View Full Version : The role of fear

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Alec Corper
06-23-2003, 05:47 AM
I would like to hear what people think about the role of fear in an Aikido dojo. I have my own opinions which I will throw in later, but here are some questions:
Is fear necessary in training?
How much?
Fear of what?
Does fear prevent learning?
Should Aikido always be practised harmoniouly?Should we distinguish between body fears and psychological fears?
Is the sensei responsible for the level of intensity at which people train or is it a matter of individual choice?
Can a Martial Art be properly learnt without mastering fear?
Which fears (if any) should be removed fron a dojo environment?

If this thread has been previously tackled please humour me and respond anyway.
many thanks, Alec

06-23-2003, 08:49 AM
there is an article here that you might want to read (http://www.aikiweb.com/training/ghbeish1.html)

06-23-2003, 08:52 AM
IMHO, Aikido training can be a great tool to face and overcome fear.

IMHO, fear is a negative fantasy from an associated positon that facilitate internal absorbsion of awareness and cuts back on the ability to respond. There is a nice adnraline pump, rush, and dump included.

06-23-2003, 12:05 PM
I don't think anyone starts training in a martial art unless they have felt fear in their lives. Fear is the cause of the existance of Aikido and all martial arts - If people weren't afraid of others and what they are capable of doing themselves - there wouldn't be any dojos to train in.

Those few enlightened individuals who want to rise above would still be doing yoga.

Charles Hill
06-23-2003, 01:54 PM
I read recently that some Tibetan Buddhist monks were taken into a laboratory at Univ. of Wisconsin-Madison, and were hooked up to various feedback machines. A gun was then shot off unexpectedly, but the machines did not pick up any startle reflex. I find this amazing. The startle reflex and the feeling of fear are admitably not the same thing, but I do think there is some relevance to this topic.


06-23-2003, 02:42 PM
...and what they are capable of doing themselves

Amen to that.


Scott Sweetland
06-23-2003, 05:26 PM
Without relaxation there is no Aikido. Fear and relaxation are the antithesis of each other.

You want people to be alert, you want them to be prepared for anything, but fear is another mental state entirely. Fear is a great motivator, unfortunately it motivates people to do stupid things.

Why would anyone want this in an Aikido dojo?

Alec Corper
06-24-2003, 04:22 AM
I must admit that when I started this post I was thinking about the resposibilites of an instructor to create learning conditions in a dojo. Several of the posts are interesting. The experiments with the monks indicate something to do with Fudoshin, IMO, which we as Aikideshi could well benefit from. As to fear and relaxation being antithetical to one another, I totally agree, however relaxation within the prescence of threat is very different than relaxation at home. How do we increase the level of threat correctly whilst simultaneously learning to handle biological reactions. Some instructors of so-called "real fighting" are very busy with adrenaline based training. This definitely helps a student to understand, and therfore predict their own behaviour. but does not lead to the kind of mental control the monks apparently demonstrate.

any further thoughts out there, Alec

06-24-2003, 06:11 AM
I have found my startle reflex is quite low in that I do not startle easily and when I do, it is very brief. However my fear is much more thought based. Dealing with this is a large part of my training and so I do see a place for it in the dojo, in a very controlled manner. For instance, I do not need someone to try to hit me with a live sword to generate fear - the thought of a direct iriminage is enough for me (I have to make a big effort to be commited in my attack). I have found that higher adreneline levels reduce my fear considerably, so that kind of environment is actually easier for me to deal with.

06-24-2003, 09:03 AM
IMHO, yes, the startle response and fear are two very different animals. The startle response is a reaction to an external stimuli. A fear response is a reaction to a negative internal fantasy. I am not saying that the fear isn't accurate in its possibility. While I see the need for more realistic training so it generalizes to the outside world better, I do not see the need for it to be fear based.

Einstein said that the type of thinking that creates a problem is never the type of thinking that solves it. Fight, flight, and freeze are all fear based. Flow is not.

Ron Tisdale
06-24-2003, 10:34 AM
I've been thinking about this a bit in my own training. The "pump, rush, and dump" phrase is a great one Lynn...and describes something I've felt in some uncontolled situations. It usually leaves me feeling a little sick and very weak.

