Fear of Fighting
The young competitor was sick to his stomach. He made a last dash to the bathroom before his name was called. Here he was, a newly promoted black belt at one of the biggest tournaments in the US, fighting an even bigger name - an ex-serviceman with an impressive record who had started his training in Korea. "Don't worry, you'll do just fine", his adversary promised with compassion rarely displayed at a karate event.
Many people come to the martial arts because they abhor the idea of fighting, and simply want to learn some practical self defense. "I hate sparring" is actually a fairly common utterance in some schools. Part of this is due to the fact that kumite is taken personally by certain players who feel a need to prove their dominance over others. The stock warning issued by one instructor I used to know - "lighten up or I'll show you how hard I hit" - only served to reinforce the macho tendencies that were already well established. I've seen a number of decent students leave karate because of runaway sparring matches and indifferent coaching practices. Although anything can happen on the street , there has to be some semblance of fairness in the dojo.
The body is constantly eavesdropping on our thoughts and responds accordingly. Fear is negative energy that takes its toll on us physically; its debilitating effect produces fatigue. Another by-product of fear is shallow, labored breathing. While emotions do affect the quality of respiration, the opposite is also true: proper breathing can re-stabilize our emotions. Taking a slow, deep breath to calm the nerves before sparring or testing can be very effective.
Legendary boxing coach Ray Arcel once noted that no matter how confident a fighter may appear before a bout, there is still some remnant of fear beneath the image of toughness.
As for our nervous karate fighter at the big tournament - he ended up winning after all! And it would be the last time Chuck Norris would give friendly advice to someone he was about to do battle with. Never underestimate anyone, including and especially the fearful.