How martial arts gradings have helped me come out of my comfort zone

I believe that gradings are one of the most important features of martial arts. It provides the healthy pressure in my curiosity of learning how to fight. That’s not to say I’m interested in beating people up, but learning what is the most effective way to defend myself if I had to.
Gradings for me set a deadline for when I need to be at a particular standard to move on to the next level. Just like in school, we sit exams to display our level of understanding of the topics needed to move onto the next year. In a way gradings are a form of goal setting as you are striving to achieve that greater standard. That way you know you have the necessary skills to move forward.
In saying so, this provides the healthy pressure for me to reach the expected level. I don’t know about you, but this pressure has the strongest influence on my motivation to achieve goals.
Gradings also gives me the opportunity to do things outside of my comfort zone. Just like Larry David has said “I don’t like to be out of my comfort zone, which is about a half an inch wide”. I’m sure most of you can relate to this also. For those of you that don’t know who Larry David is, he is the co-creator of the comedic TV shows – Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
The easiest way to describe what our comfort zone is, is that it relates to anxiety levels. This means any sort of behaviour that keeps your anxiety levels low. Think about something you do all the time, like having a shower or brushing your teeth. These things you do every day won’t cause any feelings of uneasiness and therefore are a part of your comfort zone.
For me I’m terrified when there is an audience and I am the centre of attention. In this case, being tested on my martial arts forms (sequence of fighting techniques) when I must demonstrate this in a big empty room. My biggest fear is “stuffing up” because everyone’s eyes are watching every move I make. Then my heart starts to race and I start to breathe heavily. I take a moment and gather myself. I tell myself to take a deep breath and no matter what happens, I will do the best I can at this point in time. And then its game time. Before I know it, it’s all over.
Over the years I began to feel less and less uncomfortable. A big part of this is because I am better preparing myself. And I don’t need to be scared of “stuffing up”, because I know that I’ve put in the time. I establish a level of confidence based on training the best I can. That’s not to say I feel 100% comfortable in these situations, but it’s an uphill battle that I’ve been working on.Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 11.58.25 AM

Image sourced from http://pattidobrowolski.com/step-outside-comfort-zone/

It’s amazing to reflect on these learning experiences and how beneficial it has been in my personal growth. From positively influencing my motivational levels to facing my fear of being under the spotlight in front of everyone. This is what I find important about gradings.

Blog by Shaun Lai
Anxiety levels: http://www.academia.edu/460313/From_Comfort_Zone_to_Performance_Management
Any sort of behaviour that keeps your anxiety levels low
http://www.academia.edu/460313/From_Comfort_Zone_to_Performance_Management