Co-founder Rachel’s take on martial arts, mental resilience, and being present and positive
In this week’s article, we asked All Day Alba Co-founder Rachel Katzin to tell us more about how practicing martial arts has allowed her to use focus and breath to build mental resilience and cultivate everyday relaxed confidence.
“There are many things that we might be afraid of in life, from animals, to pain, to heights, and the list goes on and on. While some fears are seemingly irrational, they are not a sign of weakness. Oftentimes, we are afraid because we do not have control of the situation or because we have had unpleasant experiences. As a first step to conquer fear, we need to confront and embrace it, project an image of confidence, and impart a sense of awareness and inner strength.
For the current COVID-19 situation, for example, some people are anxious not because they are afraid of getting sick but because they are afraid to live. It’s this sense of total paralysis that doesn’t let them breathe; it’s the fear of the unknown, of what will happen if they do get sick, but even more, of what will happen as long as they don’t.
Sounds counter intuitive, doesn’t it? Some people feel extremely helpless and are no longer able to carry on with anything. They are unable to defend themselves, totally paralyzed by fear. This happened to me in the past, many years ago. It happened to me as a teenager, as a grown-up woman, and as a wife and mother. The fear of the unknown, the fear that maybe something would happen to me, so I might as well just wait in silence for that terrible moment to arrive. This is what is happening now to many people and the feeling is unbearable.
Things started to change for me when I stepped into the world of martial arts. It started the day when I got hit for the first time. I froze. I was out of breath and a terrible fear engulfed me, until I saw that I was still alive and the air came back to my lungs. It happened again when I stood blindfolded in front of my trainer to do my belt test—I got dizzy, lost my sense of space and started hyperventilating. I thought I was not going to make it, but I did. And then again during a sparring session, when I fell on the floor and froze, thinking ‘it’s over’ and my trainer yelled at me ‘Get up!!! It’s not over, get up!!’. I kicked hard with my feet, until I had enough safety distance to get back on my feet and continue fighting. I knew inside me that it wasn’t over.
That’s the thing, it’s never over until it’s over. Being afraid doesn’t mean being defeated, falling does not mean failing, mistakes are not irrevocable. All of these things offer us a chance to get better, to do things right, if we only have the courage to try. And remember this: feeling afraid is horrible, but bearable. It does not last forever.
Martial arts taught me how to take a few split seconds to evaluate a situation and react. I learned that sometimes it’s not about getting out of a fight without a scratch or holding a trophy in your hand. Instead, it is about protecting yourself in a way that allows you to come back and fight another day.
I learned that sometimes a small victory can be a huge success. If COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 terrorize you, getting out of bed in the morning can be a huge achievement. The rest will come at your own pace. Every small initiative, every little action we take is a reason to celebrate and we must never underestimate our capacity to do even the smallest thing that will keep us above water and alive. Great things happen due to small steps. The rest will come.
Remember to breathe.
Relax every single muscle of your body.
Remember the here and now: you are here and you are alive. What you fear will happen is not happening now and may not happen at all.
Learn to focus your mind. Martial arts practice requires a high level of concentration, which means that you cannot think about anything else while you exercise. This is especially helpful for people who tend to ‘tire’ their minds with negative thoughts. Let your mind rest by doing something you love, which requires your full attention for at least one hour. Focus on allowing yourself to recover, not just to rest.
Remember, in most cases struggle is temporary and so are fear and pain. Fear is there to protect us from danger. Embrace your fear and use it to focus, evaluate and act.”