I was inspired to write this post by Felicia after reading her latest postEpiphany: distance karate.In this post she talks about a problem she has getting in close and throwing or locking her partner during ipponkumite practice. She states:
"I know it makes no sense, but I think the idea of stepping into a technique to grab someone and take them down intimidates the snot out of me. Like every other little girl on the planet, I grew up on fairy tales like Cinderella and Snow White where the heroine was kind, gentle, giving and nurturing. Sure their gentle nature almost did them in, but in the end, it all worked out, right? I think that's my hope as far as self-defense goes. Perhaps I may even be a little afraid of hurting my adversary, which absolutely makes no sense at all"
Fear of getting hurt or of hurting someone else can be a big barrier to overcome when learning martial arts. I have experienced this barrier myself and it has impeded my progress in karate training for about two years! I now feel that I am finally able to break that barrier down (or rather I am in the process of breaking it down) and as a result my confidence is growing.
I think this fear is fairly common amongst women karateka. We want to learn self-defense but at the same time we are afraid to do it with any conviction. I know there are other women in my club who feel the same. We end up going through the motions of practising our self-defence moves but, like Felicia, we stop short of putting the lock fully on or doing the throw with conviction.
Perhaps it is our upbringing that makes it particularly difficult for us to display the necessary aggression or assertion. It's part of the same social code that tells us to 'always think the best of people' or to trust people until we are absolutely sure they are about to hurt us (in which case it might already be too late to execute an effective defense).
So why does it take female karateka so long to overcome their fears? I'm talking about senior brown belts still having this reticence -people who have been training for 3-4 years. I think some of the blame has to lie with karate training itself. In many styles of karate pretty well all throwing techniques have been removed from the syllabus, yet traditionally throwing was a core part of karate.
I mentioned earlier that I was now breaking down the barrier of fear that I once experienced. This has really started to happen in the last 3 months since I started to learn kobudo at a jujitsu club. Though I am not learning jujitsu I am expected to join in the break fall practice and hip throws or locking techniques at the beginning of the session with the jujitsukas. I now know how to fall safely and what it feels like to be thrown and guess what- it doesn't hurt!
Here's a video of an impressive break fall drill (this is advanced stuff, I can't do it like that!)
My confidence has grown enormously. Other martial artists I know have actually told me how much they enjoy being thrown! When they are throwing themselves into break falls they are clearly enjoying it, they are like kids throwing themselves around in a ball pool. I didn't used to understand this mentality but now I share it! There is a child like pleasure in throwing yourself around without getting hurt.
It doesn't stop there though. Being liberated from a fear of being hurt gives you greater confidence in executing other karate techniques. It makes you more assertive (rather than aggressive ) in the way you practice all aspects of karate - whether with a partner or solo. However, I have developed a bit of a golden rule for myself: I won't do anything to my partner that I wouldn't tolerate having done to me. If I want to practice a technique assertively on someone then I encourage them to 'lock me tighter' or 'throw me harder', that way I know what it feels like and can better judge if I am doing a technique appropriately.
So for me the key to overcoming fear has been to learn how to fall properly and to learn how to throw and be thrown. I am pleased that in our new SSK syllabus break falling and throwing have been re-introduced to the syllabus so other members of my club will now have the opportunity to learn these skills and hopefully overcome their fears too.
How do you overcome your fear of hurting or being hurt?