Training the next generation of leaders with martial arts

As one of the biggest martial arts franchises in the world, Matt Fiddes Martial Arts trains many of the next generation in discipline, respect and strength. Alongside their regular classes, however, this innovative academy also runs a select leadership program—preparing students to lead future generations with integrity and confidence. We chat to Ryan Canavan from Matt Fiddes to find out more.

How do you select potential students for the leadership program?

We look for personality traits from the day they join, this way we nurture them from the beginning and it gives them an opportunity to work towards earning a position. Certain students display that hunger and desire quite early in their martial arts journey. On the surface, some students can come across as disruptive or arrogant in the beginning however we find that with the right support, this energy can be channelled into helping these students to make better choices. After experiencing what it means to set a good example, and have other students follow in their footsteps, their leadership skills further blossom. Other students might be very quiet. With these students, we find other ways to enhance their confidence and leadership skills.

When we feel they are ready, students are selected and invited into the program. Positions in the leadership program are earned through showing dedication, commitment and positive attitude. Students can not just join and become instant leaders—there’s a journey.

What do students learn in the leadership program?

Specialised leadership classes are taught in addition to their regular martial arts classes, giving students an all-rounded martial arts experience while they learn to lead from the front. We purposely push them outside their normal comfort zone to create young and strong leaders.

The leadership classes teach important life skills such as communication techniques, public speaking, learning to teach classes, as well as leading responsibly and with integrity. Giving the leadership team the responsibility of teaching younger students helps them learn the importance of what it means to be a positive role model. As role models, they further enhance their leadership capabilities.

We find that the skills taught in the leadership classes are transferred through to their academic world, enhancing their skills in public speaking requirements such as oral presentations and speeches through to attaining leadership positions within school. Some of our leaders have gone on to earn scholarships. Many kids don’t get the opportunity to ever try out leadership at school. But if you give them the opportunity and harness those skills, allow them to feel a sense of achievement when they enhance someone else’s life, they really grow and thrive. The students in the current cohort are already junior assistant coaches. They are earning money and are all working towards becoming full-time martial arts coaches. It can also lead to them opening their own franchise. I opened my first school when I was 15 and our youngest ever franchise owner within the Matt Fiddes Martial Arts Group was just 17. He was an exemplary student whose parents helped him into his dream job.

Why combine leadership with martial arts?

People see martial arts as a fighting sport, but that’s not true. Matt Fiddes Martial Arts is not about the fighting, nor simply about gaining belts. It’s about making students a better version of themselves. A Black Belt is a metaphor for personal excellence. Whether a child is sporty, not sporty, confident or lacking in confidence, martial arts will enhance their strengths and develop their weaknesses (or, as we prefer to call them, their opportunities). It’s good for everyone.