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Bowley Kenpo Karate » Philosophy » Guts are the anesthesia that deaden the pain of fear

Guts are the anesthesia that deaden the pain of fear

Recently a few of the Bowley Kenpo Karate students attended the Big D tournament in Dallas. A few watched and a few entered, including me. With several hundred competitors, it’s the biggest local tournament and attracts martial artists of all styles. The primary draw for us though is the Kenpo forms division. However we also entered the open forms, weapon forms, and point sparring.

Overcoming fear and competing at the Big D tournament

Overcoming fear and competing at the Big D tournament

I’m a fan of tournament competition for a variety of reasons. Occasionally it’s good to measure yourself against other martial artists not from your school, or family of schools. Seeing how other styles perform can open your eyes to trying something new or reinforce your belief in your own system. But the main reason I’m a believer in tournaments is the butterflies in the stomach it causes, and the courage it takes to overcome them.

Kenpo has a saying all blue belts learn: Guts are the anesthesia that deaden the pain of fear. The fear you feel as you step in front of the judges or when you get in the ring opposite a new opponent can overwhelm you. But you find your courage, swallow the fear, and go compete. You don’t let fear keep you from doing what you set as a goal to accomplish. There’s nothing wrong with being scared. But letting your fear control your actions could mean that in a fight or flight situation, you neither fight nor flee, you do the worst thing and freeze. Building your courage (or guts) takes practice.  So we find situations that cause the fear and practice overcoming it.  Tournaments can be those situations.

Story time.

One of the students entering the tournament is my oldest daughter.  She was in the 12 to 13 intermediate girls division. Understand she’s a little small in size for her age, but big in heart. Her first round opponent was another girl at least a full head and a half taller. She must have also had at least 50 or 60 pounds on my daughter.  Just a big girl. My daughter stepped up to the line and competed. In the match, the larger girl landed a huge sidekick right into my daughters midsection, and she went flying out of the ring.  But my daughter got back to her feet with tears in her eyes and returned to the line. As it turned out, those were the deciding two points for the opponent to secure victory. Match over. As a parent and instructor, I could not have been more proud. She overcame her fear after taking the big hit, got back in the ring, and showed great sportsmanship on top of that.

In this case, I’m certainly biased. But there were hundreds of kids in the Big D tournament.  All had varying degrees of experience in karate let alone tournament competition.  I’m sure most of the kids (and adults) felt those little butterflies in the stomach. But they did compete. On this day, in this situation, they beat their fear. With enough practice, maybe future tournaments, overcoming the fear becomes easier. Then in a more intense situation, like a fight or flight problem, they’ll have developed the guts they need and won’t freeze.

Sam Bowley
McKinney, TX

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