Blog: Anxiety and the Karate Kid

Watching the movie The Karate Kid may help you move past your anxiety. Bear with me here....

The Karate Kid was an 80s movie about a boy named Daniel who moves to a new school, where unfortunately he falls victim to bullying. A martial arts master/school handyman Mr. Miyagi witnesses this bullying and offers Daniel training in karate. At first, Daniel is eager to learn how to defend himself, but Mr. Miyagi has him do a lot of seemingly useless tasks - paint his house, refinish his wood floor, and of course wax an entire parking lot of cars. "Wax on, wax off” anyone? Through their journey together, Daniel comes to understand that there is so much more to martial arts than the physical aspect of throwing punches and kicks. To be a true martial arts master, one must understand not only the physical skills, but also the mental, emotional, and even spiritual foundations. All of the seemingly useless chores than Daniel carried out were to train his spirit, to build that foundation; he learned patience, self-discipline, and emotional balance.

When anxiety is kicking our butt (like the bully in The Karate Kid), we of course are pretty eager, as Daniel was, to strike back and stop it in its tracks. I don’t know about you, but when I was experiencing panic attacks, I wanted to know how to stop them ASAP. I think we all do; it’s natural - I can't be the only one who bought one too many "5 easy steps to overcome anxiety" programs that promised me the moon.

In order to truly move past anxiety we need to gain a deeper understanding of it. The more we know and understand about anxiety, the less it feels like something that needs to be fought off. For instance, when someone is scared of dogs, telling them how to interact with them - approach slowly, reach out with the back of the hand, etc. - generally doesn't do much to extinguish the person's fear. Instead, helping that person understand dog behavior and dog language - establishing that deeper foundation - will not only help extinguish the fear more effectively, but it will feel less forced and much more natural the next time that person approaches a dog. When we’re hyper-focused on beating anxiety, we have blinders on, and it’s really hard to see things in a new and deeper way. It may seem counter-intuitive and challenging, but taking a step back really gives us the space we need to find a lasting solution. Just like Daniel and karate, when we take the time and make the effort to understand anxiety at a deeper level, we can begin to truly master it.