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Handling nervousness before a fight


Handling nervousness before a fight is crucial for any martial artist. Feeling nervous before an event is quite common and is felt by everyone in some way or the other. For a martial artist, an event may be a grading, or a demonstration of a pattern or a kata, or breaking objects, or sparring, or a competition. Before such an event takes place, a martial artist may feel nervous, scared, and have butterflies in the stomach.

Mastery Blueprint Clips video “Colby Covington on Pre-Fight Nerves #shorts”:

A martial artist needs to learn how to handle nervousness so that performance at the event is not affected. It is important to understand nervousness in order to understand how it may be handled.

What is nervousness?

The term “nervousness” may signify “a state of being nervous”, where the term “nervous” may signify “association with nerves or the nervous system of the human body”.

CTE Skills.com video “The Nervous System In 9 Minutes”:

What causes nervousness?

Nervousness may be caused by involvement in some specific event or a situation. It is a temporary feeling regarding a perceived threat presenting from some event or situation.

For example, one may feel nervous in the following events or situations:
—before a competition/test/interview
—speaking in front of an audience to give some presentation
—undergoing some medical procedure
—trying something new for the very first time
—talking to some specific/special person

Roy Rosell video “Inspirational Speech by Student with Fear of Public Speaking”:

Being temporary, nervousness and its associated symptoms go away once the perceived threatening event is over or the situation has resolved. Normally, the human body responds to a threat by a freeze/flight/fight response.

Freeze/Flight/Fight response

When a threat is perceived by the body, its response may be termed as a freeze/flight/fight response. Generally, the first response is freeze, followed by flight and lastly fight; however, this order can vary with different individuals. If the response is ‘freeze’, then the person freezes in shock or disbelief and the body remains motionless either in front of the perceived threat or hides away. If the response is ‘flight’, then the body flees away from the perceived threat. If the response is ‘fight’, then the body readies itself to face and fight the perceived threat.

Braive video “The Fight Flight Freeze Response”:

Symptoms of nervousness

Normally, nervousness might be exhibited by the following symptoms:
—restlessness (biting/chewing nails, moving/shaking hands or legs)
—fear (widened eyes, twitching/trembling muscles, excessive sweating)
—biological readiness (increased heart rate, rapid breathing, a feeling of “butterflies” in the stomach, more blood flowing to the extremities)
—anxiety (thinking or worrying about the uncertainity of the outcome, feeling the burden of what all is at stake, fear of losing)

AsapSCIENCE video “Why Do We Get Nervous?”:

Nervousness Vs. Anxiety

Generally, the terms “nervous/nervousness” and “anxious/anxiety” are used interchangeably, but there is a difference between them. Nervousness largely concentrates on the cause, while anxiety largely concentrates on the outcome. Addressing the cause is usually within a person’s control, and thus, a person takes necessary steps to address nervousness. On the other hand, the outcome is usually outside the control of a person, and thus, the person may not know what other steps to take besides trying to be not anxious. Nervousness mostly does not focus on expectations and is thus, largely not anticipatory. While anxiety mostly focuses on expectations and waits with anticipation.

For example, a person may experience the fear of threat in the form of a future competition. Due to this fear, the person experiences nervousness and to overcome it, the person may undertake necessary steps to prepare for the competition. While the same person may not be nervous but rather be anxious about the level of preparation, which would impact the result of the competition. Worrying about a desired result creates a stressful feeling, which may be termed as anxiety.

Barbell Shrugged video “Nervousness vs. Anxiety”:

If a person is over-anxious and keeps on over-thinking and over-worrying about the possible outcomes, then nervousness may lead to an anxiety disorder. Again, nervousness may also be a symptom for other conditions like adrenal gland disorders, or hyperthyroidism.

American Psychiatric Association video “What is anxiety? | APA”:

TED video “What’s normal anxiety — and what’s an anxiety disorder? | Body Stuff with Dr. Jen Gunter”:

Strategies for overcoming nervousness

Strategies vary with individuals and generally, some of the common strategies are the following:

—Focusing on the act and not on the result. By focusing on the act/ the process/ the steps, a martial artist concentrates on what can be controlled, like individual effort, the process of training and developing a winning attitude, rather than focusing on the result or the outcome, which cannot be controlled and is uncertain. Focusing on the act helps to boost confidence and prepares the martial artist to deliver the best during the event.

Skills N’ Talents video “14 olympic athletes on how to manage nerves before a competition”:

—Seeing the big picture. A martial artist is first and foremost a responsible and socially active human being, who values peace, compassion and love,  by following the way of the martial art. An event, which may be a grading, a demonstration, or a sparring competition, is just a small part of the big picture. Seeing things in perspective of a bigger picture, helps in reducing nervousness.

