Friday, October 21, 2011

Does Martial Art really help with self-confidence?

We have all heard too often that Martial Arts practice helps people improve their self-confidence, makes them physically and mentally stronger. How does it really work? What does it feel like to have more confidence?

For those who have suffered lack of confidence like me (I also suffer from egoism too) will be able to tell you that the consequence of lacking self-confidence is constant anxiety and fear of failure and even potential success in life. One of the manifestation of not having confidence is not being respected by others. Some becomes victims of bullies while others become anti-social and loner like I was. The common theme of lacking confidence is that we are constantly looking for other people's approval while living our own lives. A lot of people get into martial arts as a result of being bullied at school or home, they are looking for ways to protect themselves from their immediate threats, which are the bullies. As a result of gaining proficiency and experience in fighting, their abilities at protecting themselves from physical abuses increase, so they become less afraid of such threats, therefore they have transformed into a more confident person. Therefore, Martial Arts do help people in this kind of situation by making them stronger and hence more confident.

However, have you ever known of anybody who actually become more afraid of fighting as a result of martial art training? Before learning martial arts, I was more of a brawler who liked to get in fights with wild punches and kicks. I thought that was the only way to fight and the only way to get countered. I was never afraid of looking for fights (being a social outcast, I was constantly angry with my school mates anyways) because I didn't know any techniques nor was never exposed to potential dangers upon myself. Another reason that I was never afraid was that whatever I was doing in fights was always working. Basically, aggression, stupidity and eyes of fire carried the day for me all the time. Martial Arts changed me in terms of attitudes towards fight encountering. Ever since I have experienced pains, sufferings and being knocked so hard, I became aware of what could have happened to me during fights. I transformed into a much less aggressive person. Partially because I was humbled by the experience of being dominated by others physically, but also I became more afraid of fighting because I constantly told myself that I was still not good enough at fighting yet. I was still seeking other people's approval and validation. Moreover, I became more analytical about every situation, the more I did the more my negative thoughts got in the way. In this case, Martial Arts didn't really help me become more confident, although it did improve my characters in many ways.

So why is that?

In order to know how martial arts can help people in general boost their self-confidence, we need to look at what self-confidence is and is not.

You see, confidence means the feeling of being in control, the feeling of being good about oneself. A lot of people still associates self-confidence with not feeling fear, which is not the case. In my opinion, there are ways to feel confident about the things we do in life.

1. Be good at what we are doing so we convince everybody including ourselves that we are the best. This way of feeling confident is based on the results we can achieve using our abilities. A lot of great athletes, musicians, artists and teachers of all kinds are very confident when it comes to their specialties of subject matters because they can back whatever they preach with their experience, credentials and even live video footage. This is the most direct ways to feel confident. However, it only works as long as you think you have total control of your environment, be it the environment of your subject matters or your fans and admirers. Therefore, even a more than decent martial artist can feel confident in some areas of his life but less confident in some other areas; or confident during some moments of his days but not as confident during other moments. In other words, confidence gained from controling the external environment is not stable nor lasting.

2. Recognize what we are capable of doing and what we aren't, do our best in everything we do. Winning or losing the competition is only one aspect of the battle, it is not everything. As a martial arts practitioner, it is more important to train in spite of not feeling good, confident and strong than the outcome of the result. If we can base our confidence not on the ability to control the external environments, but on taking the actions to push ourselves physically and mentally, we obtain a new kind of confidence. The confident that is not changing from one interaction to another, nor from day to day. We feel confident when interacting with physically weaker people, and we should still feel the same level of confidence when interacting with people that are stronger, more attractive or more popular than us.

Another point on this is why we study martial arts. There must be a reason behind every action we take. People train martial arts with all kinds of reasons. It could be:

1. I want to know how to protect myself

2. I want to be more confident

3. I just love martial arts, I am inspired by movies and cartoons

4. I love to fight and compete, I want to be the best fighter in the world

5. I want to lose weight

6. I want to impress my friends

7. I had no choice because it is my family tradition

much more

Notice that the outcome you get really depends on your purpose behind training martial arts. Feeling good and confident about yourself in life really comes from the fact you are able to achieve your desire goals through efforts and hardworks. In other words, confidence (or the lack of confidence) becomes a by-product of achieving the goal you set yourself after.

A victim of bully gains his confident after being able to fight off the bully, which was the goal he had when stuyding martial arts. He reaches his goal and he feels the freedom, libration as a result of defending himself from the bully, hence he becomes more confident about himself knowing that he is capable of the things he thought he couldn't do.

A martial arts fanatic wants to live his life as a martial artist. He lives and breaths the style and discipline he loves. After making each breakthrough of his technical proficiency, he feels that he has no limit. The freedom and space that he experiences as a result of achieving goals after goals fuels his confidence and self-esteems.

An aspiring young martial art student has one thing in his mind, to become the world champion. He is ambitious and he works hard. However, he does not have the natural gift that a few others do (he is not bad either), therefore he can't always win his fight or sparring. He takes it too seriously because every setback he experiences is perceived as a failure that sets him further apart from reaching his dream of world championship. He starts doubting himself, especially when he sees others are improving while he is growing older every month. He gets more frustrated and impatent about his rate of progress. Eventually, he deems himself not good enough for martial art and quits. Not only he feels inadequent about his ability to learn martial arts, but also about himself in life. He does not feel confident about himself anymore.

What is your purpose of doing martial arts? Do you ever feel self-doubt in martial arts or your life in general? Are you sure of your ability as a martial artist or as a person? In other to change the outcome and be more confident, you have to make your goal challenging yet reachable. Changing the external environment for your desire outcome is going to be difficult and there is no gurantee it will work every time. However, changing your purpose, thus your definition of success is not that hard. When you reach every goals you set yourself after, you have gained your confidence. This is how martial arts help improving confidence or destroying confidence.

It's all about the attitude!

Thank you.
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