The Effectiveness Of Martial Arts
I’ve found martial arts can be a great way to develop confidence as well as help get yourself in shape. Since many of the posts on this blog deal with confidence, I figured this post would fit right in with them. But before we get started, I want to clarify something. There has kind of
Why You Should Be Confident: Part 1
It’s very hard to tell someone how (and why) to be confident. I mean, you can tell them all day, but it’s almost something you need to feel for yourself in order to fully understand it. Some people try to approach this from the outside in. For example, they model the behaviors of confident people.
Why You Should Be Confident: Part 2
Number 3. Taking up a lot of space. Shy people make themselves smaller to draw less attention to themselves. Confident people aren’t afraid to take up space. Someone trying to fake this will either a) position themselves to take up a lot of space, but do so in an awkward manner (it’s analogous to a
Why You Should Be Confident: Part 3
A lot of people are really socially conditioned to not be confident. They think they have to have money, an awesome job, a nice car, etc., in order to be confident. They think “once I have that stuff, then I am entitled to be confident.” And why? Because society says so. So they get that
Why You Should Be Confident: Part 4
That was (is) the hardest thing for me. But like I posted before, for me personally it eventually came down to realizing that I have worked really hard to take care of my shit. When I was really unconfident, it was because I was letting other people determine how I felt about myself. If other
I’ve found martial arts can be a great way to develop confidence as well as help get yourself in shape. Since many of the posts on this blog deal with confidence, I figured this post would fit right in with them.
But before we get started, I want to clarify something. There has kind of been a division in martial arts over the last two decades or so, into “stuff that actually works against a resisting opponent” and “stuff that doesn’t work against a resisting opponent.” Let me give a brief explanation of what I’m talking about.
When martial arts first started getting really popular (1950′s and 60′s), there was basically kung fu, karate, and judo in America. There were lots of kung fu movies in the 70′s. There were lots of karate schools opening up in the 60′s. There were a lot of ninja movies in the 80′s. Tae kwon do started to become popular, too, and it seemed if you wanted to learn a style you chose between karate and tae kwon do.
During this time, it was generally considered that these styles were effective for fighting. After all, you spent your training time punching and kicking and doing forms to perfect your moves. You learned how to counter punches thrown by an opponent. Depending on your school, you may have even sparred. “Oh, you know karate? Remind me not to make you mad!”
But something was happening occasionally that was not talked about. A lot of these guys were unable to successfully use their skills against boxers (more on this later). These traditional martial artists were also losing street fights to untrained brawlers and thugs. How could it be, that people who spent hours each week training in a fighting art were losing to people who had never trained? Isn’t that kind of like someone who’s never played basketball before beating an NBA player? What is going on?
In the 90′s, Ultimate Fighting Championship rose started to become popular. It was designed to be a venue to test all fighters across all systems and weight classes (originally there were no weight classes). People from all styles entered, and after a few tournaments a few trends started to emerge:
First, there were a few styles that consistently won, the most notable being Brazilian Jujitsu (BJJ).
Second, the people who consistently won trained in a specific manner; they trained against resisting opponents.
Let me speak to both of these points:
Certain styles tended to win consistently because they not only had a more effective repertoire of techniques (moves that were more effective) but also because they trained against resisting opponents in a realistic manner. What does “resisting opponent” mean? In a typical traditional martial arts school, for example, you learn to defend against a punch in an entirely unrealistic manner. Usually your opponent punches, leaves his arm extended, and you do some fancy counter move to it. Additionally, this punch probably wouldn’t have even hit you if you didn’t defend against it. In real life, your opponent is not going to throw a punch without trying to actually hit you, nor is he going to leave his arm extended afterward and allow you to do a counter move. Many traditional martial arts schools are full of this kind of stuff, and the bottom line is that it’s not helping any of the students. Not only are they learning moves that won’t work in an actual fight, but in many cases they are also developing a false sense of confidence. Imagine that for years you’ve been told that you’re learning how to defend against all these attacks. You might even get your black belt. You probably feel pretty tough and can demonstrate dozens of cool moves on your partners! You believe so strongly that you are a competent fighter but you’ve never actually trained against a resisting opponent. What unfortunately happens in some cases is that this person will actually get in a fight and none of the stuff they’ve been training for years will actually work. In that situation, not only do they have to deal with losing a fight, but they also have to deal with the massive ego blow that comes from having your beliefs that you can defend yourself shattered.
