The martial arts aren’t for the faint of heart. Training puts you through every stressful situation you can think of. Nearly every trigger or button you have will be pushed. However, this is done in a safe and supportive environment. It helps you face fears, learn how to think under stressful circumstances, and it teaches you how to manage the flood of emotions surging through. But what can you do to keep your cool in class when things get stressful?
Mindfulness helps keep you grounded and in the moment. Being mindful is helpful because it reduces anxiety. You might be worried about not remembering your techniques, or what partner you’ll end up with, you might even be worried about stuff totally unrelated to class. Mindfulness helps ease all these worries by keeping you focused on the “now.” There are two very easy mindfulness exercises you can do before class.
Try reconnecting to nature. On the way in from your car, stop and look at the world around you. Look up at the sky and take note of the color and clouds. Look at the trees, try touching the trunk on your way by. Notice the grass, flowers, dirt, etc. Take some time to observe the natural world around you.
If your mind is racing with anticipation and anxiety about class, this next exercise can be done anywhere, even in a changing room. Find an object. This is commonly done with a raisin, but you can do it with anything. Take the object in your hand if you can. Start describing it in your head. Really look it. As if it is the first time you’ve ever seen it. Describe the object like you would to an alien who has never seen it before.
Stress and Martial Arts
You’ll often hear people talk about how martial arts, including karate, taekwondo, kung fu, and BJJ all help you manage stress. But that is easier said than done. In training, you have people invading your personal space. You often have Sensei or Coach yelling at you. Sometimes you are asked to come forward and demonstrate forms or techniques in front of the whole class. Over the years I have seen people quit because these things were too stressful. However, learning to cope and come out of these situations being stronger for it is an important part of training. Getting lost in the moment and being so focused on your techniques is sometimes enough to pull you through.
When is it Too Much?
In a perfect world, things start out difficult and gradually get easier. Soon you find yourself feeling calm under pressure. Called up to demonstrate a technique? You’re cool as a cucumber. Partnered up in sparring with the giant aggressive dude? No problem. Eventually you are awarded your black belt and numerous first place trophies. Unless that just doesn’t happen.
Trust your gut. If something is crossing a boundary, triggering things you aren’t ready to deal with, or otherwise making you uncomfortable, say something. Your coaches and Sensei are reasonable people, we want you to succeed. We will help you anyway we can.
In time, you will find yourself better able to deal with the trials and tribulations of martial arts training. The picture I included for this blog article is from my first BJJ tournament. I was so incredibly nervous I couldn’t eat the day before. I had never competed in Jiu Jitsu and was afraid of getting my butt kicked in front of everyone. We all struggle, but the lessons we learn help build our characters in ways we don’t expect.