"...I'll leave that to you guys; that's crazy"
"More power to ya, man; I'm not getting out there"
All of the above are reactions I get to being a full contact fighter. Amazingly enough, not from practitioners of other styles (they just look at me sideways and keep it moving). Not even from Yoshukai practitioners who may have "missed their prime".
I've gotten those comments from able bodied, young, talented Yoshukai karateka. Now, don't misunderstand me; I'm not aiming to call anyone out, that's not what this posting is about. Rather than dismiss an aspect of our style that I, and others, endeavor to excel, take a moment and ask yourself if you could step onto the tatami. "Is knockdown fighting something I can do?"
I already know the answer to that question for anyone who verbalizes one of those three statements: No.
Not because the capability isn't there; because the desire is not there. As one of my Shihan's says: "You've gotta want to, son!"
I try to impart on my students an attitude of constant progress; Rome wasn't built in a day, or my favorite: "It'll NEVER be this bad again!"
Focusing on "It'll never be this bad again", think about the firsts in your life: Asking someone out, driving, cooking...lifting a weight. The first time was probably not the most fun thing you've ever experience; I know it was not for me. Viewing those experiences as one offs, as opposed to
progressions, are what hinder one's ability. The next time you ask the same girl (or guy) out, it's a little easier than the first time; lifting a weight gets easier over time; cooking gets easier over time. If you put in the right amount of work, fighting gets easier, relatively speaking!
Don't get me wrong, you're not going to roll out of bed the day after a hard series of fights and go win a championship, but the experience won't be as bad the next time. It's experience at it's very definition. The training and preparation for kumite is also best approached as a progression. You may not be able to complete a Tabata Row today, but as you continue to work on your anaerobic cardio, the goal of a Tabata Row becomes easier to obtain.The gains made by the progression are transferred to not only your rows, but to other aspects of your cardio, including your fighting. Utilize those gains to aid other gains; ensure your training is well rounded.
And most importantly, do your research and understand what you need to do and how you need to do it. Fighting is an anaerobic activity. Running mile after mile will give you some benefit, however, there is no immediate transferable benefit to fighting (unless you are sprinting intervals for mile after mile). Bigger doesn't equal better; being strong is good, but training for muscle hypertrophy won't really help you (increased padding aside).
All of that said: karate, the fitness aspect and fighting are all largely a mental endeavor. Yes, there is a can't-ignore-it-it's-so-big physical aspect, but at the end of the day, mentality rules the roost. Train smart, eat smart, learn and train some more. Pain is universal to us all, however the mental reaction to that stimulus is not. You achieve those gains through training and effort (and sometimes a little bit of crazy). "You've gotta want it" and realize "It'll be never this bad again".