Sometimes these people would even be in pretty good shape. They might be strong, maybe a kung fu guy has good iron palm skill (iron palm is cool, btw, read this site to learn all about it) and can break bricks, or maybe they know a dozen different ways to block a punch. But if they can’t actually apply those skills because they’ve never trained against a resisting opponent, then it’s not going to help them.
Fast forward to today, and pretty much all UFC and other similar tournament fighters all use very similar styles consisting of a mix of Brazilian Jujitsu, Muay Thai, boxing, and wrestling. Why? Because 1) those styles have a demonstrated record of success against resisting opponents of all styles, and 2) because those styles, by their very nature, are trained against resisting opponents.
So you might be thinking “well, why not just train karate or tae kwon do or kung fu against resisting opponents?”
If you’ve ever seen a karate, tae kwon do, or kung fu sparring match, you may have noticed that “it just looks like kickboxing.” It doesn’t look like the moves you learn in your forms or in your classes. The reason for this is that most of those moves do not work against resisting opponents. The reason no one blocks a punch with a rising forearm block and then counters with a reverse punch like you learn in karate or tae kwon do class is because that doesn’t work in real life against an opponent who is resisting you and actually trying to punch you and trying to not get hit by your attacks. Those types of techniques get weeded out when you start training against resisting opponents.
Resiting opponents are necessary for two reasons: 1) they get you familiar with how it feels when someone is actually trying to avoid your attacks and actually trying to hit you and not leaving their punches extended, and 2) they let you figure out which techniques work and which don’t. That doesn’t mean the other person is actually trying to hurt you when you’re training, it just means they’re not standing in place and performing unrealistic attacks.
And if those techniques don’t work, why are they still taught? Tradition? Art? And if they don’t work, why would anyone practice them if their goal was to become a good fighter? Why would you spend time training something that you’re not actually going to use?
There is nothing wrong with training a traditional art if you enjoy doing it. The only problem is when it is presented to the student as if they are actually learning to defend themselves against a resisting opponent. It can still be a great way to get in shape, to learn about culture, to learn bits of another language, to meet people, to exercise, and to feel good. But it’s not a good way to learn to defend yourself, if that is your goal.
If you want to learn to defend yourself against a resisting opponent, look for a school that trains BJJ, Muay Thai, boxing, and wrestling. This may be called “MMA” (mixed martial arts). Make sure they train against resisting opponents. And check out the school to make sure there isn’t any ego or anything. Just like with anything, you need to make sure it’s a good fit.
It’s very hard to tell someone how (and why) to be confident. I mean, you can tell them all day, but it’s almost something you need to feel for yourself in order to fully understand it.
Some people try to approach this from the outside in. For example, they model the behaviors of confident people. Confident people do x, y, and z, so they try to copy x, y, and z. While this approach has its merits, it also has its issues. Just for the sake of example, let’s look at the following three behaviors that confident people tend to have:
1) good eye contact
2) expecting people to listen when you speak
3) taking up a lot of space (as opposed to trying to make yourself small, hunched over, turning sideways, etc.)
So let’s say you identify these 3 behaviors and decide to copy them yourself.
The problem with just blatantly copying those behaviors is that yes, confident people do them, but they do them automatically. When you are consciously trying to do those things, you hesitate because you’re not actually congruent with them. What this means is you don’t identify yourself as someone who should do those things. There are small microexpressions and such that give away that you aren’t congruent with them. Now keep in mind, people aren’t consciously noticing these microexpressions and stuff; it’s all subconscious. But our brains are wired to pick up on them. Call it a part of “vibes” or “energy.”
So let’s look at number 1. Good eye contact. There is a subtle difference between a confident person giving good eye contact, and a person who lacks confidence trying to do good eye contact. The first person will look at you and maintain good eye contact. The second person will look at you, but might look down for a millisecond (automatically) and then remember “no, wait, I’m supposed to be giving good eye contact” and correct and refix his gaze. Even though the two behaviors are virtually indistinguishable, subconsciously people will pick up on the difference.
