When I think about having confidence when I am feeling particularly without it, I am reminded of the scene in The Sound of Music when Maria is heading for the Von Trapp Estate for the first time. Swinging that clearly empty guitar case, she is singing Richard Rogers’ lyric, “I’ll make them see I have confidence in me!” Sometimes, having a little talk with oneself is enough to get the job done. Sometimes, it is not. So, how can one overcome that sense of inferiority that erodes self-empowerment so easily? For many, the answer is found in the martial arts.
Life Challenges Don’t Wait for Us to Get Strong
Moms and dads certainly want their kids to be able to face the challenges that come along in life, which can be at any age, with a sense of self-assuredness and strength to avoid the consequences. Many times, we are not there when our kids are getting knocked down by the confrontation that leaves them feeling inferior. The natural tendency is for our kids to shrink from the experience and simply want to disappear, especially if the confrontation is that which comes from a bully. The bully counts on his or her victims to recoil as their only power comes from picking on those kids who feel helpless in their presence. Studies have shown that the effects of being bullied may cause long-term social anxiety disorder.
However, it needn’t be just the bullies in life that we need to be careful of. Anytime a child feels inferior in the presence of others who seem stronger or more capable, there may be the chance that the child will feel inferior until he or she learns how to present themselves better, whether that is walking or talking or simple body movements. As we grow up, we may be faced with not feeling either masculine or feminine enough in the presence of others who might outshine us in these ways. As he gets older, a young man may not convey the sense that he is able to protect his family, something that women find attractive.
Mastering the Body is Mastering the Mind
All these scenarios and others present a challenge to one’s self-esteem in the big wide world. The thing about Far Eastern combat technique is that you don’t need to try to find the solutions to every single possible scenario that might present itself in order to build a powerful sense of self.
Building self-confidence could be from any one of these training regimens:
- Kung Fu
- Sumo Wrestling
- T’ai Chi
- Tae Kwon Do
Finding the right method of practice for you or your kids is a lot like finding the right pair of shoes; it helps if you know what you want so you can shop around until you find the one that is comfortable for you and that you like.
Far Eastern Disciplines Ease the Troubled Mind
Another film analogy I recall when thinking about how practicing martial arts settles the mind is from The Last Samurai when Tom Cruise’s character is not doing well during a sparring session. A young man cautions him that he has “too many mind.” Without the self-restraint to be able to focus on the task at hand, we can become easily distracted from paying attention to too many things at once. It leaves us completely ineffectual, no matter what it is we are trying to achieve. When we become anxious, we tend to lose our self-esteem, and this can lead us to stop believing in our own abilities. Weakness leads to avoidance, and avoidance keeps us from facing our fears head-on, which is the only way to overcome that sense of inadequacy.
The self-control that comes from combat training is all encompassing because you are learning how to master your body in the face of all manner of challenges, and mastering the body comes from learning how to master the mind. People often confuse this education as meaning a fight must always ensure for the student to demonstrate the skill of self-confidence. The martial artist has learned a way out of these situations, even if he or she never has to use their fighting skills to do it.
With Self-Control Comes Fluidity in Motion
An improvement in self-confidence can occur on the very first day of training since kids are shown they can do things that they have never done before. They are taught to believe in themselves, especially when attempting new techniques. Gaining the ability to more confidently move their own bodies helps take the clumsiness out of merely walking. When their focus is concentrated on how their bodies move, even the kids who are famous for bumping into things become more attentive and focused on both their own bodies and their environment.
Too often, what happens in a stressful moment is that kids will hold their breath. Even if for a few seconds, this is enough to cause tension in the body. Breathing through the panic is a way to develop the muscle memory to breathe through it making it possible to unlearn this automatic stress response. This can be applied in such situations as taking a test, participating in sports, speaking before others, just to name a few. Surprisingly, remaining calm and breathing through the fear allows one to do the right thing naturally. In essence, it puts the mind in the right place to receive the stimuli.
In addition to using these disciplines to make new friends, avoid bullies and avoid conflict without resorting to violence, other gains to learning the combat arts are:
- Paying attention
- Following directions
Training engages the mind, but it also works in the areas of the physical, mental and emotional planes of expression. These workouts benefit both male and female tremendously. The ability to go forward with a balance of these aspects of being has unending advantages for kids who are seeking to vanquish their timidity or shyness and to fully engage in a broader sense of relating to their immediate world. Their sphere of influence is enlarged and their sense of accomplishment soars when all cylinders are firing.