It isn’t easy keeping your composure in class. So many aspects of martial arts training are stressful. You’re physically exerting yourself, you’re fighting another human being, you’re being yelled at by your coach, not to mention all the things on your mind before class. Like those gormless coworkers, the exam or work meeting you still need to prepare for, and the in-laws who seem to be popping up every weekend lately… And now this fish face wants to strangle you???
Lots of stress and emotions coming out.
Leave Your Emotions with Your Shoes
Easier said than done, I know. Martial arts do a good job of forcing us to be in the moment while training. It’s hard to actively think about a work meeting while also executing a Kimura or remembering your kick combinations. However, your mood can stick with you even if you aren’t thinking about your stressors. Before entering the training floor, try one or two quick mindfulness exercises. I do these every evening, but you may want to only want to do them when you have a stressful day before coming to class.
Grounding practices can bring you to the present moment. Find something in the room and really look at it. I mean really. Describe the object in your head as if you were describing it to an alien who had never seen such a thing.
Mindful breathing exercises are calming and have many benefits. Try taking ten mindful breaths. Deep, full, and slow breaths. In through your nose and out through your mouth.
Take a moment to enjoy nature. On your way to your car, or on your way to the gym, stop and look around. Take note or the sky, trees, grass, anything out in nature that you see.
These are just a few mindfulness grounding exercises that you can do before coming to class. This will put you in the right state of mind to better be able to handle all the trials and tribulations that are going to be coming your way once coach starts up that class.
Once You’re in the Training Hall and Feeling the Pressure
So class starts, maybe you’re drilling or maybe you’re doing live rolling. You’re starting to feel all kinds of things. Maybe your partner is going way too fast and it’s freaking you out a bit. Or maybe you just got kicked in the face pretty hard trying to do a standing guard pass. Or maybe you got really close to nailing that technique, but your partner managed to get away. Whatever the reason, you’re starting to get pissed off. Now what?
Communication is Key
Generally, I don’t think we communicate with our training partners enough or effectively. I’m not sure why this is, though I have some ideas. I think part of the reason is because we try so hard to be a good training partner, that we don’t communicate when our own needs aren’t being met. If your partner is going too fast for you, you should say something. That doesn’t mean that he or she will have to slow down, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes moves need to be done fast, and perhaps you’ll learn that you need to speed up. In other words, you may not always be right But who cares? Because you just learned something. As long as your request is clear, concise, and respectful, there really is no reason to not express what is going on. If your partner, for example, is going too fast and elbows you across the face, you have every right to say something. Doing so will also teach your partner to be a better training partner for others.
Getting Angry at Coach
Don’t be fooled, I’ve had plenty of angry moments with coaches and Sensei. The biggest one actually resulted in the training hall you see before you. How does one handle things when you feel anger and frustration towards your instructor?
Remember, your coach actually does have your best interest at heart. He wants you to succeed. However, not every coach is going to be an expert teacher. Martial arts instructors do not get teaching degrees, most do not even have a ton of experience teaching people. When I was first given my black belt, I was expected to start teaching classes literally The next day. There was no training or instruction on how to do so. I honestly just figured it out by trial and error, and looking back I do feel bad for all those errors.
So first have some patience with your coach, and don’t take any of it personally. Your coach’s job is to get you to your next level, and they will most likely do that the same way their coach did it to them. That being said, if they did or said something that truly affected you or offended you, that should be brought to the attention of either the coach themselves or the owners of the Academy. Sometimes it ends up just being a misunderstanding, I’ve had that happen before with my coaches. Other times, the coach needs to be given some instruction and guidance on how to better work with students.
Emotions will come up during training, but it is our job as martial artists to keep them in check.