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REUTERS/Kiyoshi Ota A boy is encouraged by a judge during a competition at the Karate-Do championships in Tokyo, July 28, 2007.

I thought it was about time I wrote another post. This is a subject that is fairly integral to my life as I’ve always done a lot of it. In karate I am most likely to cry when I am frustrated or angry. Indeed an article written in April 1986 confirms this

     When a woman in a sparring situation cries, it doesn’t necessarily mean she’s been hurt.  In most cases, her tears are a release from a buildup of frustration, not a result of getting hurt.  If a woman has stayed in karate long enough to be involved in sparring, she can hide her pain just as easily as anyone.  If she got hit, she’s likely crying because she’s frustrated she didn’t, or couldn’t, block the attack.  In sparring, a woman is colliding with her femininity on all sides, and crying works very well as a release of tension.  Even so, she tries to hide the fact she is crying, because this is another feminine trait not acceptable in karate.

So crying is seen as a weakness by many people. Some men even think it is manipulative thing that women do to them! Who really wants red puffy eyes, a snotty nose and often a headache.

Women statistically cry more often than men.

According to a Cosmopolitan and AskMen.com survey (not the best source, I know, but other more scientific research do back the statistics up, Search for Dr William Frey.)

75% of women cry at least once a month, with 33% of women crying at least once a week. Additionally, 99% of women believe that real men cry.

Almost 5% of men said real men never cry, no matter what. About 39% felt crying should only be in response to tragedies, like the death of a loved one, while 27% said it’s okay for a man to get emotional at any time. The remaining 29% say it’s okay to for a guy to cry whenever, so long as it’s not publicly.

I and my brother cry more often than other people. We are not ashamed and do not see it as a weakness, more as an annoyance.

It’s very difficult to know what to do with someone who cries. Do you comfort them? Ignore it and carry on? Walk away and let them deal with it?

In martial arts you cannot have hard without soft or soft without hard. The very fact that I cry sometimes during training means that I care about what I am doing and want to do it right. Guy’s are far more likely to get angry if they get hurt or get it wrong. Although I have seen quite a few boys brought to tears because they couldn’t get it. In some ways it is worse for them.

These days particularly after the olympics last year, crying when you achieve or don’t achieve something has become much more acceptable and understandable. The truth is crying is actually a stress reliever and rids your body of certain toxins – people who cry are actually stronger in their core physical and mental health, even if it doesn’t appear that way.

What can you do as a student?

I have cried a lot for various different reasons during my training. For me it is important that I’m not given any hugs and I really find it easier to settle if people pretty much ignore it. Most of the people I train with know this about me.

If it is something you can not get, that is setting you off then get to root of the problem or ask to do something else. Otherwise you are just continually going to beat yourself up without trying to work out what the actual problem is. The problem may have nothing to do with your training at all and more to do with your personal life and what is going on in that. It may even be a negative atmosphere in the club itself or a combination of things.

It’s important to recognise what upset you so that you can understand it and move on. Don’t dwell on it, just accept it, take a deep breath and focus on the task at hand. If you, can channel some of that emotion into your kime, just be careful not to over do it.

The hardest thing, don’t try to stop yourself from crying, let the tears come, if you need a moment even out of the room to have a good blub, most good instructors will be amenable to this. Most crying sessions last no more than 5 mins. The most important thing is to come back as soon as possible or not leave if you can.

I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve continued doing pairs work with tears running down my face, makes it a bit difficult to see. You can take comfort in the fact that you have now done something that a lot of martial artists will not ever do and that is face their fears. Which means you have been training not just your body, but your mind and spirit as well.

What can you do to support someone crying during training?

Firstly don’t make a big thing out of it and don’t ignore it either. Let the person who is crying decide how they want to deal with it.

Don’t make fun of them or say “stop being such a girl”. Ask before you hug. With children ask if they want to sit out with a friend, or see their parents if they are there. Making unrelated jokes and changing the subject can help. Relating similar experiences, can help too. Always try to find out what upset them and what you can do to help, if anything. You may need to leave this until the end of the lesson.

My stock phrase which usually gets a laugh, particularly with children is “No one has cried at karate more than me”.

If the crying lasts for more than a few minutes, then it is something serious.

Just remember

If you are a person who cries, you are actually very brave to show that vulnerable side and it shows that you have a heart and care. There’s a reason we train Mind, Body and Spirit.

In the beginning, people think vulnerability will  make you weak, but it does the opposite. It shows you’re strong enough to care. ~ Victoria Pratt