It’s Okay, I’ll Just Arm Bar Them

Last year I decided to attend a Sketchcrawl with the Urban Sketchers Melbourne group. As soon as I decided to go, I started feeling very nervous. I’m quite an introverted, shy person and I often find new social situations a bit daunting and stressful. I shared my fears and insecurities with my oh-so-supportive husband who gleefully proceeded to ‘help’ calm my nerves. Over the next few days he came up with, “what if they laugh at you for not having the right drawing tools?” and “what if they say you’re drawing things wrong?” and “omg, they’re going to stand around and scold you!”

Then suddenly one day, while he was coming up with all these scary scenarios, I jokingly said, “It’s okay, if they scold me, I’ll just arm bar them!” And then suddenly my fear and nerves were gone!

Okay, firstly let’s just make it clear that I’m the last person that will go around arm barring people and that’s not just because my arm bars are pretty crap. I’m definitely not one to punch first, ask questions later and I think my aggression level would definitely need a serious heavy duty dose of steroids before it kicks me into doing anything like walking around Melbourne arm-barring street artists.


But that little joke did give me the confidence boost I needed and it stems from years of training martial arts. Actually it’s two kinds of confidences in play here: physical confidence and mental confidence.

I find that the hardest part of fighting is facing the fear of getting attacked. Getting punched is actually not that scary, but facing up to getting punched is. But once I faced up to it and learnt how to take hits, I stopped being all that scared about getting hit. And then I started learning how to protect myself, then slowly little by little I started learning how to fight back. And through it all, I was slowly developing physical confidence.

Now physical confidence in the sense of not being afraid of getting hit or knowing how to defend myself physically or even knowing how to physically smash someone isn’t all that practical when it comes to dealing with a perfectly harmless situation such as meeting new people in a new environment. Maybe there’s a little of that stick and stones may break my bones thing going on here. If I can learn to be unafraid of the sticks and stones breaking my bones, I sure as hell can learn to handle any kind of words or situations thrown at me.

Another great confidence booster that martial arts has given me is the confidence to suck at something. Martial arts has taught me that I suck at some things and it’s okay. What’s more important is that I’m better than I used to be and that the only reason I’m better at it is because I didn’t give up just because I sucked.

Growing up, while I didn’t really have that kind of crazy pressure that you hear Asian kids usually have, there were still undertones of that. Parents asking how your friends did in your exams, people bragging about what level their kids were in certain activities, etc. It was as if you were expected to be born just being good at stuff and for a long time I did hold that view that oh, I can’t do this because I just wasn’t born with it.

Martial arts has taught me that that’s utter bullshit. Everyone sucks at the start and that’s the truth. Yes, different people learn things at a different rate or may have an affinity to different things so may advance faster. But no one comes into their first ever martial arts class and is just great at it right away.

So yes I may suck at street art because I’ve never done it before but that’s okay. I know that if I like it, I’ll keep doing it and then I’ll suck less. So I went for my first Sketchcrawl and of course it was completely fine. No arm-barring was called for.

It was a funny joke between me and my husband and easy to take out of context but since then, every time I’ve found myself getting nervous about a new situation or new people, I tell myself “It’s okay, I’ll just arm bar them”. And then I feel like I can face anything the world wants to throw at me.


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