It can turn the most practiced martial artist into a rubbery jelly, frozen, unable to act. It makes him or her vulnerable. That’s fear with a capital “F” at work.
I’m not talking about the normal run of the dojo trepidation or the stress and anxiety of competition or demonstration. I’m talking about deep wrenching fright – the terror felt during an actual attack –when you fear for your life.
If you want to make your martial arts training credible, learning to deal with fear is critical. Some say it is the number one factor in responding to any attack or self-defense situation. (Of course, if you are just training to get in shape, meet friends or build discipline, this might not be so important.)
Fear and stress are natural responses to danger. They are the body’s survival response. But, if you don’t understand these responses, learn what to expect and how to deal with them, these same responses can take you by surprise and paralyze action.
In intense, threatening situations the body reacts – increased heart rate and breathing. The blood stream is flooded with adrenaline (the adrenaline dump). Blood flow to the extremities is reduced and diverted to large muscle groups. Body functions not critical to survival are reduced, such as digestion. The breath rate increases and you sweat.
At low stress and fear levels, the body feels infused with added power and strength. Senses become more acutely aware. The ability to run, jump, and hear is enhanced. Reaction time is decreased - as your body shifts into action gear.
At moderate to high levels of stress and fear, the legs often begin to tremble. Some people feel nausea and their vision tunnels (peripheral vision is reduced). Hearing can also become impaired. For many, events seem to shift into slow motion as fear itself floods through their thoughts. They want to run (fight or flight syndrome). There is indecision.
Some people actually freeze at this point. They are unable to process the threat and response options effectively. Some react irrationally, become disoriented, and can’t respond well physically because their abilities deteriorate (fine motor skills). At extreme stress levels even more complex motor skills can fail – such as those involved in combination techniques.
It can totally incapacitate. Your legs tremble, heart pounds, you sweat, you want to run and you can’t seem to move or know what to do. You see the danger, you see the attack but you don’t respond effectively.