It is an ongoing battle from the moment you start practicing your punches, kicks, throws, whatever you do in your field of martial arts.
Now some of you might think: fear? What are you talking about?
Well, that depends a little bit on what type of fear you hold within you. Maybe you’re like me, who has multiple types of fear! (lucky me..)
3 types of fear
Afraid of getting hit
For some people the more you hit them, the happier they get. But most of us didn’t start out like that! Especially newcomers have this problem and might even feel embarrassed about it. They mostly do want to dish it out, but when something is coming back, they will hold their hands in front of them and cringe, without the blow actually having any impact. For those who teach and help out:
Protect them. It’s so easy to say: suck it up and take it!
But there is one problem with that:
They don’t know how, and they don’t know why. Talk to them and ready them at their own pace.
There is also the fear of getting hit by that one person who always has to show off how strong they are. AKA a bully. Talk to your sensei or to your bully directly. Don’t get hurt over something so trivial as a show-off!
There is one more category in this: the cringers. There are ‘fighters’ who, with every impact taken, are immediately done for.
What to do with them? Don’t get annoyed by their attitude (because it mostly stinks a little) and focus on your own training. See it as a wonderful opportunity to train your own restraint.
Being afraid of hitting someone else
Sounds pretty silly maybe for the black belts reading this, but almost every beginner is, child or adult, really afraid of actually landing a punch or a kick. But wait!
I still have it myself. Even after years of practice, I’m still not hitting people as hard as I could, and should. I still hear the same comment as when I started:
You’re too nice Tirza. Give some more. Give ‘em hell.
Oh and I make contact. I really do, don’t you worry about that. It’s just that you want to train with the same people next time as well, and the time after that… So the fear of actually inflicting real pain upon someone is there. Somewhere, subconsciously.
But I’m not alone! Last practice I had to call out a fellow black belt that his kick to the head should be… a kick to the head!
“But then I’ll hit him.”
Yes… I know. That’s his problem. He can take it.
Is this strange behavior? Nope.
It’s a leftover from teaching, training with lower belts, watching out if someone is injured, always having to hold back because you probably will crush them if you do go all out.
Fear of failing
This one is real guys. Beginners really do see the sensei as some mystic hero who has conquered the martial art in question (hence the black belt, right?).
Fact is that beginners are mostly shy, willing to please the sensei/surroundings and will probably not admit if a training is too rough, harsh or that they can’t go on because of an injury.
Dear practitioners: your teacher is not psychic!
Tell them. Tell them anything that pushes you too far over the edge. They are responsible for your health and your further martial arts career.
The fear of failure has one extra group: the infamous perfectionists. Which happen to be my second and third name as well!
There are some things that are really positive about this group:
They are tirelessly putting effort in They are very critical on their own performance They mostly have a good mindset when it comes to martial arts
So what does fear have to with this? This group can be so over the top critical that their effort will result in negative thinking.
“I’ll never get it right” “Whatever I will show to sensei won’t be good enough” “The goals that I have are unattainable”
I know this because I’ve been there. It’s a nasty place where I ended up after having a serious shoulder injury and being frustrated and on a, to my feeling, dead end. At one point I was even crying in the dojo, being emotionally completely broken. Now my personal situation wasn’t all that great either at the time, and it influenced my performance heavily.
Fear is always there, in a smaller or bigger form. It is one of reasons why they say in karate:
“Technique, mental strength, and physical strength… Of the three, if any one of them excels the opponent’s, then, one has that much advantage over him. If any of the three is too weak, then it will serve as the downfall of the individual” Hironori Otsuka Sensei, from his book Wado-Ryu Karate, Page 31
Fear affects your mental strength, your technique AND your physical strength.
Train your fear. If you train diligently, responsibly and with passion for your martial art you will overcome it. Help others overcome their fear by conditioning it. Training slowly or softly up to speed and strength.