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Learn to use Fear to your Advantage in Taekwondo

2016-06-14 22:43
By Jinnie Cristerna, LCSW, CHT

(Special Submission to USA Taekwondo)

In any sport, fear is often experienced as a bad thing. While fear can lead to less than ideal or optimal results in performance, it can also help propel athletes into some of their best performances.

Before we get into the specifics of how fear can help you win, it’s important to understand what fear is. Fear is often thought of as a noun in that it is an emotion that signals danger. However, what often gets overlooked is that fear is also a verb. When fear becomes active it triggers specific responses within the individual who is experiencing the emotion: flight or fight (

In the sport of taekwondo, sparring athletes often face dangerous situations and opponents when they compete. While there are many reasons sparring competitors may experience fear, I’ve found the most common fears are: 1) fear of being knocked out, and 2) fear of getting injured.

While these fears are understandable, the responses that athletes have to them vary. For example, some athletes become very aggressive and go on the offense, others become strategic and go on the defense and another group shuts down or runs away.

In my observation, a distinct demarcation between predator and prey is made during a match. The athlete who shuts down or runs away is marked as the prey, and the aggressive or more strategic athlete takes on the role of predator. It is when this assignment of roles is accepted that athletes begin to compete in an either optimal or less than optimal way. Consider the phrase, “Beast Mode,” and notice how athletes at tournaments or practice often recite it after a brilliant performance.

Sparring athletes who shut down or run away tend to do so because they become so flooded with the feeling of fear, the fear becomes active and they are unable to think clearly to execute strategy or defend their square.

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