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Accept Your Emotions to Improve Self Defense Karate Performance

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Accept Your Fear or Nervousness to Improve Your Karate Performance

It is your big day for karate promotion. You have trained long and hard for this and are really nervous. You have done your kata hundreds of times, you practiced kumite and bunkai. Your knees are shaking, your teeth are chattering, Your heart is racing and you think you are ready to explode as you think of all the things that can go wrong.

What do you do?

Sports Performance Specialists identified four major human emotions:

  • Fear
  • Anxiety/Stress/Nervousness
  • Anger, and
  • Happiness

The first three are programmed into our brain to keep us alive from the hunt or be hunted phase of our ancestors’ history. They come from the brain’s paleocortex, what some call the lizard brain. This is where the four “F” actions are found. We will concern ourselves with just 3: Fight, Flight and Freeze. They are the reason we are still alive and can read this now. So what do you do with these emotions?

In high school and college sports, I was told to ignore, or just forget about, my nervousness. I couldn’t sleep before many big games or competitions. If someone took a cheap shot at me during a game I was told I should ignore the anger and just move on. That didn’t work. Plus the only times I was completely relaxed going into an important game, speech/presentation, or situation always turned into a disaster. I still recall a regional high school speech competition. I was nervous as hell going into the local and county competitions. I easily won. As I was going into the Regional Competiton I was so confident and thought “I’ve got this.” Yet I still shudder in embarrassment whenever I think of the 2+ minutes during my 10-minute speech where my mind just went blank. Someone erased the blackboard in my mind. There was nothing there. My mouth and brain didn’t connect and I stood there frozen like a statue. I didn’t win that competition.

How do you make these emotions work for you? The Sports Performance Specialists say great athletes embrace their emotions. They recognize they are nervous and just put it on their shoulders and move on. They don’t have to revisit it. They know their nervousness is there and keep going without giving it another thought.

While not an Olympic athlete in Judo or Karate or anything else, I still learned to embrace my nervousness. It meant I may not do great but odds were I would do pretty good. And I did. When I wasn’t nervous, I failed.

In a previous life I was in many situations where we would get as much information on what we were doing, the actors involved, what resistance to expect, the reactions or response we should expect and a full inventory of “tools” at our disposal. A few times things happened unexpectedly with no knowledge of who or what and you could only react. Each of these times I remember admitting to myself that I was afraid. As soon as I did, I could carry on. Some remained frozen in fear.

So If you have an important presentation or promotion coming up, just embrace your nervousness.

If something unexpected happens to you in the street you have been training for this. Admit you are afraid and just execute your training.

If someone, or something, makes you angry. Admit it. Sometimes that is all it takes for you to laugh at the situation and walk away.

Happiness is unfortunately but a brief fleeting moment in time that most of us don’t fully appreciate because from our ancestors’ anxiety programming we look around to see what danger is lurking in the shadows to cause us fear. When you encounter happiness embrace it, appreciate it, like mercury it will soon flow away.

Embrace Your Emotions to Make the Most out of Your Life!


Kiyoshi, 8th Dan, Virginia Dojo


Roberto began studying martial arts in 1969 at Michigan State University.  He studied Judo,  Kung Fu and various styles of Karate.  He started studying with now Grand Master Seikichi Iha, 10th Dan, Beikoku Shidokan Shorin Ryu in 1979 upon returning to MSU from Paraguay for graduate studies. He continues to train with Sensei Iha until now and is one of Iha’s senior students.

During Roberto’s long-term overseas assignments stationed as a Foreign Service Officer (Diplomat), he trained US Embassy Security Personnel, US Marines, foreign security operatives, and people just like you.  When stationed in the Washington, DC area he also always built a cadre of dedicated Shidokan Shorin Ryu Karate students.  Now retired from the Foreign Service he concentrates on teaching proven-effective adult-focused self defense karate at the Virginia Dojo in Alexandria VA.

Roberto’s Northern Virginia karate students convinced him to rent a more permanent location for his Karate instruction instead of wandering from building to building renting out space on an hourly basis in School gymnasiums and Churchs. In 2017 he and his students decided upon a unique space in an Alexandria office condominium complex. His students have built the office into an outstanding training space evoking the sense and feel of a traditional Okinawan Karate Dojo. In addition to karate training in Alexandria, many students drop by just to meditate, or for Yoga or Tai Chi classes. Feel Free to drop by even if just to see the dojo space!

Many people call the Virginia Okinawan Karate Dojo the Martial Arts Grad School because Roberto teaches pressure points, joint locks and grappling applications that Sensei Iha taught him during 40+ years of instruction in addition to the obvious percussion techniques of punching, kicking and blocking.

Roberto is a member of the East Coast Beikoku Shidokan Karate Black Belt Promotion Board and the National Black Belt Promotion Board. Among his numerous awards are:

“Best Martial Arts Teacher in Washington, DC” in 2017.

“Best Martial Arts in Washington, DC” 2018

“Best Martial Arts in Alexandria” 2019

“Best of” in 2018 and 2019

In addition to English, Roberto speaks Spanish, Italian, German, and some Guarani, Portuguese and Japanese.


Virginia Dojo

6416 Grovedale Dr., #302-B, Alexandria, VA 22310