When new students show up to class, I find myself saying something like “You got this,” or “You can do this,” and any other sentence that inspires confidence. What is it about martial arts, self-defense or any other movement-centered endeavors that throws people off and scares them?
Most of the time it’s either fear of injury, fear of awkwardness, or fear of imperfection. Depending on the person’s level of confidence in their abilities, getting someone to purposely fall forward on their face is a hill I can die on in my attempt to foster belief in themselves. In my own experiences, most of the time, my own mind stops me when my body can follow through just fine.
My own training in Ninpo requires learning how to fall safely, and roll away in all directions forwards or backwards (called ukemi). I remember doing a “pre-test” on this set of techniques one night because I was trying to move forward in my belt level and my own fear was keeping me back. I kept hurting back and neck with each attempt. I was too scared to let my body flow smoothly into the movement. A few weeks later, I passed my test to get to my next belt. Some kind of miracle occurred during that test because I’ve continued to be awkward in my rolling and falling techniques for the last three-and-a-half years.
Just recently, I’ve decided I don’t care anymore about getting hurt if I hit the floor with my body. Throw me, flip me, drop me on my side — in my mind it doesn’t matter. We did ukemi practice this past week, and I just went for it, not worrying about it. I wasn’t perfect or smooth, but I got good momentum.
When someone in our self-defense class says, “I don’t think I can do this,” my reply is “Yes, you can.” Unless a person is physically or mentally unable in some way that actually prevents this movement, anybody can do this. My job as teacher is to prove to them they can by starting them out with simple movements close to the ground. Like teaching the backwards falling technique from sitting, or the forward falling technique from the knees. Belief is the key, so changing the student’s mind is the goal.
I’m a firm believer that in most cases anybody can learn to do anything given enough time, space, and creativity in both learning and teaching. When I encounter women who say “Oh, I could never do THAT,” what they are really saying is “I don’t have enough belief or confidence in myself to even try.” Getting people over that hump is my greatest task as teacher. I’ve seen the fear in the eyes of my partners as I’ve taken them through learning to grapple, hit each other (in sparring), taking throws, experiencing pain in techniques, and the falling techniques. I had to inspire belief in their own minds and hearts. I had to gain their trust and show them the way.
These days, it’s exciting for me to see the women I work with grow in their abilities and belief in themselves. I’m very proud of the work these women put into their training, and their technique when I put them through some kind of pressure test. Any woman CAN learn to defend herself well and with vigor and excellence. Will join us and find out for yourself?