Psychological Problems in Contact Martial Arts
(Screwing your mind with Martial Art!)
This article refers to common psychological problems encountered by the trainee student
while studying combat arts, particularly in contact oriented martial training.
1. BEGINNERS IDEAS: Wrong Thought:
Once you learn Martial arts, you can knock down any opponent of any size.
When you are confronted with a taller, heavier & more aggressive opponent, you are in trouble. Martial arts does
not make a superman out of you. After a study of martial arts, you will understand the probability ratios of you winning better
& you will be able to estimate the opponent’s strengths & weaknesses & use this knowledge towards your survival
2. BEGINNERS IDEAS: Wrong Thought:
When a student comes to learn any full contact art, he or she is of the impression that Fighting is a magical art, comprised of secret techniques. He feels that once these techniques are learnt &
mastered, he can effectively knock out any bully or opponent using these secret techniques!
There are no secret techniques. All techniques are correct body responses & specific reactions to a particular
attack. or form of assault. These responses are skills which have to be learned by the body at a reflex level, so that they
can be reproduced in the advent of an actual attack by the unpredictable opponent.
3. BEGINNERS IDEAS: Wrong Thought:
Martial arts makes you lose your fear for fighting!
Martial arts do not take away your fear. They make you comfortable with it. Fear is a necessary component of human
psyche. It is a protective instinct which gears you for a fight or flight. Fear must be used to channelize your action in
the appropriate direction. There is a difference between fear & cowardice. Fear can either make u a coward or a hero.
It depends upon how you channelize it!
4. BEGINNERS IDEAS: Wrong Thought:
The Senior student is always going to beat the junior!
The senior is person who has spent more time training than u. Like u, he too comes with his set of fighting weaknesses,
like say, small frame, female gender, excess weight, etc. His journey is about finding a way around his weakness & also
in improving his skill.
Many a times superior skill cannot overcome superiority in weight, height, aggression & gender. Females are generally
smaller built than males & also more gentler in predisposition, hence less combat ready. Some people are more aggressive
& may have greater drive, will power & determination to win. Some people are naturally muscular & possess greater strength, which may enable them to overpower their seniors.
However, the senior is to be respected, as he possesses superior attributes & qualities. He has endured the tough
martial arts journey longer than you & risen to a degree of skill far above yours. He has tided through several injuries,
numerous sparring bouts, strenuous physical training & is psychologically more combat mature than you.
So disrespecting the senior is certainly going to slow down your combat progress, as you miss out on benefiting from
his combat experience. So, even if you beat the senior, you will not be able to beat his seniority!
5. BEGINNERS IDEAS: Wrong Thought:
During sparring, the Senior intentionally hurt you to teach you a lesson!
As a junior, the psychology of sparring is beyond your ability to grasp, so dont start guessing.
Sparring in the class is generally safe & supervised. The Instructor who is conducting the bout controls the sparring
partners. He stops the bout when he thinks you can get injured, as he is more bothered about junior safety than senior, who
is combat seasoned. On the contrary, if the junior starts scoring on the senior, your instructor may not stop the bout.
At the same time, there are certain experiences you must have in order to train in full contact combat. These experiences
are being handed over to you in a safe & controlled manner, as prescribed, without serious injury.
So you are actually being meted out preferential treatment! So it is wrong
to think that you are being intentionally hurt by the senior.
6. BEGINNERS IDEAS: Wrong Thought:
I will get the better of my colleague the next time we sparr!
You must realize that your colleague is there to help you to put your ideas into action. To see whether your technique
works, as most of them will not work on your seniors.
Your colleague gets a punch on you, good. Establish a relationship with him, so as to get comfortable working on techniques
& sparring with him. You are both here to learn to fight your future opponents, not to get the better of each other.
7. BEGINNERS IDEAS: Wrong Thought:
I will correct my colleague in the presence of my instructor
In the presence of your Instructor, Never correct your senior. You will be doing the job of the Instructor at the expense
of not concentrating on developing your own technique.
If your colleague makes a mistake & your Instructor is ignoring it, it will be because of a purpose, the correction
may not be a priority in the teaching process.
8. BEGINNERS IDEAS: Wrong Thought:
I will dominate my instructor! - Dominatory Talk, Behavior & Attitudes
The student tends to dominate his Instructor by speech, gestures or attitudes.
