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It’s hard to deny that those who learn martial arts develop many skills and strong character traits needed to take the practice seriously. From improved confidence to self-discipline and respect, the things martial arts teaches are so much more than just physical.

One character trait that is an important part of practicing martial arts is courage. Here we explore how martial arts builds courage in its students and helps both youth and adults overcome their fears and develop new, braver senses of self.

What is Courage?

Courage, or bravery, refers to the act of doing something even though it is frightening or “out of your comfort zone.” Deeds accomplished through courage are not just “showing off,” but are those that fuel personal growth or have a noble purpose.

Perhaps your fear is standing up to a bully, starting at a new school where you don’t know anyone, or moving across the country for a better job. Whatever the problems you face, the need for courage is apparent in everyday life. For some, bravery goes hand-in-hand with confidence. The ability to do courageous things may be greatly hindered when one lacks in self-confidence. Martial arts is a great way to not only improve your courage but your self-confidence.

Why is Courage Important?

Humans naturally have something called the “flight or fight” instinct. When faced with danger, our brains and bodies responding by either wanting to take on the situation or flee.

Imagine you’re walking down the street. Suddenly, someone pops out from behind a building and shouts, “Boo!” Most people will jerk back and take a few quick steps away (preparing to run, if necessary) or raise their hands to a defensive posture (preparing to fight). Some people may take “fight” a step further and punch the person who surprised them.

Historically, the ‘flight or fight’ response helped us react to potential predators. Of course, we’re no longer dodging sabretooth tigers these days, but the instinct is still there. And it doesn’t just apply to physical threats. We still feel this instinct in any sudden and stressful situation, such as an embarrassing incident at work, or being asked a surprise question in class.

To overcome fear and the natural reaction of stepping down in the face of danger, we need to overcome tap into our ‘fight’ response and build skills and confidence in our abilities to defend ourselves.

How Does Martial Arts Build Courage?

In martial arts, gaining courage and confidence starts from the very beginning. The first class, for many, is often exhilarating and exciting while simultaneously being terrifying. You’re walking into a room full of strangers to learn how to do something you may have zero skill in or knowledge about.

Bravery can mean trying something new for the first time.

Perhaps it is your first time GI and even that small action takes a bit of courage. It is normal to fear embarrassment in front of strangers. Remember: Everyone in the dojo probably feels the same way or has felt that way at one point – even your teacher!

Once you have taken that first step of courage and begun your training, your courage will only evolve from there.

Courage Develops Over Time

While the first time you come to a martial arts class may have been the biggest leap in building your courage, over time, martial arts will continue to help you strengthen your courage, confidence and ability to handle fearful situations.

Every class builds confidence and courage. Martial arts offers plenty of safe, healthy ways for children to practice courage, like breaking a board!

Over time, we see that martial arts builds courage in students of all ages and from all backgrounds. This courage can be applied to much more than practicing a sport, it can be used to take on the obstacles of everyday life and give you the confidence you need to confront challenging situations. With martial arts, you learn not to fear the idea of taking chances but to relish in it – and this confidence and courage is something that can change the course of a lifetime.