Belt progression and the earning stripes (in some disciplines) have been the primary achievements that have motivated martial arts students for decades. Times change, attention spans change and the pursuit of instant gratification has become a powerful force. More and more young people have difficulty relating to the idea of delayed gratification and achieving a long term goal seems unrealistic and unattainable.
If you understand fundamentally why achievements motivate people you can adjust your program or more accurately the execution of your program to better appeal to young generations. A program that better fits a young persons perception of progress is a program that they will enjoy and thus continue.
Four potential reasons why achievements can motivate a person to continue a specific activity like martial arts:
- Setting a goal creates commitment
- Having a goal increases self efficacy
- Achieving a goal leads to satisfaction
- Achievements facilitate psychological flow
It’s important to note that self efficacy, satisfaction and psychological flow aren’t just limited to the feedback received when a student earns a new belt or is awarded a new stripe. The same principle applies if your instructor sets a minor goal (like learning a new technique) and proactively communicates the students progress towards the goal. In essence, positive feedback like “your one-hand reversal looks amazing” achieves a similar effect.
The question you should ask yourself is, does your system do enough to keep students interested and are you implementing it in a way that maximizes the effect of it’s achievements. If you’re not, and if you’re concerned about customer retention, that’s big trouble.