Kids Need To Fail | ITF Taekwon-Do

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“Pain is the best instructor, but no one wants to go to his class.”
-General Choi, Hong Hi

Chances are you’ve heard this quote before.  Some may think it’s just funny or clever.  Most ITF Taekwon-Do instructors read that and feel a swelling of pride and a justification for all the times they’ve had their bell rung, gotten blasted by side kick or unsuccessfully smashed their miscellaneous body parts against assorted building materials.

That was just part of what General Choi was referring to.

He wasn’t only referring to physical pain, but mental pain as well.  How many times in life have you done something and failed, were disappointed, angry, frustrated or just left in despair.

And what happened next?

That’s right, you eventually did something about it.  And if there’s something you haven’t done something about, then it’s probably eating at you right now, sucking away your energy as it sits there in the back of your mind (and I recommend you take care of that NOW).

But, of those things you did do something about, you walked away a bigger person and mentally stronger having learned your lesson.  That temporary mental pain you experienced has helped forge you into the person you are today.

Which leads me to the point of this little rant…


I’ve been teaching Taekwon-Do since 1998 and have seen thousands of kids come and go.  It has unfortunately been obvious that most parents (and it’s gotten worse over the years) are doing everything in their power to protect their kids from feeling any pain and having their feelings hurt.  Which means I have to spend more time training the parents than I do the kids!

Kid’s need to fail.  That failure is mental pain, and it’s the best instructor because they are forced to deal with what’s happening and figure out how to deal with it on their own.

For example, when a Taekwon-Do student fails a belt test, for whatever reason, they know they have to make it up.  In the moment they are embarrassed and disappointed and hurt but that has nothing to do with the fact that they did not perform.

Parents LOVE it when I tell them that.  I hope you got the sarcasm there because I’ve had plenty of after-testing conversations and phone calls with parents telling me how unfair and mean it was for us to fail their child. (and you wonder why the kid can’t handle failing)

However, those same parents come back amazed and thanking me for failing their kid weeks later when they see them training harder and working their ass off to EARN their next rank.

For example my son John David failed one of his first testings.  My dad was running the testing and as I was watching,  I knew he’d failed.  I also knew that he was SUPER excited to get his yellow belt at the same time as his mommy.  This was big deal!

Testing ended, he got a sheet that said re-test on it and was told he had to make up certain parts of testing.  Everyone else got their certificates, stripes and belts and he was devastated.

ITF Taekwon-Do Instructor Business Success Training System - John David Fail

He was told exactly what he needed to do and after all the emotions were set aside, the next morning he got up and asked me when we could practice.  He was on a mission.

A week later he made up the material he missed and earned his yellow belt.  He couldn’t have been prouder and trains harder because of it.

Lesson learned.  Thank you pain!

As an ITF Taekwon-Do instructor you may offer one of the few, if not the only place, where a student is expected to perform, where their success isn’t dependent on making them feel good, making sure that everyone wins and protecting their self-esteem.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, that’s how kids are increasingly treated these days and it’s a disastrous way to raise a child.  It’s important that they know that life doesn’t always work out in their favor and there will be times in their lives where they have to deal with real adversity.  There won’t always be someone there to save them or give them a trophy because they tried hard.

Try using that excuse with your mortgage company or phone company, “I’m sorry sir, I can’t pay this month but I tried really hard and gave it my best shot!”

I could be wrong but I don’t think you’ll get a blue ribbon and an encouraging pat on the back for that.  You just lose your home or have your phone service cut off.

People ask me all the time, “How come your kids have such great self-esteem?”

You can tell they’re expecting me to spit out some secret that’s consistent with protecting them or coddling and loving them to death.

Then they’re shocked when my answer is, “I let them fail.”

I do love my kids very much, AND I let them experience pain.  When my kids fall down and get hurt, I don’t run to them (unless it’s an emergency).  They get up (usually crying and I look like a jerk) and walk to me.  Then I ask them what happened and after they explain it to me, or show me, then I pick them up and take care of whatever needs to be attended to.  Often times they’ll just go on playing before they even get to me because whatever happened wasn’t all that bad.

I literally watched my son get bullied out in front of my house on Sunday.  One of the bigger kids (12 yr old, John David is 5) from across the street pushed him and his new bike backwards into the street.  He just got this new bike a week ago and can’t manage the curbs, so when he went backwards into the street it scared him, he freaked out and started crying.  The older kids got scared and each ran to their houses.

After a few minutes John David came in, told me about it and asked me what to do.  I told him to go back out there and ask them why they got scared and ran off like little pansies.  He went out there and said it word for word and actually added, “I could have gotten hit by a car!”  The older kids actually apologized and kept on playing.

Do your kids, your students, and society a favor and LET THEM FAIL!

Teach someone how to powerfully deal with failure and you’ll have changed that person’s life!


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About the Author:

taekwon-do phoenix, taekwon-do arizona, taekwondo phoenix, Phoenix taekwondo, itf taekwondo, taekwondo itf, tkd phoenix, taekwondo az, taekwondo Arizona, martial arts phoenix, martial arts Arizona, martial arts az, Phoenix Martial Arts, Arizona Martial Arts, Phoenix Karate, arizona taekwondo, karstadt, karstadt taekwondo, ITFJohn Karstadt

Senior Instructor – Karstadt Taekwon-Do

Mr. Karstadt is the founder of 1 TKD Consulting and owns the longest running ITF Taekwon-Do school in Arizona, Karstadt Taekwon-Do in Phoenix, AZ with his father Master David Karstadt.  He has been training since 1984, earned his Black Belt at the age of 8 and is currently an internationally renown intstructor teaching the culture, discipline,  leadership and business skills of Taekwon-Do in classes and seminars to Instructors around the world.  He has been a member of eight U.S. Taekwon-Do Teams and has traveled to 14 different countries competing in Taekwon-Do.  He has won numerous medals at the World Championships and in international competition, most notably winning the 2004 World Championships in South Korea with two gold medals and the Men’s Team All Around Trophy.  Mr. Karstadt currently resides in uptown Phoenix, Arizona with his wife and three children.  Mr. Karstadt can be contacted by e-mail at

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