Thursday, April 14, 2011

Face your fears

Tonight, in honor of my dojo's Wednesday night fight club, I wanted to write about facing your fears.

Wednesday night we have a sparring class after group class.

To put it in perspective, I practiced in a Karate dojo for a few months when I was in elementary school, but right as I got to yellow belt they closed my school down and that was the end of that, I never got my gear and I never got to spar. In high school I practiced Aikijutsu at Guinn Martial Arts, where we did grappling and joint locks, but never did any full on sparring. I wanted to take Kempo to get some perspective and see what a striking art is like as opposed to a grappling art.

I recently ordered the basics of my sparring gear, which came in just about three weeks ago. I had it for about a week or so before I had things sorted out to be able to attend Wednesday night Fight Club.

The week before last was my first time sparring. Anyone who doesn't know me, I will tell you, I'm pretty small. In the adult class at my dojo, I am the smallest one there. In Aiki it was me a bunch of large guys, most of whom were brown belts. So I'm pretty used to practicing with bigger and higher ranking students. I'm not afraid of being hit or getting into a fight, or working with larger, higher ranking students. Regardless, I had managed to get myself pretty worked up in anticipation for Fight club. And it didn't help that before fight club, my classmates were teasing me because my gear was red, not black. How red makes me a giant target, etc. (On a side note, Thats not cool. You don't pick on your classmates like that. Further, you don't pick on anyone like that.) Either way, I was pretty freaked out. Freaked out to the point where I ALMOST walked out of the dojo and deciding not to spar at all. ALMOST. But I didn't.

I lined up when class started, and I did it anyway, even though I was completely freaked out and had no idea what to expect. To begin, it wasn't all that bad. I did fine with the blue belt and the purple belt, neither one were fighting very hard, which was probably good. I felt like I kind of got warmed up, got used to the gear a little bit, got a little more used to moving in really close. But it felt more like playing tag than sparring, which had me a little disappointed.

And then there was the brown belt. Jacob is a very a hard hitter. This was the first time I'd ever really had someone trying to FIGHT me. I got kicked, hard. And hit, hard. And I got the wind knocked out of me. And I fought back, as hard as I could. And really, it wasn't that bad at all. I even liked it. (Again, this seems pretty trivial compared to what I have heard from Sensei Nick about training with some of the really great martial artists and what it feels like to get hit by them, or things I have heard from friends that work security, but you gotta start somewhere I guess.)

To be very fair, and very blatantly honest with you, as much as I don't want to admit this, I will. After class, I went in the back, and I cried. Yep. I think it was the fact that I was all worked up over nothing more than anything and I had gotten it over with and I was just fine. I was relieved! My instructor asked what was wrong and if something had happened, one of my classmates piped up and said, "I think she just feels how we all felt after our first time sparring." I don't know if thats true or not, but it did feel good to get it over with and realize that it wasn't such a big deal. Even so, I was a little shaky, and a little teary. I honestly doubt this is anything at all like the 'chemical cocktail' Roy Miller describes in his book "Meditations on Violence", (which is a very excellent and eye opening read, by the way), and I feel pretty stupid about it now, even though it is kind of an adrenaline rush. I'm glad I could experience something like this in the dojo for the first time, rather than on the street. I feel like I am at least a little bit better prepared to know what to expect and how to handle it afterward if I ever do have to defend myself on the street.

I guess, what I'm trying to get at with all this is that, even if something scares the crap out of you, you need to get in there and face it, conquer it, and make it your own! Since then I've gotten to spar 2 or 3 more times, and it was neither scary nor upsetting. In fact, I find it quite fun. Yes, I've already gotten a nasty bruise and had the wind knocked out of me a few more times, but I still really enjoy it. I think, for me, at this point in my Martial Arts training, its great experience and I feel like I'm learning a lot from it. But had I walked out that door because I was scared, I would have never known that.

Don't quit! Don't give up just because something scares you! Just because that guy is bigger than you, or you think he can hit harder than you, or his belt is a different color than yours. Or whatever sort of fear or difficulty you're facing. Don't give up. Don't walk away. Face it and you can become stronger for it. You may get hit, and you may walk away with a few bruises. You may even decide you don't like whatever it was you just did and you never want to do it again. And thats fine, as long as you face it, and try it first. I could have totally hated sparring, but if I hadn't at least taken the first step and gotten in there and done it at least once, I wouldn't have known either way. As Buzz Lightyear would say "Never give up! Never surrender!"

I will end with a quote from my Sensei Nick. He has said this to me a lot recently, I don't know if I'm quoting it verbatim, but it is a good quote, I like it, and I feel like its appropriate.  "The difference between fear and bravery is the willingness to act." I like Nick's wording a little better, but I think the original quote is "Courage is simply the willingness to be afraid and act anyway." ~ Robert Anthony

Thats that everyone. This week/weekend, I challenge you to go out and do something that scares you! :D

Till next time, 

~Samurai Girl Sahara


  1. Congrats on stepping into the ring! It does take a lot of courage to do it, for sure, but you did.

    And don't worry about your red sparring gear. Mine is BRIGHT yellow! And the reason for it is that in competition, I want to make sure my hits are seen against my competitor's black gi as clearly as possible. So don't worry about the target thing at all. Your hands and feet aren't targets at all, and as an under belt, you can't get hit in the head legally in competition anyway. Trust me when I tell you that you have an advantage with the red. Seriously!

    Enjoy yourself. And may you hit more than you get hit from here on out :-)

  2. Ha, I love that your gear is yellow! Thats great! I know in tournament we're not allowed to hit the head or below the belt, but in the dojo, especially at fight club, head hits are allowed, just not to the face. So I DO get bopped in the head a lot, but I'm learning to keep my guard up more because of it.

    Thank you! ^.^

  3. Congrats on stepping up and sparring for the first time! I'm proud of you! You're right about facing things we fear. It's so so difficult, but almost always worth it in the end. Keep it up!