If someone was to ask what the most important thing that our school teaches I would answer Confidence.
I learned long ago that it has to be “real” confidence, not just the ability to stand tall when things are easy but the type of confidence that doesn’t falter under pressure.
At the school where I started, sparring was an optional class. On Wednesday and Friday nights Mr. J.P. would teach us how to fight. As soon as I earned my yellow belt and was eligible to spar, I was in class twice a week. I loved it and never missed an opportunity to train.
There were a couple of regular guys there every week with me. When I say guys, I mean that they were men who had been training a while and were very intimidating. I was just a 13-year-old kid when they took me under their wings. Chris, Joe, and Tom were there every week to push me and toughen me up.
I started to go to tournaments to test my skills against martial artists from outside our school. The added pressure of competition pushed my skills, and confidence to new levels.
Fast forward to my Black Belt test when I was 17 years old. Mr. Pat, the owner of the dojo and highest belt, made all 9 candidates spar. Both Joe and Chris from the sparring class were there with me. The other 6 guys on the test never went to sparring class.
When I got hit with a good punch or a hard kick, it didn’t bother me. I had been there literally thousands of times before. I relied on my training and kept going. The same with Joe and Chris, the sparring on the black belt test was the best part of the whole day for us.
Things weren’t so easy for the other 6 men who spent their entire martial arts career avoiding sparring. They could block punches while drilling in class because they knew they were coming. However, in sparring things arent scripted and the first time they got hit you could see their confidence crumble. They lost all faith in their abilities and panicked.
That’s when I realized that the confidence I learned on Wednesday and Friday nights had transferred to every aspect of my life. Learning how to face adversity, like punches and kicks from tough guys, made things that used to be scary seem like a piece of cake and this is why sparring has always been a big part of our program.
I know that kids who learn to face their fears, build confidence under pressure, and get toughened up are more prepared when they face peer pressure, self-doubt, and setbacks.
As a parent, like me, you know that life is hard and you probably want your child to be able to stand tall when they should and to have the mental toughness to stay strong in the face of adversity.