I’ve been a long-time devotee of the martial arts. In fact, I’ve
studied, trained and taught in various styles, off and on, for over
35 years. There have been gaps in my training, but I always come back
to it, often with renewed vigor and enthusiasm.
Because, truth be told, there is so much to learn in the martial arts!
And the more you learn, the more you realize you have yet to learn.
So it’s truly a lifetime endeavor.
Probably one of the most fun periods in my training was when I did
full contact kickboxing. I know that sounds crazy, describing it as
“fun”. But it was!
However, I have to admit, when I first started I was a little apprehensive
about what a full contact fight would entail.
I had competed before, but only in tournament competition, where the contact is
(theoretically) controlled, and competitors who make excessive contact are
Of course, there is the potential for injury in this type of sparring, just as there is
in every sport.
But in full contact competition, you are getting into the ring with someone who
wants to knock your block off. Or, at a minimum, beat up on you more than you
beat up on them in order to win the fight.
As I trained for my first fight, I was trying to focus on all the right things in terms
of my physical and mental preparation. I had been through this type of
preparation before, so I knew what I was doing.
But the fear of getting injured kept creeping back into my head.
As I thought about and tried to analyze this fear, I realized that what I was really
afraid of was getting knocked out and embarrassed.
I thought about my opponent coming at me and really laying it on. I wondered
if I would be able to counter with a sufficient level of aggressiveness. I moved
completely away from concentrating on what I needed to do to win the fight.
This type of thinking resulted in increased apprehension and anxiety, and caused
me to get completely off track mentally. I felt myself literally tighten up and my
Fortunately, after a few days of this, I realized what was going on and put an
end to my negatively focused thinking.
I did this by changing my focus from what I couldn’t control to what I COULD
Instead of thinking about what my opponent might do to me, and what might
happen as a result, I began to focus my thinking on what I was going to do to
I concentrated on the techniques and tactics that I knew would work best for
me. I recommitted myself to the physical training that my instructor had mapped
out for me.
As a result, I won my first full contact fight with a unanimous decision.
The more significant outcome, however, was what I learned from the way I
handled my fear and apprehension, and how this helps me in dealing with
the stresses, issues and problems that are so much a part of life in today’s
If you’re a human being, you can probably relate to the feelings of being totally
at the whim of outside forces, feeling like you have no control over many of the
events, both trivial and major, that can serve as stressors in your life.
When facing a challenging situation, you may have experienced increased stress,
apprehension, anxiety, and even fear. This is a natural reaction. We are inherently
afraid of change, and afraid of people and events that take us out of our comfort
Instead of focusing on what you could do about the situation, you probably focused
on what was being done to you, or on what might happen to you.
What I learned from fighting is that you have to focus on what you can control.
You may not be able to control all of the crazy, out-of-left field events, or even the
trivial daily annoyances, that life throws at you. But you CAN control how you think
about and react to those events and annoyances.
When you focus on what you can do, you begin to establish a method for handling
surprises, challenges, and bad news that minimizes stress and anxiety.
Through simple strategies and techniques, such as the dynamic deep breathing
taught in the Secret Power of Dynamic Energy Exercise Course, Volume 1 , you learn how to
temper your reaction, calm yourself, and regain control over your mental and
Focus on what you can control.
You Can Do It!
Copyright Karen Van Ness 2010
15 thoughts on “Focus on What You Can Control”
Karen – Learning to accept the things we cannot change and yet not use them as an excuse is a key element of long term happiness. Martial arts are about so much more that defense or offense as you point out.
Sound advice to concentrate and focus on what you CAN control as opposed to obesessing over what you CAN’T control!
The Success Secrets
This reminds me of the Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
what an excellent reminder about how we GET most of That Upon Which We Focus, so when your subtle focus is on That Which You Fear, it holds you back from your greatest power and strength.
Congratulations on winning that fight! You certainly make kickboxing and martial arts sound like fun pursuits!
Happy Dating and Relationships,
Dating After 40 Expert
Great reminder to focus on the positive. They teach in driving school to focus on where you want to go not where you don’t want to go. Same as in life -focus on what you do want.
Yours In Health!
Dr. Wendy M. Schauer, D.C., R.K.C.
Come Experience The Power of the Russian KettleBell Revolution at Kettlebell Olympia – Home of A Better Body With Bells!
I see so many people who focus on things that haven’t even happened yet. They get so caught up and stressed out in “what ifs” that they aren’t able to relax and just enjoy life. I tell people all the time, “When the problem comes up deal with it then.”
Yours In Health!
G.E. Moon II
Great advice Karen!
Not only for martial arts but I think for almost anything in life! I haven’t done too much of traditional martial arts, I did for a long time Kuk-son-do wich is more like a sort of yoga, but I relly felt it was teaching me many things for the everyday life.
How we act when we are not totally in control of the outcome says a lot about us as people. We need to feel confident that if we do our best, and adapt along the way to changing conditions, then we can feel proud of the outcome regardless.
Seize the Day,
Is Your Family Prepared For A Financial Crisis or Natural Disaster?
Like you I have done various different martial arts over the years.Through this i too have learnt control.
I used to box and I never wanted my nose broken. This casued me to spend more effort into not having my nose broken than in winning the fight.
Well, I never broke my nose.
Great post that really illustrates how your frame of mind can serve you or defeat you. Happy to hear you defeated your opponent!
Natural Remedies for Anxiety
This is a great story and a great lesson.
I am curious. I have for the past few years considered looking into taking some lessons in the martial arts. I am in my late 50’s and just can’t see me in a class with a bunch of grade schoolers. Are there courses for older people like me and is there an age at which you would suggest I scrap the idea?
Create and Live the Life of Your Dreams
It’s so easy to let the “what ifs” control us. And like you, I love kickboxing! (The Tae-Bo kind, not full contact…)
Sabrina Peterson, NASM CPT, CES
Corrective Exercise for Every Body
Don Hill’s quote in Spanish!
Dios, concedeme serenidad para aceptar las cosas que no puedo cambiar, coraje para cambiar aquellas que sí puedo y sabiduría para saber cuál es la diferencia.
We all have a tendancy to think too much…I agree with focus on the positive…
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