Sunday, November 1, 2015

Not Giving Into Fear

Jan de Jong Martial Arts Fitness, the school that arose out of the Jan de Jong Self Defence School after Shihan Jan de Jong OAM 9th Dan passed away, recently advertised a Young Women's and Young Men's Self Defence Course. Within the advertisement was:

What makes this course different from our normal classes? We get really specific about your need to adapt to the charging world. In particular not going into fear, but recognizing that that is where you might feel like you are being drawn, and be better equipped to deal with it.

The first thing to note is the poor grammer, spelling, editing, and use of the so-called American English. However, of particular note is the reference to giving (not going) into fear. How do they teach someone not to give into fear? In fact, why would you want to teach someone not to 'give into' fear when fear is an emotion that was selected for in nature because it conferred a survival advantage on an individual?

What do most, if not all, martial arts schools know about fear? Why do they demonise (Blogger is trying to get me to use American English but I will resist their attempt at American cultural imperialism) fear when fear is the reason the human race exists today? And then, what do they do to train their trainees not to 'give into' fear? Anything specific that targets fear?

'Giving into fear' ... the action tendency most associated with fear is flight. To run away when scared. If more people had have given into fear in the trenches during WWI, there would not have been millions of soldiers on both sides of the conflict killed. Giving into fear would appear to have been a pretty good thing to do for the individual soldiers at that time.

You see, here's the thing. Martial arts and other combative activities are not primarily interested in an individual's survival. They are interested in fight behaviour. They teach fight behaviour and they develop ways and means to support fight behaviour. Fight behaviour, for whatever reason, is the priority, not survival per se.

The soldiers on the Western Front, Gallipoli, and elsewhere where 'encouraged' not to give into fear through such abstract notions as patriotism, loyalty, duty, honour, cowardice, comradeship, etc. These are all abstract notions developed by man so that the intellect can rule over the survival-based amygdala.

You see, the amygdala, the home of emotion, truly cares about you. Survival is its only priority. When's the last time you saw a lion ashamed about running away from a fight it could not win?

How do you teach someone not to give into fear? Ah, there are countless ways to do so, but do the martial arts (a) actually train someone not to give into fear, and (b) if so, do they know that that is what they are doing?

Stress training is one specific way to train to not give into fear. Stress training is different from training. The way I describe it is that training is learning to fire a gun while stress training is learning to fire a gun when someone is firing at you.

What is stress? I'll save you from embarrassing yourself - you think you know but you don't. As Hans Selye, the father of the stress concept, famously said: Everybody knows what stress is, but nobody really knows. I know what stress is, when stress is referred to in stress training. Stress is anxiety-fear. Stress training is actually designed to counter the effects of anxiety-fear on performance.

Do martial arts, is Jan de Jong Martial Arts Fitness, teach stress training? Yes and no, although they don't know it and only indirectly and incompletely.

It's a fascinating subject and the subject of yet another book I'm writing.

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