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Old 06-06-2013, 01:05 PM   #18
Marc Abrams
Dojo: Aikido Arts of Shin Budo Kai/ Bedford Hills, New York
Location: New York
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 1,302
Re: 105) Aikido- Martial Arts Hidden Within: June 2013

George S. Ledyard wrote: View Post
While I understand completely what Marc is saying, I will say, in Mary's defense that fear is the underlying factor in much human interaction and is especially a factor in how folks get involved with martial arts. If you look at Buddhist psychology as outlined in the Vipassana system, one of the older systems of Buddhisms, most human disfunction at its base can be reduced to fear. At the most fundamental level it is fear of dying but it can often take a lot of work to get it broken down to that level.

Most martial artists started training as a result of some level of fear. Now, many folks in martial arts will claim that they aren't afraid. However, that just means they don't perceive that they are afraid of being physically injured. But that is only one kind of fear. Those same folks, tough as they are, may be quite fearful about allowing themselves to be vulnerable in their human interactions. They are quite afraid of being emotionally hurt. They can be fearful of not measuring up to some perceived notion of their own skill, fearful of being judged by others, fearful of "failing" whatever. Fear causes us to not be present, it causes us to distort the nature of our reality in order to make ourselves feel safe.

In my experience, some of the toughest people I know are quite fearful. I think that the whole purpose of Budo, and Aikido in particular, is to move the practitioner into a place in which he or she isn't fearful. Only by ceasing to be afraid can we move to a place at which we don't use agression to mask our fear. Our whole society is fear based at this point.

While I wouldn't presume to second guess a mental health professional about diagnosis or treatment in a medical context, I do think we all have to sense and deal with the fact that the folks we deal with are quite often coming from a position of fear when they are interacting with us in ways that we don't like. I think that understanding basic human fearfulness is the basis for why we even strive for a less than destructive outcome in our martial interactions. I think it is the whole basis for what the Buddhists would call Karuna" or compassion. And that is the reason we might choose to do Aikido as opposed to some other simpler, more easily learned, and in the short run, more "effective" martial art. Aikido provides us a way to protect ourselves at the same time it potentially provides us with options that also protect others against the outcomes of their aggressive behavior. We would choose to do this precisely because we understand that their aggression is misguided and comes from an underlying vulnerability that we all share as human beings.

Budo training should allow us to react to these thing in a way that is not motivated by fear. The outcome could still be destructive for an aggressor depending on the circumstance but ones own reactions are no longer coming from the same base level of fearfulness that the aggressor's actions are coming from.

So, I think discussions of fear and what makes people fearful and how training might take people past those fears (which I happen to think much Aikido training in particular fails to do) are just about always relevant and we can't leave those discussions just to the mental health professionals. I see myself as a "professional" in dealing with fear... it's just not a medical approach.
George raises excellent points. The specific reason for the nature of how I teach is to help people NOT react from a place of fear. As a psychologist and martial arts instructor, I make a conscious and concerted effort to address the issues of fear, safety, anger, etc. in how I structure my classes and teach. My students can all talk about instances where I address these issues directly, when they emerge in class. This topic is certainly worthy of a thread.

The issue that I had with Mary's response (which I immediately and directly addressed) was in her errant assertion that I was somehow "coming from a place of fear." I work very hard in helping to teach students NOT to come from a place of fear. This is something that I am always addressing in my own training as well. My blog had absolutely NOTHING to do with me coming from a place of fear. This blog was addressing the issue of fear, anger, anxiety, and other negative emotional states that can emerge in training, particularly when the techniques are done in a manner that can result in grievous injury and death. Fear and anger in the students can easily result in people getting injured when training with potent techniques. As a responsible teacher, I am vigilant for signs of these problematic indicators, more so, when I teach very dangerous techniques.

Marc Abrams
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