As I reflect on what has been a pretty awesome 2019, I’ve realized that literally NOTHING I worried about for the past year has actually happened.


Not my professional worries, not my personal worries, NONE of the small or more outlandish things my often-anxious mind devises to pass the time came to fruition. And I made myself miserable with all the worrying.

Now I feel kind of silly.

On the other hand, just about everything I “worried” about in sparring–we’ll say “anticipated”–happened. I fought people who are much more skilled than I am. I fought people bigger than me. I always fight people younger than me, so I’m not counting that one. I got kicked in the head a few times. I got kicked pretty hard in the torso in just about every match. In addition to getting my ass kicked metaphorically I actually got kicked in the ass, which hurts a lot more than it sounds like it would.

And yet, when these sparring “worries” happened, I took it in stride. Nothing fazed me–not the head shots, the hard hits, or the outnumbered skills. Meh. It’s all part of the learning process. I didn’t berate myself for any of my choices, and I didn’t resent my sparring partners or coaches for the choices they made with me. I had fun, mentally filed away what I learned for the next match, and immediately moved on to the next thing without regrets or dwelling or hard feelings.

It’s taken years and many fights to get to this fairly Zen place with what many would consider a quite violent experience. I was terribly frightened of sparring as a child and for a long time very frustrated with it as an adult. Now I like it.

Something I’ve always noticed and appreciated about sparring is how it, more than anything I’ve ever done, including yoga and meditation, keeps me laser-focused and present without judgement or chatter in my head.

Wouldn’t it be nice to feel that way all the time? 

Between none of my anxiety-fueled fantasies coming to life and the proof from sparring matches that I do have the capability to be emotionally detached and bounce back from hits without any problems…I think it’s time to chill the hell out and keep working on that “zero f*cks” aspiration that I set before I turned forty.

I mean, I can take being beaten up by people half my age and twice my strength and not let it ruin my day. Here’s how rough my life is: I work in front of a computer and talk on conference calls. I’m healthy. I have the means to cover car and home repairs and health issues as they happen, and my life, while busy, is pretty predictable and for the most part enjoyable.

How is any of that more threatening than a 25-year-old gunning for my face with an axe kick?

It’s not, and neither is the stupid crap I’ve wasted so much time and energy fretting about. I’m so tired of worrying and wasting mental space on people and things that ultimately don’t matter. I’m still going to do yoga, and I’m still going to meditate, but I think what will help me the most is keeping myself mentally on the mat with all the situations and occasional challenges I face.

I can’t wait to go back to sparring class in 2020.


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Stay tuned for my upcoming book – “Kicking and Screaming: a Memoir of Madness and Martial Arts” published by She Writes Press. Coming to a bookseller near you April 20, 2021!

3 thoughts on “How Fighting Can Help Me Stop Being So Defensive

  1. BJJ has helped me in much the same way, especially my first competition. I lost both matches, but after combat in front of lots of people (most of whom were rooting for the other guys) other things just seem meh.

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