Reduce Fear in Sparring and Fighting

The question of how to reduce fear in sparring or a real-life fight is a common one. That’s because it’s completely natural to be afraid of getting hurt, crippled, or killed.

So, how can martial artists increase their confidence not just in class, but out there in the real world? Well, I’ve got two tips that might help!

Take a look at the video below or scroll down for the written version. Then let me know if you have any tips to help me reduce fear during a fight. Especially with a shark! 🙂

How to Reduce Fear in Sparring and Fighting

Let’s start with the topic of real fights. For me, the secret to controlling your fear in a real fight is simple—

Only fight for a worthy cause. A cause you’re willing to die for.

If I see two dudes jump on my mother or my wife, fear is not an issue. I will fight anybody to the death. Preferably, theirs.

Now, that doesn’t make me special. I’m no tough guy. I’m sure you would do the same thing.

So, the big question is— if you’re not afraid to fight for other people, why are you afraid to fight for yourself? Don’t you believe you’re a cause worth fighting for?

Reduce fear over coffee

Photo by Stef Etow

If you don’t believe your life is a cause worth fighting for, we should really sit down and talk. If you aren’t interested in pie and coffee, then make some time to listen to this podcast instead: Your Right to Fight.

But if you do believe you’re worth defending, then there’s nothing to worry about. If you have to fight, you’ll fight. Period.

It’s only when you don’t have to fight, or you’re not sure why you’re fighting, or you’re fighting for the wrong reasons, that fear and confusion get in the way.

So, my tip to reduce fear during a real fight is to get your priorities straight and figure out exactly which causes you will fight to the death for and which ones you won’t.

The greater the cause, the sharper the claws.

Now let’s talk about sparring. The most obvious tip to reduce your fear of sparring is to just keep sparring. Get in there and face your fears. The more you spar, the less you’ll be afraid of it.

But let’s be honest—that tip sucks! You want a tip that can help you right now, not a year from now. Okay—here you go!

The main reason we get scared during sparring is because we’re overwhelmed. We have no control over anything. You’re taking hits, you can’t see what’s going on, and you have no idea how to stop the attack. All of which leads to wanting to run and hide… which is completely normal!

So, if you find yourself curling up like a baby during sparring, that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with you. (Of course, curling up like a baby is nothing to be proud about, either, so let’s fix that!)

The trick is overcome feeling overwhelmed is to give your brain something to think about.

For example, when you’re about to spar, tell yourself to control your breathing. Don’t worry about punches or kicks. Just focus on your breathing.

Got that? Good. Next time you spar, tell yourself to keep your eyes open without flinching. No matter what happens, try to see everything that’s happening.

Got that? Good. Next time you spar, tell yourself to keep your hands up and protect your head at all times.

See how this works? You are slowly taking control of your sparring by giving your brain specific assignments. In my opinion, the three examples above would be a smart start. Work on your breathing, seeing, and protecting your head.

Here’s the big idea— you can’t improve everything at the same time. There are just too many skills to work on. Your brain is terrible at multitasking, but it’s incredibly powerful when you focus it on one skill at a time.

If you don’t give your brain assignments, then it’s free to run wild and react to anything that gets thrown at it. That approach to sparring will get you beat up over and over again.

Instead, approach your sparring like a meditation. The kind of meditation where you stare at a candle or simply listen to a bell. Put your full attention on one thing.

The more you control something, the less you’ll fear everything.

Once you’re able to breathe, see, and protect yourself, you can start to add whatever techniques and tactics you like… just do it one at a time!

Maybe you spend a whole class just working on your jab. Or maybe you work on your footwork to stay away from your partner’s power hand. Then maybe you try setting up a fancy combination that you want to make your trademark move. Whatever!

The moves are up to you, but the principle stay the same— give your brain something to thing about. That’s the fastest way to build good habits, reduce fear, and increase true confidence.