Retort reply (Back answering), contradicting without taking time to understand, or refusing to acknowledge a statement
all are speech dominations.
Placing your hands on your hips, Staring constantly, Facing away while being instructed & not acknowledging the
Instructors presence are all gesture dominations.
Attitudes like ‘I don’t care for you” & ‘Not following proper respects procedure (like
a bowing)’ & not following the orders issued in class are dominatory.
Dominatory attitudes are always noticed not just by your Instructor, but by all your seniors & your Teacher. In
the beginning, you are often excused as time is given to you to develop correct attitudes. But later on, dominatory attitudes
will make your Instructors lose interest in training you & will offend your Instructors.
9. BEGINNERS IDEAS: Wrong Thought:
student who wants to fight with his Teacher & score over him!
When you join the training, you have preformed ideas of your Teacher - That he will be
serious, hard, tough, loud, stern & reserved in his approach.
However as you train you may find that he is easy going, soft spoken, comfortable with
criticism, ignores your errors, & easily approachable. This may make you feel that he is “soft”.
As you train with your Teacher, you may at one point feel that he is not as seasoned as
you first thought. This is the time to correct yourself.
Your Teacher has probably put in decades in to training. He must have been in numerous
bouts, competition or otherwise. He has faced several challenges & emerged successful to be able to establish his reputation
which drew you to learn under him in the first place!
If he is over looking your mistakes, it is because he understands your stage of learning.
If he is soft spoken, it is because he does not see the need to portray toughness. If he is comfortable with your criticism,
it is because he is patient with your faults & wants to give you enough time to learn. If he is easily approachable, it
is because he believes that you have a right over him.
If you punch him, he will probably say ‘Good!’ If you kick him, he may say
‘Wow that was good!’ If you parry his attack, he may say, ‘You
are learning fast!’ If you get the better of him, he may say ‘Hey man- You got me- you are great!’ But make
no mistake – he has seen it all, done it all. In all probability he is just encouraging you. If he desires, he can show
you his superiority with ease, but he will usually refrain from doing it. As he is not here to fight you, but to teach you
to fight. And the goals are clear in his mind, at all times.
If you are lucky to sparr with him, remember that he will impose no threat to you, but
will only want you to give optimum performance. Because, in the arena he has lived in, he has seen much more violence than
you can ever imagine. He will have harnessed bullys, controlled rough houses & tamed more aggressive opponents than you
So learn whilst sparring with him, because he is your Teacher – The only man who
can help you to change your self in combat! And may be , even in life!
And therefore, do not mistake his ‘Softness’ for ‘Weakness’. Remember,
the Bruce Lee adage ‘Be soft, yet not yielding, Be firm , yet not hard”
BEGINNERS IDEAS: Wrong Thought:
I will quit, if I get ego problems!
Ego problems are very common in fighting arts. Fighting arts precipitate inherent dormant ego problems.
When you begin to learn fighting arts, you are very apprehensive of your seniors prowess, but as you progress, you
find that they are all human. They make mistakes, have weaknesses & are not as omnipotent as you first thought.
As you learn, your confidence grows, & there comes a time when you feel that your seniors & Instructors are
no big deal & you begin to underestimate them. At this point, you must realize that you are on the wrong track & correct
your thinking (as already explained before).
Now, during bouts or during exams, when you are beaten, ridiculed or taken to the height of tiredness, your ego crashes
& you suddenly start disliking everyone who has shown you that you are not as good as you would like to believe. Then
some students may suddenly want to quit & escape from the class which brings them back to reality.
If this happens, Know that there is only one reality. The reality of Combat
– where there is only one opponent, some big horrendous unknown enemy who
will cross your path in the future, when destiny decides……. And it is your training Class, your Teacher, your
Instructors, your Seniors & your Colleagues who stand on your side to train you for that big fight!
And a good Martial Artist is one whose training destroys the ego, rather than build it!
“Punches and kicks are tools to hack your ego, your fear and your
Bruce Lee, Tao of JKD
Prof. Dr. Deepak Rao
DSC (Military Sc, USA), PhD, MD, MBBS, CLET (USA)
Seventh Deg Black Belt & Executive Director
Unarmed Commando Combat Academy
www.commandocombat.com / www.jkdindia.com
E mail: firstname.lastname@example.org