View Full Version : how can i be calm mentally?

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07-20-2005, 06:56 PM
so i was wondering if anyone out there had any sort of trick or something that they tell themselves to calm down when being attacked by an intimidating person.

i mean i know i can defend myself against big strong 'scary' (if you will) people physically, but mentally i get really tense and scared and nervous, and the thing is that a testing day is coming up, and my last test i was really calm cause i was paired with soemone who i definatly did not feel intimidated by in the least, but this time around the only other people testing are really big strong harsh people and im freaking out. :crazy:

and ive been trying all the standard stuff ya know breathe deep, focus, take it one step at a time, but its not helping too much, :sorry:

07-20-2005, 08:13 PM
Imagine those big scary people are going to wipe the floor with you and know for a fact that you're going to die anyway, and if you don't you're going to fail anyway, since it's a little too late to be practising being calm now. I mean, what the hell were you doing during practice anyway? Trying to physically defend yourself or learning how to apply technique in a calm, composed manner? It's kinda late isn't it? :rolleyes:

The old saying is true, you play how you practice. Looks like you're going to fail or die trying, so you might as well give up all hope and just do what you can on the day.

I'd wish you luck, but I see you won't have any use for it. ;)

BTW, if I sound harsh, you should try having sensei ignore you and not talk to you or even correct you at all. Now that's harsh!

07-21-2005, 08:16 AM
well thats the thing... during practice i am calm and relaxed because a sensei is usually right there watching and making sure nothing goes wrong, but during a test im totally out on my own just showing what i can do without him by my side

and if a sensei doesnt correct your mistakes, i dont think thats harsh, i think thats aweful teaching.

07-21-2005, 08:47 AM
Pure intention to take uke down. Scowl, I do. Nothing like a good warface to get you going.

07-21-2005, 09:13 AM
Doesn't a little nervous energy help you become more focussed?

Or are we talking, totally-falling-to-pieces type nerves?

Drew Scott
07-21-2005, 09:26 AM
Imagine those big scary people are going to wipe the floor with you and know for a fact that you're going to die anyway, and if you don't you're going to fail anyway, since it's a little too late to be practising being calm now.

Actually, in my experience this may be good advice. I've had my most remarkable successes when I've given up hope of succeeding and simply decided that if I was going to fail, I'd fail spectacularly.

It sounds like right now you may be facing a collection of generalized fears about "big strong harsh Uke". Those fears will lose some of their power as you make them more specific. For example: think about exactly what you are afraid of with a "big strong Uke". Are you afraid your technique won't work? Are you afraid you'll be injured? What are you specifically afraid will happen? Now evaluate each of those events. Imagine it happening, in detail, and yourself responding to it with strength and calm.

Once you've "named" the fears, weigh the actual likelihood of them happening (have you seen that particular injury happen before in your dojo? is it common?).

This is the hardest part... based on what you percieve is the likelihood of these awful events occuring, decide whether your practice at this particular dojo, with this particular bunch of people, is worth suffering whatever awfulness you've identified as a strong possibility.

If the answer is yes, then you've made the decision to proceed regardless of the consequences, and just making that decision will probably help you deal with them.

If the answer is no, then you'll need to change your environment. Some ways of doing this include but are not limited to:

a) talking to sensei and explaining what you're afraid of. Asking for specific advice and practice to prevent such things from happening. postpone testing if there are specific things you can work on to improve your safety.

b) refuse to test with people you think are going to damage you. after all, a little bit of humiliation now is better than a lifetime of paralysis or chronic pain.

c) change dojos and/or martial arts

Only you can decide if the benefits of your current training outweigh the risks, and this evaluation may change over time if the expectations on your training change. No matter what you decide, my experience is that the first step to overcoming fears it to identify them.

Anyway, this is all just my own approach to things. I wish you success in finding your own way. For what it's worth, I think this process of facing your fears and limitations and learning to cope is one of the most valuable things you can learn from any martial art and will serve you in many more capacities than any technique you learn.


Robert Rumpf
07-21-2005, 09:31 AM
What rank are you testing for? You may be worrying too much in terms of the standards applied to you... try lowering your standards a bit to help you relax and seeing the test as an exhibition more than something that is pass/fail.

