Black Belt test sparring.

The martial arts is the perfect place to practice making stress your friend…well, at least, your ally. The challenges that are presented go beyond what you normally do in daily life. Even if you look just at the fitness aspect, your body is not ready for it. I had trained in Taekwondo for 10 years before starting my Aikido training. I had done several tournaments and even a couple full contact fights, but at the end of the first Aikido class I literally crawled off the mat. The easy comparison is asking a sprinter to run a marathon.

This is a stress that you intentionally put on yourself. The variety of struggles that come from learning the physical techniques can bring about all kinds of insecurity and feelings of inadequacy. The stress from moving outside of your comfort zone can be very high. From Kelly McGonigal: How to make stress your friend

“Okay. Some bad news first. People who experienced a lot of stress in the previous year had a 43 percent increased risk of dying. But that was only true for the people who also believed that stress is harmful for your health. (Laughter) People who experienced a lot of stress but did not view stress as harmful were no more likely to die. In fact, they had the lowest risk of dying of anyone in the study, including people who had relatively little stress.” (You can watch the TED video here)

The key to this is completely your mindset. When you apply the energy to the positive outcome, you reduce the negative physical response within the body. Add the perspective that you are training for more than just fitness and your mind & spirit become stronger. When the student asks “I do this technique to protect who?”, the answer should include “my spirit, my heart” along with family, community and country. This brings those portions of the student into the technique performance. Courage is developed through training!

Black Belt sparring

One training tool that Taekwondo uses to develop a positive perspective on stress is sparring. Having partners throwing punches and kicks at you is a sure way to freak you out (i.e. raise stress levels). An upside is that no one really wants to hurt each other but the training makes you be courageous. The stress is acknowledged. The problems are visible. The problem solving has to begin.

As you spend more time sparring, you develop better problem solving skills. The idea is “hit them more than they hit you”. Now it becomes learned skills that get the job done (in a variety of subject areas) plus gives you a physical outlet to rejuvenate your spirit. My other work (contract & corporate security) has needed this knowledge.

The time spent training to be under stress allowed me to respond to situations such as medical calls, fire alarms and physical disturbances with the viewpoint of being a job to perform. The anxiety was put off to make sure everything got handled properly. The applications can be taken into the board room, project management, meeting deadlines or being called into the boss’ office.

Author: Master Robert Frankovich

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