There’s Only One Way To Boost Your Confidence On The Mats….And In Life

“Sweep the leg, Johnny… mercy is for the weak.”

When you first join a martial arts gym, you may be intimidated. 

If you know absolutely nothing about that specific environment, the unknown can be scary. 

Just having watched a mixed martial arts bout can be enough of an intense experience that triggers your flight or fight response even as a spectator. 

Basically, you believe you are walking into a room filled with trained killers. Emphasis on trained.

But you must understand many of these individuals are ordinary humans who spent years honing their craft and sharpening their skills.

You can reach their level one day because most activities and habits in life are trainable.

However, although most activities are trainable through the learning process of skill acquisition, muscle memory, and pattern recognition— you will have setbacks that will impede you from pushing through. 

I think you know this already. 

Whether you are a beginner or layman, this anxiety is inevitable and will weigh on your confidence. 

Here is the only thing you can do to offset those struggles and continue to boost your confidence.

Focus On Defensive Training 

Look, other people may tell you to bring a friend to the gym, focus on your strengths, maybe, spar with people who are less skilled than you, etc.…

These are band-aid solutions that don’t fix the root of your anxious feelings. 

Most of the time, when people are not confident in themselves, it’s because they don’t believe their skill level is high enough to overcome any obstacle. 

Contrary to popular belief, skillsets and good sportsmanship is more important than martial arts philosophies.

Many coaches often speak about “becoming one” with the Martial Arts lifestyle and honoring the “Bushido” code, but all this rhetoric takes a backseat to performance on the mats. 

If you can’t perform well and give your training partners a good session, your talk is cheap. 

Your results show you don’t back up what you preach. 

And if you look around your local gyms, people tend to initially assess you based on your performance levels and judge your character after they’ve seen your work. 

Likewise, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Muay Thai, Wrestling, Boxing, etc., are all zero-sum games. 

There is one clear winner and one loser.

You must constantly assess your skill level in comparison to your opponents before you make your moves.  

That’s the nature of combative arts. 

These games are based on a risk to reward ratio. 

You cannot reach your goal of a knockout, submission, or pin without taking risks.

Simultaneously, if you take too high of a risk, you may end up losing. 

And ultimately, there will be a considerable discrepancy in skill level between you and your adversaries. 

Believing in a Martial Arts philosophy will not change that, so get to work. 

Though the gap between you and your training partners is quite intimidating, it is possible to close that gap in a short amount of time by first focusing your attention on defensive training.

Once you’ve reached a point where you are confident in your defensive capabilities, your unconfident nature will eventually dissipate over time. 

Leaving the ring, cage, or mats without your face unbruised and your joints uninjured is always a great success!

Not to mention if they don’t knock you out, submit you, or score any advantages on you, did your opponent “really” win? 

Ultimately, you can start attacking more without worrying about taking too much of a risk. 

Here’s Why

Once you have a strong belief in your defensive abilities, you will start to take more risks.   

Building up your defense is creating competence, and once you are competent, you will be confident that not many people can “finish” you. 

If you believe not many people can defeat you, you will feel better about taking more risks because you believe you have a high chance of escaping disadvantageous positions. 

Now, this does not mean said risks will always pay off, but they will raise your chances of success. 


Because even if you fail or get stuck in the wrong position, you will be able to attack your opponent when he is most vulnerable and less aware of potential danger.

If you look at a boxing match, boxers are the most confident and the most vulnerable to attacks when they start to throw punches. 

And fighters tend to be less aware of the danger when they believe they are winning. 

If you can entice your opponent to overextend their limbs or overcommit to their finishing move, you can make them vulnerable to counterattacks when they’re in advantageous positions.  

To be offensive, you must take risks. 

And if you don’ take these risks, you will keep losing because you will always be stuck in a defensive cycle. 

If you watch any bout in any combat sport at the highest levels, the athletes who engage in the most offensive attacks— usually have a strong defense. 

Remember, the adage “If you don’t risk anything, you risk more.”

The more you are exposed to these scary situations, the less intimidating they become. 

Only when you’ve normalized them to the point where they feel homely will you be able to maneuver through them calmly.

Then being able to shut down countless offensive attacks from different opponents will allow you to focus on your attack sequences and paths to victory. 


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