Let’s look at number 2. Expecting people to listen when you speak. If you are high value, people probably listen when you speak. Therefore, high value people can expect other people to listen when they speak because they are used to it. Therefore, acting as if you are used to people listening when you speak is a high value behavior. But when unconfident people try this for the first time, it doesn’t come off as authentic. They miscalibrate, or they try too hard, as if they are over-acting on stage.
Number 3. Taking up a lot of space. Shy people make themselves smaller to draw less attention to themselves. Confident people aren’t afraid to take up space. Someone trying to fake this will either a) position themselves to take up a lot of space, but do so in an awkward manner (it’s analogous to a woman posing for a casual photo, but she is new to modeling and she looks stiff and unnatural despite it being a casual pose), or b) they do it but slip up for a millisecond and then correct themselves, which subcommunicates that they aren’t congruent with being high value/confident, which subcommunicates that they aren’t confident.
Now the idea is that you “fake it til you make it” enough and eventually you realize that “hey, not only does nothing bad happen if I do this stuff, but sometimes people respond to me better, too.” And throughout the process you calibrate more until you get good at it.
But in some cases you become what they call a “social robot.” You are doing all the right stuff, but you don’t actually have confidence. Ever see someone who “has all the right moves” yet something doesn’t seem quite right even though you can’t put your finger on it?
So in telling someone how to be confident, you can list behaviors that confident people have, but simply doing them doesn’t actually make you have real confidence. Sometimes it can help, and some people do learn from this “outside in” approach, but in my experience it wasn’t enough for me personally. I was doing all this stuff but I felt fake. I could tell I wasn’t congruent with it, and I probably seemed more awkward than if I was just “being myself.”
btw, awkwardness comes from a lack of congruency/confidence. Two people can do the same thing and one person seems awkward and the other person doesn’t. It’s all the little stuff that is subcommunicated through confidence.
And remember these itemized confident behaviors because I’m going to mention them again later.
So for me, developing confidence was more of an “inner game” thing.
But what I struggled with (and still do struggle with) is the why.
WHY should I be confident?
I mean, I could tell you a lot of reasons why I shouldn’t be confident.
A lot of that came from comparing myself with my friends.
For example, I have a friend who gets approached 5 times a night. I get approached less than 5 times a year. That’s good evidence that I suck and have no reason to be confident. That’s good evidence that my friend SHOULD be confident.
My friend can go up to women and say “hi” and they turn to face him and are interested in talking to him. I go up to women and say “hi” and they ignore me. That’s good evidence that I suck and have no reason to be confident. That’s good evidence that my friend SHOULD be confident.
And I could go on and on.
And there’s a strong argument that “social” confidence is, in fact, given to you by other people.
But that’s not the right way to think about it.
Look, if you go out and 5 women open you per night, and women respond well when you open them, you could take that as “yeah, that means I’m awesome.” And you would definitely get a state boost from it. But that’s the wrong way to do it because that means you’re being reactive to the other people.
You’re basically saying “I’m only confident when other people give me permission to be confident.”
What would happen if no women opened you? What would happen if women ignored you when you opened them?
You’d have no confidence.
Real confidence has to come from a belief you have about yourself.
A lot of people are really socially conditioned to not be confident. They think they have to have money, an awesome job, a nice car, etc., in order to be confident. They think “once I have that stuff, then I am entitled to be confident.” And why? Because society says so. So they get that stuff and then they feel confident for a while… until the newness of whatever wears off, and then they feel like they suck because their car isn’t new anymore or whatever.
But what happened? The guy bought a new car, then he believed he was entitled to be confident because he said “now I meet society’s requirements for confidence, so now I can act in this certain way” and he walks into a bar like a boss and people respond favorably. They didn’t even see what kind of car he parked outside!
They were responding to his behaviors, because he gave himself permission to be confident.
What it comes down to is giving yourself permission to be confident.
Remember those 3 behaviors I listed above? The thing is, you already know those things, and you will do them automatically when you are feeling confident.
The nights when I am feeling confident (for whatever reason), I notice that interactions are going well and I’m already doing all those things.
The nights when I’m in my head and I’m choding around, I’m thinking “crap, I gotta sit a certain way, I gotta do this, I gotta speak loudly when I go talk to that girl, I gotta…”
So the big question is how do you develop confidence? Or put another way, how do you give yourself permission to be confident?