The level of the test matters as well, because it affects whether your test is mostly jiyu waza and randori or simple kata testing. If an instructor calls out "katate dori shihonage" and I have a difficult uke, I'm somewhat screwed as they know exactly how to shut me down and what I have to try to do, but if it is jiyuwaza (freestyle), then the advantage is back with me. Feel free to change up the technique as many times as necessary if you are fortunate enough to have freestyle on your tests. The element of surprise is crucial when you have to fight on your test.

As for ways to relax, I suggest breathing regularly, making an effort to look around the dojo and make eye contact with the spectators, doing lots of pins to catch your breath, and trying to move slowly once you've got uke under control. If uke starts being a real ass and taking control of the test and shutting you down left and right, you can either kick them in the $#$@ (or something similarly violent) to get their attention, or wait for the supposedly responsible testing board to intervene and make things more rational. I wouldn't be kicking people in the $#$@ on a 6th kyu test, but on a shodan test........

If the board doesn't intervene and swap out ukes, or you just get completely swamped and the board doesn't care, I'd try not to worry. People rarely fail their tests, at least from what I've seen. If you do fail, I wouldn't let it get you down too much about your own technique. There are plenty of people on both sides of any rank divide that are examples of excessively loose or excessively tight testing standards. Rank in Aikido (as is all status in life) is somewhat arbitrary and can be awarded or denied for any number of reasons that require a lot of context to understand, ifi there even is a reason.

I've found that the first uke on my test can help to set the tone of my technique, so I have been known to cherry-pick a good uke for that first set of techniques (or at least to choose the least annoying uke available) so that I can help avoid getting all tense up front. Than, I find that I am subsequently able to relax better and get into some sort of rhythm, no matter how outrageous the next few ukes are.

When I get a bad uke up front, I find that my test degenerates into something entirely too martial and hostile. Many more atemis are thrown, some of which are designed to connect in a more serious way, and the only way I succeed at doing Aikido is by not caring all that much about uke's well-being much. Things can get pretty nasty. I would recommend avoiding this hostile situation at all costs, to the point of opting out or letting them throw you around, unless you're testing for shodan, in which case it may be unavoidable.

I've found that the quality of my uke is mattering less to me as my testing experience grows, but that's in part because I'm more willing to hurt them when they try to screw with me, and also because such needlessly aggressive behavior is unfortunately more common at higher levels. At least nage is allowed to be more agressive and innovative in return.

Also, when you know your ukes, or at least their body type, you can try to choose your techniques in jiyu-waza in order to pacify them if needed. If someone is an ass, but doesn't like koshinages, guess what they're getting from me when they act up..? Likewise with sankyo, etc.

One caveat: anything anyone tells you on-line about testing may or may not be directly relevant to your situation, as testing between schools and between organizations can vary widely. My opinions are really only applicable locally and are probably overly cynical.


James Davis
07-21-2005, 09:45 AM
When you step on that mat, it is YOUR mat. :straightf

Take no crap.

07-21-2005, 10:08 AM
thanks guys!! that was all pretty helpful! i especially liked the one about having a warface to get pumped up or something!!

i am actually not even testing in aikido.... im testing in kempo, i dont know if anyone else out there takes kempo, but right now im a white belt and im testing for my green belt (the ranks go white, green, brown, then black... pretty different from aikido) (and i should know the japanese names for the ranks but i dont remember them)

and i geuss im not nervous about doing techniques becuase there really is no 'technique' in kempo... all it is just being able to block an attack and strike back... which ive been doing since day one of my training. but i am nervous about this one guy that im testing with because he has said he specifically that he is really really hard on people during their tests (which i geuss is good), and ive seen him on someone elses test, he just came running at them, and i thought he was going to tackle them, but instead he picked him up and started walking around i was like :hypno:

ok so i geuss ive identified my fear as what-ifs, but the what-ifs in my head probably wont happen in real life and i shouldnt be worried cause i definatly know how to block things and ill be fine :straightf

07-21-2005, 01:18 PM
Don't get too pumped up though. It's hard to explain but basically have nothing else in your mind other than the intention to take your opponent down. Remember and relax your shoulders too.

