Confidence and Conversations

Martial arts build confidence. They do so in many concrete and systematic ways that I frequently touch upon when I share the benefits of karate. I often declare that karate builds confidence, and I also share how it does. That’s not for today. Today I’d like to show the growth of my own confidence. Or a portrait of my confidence level before and after karate. That can easily be seen in my initiation of or participating in conversations.

A Portrait of my Confidence before Karate

I tend to be a quiet, introverted person. When I was young, people called me “shy.” I did my best in school, but I pretty much only responded when I was spoken to, even with kids my own age. If the teacher required us to speak in front of the class, my heart would pound and my stomach would flutter in anticipation of my turn. In those dreaded “oral report” projects, I unfortunately didn’t do my best. I said mostly what was required, but I cut it short if I could get away with it, even knowing my grade might suffer.

As a young adult, I would attend social functions as required, but I was a wallflower, just sitting or standing and observing those around me. If people came up and talked to me, I would respond. I got better at talking with family and close friends. But if I didn’t know the person well, I felt uncomfortable and awkward talking with them. It was almost painful to me (and maybe to them too). Most of all this was due to my lack of confidence.

the writer on left at a young age needing to build confidence

A Portrait of my Confidence after Karate

My earlier confidence-shaken years started to take a turn the day I started karate. For one thing, I’d found a passion and an activity that made me stronger and faster. You could say it gave me ninja skills. Also, I learned to protect myself and stand up for myself. I was taught to build a framework of traditional values and morals with which I could confidently improve myself as well as negotiate the world with a positive attitude. As I earned higher ranks, knowing that I set an example for younger ranks also helped encourage me to do my best in the world.

Many experienced teachers (including myself now too) say that in martial arts, you learn more about yourself than anything else. I have learned a lot about myself and in doing so about the people and the world around me. As Bob Proctor says, “The more you understand who you are, the more confident you’ll become in your ability to do whatever it is you’re doing.” I have become a living example of that.

What has my Karate Confidence Helped me Achieve?

Only because of my karate training, I have taken chances and hosted and co-hosted scores of events. Those include Neighborhood Watch events, social get-togethers, and well over 100 different karate events.

a karate couple building confidence together and in others

With groups or partners, I have demonstrated karate for classrooms, schools, a parade, a Japanese TV show and newspaper, a library, a retirement community and safety events. Over the years I have regularly given talks alone and with others, and successfully led group discussions for karate classes, seminars and school classes. More recently, I wrote, illustrated and published a children’s character-building karate picture book. And just yesterday I presented it to two attentive kindergarten classes and talked with those youngsters about the content and how to set a positive goal for themselves.

Personally, I can still feel awkward at the onset of a social situation where I don’t know anyone. But I have learned to draw on my earned confidence. I can now quickly spark up conversations and get to know people. And I don’t feel awkward when responding to those who reach out to me socially. Speaking to them is no longer like pulling teeth.

The funny thing is, because of karate I like myself better and that automatically makes me like other people better too. I value life and people more now, and being a force for protecting life and people gives me confidence. To close, here’s a short non-karate video for everyone from Bob Proctor about confidence.

-Jenifer Tull-Gauger

Karate gave Jenifer Tull-Gauger the confidence to create a children's picture book and share it.

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