On the opposite side, in aikido practise, especially against very solid empty hand attacks and even half decent weapon attacks, I've felt something quite different. It is more of the fudoshin (imperturbable mind, steadfast mind) that someone else alluded to. There is a sword version of ukenagashi that I was taught where uke crosssteps in to do a front cut, shite meets their cut, enters to the side and allows uke's cut to give power to their own cut. With a strong committed attack, I sometimes find it difficult to actually meet uke's blade and present a good target, only moving once the timing is correct. I either move too soon, allowing uke to track me (usually moving out of fear of getting hit), or wait too long and actually get hit.

When the technique works well, my own cut is calm, very powerfull, and I am able to generate a deep kiai from my belly. When my timing and mindset are off, I can hear it in my kiai, even if I hide it in other ways.

I think at some level, there is a need to face this kind of fear, and to learn to overcome it. Or face it without the "pump, rush and dump" reaction, which destroys any idea of zanshin (remaining mind) for me, at least.

I guess I'm saying that I find a use for fear in practise, as long as there are agreements between shite and uke, for how this should take place.


C. Emerson
06-24-2003, 11:40 AM
Fear is normal - not knowing how to handle it, a beginner - Having fear and learning who to channel it to your advantage, experience.

I tell my students, the difference between when I started training and now.

Then - I was worried that I would get hurt or what he or she would do to me.

Now - all I think about is what I'm going to do to you. The thought process changes direction, from not in control to in CONTROL.

06-24-2003, 08:20 PM
I would say that learning to overcome fear is the main purpose of budo training.

As for training - putting yorself in progressively more dangerous positions.

A beginner will see that as ukemi - getting over the fear of falling is not easy for many.

Full resistance randori (and by extention shiai) where injury is a distinct possibility is my current - damm I got to get past the butterflies in the stomach feeling.

Josh Manning
06-24-2003, 11:04 PM
Although I am not experienced enough in Aikido to instruct, my day job involves instruction. In that venue fear, intimidation, peer pressure, etc all reduce a students ability to grasp concepts and slow learning to a ridiculous degree. The best learning environment is one wherein the students stress level is minimized to whatever degree is possible.

I must respectfully disagree with the concept that all MA practice begins in fear, as no MA that I know of is a quick solution to physical threat. I began study out of a genuine interest, and stay due to a pull in my blood, not in response to threat of bodily harm.

06-24-2003, 11:48 PM

Budo trancends the waza.

I am very slow and patient when I teach kata directly to a beginner. In that case fear is overcome by a nuturing, relaxed atmosphere. However Aikido, as budo, is not a collection of techniques but a mind set. A good teacher places surmountable barriers of increasing difficulty in front of a student. This pushes the student technically and mentally.

The ability to overcome your own fear is as difficult to master as anything in the Aikido repetoir. You can not overcome something you are not exposed to.

Alec Corper
06-25-2003, 04:05 AM
Yes Peter, that is what I believe to be an important role of the teacher: to create surmountable barriers of increasing difficulty. Also I was not referring to using the adrenaline rush as a defense mechanism, but rather learning/developing the mind/body integration which substitutes the primal response for a more evolved response. I do not believe, however, and this is based in a total of more than 20 years of MA, that philosophizing about being peaceful under combat stress, whether psychological, verbal, or physical, will actually create this state. The dojo is a place for safe learning initially, but if it remains safe in the same way forever where is the progress to be found?

Also someone said that fear is a response to a negative internal fantasy which in a sense is a good description. We worry about an imaginary outcome which we do not want and begin to respond accordingly. However IMO that is only part of the picture. The fear response is also a hardwired evolutionary mechanism which bypasses rational thought to galvanize the system into action, without this mechanism animals would not survive, and at this point in time I do not think that an animals response is based in negative conceptualization, but rather a direct response to an actual threat. What I am saying is that if you perceive the threat but feel no fear, is there any threat at all? By the way if there is a real threat which you do not perceive then certain natural instincts are not functioning. What I am interested in here is the possible change of consciouness that can occur, which I have experienced very occasionally. When the threat is real, I do experience a moment of fear, but manage to sidestep it into something else. I feel that my senses are sharper, my vision becomes broader (not tunnel like), my breathing slows down, my sense of time and timing changes and the threat does not awaken aggression, but something akin to patience.

Any of this make sense?

regards, Alec