The First Step in Martial Arts Begins with Courage
A new martial arts student begins their journey by exhibiting courage. It takes courage to step out of your comfort zone and try something you have never done before, especially martial arts. You walk out into a new world full of different cultures, viewpoints, and sometimes even scarier martial artists. You will find that there are many amazing individuals whose physical abilities are quite intimidating. This first step is often the hardest one where most people fail and never even begin their martial arts journey. In my experience, fear is the absolute #1 reason why people never begin training in martial arts. Fear is a thief. Fear has taken away more dreams than anything else. Everyone is afraid at times, but it is not okay to allow fear to control you.
I like to break down fear into two categories: Natural Fear and Irrational Fear.
Natural Fear: What I call natural fear is the type of fear we are all born with. Fear is supposed to be an aid to our survival. That little voice telling you to not go do that stupid thing you are contemplating. It urges you not to wrestle a mountain lion. It appears when we get too close to the edge of a cliff. It is there to help keep us safe. It is a great warning mechanism to make us focus and get ourselves out of the situation we are in. Natural fear is normal, and can be considered essential to our survival as a species. In fact, to ignore some of our natural fears can be considered foolish in most circumstances. However, irrational fear can steal from our lives. It makes us less than our potential, and robs us of experiences and fulfillment.
Irrational Fear: This type of fear is not rooted in reasonable natural fear. This is the type of fear that seems to get bigger and bigger the more you think about it. It causes a person to put themselves in imaginary situations that just fuels the fear even more. One of the irrational fears I see with martial arts students is the fear of failure. This is one of the irrational fears that keep many from ever showing up at the dojo. They imagine all these crazy scenarios where they are not athletic enough, or can't learn fast enough, and they will lose face or even be made fun of in the class. This is absolute nonsense. Martial arts is very humbling. Everyone fails in martial arts at one time or another. That is why we are training to begin with. In order to grow, you have to push yourself to the point of failure time and again. If you are not failing at times, you are not trying hard enough. In this environment, it makes no sense to be embarrassed or afraid that you will be made fun of. All of the students and instructors are struggling with something and most are very supporting of each other.
We teach in our classes that courage is not the absence of fear, but the overcoming of it. Yes, the first day of class is one of the scariest to be sure. The very fact that you faced your own imaginings and fear of the unknown shows that you have courage. It is okay to be scared or nervous. The bravest people on the planet still have to deal with their own fear. The difference between them and us mere mortals is that they choose to overcome their fear instead of being overcome by it themselves.
I had a young man who had just started our kids program ask me when he was getting his white belt (had not ordered a uniform yet). In our classes, we teach that everything is earned. This was a great opportunity for a great life lesson. I explained to him about needing to buy a uniform and how the white belt came with it. He asked me if he could wear it after he got it or if he had to earn it first. I then informed him that he had already earned his white belt by showing me his courage when he first signed up. The first day is the scariest day for most kids and he had to overcome his own fear of being the new kid in class. He was a very shy young man, and was obviously dealing with anxiety.
Despite this, he knew what he wanted to do and came to class anyway. In most schools, everyone begins with a white belt. Some may even have testing requirements for their white belt. In our schools the white belt is earned when you show courage by coming to class and being brave enough to step out onto the mats. This means not everyone gets their white belt. Those who stay on the sidelines, the couch, or even behind a keyboard will never get their white belt. If you never take that first leap of faith, not even the beginner's belt is within your reach.
It is okay to be afraid, just don't let it control you to the point where it takes away opportunities and your own personal goals. The trick to conquering irrational fear is to chip away at it one step at a time. Build your confidence by facing your fears little by little. If your dream is to become a martial artist, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and observe a class or two. You will be pleasantly surprised when you find that the students along with the instructors want to you to succeed in becoming who you want to be. Get connected to a group that will encourage you and pick you back up when you face the inevitable obstacles that comes with training. Make the first step toward your martial arts journey today!