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To overcome pain, you need to understand what is pain.

Pain is defined as:


“Physical suffering or discomfort caused by illness or injury.”

“Physical suffering or discomfort caused by illness or injury.”

Of course, there is emotional pain as well, but in the context of martial arts, we shall only focus on the physical aspect. Personally, pain is defined as an intense feeling you experience when parts of your body that consists of nerve endings and pain receptors; are put through trauma. Trauma in this sense, can be a punch or kick or strike.

Beginners abhor pain. Pain is one of the contributing factor to dropout rates. To overcome pain, you need to embrace it, not fear it. Turn the physical obstacle into a challenge to be overcome. Unless the pain you experience is so great that it is debilitating., more often than not, pain is only temporary. If you can push through, you will be amazed at how resilient the human spirit is.

Why do people fear pain? It is not the pain itself but the feeling of being outside your comfort zone. You are not used to pain, therefore you fear it because it is unknown or new to you. Therefore the best way to overcome pain, is to familiarize yourself with pain. Know your pain, experience it, acknowledge it, respect it but do not let it dictate your response.

As the beginner advances, he begins to embrace the pain and even welcome it. Pain makes you more aware of your own body and provides feedback on how hard you are hitting or being hit. Pain brings instant humility to an egoistic fighter.

Some old school martial arts advocate pain to temper the human spirit. And this is instilled by conditioning parts of the body day in and day out, slowly honing the human body into a weapon that is desensitized from pain.

Before you attain this level of conditioning, however, facing pain head on is also a stupid thing to do. Pain is your body’s warning sign that informs you that there is danger. In a controlled martial arts environment or competition, rarely does the situation escalate to the point where the danger is life threatening.

There are three ways to deal with pain.

  1. Avoidance
  2. Deflection
  3. Confrontation
  4. Conditioning

Avoidance

This is the method of choice for most beginners. When a newbie is punched, they are shocked at the pain that they experience. The brain; fed with this new experience, blanks out. The survival instinct of a newbie is to get away from the source of pain. So the newbie avoids the attacker, sometimes by turning his/her back; other times by trying to defuse the situation by laughing (this is why people make jokes or laugh at the most inappropriate times, they are trying to change the subject/hide their weakness). People who avoid, almost rarely or never retaliates.

Having said that, avoidance is not necessarily bad, it preserves life. But in a competition situation; avoidance is a sure way of losing.

Deflection

A defensive way to overcome pain is to deflect the force that is hurting you. When a punch comes, your first instinct is to avoid it, but a few years of training have taught you that you have the option to parry the attack that comes to minimize harm to your physical being. Even if you miss in your defence, it is sufficient enough to lessen the impact of the attack. Martial arts like aikido and judo normally use this method by turning the momentum of the attacker against them.

Confrontation

This is the most direct way to overcome pain. It is not used by many unless you are confident of your strength and pain tolerance. This technique counters force with brute force. The principle relies heavily upon the belief that when aggressiveness is met by aggressiveness, the weaker one will back down. It is truly a battle of wills and stubbornness and causes damage to both parties.

Conditioning

Most experienced and wise martial arts would utilize deflection and confrontation to overcome pain. In order to dish out pain, you need to be able to handle pain to a certain threshold. There is no such thing as being so good that nobody is able to land a punch or kick on you. Practice conditioning of your body in order to make your body battle ready. Conditioning is suitable for all ages and gender. The next chapter covers drills that you can train alone or with a partner to condition your body.

excerpt from README before you train Martial Art & 
README before you train Advanced martial arts