Because everyone already knows how. You’ve learned how from observing other people. Your brain already knows all this stuff subconsciously. Think back to a time in your life when you were confident. It can be anything. It can even be something silly. Maybe back in grade school you were the only 5th grader at your bus stop and everyone else was a 3rd grader. 5th graders are cooler than 3rd graders. You probably acted differently (more confidently) around them than you would have if you were a 3rd grader surrounded by 5th graders. And back then, you didn’t know any of this crap cognitively, you just did it.
Or another example: have you ever gotten an awesome haircut, or a new shirt that fit you perfectly, and when you wear it you feel AWESOME? You act differently. People respond to you differently. Did anything change? No, you just put on a new shirt. But because you believed that shirt gave you permission to act confidently, you started to act different, and because you were congruent with it, people responded favorably.
Now fast forward 10 years and that shirt is no longer in style. If you wore it out what would happen? You’d feel self-conscious. BUT IT’S THE SAME SHIRT THAT MADE YOU FEEL COOL BEFORE.
What changed? You now no longer feel that you have permission to be confident because you aren’t meeting society’s standards for coolness.
So to be confident, you have to give yourself permission to be confident.
That was (is) the hardest thing for me.
But like I posted before, for me personally it eventually came down to realizing that I have worked really hard to take care of my shit.
When I was really unconfident, it was because I was letting other people determine how I felt about myself. If other people were reacting favorably, then I was super confident and would act as such. If other people were treating me like I was a loser, then I felt like a loser and took on low value behaviors.
It’s why I said I have no problem with women who show attraction (they were giving me permission to be confident) but I sucked with women who didn’t (they were not giving me permission to be confident, so I acted like a loser). I was letting other people dictate my own value, assuming that they must be right.
But it wasn’t an issue of HOW to be confident as much as it was WHY should I be confident?
When these people are not responding favorable, why should I be confident?
I first logically rationalized it as, I know I’ve worked really hard on myself. I know I’m a good person. I’m not a dick. I’m not whatever. And I had enough belief in myself that I realized that if some chick at the bar made an ugh face when I tried to talk to her, that wasn’t a reflection of me, because I already know I’m pretty cool and I’m pretty happy with myself.
But like I said at the beginning, it’s something you have to feel. Those beliefs can easily be explained, but until you actually believe them, they aren’t going to help you.
And they kind of feed off of each other. I started establishing boundaries for what kind of behavior I will and won’t tolerate from other people. I stopped hanging out with a few people who were bringing me down. That reinforced my belief in myself as a high value person. After all, would a loser set boundaries? No.
The more stuff I did and the more experiences I got, the more I started to see myself as higher value and in turn give myself permission to be confident. And the more confident I was, the more permission I gave myself to do other things to improve my life.
The biggest belief is just seeing yourself as a high value person. I mean like actually believing it rather than just going through the motions. And like I said, that kind of thing takes time. You can’t just flip a switch and do it, and the more analytical you are, the harder the process will be, because the more resistance your brain and ego will give you. They will cling to their old beliefs and constantly throw evidence at you of why you’re wrong, and why your old worldview is accurate. In the process you will have insane highs (such as some of the first times you get “in state” and feel massive confidence while you are out and women respond favorable to everything you do, the first time you kiss a woman within 30 seconds of meeting her, etc.) and crazy lows (such as the next day when you rationalize the previous night as “a fluke” and fall back into your old mindset of being a chode). And crazy nights where you can’t sleep because your brain is trying to make sense of the fact that its previously held beliefs are wrong. Dude, your ego does NOT like to be wrong. When you start to actually question the way stuff works, and I don’t mean like superficially, but when you start to have experiences that fly in the face of your entire life prior to that point and then your brain tries to make sense of it by trying to reconcile it with your existing world view, it’s kind of like trying to force a square peg into a round hole and it can mess you up for a while.
Stick with it, and realize that progress will NOT be linear. As soon as you start to think you are improving you’ll be immediately thrust back down to where you started. And it will piss you off because you’ll have been expecting one thing and gotten something else, so not only are you mad that you were wrong, but you’re mad because you’re back where you started.