It is not uncommon for people to mistake courage for fearlessness. Courage is not the absence of fear, but the overcoming of it. This is a critical difference to learn, especially for our youth. Our kids should never be in a position to think that their being afraid is a weakness or some type of flaw. Fear is just a temporary state which we learn to work through, and doing so is called courage. World War I fighter pilot ace Edward Rickenbacker may have said it best,
“Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do.
There can be no courage unless you’re scared.”
Kids may be afraid of getting on the mats for the first time to train thinking everyone is watching and judging. Maybe fear creeps in when they go to compete for the first, or fiftieth, time worried about losing. It could be a test at school or even some social situation; in any case, their fears are justified because it is how they are feeling. We have no right to tell them how to feel. We all feel what we feel, but it is important that we are not a slave to our feelings and have the tools to work through them when appropriate.
There is no doubt that those who train in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu are going to find themselves in uncomfortable positions on the mats. It is also not surprising that being uncomfortable can lead to being afraid. However, kids learning to stay calm and work through that fear is a skill which will translate to their lives off the mats. Tests in school aren’t as scary because our kids have learned how to relax and calmly approach and solve problems. Even more important is their courage to do what is right in a challenging situation. Whether it is dealing with a bully or peer pressure or any of the other multitudes of social-emotional conflicts they will encounter, it is here that the bjj mindset allows them to slow things down and react both thoughtfully, decisively, and courageously… even if they are afraid.