Oftentimes when students first start training in a martial art, they feel unsure of themselves and lack confidence in the application of their techniques, even when they start developing some skill in them. This can manifest as startled expressions, diminutive postures and questioning looks toward instructors or more senior students. This is entirely understandable, but it has a negative impact on the application of techniques and can also hurt their general awareness of their surroundings.
I was recently working with a student like this who is getting ready to go for their yellow belt. The student has gained enough skill to do most of their techniques without having to consciously remember them, but is timid in their application in the way I described above. I gave this student one of the most important lessons in terms of attitude when first starting out: “Fake it till you make it.”
Here is the basic gist of what I said: “I know you don’t feel confident in your techniques, even when your application is good, but try to act as though you are. Pretend. Carry yourself in the way you believe you would carry yourself if you had total confidence in your technique. So even if you still have doubt in your mind, your body will be more likely to convince others that’s not the case. And over time, your body will convince your mind and you won’t have to pretend any more.”
The Importance of Confident Body Language for Self-Defense
If you ever have to use your martial arts training for self-defense, timid body language can put you at a disadvantage. If a predator sees that timidity, they may continue to see you as prey, regardless of how capable your defensive techniques are. So even if you get some good strikes in, they may think they’re stronger or more capable than you and feel it worth it to push through to exert their dominance. On the other hand, if you display a confident, assertive demeanor, applying your martial arts techniques with conviction, they may believe you have the will to fight whatever they give you, which may lead to them getting caught or injured. Ultimately they may decide you’re not good prey after all and may abandon their attack altogether. The predator-prey dynamic is as much psychological as it is physical, so it’s an important element to train in the martial arts and self-defense.
Do you have any examples of “fake it till you make it” in your own martial arts and self-defense experiences? If so, please share them in the comments. 🙂