Q&A: Anxiety

This might an odd question but I hoped you could give me advice. I’m currently in grad school for counseling and hope to work in a prison. I know I’ll have to pass a self-defense course in order to work there (and probably to intern there as well in two years). I’m less than 100 pounds and not very strong at all and have lots of anxiety about not being able to pass the class (more than the actual internship and potential job). Would it help to get a personal trainer to relieve the anxiety or no?

There’s a couple parts to this.

First, you’re going to get a variant of police hand to hand training. Probably very similar to what I got twenty years ago. When you’re done, if you keep up with that, you’re going to be able to defend yourself against 95% of the people you’ll encounter in your day to day life.

Most modern American self-defense courses use an adapted version of Judo, with a few tweaks. This focuses on leverage and momentum to control a fight. Size and mass only really help in the ground fighting component of that, and even then, your training will include means to minimize those weaknesses. Things like the throws are remarkably easy, with the appropriate training. Size works to your advantage here because a lower center of gravity makes the throws easier.

The anxiety is something you’ll need to address. Being able to project confidence is absolutely critical to maintaining control of a situation. and, probably, a major part of why this is in your curriculum.

Any combat training helps with self-confidence. It might be as simple as knowing you have a little more control over your environment. So, in a counter-intuitive way, your self-defense training will probably help with your anxiety.

There’s a number of ways to deal with it. Understand that everyone faces some anxiety in unfamiliar situations, and simply walk in. You can get to know the instructor outside of class before starting that class, during office hours is probably for the best. At that point you can decide if you’d want to broach your anxiety issues there, based on your read of them. You can audit the class, which is another opportunity to interact with the instructor, if meeting with them during office hours doesn’t appeal or is difficult to schedule.

I’m not sure a physical trainer would help with your anxiety. A psychiatric therapist may be a better option if you truly find this anxiety debilitating. If you don’t, then it’s probably helpful to remember that everyone experiences some anxiety. Anxiety over the unknown and unfamiliar is a normal experience. At that point, you may simply need some tools to help manage it. Ironically, one very good method is martial arts training, and the best way to become exposed to something unfamiliar is to dive in.

You’re not the first person who’s had anxiety about learning to fight. You’ll be fine.


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