Orion Philosophy video “Bushido – The Way of The Warrior (Samurai Quotes)”:

—Understanding nervousness. Reminding oneself that nervousness is normal, natural and temporary, may enable oneself to face nervousness with confidence. Realizing that for most people, nervousness is felt only till the event has not begun, and once the event has started then usually nervousness goes away, since the focus is on the performance of the act. Sometimes, nervousness may also be beneficial as it may help in providing increased focus and concentration.

NIH Clinical Center video “TIPS – Understanding and managing anxiety”:

—Undertaking preparation. Preparing for the event can reduce nervousness. For example, studying for a theoretical exam, or rehearsing for a demonstration are tried strategies. In martial arts gradings, practising specific movements like katas, patterns, breaking, or other techniques, increases the confidence levels and minimizes nervousness.

Mindset Mentor video “IT WILL GIVE YOU GOOSEBUMPS – Michael Phelps Motivational Video | Greatest Olympian of All Time”:


—Following a consistent routine. Before the event, a routine should be set with respect to exercises, food, and sleep. Generally, eating the same diet every day, maintaining strict schedules for sleeping and waking up, along with a planned exercise program, forms a large part of the preparation for the event. Following a routine, makes the body fit for the event and also provides a sense of adequateness to face the event, which helps to minimize nervousness.

Sport vines CR7 video “Usain Bolt – Track & Training | Workout and Gym”:

—Training the mind. The psyche and the physique and not separate, as together they form the human body. Therefore, along with physical training, mental training is also important. Mental training may consist of visualization, breathing and meditation. It is said that ancient warriors prepared for a battle of six minutes by sharpening their swords for six hours, and while sharpening the swords, they mentally visualized the fight from start to finish in various possible combinations. Such mental imagery of an event are known to also help modern sportspersons in a variety of sports.

Deutsche Sporthochschule Köln video “Mental Imagery – Introduction to a Sport Psychological Technique”:

—Having a goal. Once a person fixes a goal, then everything else falls in place, which helps the person to reach that goal. Having a goal and working towards it, can reduce nervousness.

MulliganBrothers video “Arnold Schwarzenegger 2018 – The speech that broke the internet – Most Inspiring ever”:

—Using grounding therapy. Grounding therapy is a therapeutic technique, which aims to “ground” the electricity of the body with the earth. It can be practiced outdoors (walking barefoot, lying on the ground, or submersing in water) or indoors (using grounding equipment like grounding mats/sheets/blankets/socks/bands/patches). Whether it is outdoors or indoors, safety should be paramount. For example, swimming in a lake/river/ocean, or walking barefoot on grass/sand, or sleeping on dusty ground/grass/sand/mud, should all be done at places that are known to be safe and free of animals.

Traditional martial arts are performed barefoot and this acts as a grounding therapy. So, martial artists generally do not need grounding therapy, yet keeping the soles of the feet and palms of the hand in contact with the earth for sometime, helps to soothe nerves and to reduce nervousness.

Earthing video “DOWN TO EARTH | The Earthing Movie 15 min Short Film”:

Live Young | Darnell Cox | Beauty Over 50 video “Grounding (Earthing) – How To Use The Earth’s Energy For Optimal Health | Over 50”:

—Seeking support. Talking with family members, friends, instructors, and fellow martial artists helps to reduce nervousness.  Besides handling nervousness, the importance of family, relationships, love, and people can also lead to a long life.

LifeHunters video “Life Lessons From 100-Year-Olds”:


It is worthwhile to note that a seasoned martial artist is never nervous, before, during, or after a fight. The seasoned martial artist may be afraid, fearful, or outright scared, but never nervous or anxious. This is because with experience the nerves have become nerves of steel.

Screen Bites video “Maximus Defeats The Tigris of Gaul | Gladiator (2000) | Screen Bites”:

Even ordinary persons can exhibit nerves of steel, if the situation demands, and such persons are real-life heroes. Similar to seasoned martial artists, real-life heroes are also never nervous. Life presents unexpected threatening situations and faced with such real threats, there are several real life heroes, who just stay calm and exhibit nerves of steel. Words such as nervousness or anxiety simply do not exist in the dictionary of either seasoned martial artists or real life heroes.

Smithsonian Channel video “How All Passengers Survived the Miracle on the Hudson”:

COME ALONG video “Real Life Heroes Who Came to Rescue”:


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