Want to become a blackbelt without getting hit, or hitting anybody else? Maybe that’s not realistic but hear me out because I’ve met people who feel this way. Almost everybody has their idea of personal space that they don’t like to be breached by others. This makes it tough for a naturally passive person to get involved in martial arts training. Which is a shame because when you think about somebody being victimized in some way it’s usually not the scrappy brawler type that would be targeted, right? The unfortunate truth seems to be that the person willing to do anything to avoid violence is often the most likely to be met with violence. So what do we do? Just cater to tough people so they can get tougher and leave everyone else behind? No.
We follow a time tested process to take people step by step toward becoming more comfortable with training and conditioning. Nobody is expected to walk in their first day and perform like Bruce Lee or Rocky.
Here’s 3 answers to common concerns for adults considering martial arts.
1. What’s the policy on black eyes and broken noses?
Well, there should be just about zero of those here considering the safety measures we practice. Yes, martial arts involves a lot of physical contact, but keep in mind as you hear talk about punching, getting punched, and conditioning, that these are all things you work up to. How much contact you make when doing techniques is dictated by belt color; no students should be punching white belts, just as white belts are not expected to hit their partners. Making contact with strikes only comes once the student’s comfort level has expanded. It’s also important to remember that eventually becoming comfortable with physical contact is a necessary part of training, but it does not mean that you have to be eager to take or give hits early on.
2. What about my personal space?
Personal space is important, and we get that. Most people aren’t comfortable with others—especially those they don’t know well—getting close to them. So while you may hear a lot about getting close to your partner to make a technique work, keep in mind that if you’re still not comfortable giving up your personal space then do your best to stretch your comfort zone but also know that we understand the struggle. Think of the difference between a friend and a stranger getting inside your “bubble.” One probably makes you much more uncomfortable than the other, right? The more often you can attend the sooner you’ll get used to the people you’re training with; and when you do train techniques requiring closeness, it will be like having a friend inside your “bubble”, not a stranger.
3. Maybe I should wait until I’m more fit to start.
Do your best not to get stuck on the term “workout”. Even though we do exercise during classes, there are zero expectations when you first start out. That means if you’re not the weight, build, or fitness level you think a martial artist should have, that’s completely fine. Everyone starts somewhere, and most of us started with no clue what we were doing. Pushing yourself, especially as a white belt, is based on your knowledge of what you can do. It’s important to remind yourself, that when it comes to the dojo, no one is judging you; the only person you have to do better than is the person you were yesterday.
I always feel bad hearing someone say they’re going to begin working out now so they can do martial arts later because that typically leads nowhere. When a new student enrolls we see them take on a higher level of motivation to get fit because they can apply their fitness on a regular basis here in classes and lessons. Fitness can be like learning a second language and martial arts is like visiting the country native to the language. If you have a place to use it on the regular, it’s way more immersive, fun and likely you’ll to stick with it.
If there’s only one thing you take away from this post, it should be that every single person you come across in the martial arts was a white belt at one point. That means that we all remember what it was like to be new and not always have a clear idea of what’s going on. So if something comes up that worries you, or something you just plain don’t understand, don’t hesitate to ask an instructor about it. If you’re not sure whether a rule you’ve heard (something like “make contact on every strike”) applies to you at this rank or not, there’s never any harm in asking. If you happen to be out of your comfort zone during a particular drill, let your partner know, and chances are there are things they can do to help.