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Fear in martial arts

It can turn the most practiced martial artist into a rubbery jelly, frozen, unable to act. It makes him or her vulnerable. That’s fear with a capital “F” at work.

I’m not talking about the normal run of the dojo trepidation or the stress and anxiety of competition or demonstration. I’m talking about deep wrenching fright – the terror felt during an actual attack –when you fear for your life.

If you want to make your martial arts training credible, learning to deal with fear is critical. Some say it is the number one factor in responding to any attack or self-defense situation. (Of course, if you are just training to get in shape, meet friends or build discipline, this might not be so important.)

Fear and stress are natural responses to danger. They are the body’s survival response. But, if you don’t understand these responses, learn what to expect and how to deal with them, these same responses can take you by surprise and paralyze action.

In intense, threatening situations the body reacts – increased heart rate and breathing. The blood stream is flooded with adrenaline (the adrenaline dump). Blood flow to the extremities is reduced and diverted to large muscle groups. Body functions not critical to survival are reduced, such as digestion. The breath rate increases and you sweat.

At low stress and fear levels, the body feels infused with added power and strength. Senses become more acutely aware. The ability to run, jump, and hear is enhanced. Reaction time is decreased - as your body shifts into action gear.

At moderate to high levels of stress and fear, the legs often begin to tremble. Some people feel nausea and their vision tunnels (peripheral vision is reduced). Hearing can also become impaired. For many, events seem to shift into slow motion as fear itself floods through their thoughts. They want to run (fight or flight syndrome). There is indecision.

Some people actually freeze at this point. They are unable to process the threat and response options effectively. Some react irrationally, become disoriented, and can’t respond well physically because their abilities deteriorate (fine motor skills). At extreme stress levels even more complex motor skills can fail – such as those involved in combination techniques.

It can totally incapacitate. Your legs tremble, heart pounds, you sweat, you want to run and you can’t seem to move or know what to do. You see the danger, you see the attack but you don’t respond effectively.

How to be confident and over come on fear

First, you must learn to fall safely. The front falling video and the side falling video by some professional are both excellent illustrations of fundamentals. However, watching them isn't close to sufficient. You must practice falling to the point where your instincts won't lead you to a broken wrist (or worse).

Add jumping rope and jumping jacks to your daily routine (i.e., hundreds of each per week). Concentrate on landing towards the front of your foot (i.e., less weight impacting on the heel). That's where you'll have the most control over your balance. You'll also strengthen those calves: your landings might not be ninja soft immediately but you'll be able to put your whole leg system to work.

Once you are approaching mastery of the tornado kick, I wouldn't advise going to the 540 kick directly even though that might seem logical. Instead, start practicing a series of tornado kicks: two in a row, three in a row, etc. Concentrate on the flow so it's not kick - pause - kick - pause but instead is a constant series.

Knowing how to take a fall is also important. Being able to walk away from a fall without injury goes a long way in boosting confidence. As others have suggested, break falls will help to learn how to recover from a fall. In parkour, (shoulder) rolls are one of the first things taught to ensure safe practice of the sport. If something feels like it's going to go wrong as you land, drop and roll. If mats aren't an option, rolls are usually more practical than break falls for a hard surface, but you should learn break falls too. If you can, start on standard mats (or soft grass) with someone who knows break falls. Enroll for a month at martial arts that teaches break fall if that's an option, or ask your instructors at your school to see if they teach it. Some taekwondo schools will. Regardless of your end goal, break falls are good to know if you plan to practice martial arts. You never know what can happen in sparring matches.

Again referencing park our, one jump that may improve landing is the tuck jump. The focus placed on landing on the balls of your feet. It will help you work on balance when landing, and work on developing a soft landing.

Remember to start low to the ground as well. It will allow you to be less afraid of the ground, and work on your technique. Eventually, however, you will have to just stand up and fall until you realize that you have trained yourself to be relatively safe

It doesn't necessarily help your control or power, but understanding how you are about to fall can directly improve your ability to fall correctly, and that then makes you more confident

The key to landing is not to be already rigid when you hit the ground. Think about how crumple zones work in a car. In order to absorb the impact, you start out relatively loose, and only tighten up as you are either absorbing the force or redirecting it. For example, if you land into a roll, you are redirecting the energy of the impact behind you.


1. Courtesy (Ye Ui)

Taekwon-Do students should attempt to be polite to one another and to respect others. Students should address instructors as Sir and to bow to the instructors before and after classes. Turning up early or on time for classes is also an aspect of courtesy.

2. Integrity (Yom Chi)

One who has integrity is able to define what is right or wrong and have the conscience, if wrong, to feel guilt. Taekwon-Do students should strive to be honest and to live by moral principles.

3. Perseverance (In Nae)

Perseverance means having patience. One of the most important secrets of becoming a leader in Taekwon-Do is to overcome every difficulty by perseverance. Confucius said," One who is impatient in trivial matters can seldom achieve success in matters of great importance."

4. Self-Control (Guk Gi)

Without self-control, a Taekwon-Do student is just like any fighter in the street. Loss of self-control is disastrous both in sparring and personal affairs. "The term of stronger is the person who wins over oneself rather than someone else", Lao Tzu.

5. Indomitable Spirit (Baekjul Boolgool)

A true student of Taekwon-Do will never give up, not even when faced with insurmountable odds. The most difficult goals can be achieved with indomitable spirit.

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