components of Discipline

  • Commitment. Commitment is when we make a decision and follow through understanding the consequences.  Without commitment, we cannot have discipline and without discipline we cannot have commitment.
  • Punctuality. Punctuality is being on time.  Disciplined people are always on time and have the ability to use time to their advantage.
  • Goals. To have a goal is to want something and be willing to work hard for it.  Disciplined people are motivated by their goals.
  • Focus. Focus is when we direct all of our senses and energy to something specific.  People with discipline are able to maintain their focus on what is important.
  • Persistence.  Persistence is to continue to attempt to succeed in our goals no matter what.  Disciplined people have the persistence to try again and again—a million times if necessary, until their goal is met.
  • Determination.  Determination is having the belief that we will somehow accomplish what we want.  Disciplined people show determination when working toward their goals.
  • Responsibility.  Responsibility is to hold ourselves accountable for our actions and our results.  People with discipline always take responsibility for what they do and are able to find the best way to respond to their circumstances.
  • Courage.  Courage is having the strength to face our fears.  Disciplined people have the courage to face any situation and never give up.
  • Fitness.  Fitness is taking care of our bodies and staying in shape.  Disciplined people take care of their bodies, understanding that being fit will help in various situations.
  • Vision.  Having vision is having the ability to see in our minds what we are working to achieve.  Disciplined people are able to focus on their vision.
  • Passion.  Passion is an incredibly strong feeling about something.  People with discipline have great passion for reaching their goals.


Written by Todd Traub. Originally published in Vol. 22 no. 4 of the ATA World Magazine.

Jan. 15, 2018