The Value of Overcoming Fear in Training

January 2016


When a new student signs up for class they are usually very excited about the prospect of learning Martial Arts. After all, most people have watched a least one Martial Arts movie in which the main character is portrayed as someone who overcomes a situation which is dangerous or difficult with the use of their Martial Arts training. The only problem with this initial interest is that the beautiful moves that you see executed in a film are the product of many years of taking class; and they will not be learned quickly or easily. So the student suddenly faces the prospect of failure; what happens if they do not learn these punches and kicks quickly or easily; what if it is just too hard; what if they just can’t do it?

All these doubts are the product of fear. All that is required of the white belt is that they show up. A wise person once said that a black belt is just a white belt who just kept on showing up for class. Regular training will yield the results we are looking for. Everyone can learn Martial Arts, given the time and the training.


The fear of getting started is primarily psychological. Sometimes we get into ideas like, “What if I don’t get it; I’ll feel dumb”. Or, “What if everyone else is getting it and I look stupid”. If we allow ideas like this get in the way of our Martial Arts training, we probably let similar ideas get in the way of other goals we want to achieve. The trick is to take a deep breath, exhale all the way out and tell ourselves, “I’ll give this my best shot”, then just follow along. The instructors are all used to teaching new students and understand that some things can be tricky to learn at first. However, all of the students at the Dojo, including the Black Belts, had a first lesson, earned their first stripe and graduated in their first belt promotion. As a result we are all sympathetic to the challenges that new beginners face. Similar fears can also arise following a rank promotion. Sometimes the new moves we are excited about learning just seem too hard once we try to do them. Again, the instructors will persevere to teach you. Your job is to persevere to learn.

Recently I was speaking with a beginner who was frightened about training, in spite of having enjoyed several lessons, and also earning a red stripe. She was put off by seeing some advanced students practicing and thought she would never be able to perform those moves. I had to point out that the techniques she was watching were well above her belt rank, and that by the time she got to that level she would have completed the necessary training to prepare her to learn those drills. We do not need to fear the learning process. No one will make fun of us at the Dojo if some things take time to learn. All of the instructors will patiently teach you everything you need to learn, and continue to coach you in all of the skills as much as necessary for you to master those skills eventually. We all learn best when we approach training with confidence and allow the Sensei to lead us into competence.
Shihan Robert Mason ©2016