Studies have shown that two of the major fears modern people share are the fear of public speaking and the fear of falling. There are a few others on the list, like fear of heights and fear of death, but there’s something that’s really hardwired into us when it comes to either getting up in front of people or falling down.
Serious martial arts practice addresses both of those fears – actually all of them, including the fear of death, because it deals with our neuroses at their root. But today we want to look at the fear of falling and to give you permission to take the fall. You can do this the right way: you can develop trust with your partner and let them throw you over and over and over again.
In that way, in a safe environment, you can address your fears. (We’ve done this cultivation on purpose at Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu). The place you’re practicing needs to foster your solutions. Most of the time we resist the fall because we associate it with loss. It seems to be a loss of control, a loss of success, a loss of winning, a loss of opportunity. Yet when we experience it over and over again, we find that – in this case at least – the solution isn’t in the resistance. It’s in becoming more familiar with what we normally flee.
There isn’t any real magic in the prescription here. Have the right type of partner by being the right type of partner yourself, and then just work on it. I don’t believe there’s a person in the room that isn’t afraid to fall, so we have to work on it. Don’t get bored and leave it behind. Don’t let your fear stifle your progress.
The interesting thing is that when we just resolve ourselves to be a good uke and take the fall for a partner, we find it isn’t so bad. If we’re doing the drill or randori and our partner gets in with a nice throw, we discover that we can fall and still be alright.
We can say, “actually that wasn’t so bad.” Then we get up quicker and find that we’re more inspired to keep going. We’re encouraged, not discouraged. After some time practicing in the right place with the right people, we find that our fear isn’t gone, but it’s been lessened. We didn’t need anti-anxiety medications or alcohol to cope with it. With the repetition and actually addressing our fears, we’re training our mind metaphorically to get up after each fall.
Each disappointing situation, each frustration, each failure can be met by saying, “OK I just have to get back up. It’ll be fine.” It’s such a promising way – an empowering way – to face the challenges we meet in the real-world. We want to encourage everyone to look at falling as being just another thing we practice doing, and to consider what else you can manage if you can face that fear in the dojo.
For more about the larger project of cooperative Jiu-Jitsu and martial arts training, visit the Brooklyn Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (Brooklyn BJJ) website here.