The terms “stress” and “fear” are often conflated when martial artists begin talking about real-world encounters and training experiences. The physiological and cognitive effects of both are different, and the methods for dealing with both are different. And they will be different across different people; one person’s stress might be another person’s trigger for a panic attack, something that puts one person into a full blown fear response might be moderately stressful to someone else.
Stress and fear are different:
We can retain rational thinking, higher cognitive functions and perform complex skills under stress. We can learn to control the effects of stress and become habituated to working under it’s effects.
Fear can override rational thinking, short-circuit higher cognitive functions and make even basic skills unreliable. We can not learn to reliably control the effects of fear.
Moderate to extreme stress may be encountered frequently in the training environment. The vast majority of people will never experience true fear in the training environment. Do not mistake controlled stress with uncontrolled fear.
Rory Miller’s Meditations on Violence is strongly recommended for useful observations and suggestions on recognizing and dealing with the effects of both.
Posted in Fighting, General Musings, karate, Resources, self defense, training
Tagged fear, fighting arts, fighting skills, karate, martial arts, self defense, stress, training
I thought this was a pretty interesting blog post. (Hat-tip to Greg Restall.)
The Gift of Fear
by Gavin de Becker
ISBN 10: 0440508835
Do yourself a favor and read this book. I have probably read hundreds of self defense and martial arts related books over the years and only a few stand out for me. This is one of them (although it is not in fact either a MA or a SD book).
The information this book provides regarding assessing threats, responding to your intuitive fears (without resorting to ridiculous claims based on phony mysticism or telepathy), the utility of restraining orders, and so much more is extraordinarily useful. I will be recommending it to all my karate students. I think it will go further towards keeping them safe than years and years worth of technical training, or reading stacks of martial arts related books.
Last year our group at Washington University hosted an extraordinary seminar by Ellis Amdur called “Grace Under Fire” that dealt with deescalation skills for people facing conflict. The book reminded me of the seminar a great deal, not so much in terms of the content but in the maturity with which the subject of violence was treated.
There have been periods in my life that have been extremely scary and violent. Some of the incidents during those periods still haunt me. The straight forward manor in which de Becker describes even the most horrific crimes left me feeling less anxious (which seems counterintuitive). The author is not a scare monger, he carefully distinguishes healthy fear which we should take heed of, from unhelpful worry.