07-21-2005, 02:00 PM
How about getting off caffeine, red meat, sugar and whatever they put in diet soda. I'm not saying all people who eat candy bars and drink coffee are doomed or anything, just answering a question about a possible choice of how to be calm mentally... - Rob

07-21-2005, 02:29 PM
im not too pumped up... but i geuss i just had to chuckle to myself when you said that because my teacher gets the MEANEST warface ever when he is practicing cuts with his sword, and i geuss i was trying to picture myself doing that to the big scary uke. its still making me smile. i dont if thats because of confidence or ridiculusness.

07-21-2005, 03:53 PM
0.5mg of xanax works for me. ;)

07-21-2005, 07:02 PM
Last time I checked, tests are not competitions. Your partner is not looking to hurt you, make you look bad, or anything of that nature. Your passing does not make them fail, so they have no reason to wipe the mat with you.

As for the rest, just breath. It'll all be over soon.

07-21-2005, 07:11 PM
well thats the thing... during practice i am calm and relaxed because a sensei is usually right there watching and making sure nothing goes wrong, but during a test im totally out on my own just showing what i can do without him by my side

and if a sensei doesnt correct your mistakes, i dont think thats harsh, i think thats aweful teaching.

Well, Mal. It doesn't matter whether it's a kempo grading or aikdio grading. Besides, Kempo is like Aikido. ;)

Let me ask you this:
Will sensei be around you ALL the time watching you? Even if he is physically there, are you sure he is watching you?

I'm sure your sensei would hate to know that he is simply a crutch to you for your own ineptitude. If I were your sensei, I'd smack you in the head! But only because I care. ;)

If I didn't care, I'd say, "That's good Mal...keep practising...". ;)

07-21-2005, 07:31 PM
yeah i geuss you are right.... thank you for smacking me in the head. :uch:

and someone said something about red meat, soda/caffeine and sugar....
i dont eat meat, i cant remember the last time i drank a carbonated beverage, my mother is diabetic and im usually with her, so anything we eat is low sugar, and for caffeine, i must admit i drink one cup of coffee every sunday morning. so i dont think thats the problem with my nerves. :sorry:

boy am i a health-nerd or what?!

07-22-2005, 02:26 AM
I think when somebody looks aggressive to you, they have somehow intruded on your psychic boundary. This is almost the same as if someone has intruded your physical boundary, whereby their close proximity will cause some nervous reaction on your side.

The way I would take this up is pretty simple. If someone has physically intruded into your boundary, just move away and put up a barrier. This barrier could be your hand, your stance or angle and even posture. Similary with psychic intrusions, you could do the same. A change in your stance, angle and focus will allow you to change the intrusion connection. You could even choose to study him objectively instead of being affected by him.

Study him like, how tall is he, what colour is his eyes, left handed right handed, etc. By doing that, your mind will overide your fear and become more clinical.

Mark Uttech
07-22-2005, 06:09 AM
to be intimidated is a real test.

07-23-2005, 12:11 PM
I have learned to manage the adrenaline dump. Try and choose a different emotion to associate the adrenaline dump with. It's not easy and takes a long time. I used to get a dump when a boss at work would address me regarding my work!! Channel the energy to something like confidence or anger or even arrogance instead of fear. Channel everytime you get an adrenaline dump at work, home or even watching a movie.

07-23-2005, 02:59 PM
0.5mg of xanax works for me. ;)

Unless this was meant as a joke, I don't recommend using psychiatric drugs in this manner.

07-23-2005, 03:15 PM
It has been my experience that most big strong ukes don't usually hurt people. I find its the Little to average ukes with both ego complexes, and have something to prove that hurt people.

07-26-2005, 11:20 AM
well the test is finally over.... and i passed!!!!! and i did end up being paired with the one guy who is really 'intimidating' but im not that stressed out over him anymore because during the test i totally accidentally hit him in the head... not hard at all... but still i bumped him, and his eye just started watering really really bad so it looked like he was crying all over the place and he was trying so hard to keep going but his eye just kept tearing, i felt really bad, but it kinda reminded me that everyone has weaknesses, even big strong people, so it was all good, and he was ok after a few minutes so i was glad to see that.