Jackie Neilson (third from left), Martial Arts Competitor, Owner and Instructor Got Your 6 Mixed Martial Arts

 

In the beginning of my martial arts journey twelve years ago, I truly believed that that self-defense was NOT a necessity for me. I’d never been shoved in a locker as a kid, beaten up, or physically attacked. I lived in a “good” neighborhood my entire life where there was hardly any crime. I kept my car in a well-lit parking lot at the private university I attended. I almost always felt safe. In fact, I only stepped foot into that very first martial arts class because I wanted a high-intensity, calorie-burning workout. (Spoiler alert: Self-defense was not for me)

Soon after starting martial arts classes, I began to discover a feeling of self-assuredness that I’d never felt before, and it was that feeling that drew me back to class each night.

The confidence I was gaining was not only from the self-defense techniques I was learning, though I was increasingly amazed at the power I was able to generate.
This confidence was not only from the physical strength, flexibility and stamina I was building, though I was amazed that I could do full splits, 40 pushups in a minute, and push myself for an hour in a workout that made me feel like a warrior.
This confidence was not only from the self-discipline I was gaining in this empowering atmosphere, though I was learning how a non-quitting spirit was changing the way I looked at life.

The sense of confidence I’m talking about wasn’t achieved by any one of these skills. Instead, it was a combination of all these skills together that led me to find a sense of achievement and self-confidence that I had never known before. Prior to my progress in the martial arts, very few personal achievements had served me in a fulfilling way or made me feel truly empowered. Who knew that this self-defense skill could bring so much empowerment to my life?

In learning martial arts, I was quickly finding a higher regard for protecting myself. It had become a need — not just a workout, not just an exhilarating new hobby — and I knew that if I wanted to continue to grow and better my life, I had to continue to expose myself to this kind of environment. With each punch and kick, I was defending my rights to be myself. With each class, each stripe on my belt, each new promotion, I was taking a stronger, more commanding hold of what I wanted in my life. Why did I suddenly feel so empowered?

I realized that for years I’d been avoiding situations that truly challenged me. (No wonder I craved a better workout!) I rarely took bold chances or held a desire to step away from what was familiar, all because I was afraid to fail or quit and disappoint myself. This way of existing left a lot to be desired in other areas of life, too, because this avoidance of the unfamiliar was keeping me from taking on risk and living life truly confidently. As a martial arts student, I was now being challenged in a nurturing way that was bringing me courage to face adversity and uncertainty. It still astounds me today all I have come to accomplish in my career, in martial arts competition, in my family life and spiritually, and that I may not ever have discovered it if I hadn’t taken that first step into the martial arts school twelve years ago!

To be continued…