The fear of getting punched in the face can severely limit your ability to defend yourself and your loved ones. Imagine walking outside and bumping into some idiot who doesn’t know to step out of your path. He pushes you back and shouts, “Stay out of my way!” No matter what you do, this aggressive psycho has already decided to get revenge for imagined disrespect. Suddenly, he swings a wild haymaker at your jaw. What do you do?

If it’s your first time reacting to a punch, your instinct might be to flinch, close your eyes, or turn your back to protect your face, but this puts you in even more danger as you don’t know exactly where the aggressive psycho is.

To overcome the fear, accept the possibility that you could get hit. Otherwise, fear takes over and forces you to make poor decisions that could actually put you in more danger. Accepting some pain from a jab to the face is a small price to pay for maintaining the awareness you need to handle the situation or escape. If you want to get over this fear then you have to risk getting hit.

Here are 4 ways to train yourself to overcome the fear of getting punched:

1. Have Someone Throw Stuff At You

Have someone throw objects at you that won’t hurt on impact, preferably something soft. Pay attention to your reactions. Do you flinch more than necessary? Do you close your eyes? Are you trying to protect yourself from something that can’t even hurt you? This is a simple method that helps you understand your own flinch reaction and begin to decide when it’s appropriate to flinch or not.

2. Get Punched Repeatedly

Once you’ve started to gain control of your flinch instinct, put on some boxing gloves with a partner and try to protect yourself while simultaneously suppressing the urge to take your eyes off the opponent. Keep the gloves up and touching your head from the front or side to protect yourself. Have your partner hit you repeatedly with light to moderate strikes. Try to maintain your guard and protect yourself while maintaining eye contact and letting go of the urge to flinch.

3. Learn How To Fight Back

Fear comes from a lack of control. If you don’t believe you are capable of defending yourself, it makes you more likely to freeze up and get hit. If you know how to fight back, you will have more control over the situation because you have more reference experiences backing up your belief that you can defend yourself successfully.

So take some martial arts classes and practice assaulting a punching bag while maintaining proper form. It will help you feel more confident in your ability to defend yourself should the need arise someday.

4. Spar And Practice Staying Calm

put 'em up

After you learn basic striking and defense skills, practice sparring with a partner. You will get hit. Deal with it. Spend a few sparring sessions focusing on staying calm no matter what they throw at you. Hold your composure. Don’t get angry. Practicing accepting the reality that you got hit, but focus more on the present moment and less on the pain from the hook that grazed your temple.

These four methods should help overcome the natural reflex to flinch. Becoming a fully conscious man means taking control of some of your instincts. The flinch is supposed to protect you from danger, but it can also put you in danger by making you freeze instead of taking action.

To overcome the flinch keep your eyes open no matter what. Prioritize observing your surroundings so you can react appropriately. Also, mentally prepare yourself for strikes swung close in the air that don’t actually make contact. I’ve seen guys flinch and turn their back when the other guy threw a punch that wasn’t even close to landing. It was completely unnecessary and opened them up to get hit and kicked from behind. Train yourself to stop overreacting in this way.

These training methods will help you overcome the fear of getting punched. Notice they require a partner to help you train more confident reflexes. If no one can help you, or you aren’t able to train these skills then at the very least remember the following key points when that psycho is throwing a punch at you…

Keep your eyes open at all times

Always keep your eyes on the opponent. Your situation can only get worse if you have no idea what is happening. It also shows you aren’t afraid. The more terrified you look the more the aggressor will think he or she can hurt you. Also, keeping your eyes open helps you stay aware of escape opportunities.

Protect yourself

You’ve probably heard the cliché “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” It’s easier to defend yourself from the second strike if you successfully blocked the first one. So get your fists up to the sides of your face to protect it. Try to keep your chin tucked in and a bit behind your lead shoulder.

Move

If you do get hit in the face then move! Get out of the range of the same strike. Take a step away, duck, or do something that makes the aggressor guess where you are going to be. It’s harder to hit a moving target.

If you really want to overcome the fear of being punched then drill these habits. Practice boxing with a partner. Eventually you will be unfazed by strikes that fly a millimeter from your face.

You will also realize that many hits don’t actually hurt as much as you anticipated. If you flinch, you are assuming a horrific pain is rocketing towards you. When the aggressor’s fist actually lands, it might cause zero damage, but you feel more pain than necessary because you expected it. However, if you relax and focus while taking control of your flinch response, the hits you do take won’t hurt as much and you should be much less afraid of getting punched.

Read More: The Key To Facing Your Fears Confidently