Monday, September 7, 2015

The Gift of Fear

Fear is one of the most powerful human emotions we have.



Fear underlies almost everything we do.  Think about it - our political choices, our religious choices, our choice of where we live, heck, the rules that govern our daily living... more often than not, there's a thread of fear underlying all of it.

Of course, fear is a major emotion that drives people to the study of the martial arts.  One could argue it's THE main emotion behind the reasons people stepping on the mat.
  • Fear of being preyed on by bad guys.
  • Fear of losing a fight.
  • Fear of being bullied.
We spend a lot of time trying to overcome fear.

We deny it exists, we pretend like we don't feel it, we act like it's something that isn't a part of us and isn't useful to us - that is is our enemy.  Because we know that fear has its down side - that fear can paralyze us or make us think or act poorly.

Mmmmmmmmm... Muad'Dib.
I don't think that fear is our enemy.  Fear is our friend.

Fear is what's kept us around as a species.  Fear helps us pay attention to danger - not only in the immediate sense, but in the proactive sense.  Without fear, we may not have survived at all.

It is our fear that causes us to study self defense, even if we have never been in a violent situation personally. It is fear that helps us imagine that scenario before it happens so we can train and be prepared.

Without fear, we can't have acts of courage, either.  As we know, courage requires one to do something regardless of how afraid we really are - and courage is one of the most admirable values we have.

So I reject the Jedi notion that fear is something to be avoided or suppressed.


Hey shorty! Suck it, you can.

Fear is our friend - it is our gift.  It is one of the things that keeps us aware, proactive, and training.  It keeps us paying attention to our surroundings so we can anticipate, evade, and defend against attack.

Instead of denying our fear, we should accept it and harness it.  Accepting and understanding our fear helps us avoid the downsides of the feeling - it can help us not freeze in the face of danger, help us listen to our fear to clue us in to danger (that good old "gut feeling" that something is wrong), it can drive us to action.

Fear can help us make good decisions, decisions that are pro-survival,

Denying our fear often leads us to ignore the signals that something bad is getting ready to happen, and by the time we realize it, it may be too late.  Denying fear is to become a victim of it when push comes to shove.  Denying fear is to deny the need for what we do, as martial artists - and we do need it.

For example, we train with aluminum training blades when we train vs. the knife.  Let me tell you, what we affectionately call "the pucker factor" - that fear deep in your gut - goes up dramatically when training with an aluminum blade that looks very realistic.  Intellectually you know it's not going to hurt you (much) but the image of something shiny and possibly sharp coming at you at speed makes you MOVE!

That "pucker factor" is instinctual fear, and that fear helps me train more effectively.

How do you harness your fear?  I'd love to know your thoughts!