My first time sparring at a tournament, I got absolutely destroyed. I went from LOVING sparring, to having panic attacks every time I had to get my gear on in class.

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I almost quit competing.

But then I realized two things:

  1. I was a beginner at 41 years old. I was going to face this problem of being outranked and out-experienced again. So I had to get a hell of a lot better. And
  2. That fear wasn’t going to go away. So I had to get it under control.

Here’s what I did:

  1. I trained my ass off. I went from training 3 nights a week to 5 nights a week at the dojo, to get as much sparring experience as possible. I also trained every single day at home. The result? I got a hell of a lot better. And a hell of a lot more confident too. And
  2. I wrote down all my fears, no matter how stupid or embarrassing they seemed. And then I put it all together in a script that I could read to myself before every sparring class and tournament. That dialogue with fear was an important reminder to me that fear is normal. And that with careful self-talk, I could channel that fear into aggression which I could then use to fight my best fight.

If YOU are scared to spar, 1) Train your ass off. You’ll feel more confident that you can handle ANYTHING that comes up in the ring.

And 2) Write a letter to your fear. Read it to yourself, or film yourself reading it and watch it before every tournament or match. By acknowledging your fear like this, you take away a lot of its power. And you’ll soon realize that you can be scared—it’s NORMAL to be scared—but that doesn’t have to stop you from fighting your best fight.

Do you have any tips for handling fear in sparring? Please share in the Comments section below!

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You’re reading How to Conquer Fear of Sparring in Karate by Sabrina Bliem, originally posted on The Karate Shrimp. If you’ve enjoyed this post, be sure to follow The Karate Shrimp on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!