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Home > Training > The Role of Fear
by Tarik Ghbeish <Send E-mail to Author>

Mark Chiappetta wrote:
So, my question to you all is this: "What role if any does fear play in your aikido training and how has it impacted your life?"

Fear has played a major role in my Aikido training. Not so much fear of falling or fear of injury although those fears needed to be faced as well. Instead the more daily, mundane fears that we typically face in life were some of the largest demons I had to face. Fear of looking foolish, fear of sounding stupid, fear of failure, fear of rejection, even fear of myself and my own power. All these sorts of fears and more I had to face to really truly study Aikido.

Fear of rejection was perhaps the first major obstacle. To show up every day was a real challenge; not because I was lazy or disinclined to stay, but because I didn't fit in, I wasn't sure I was welcome, I didn't feel part of the group. I had to learn to trust myself and let go of my ego just a bit in order to stay and train.

Each day I trained I found myself facing another fear. Sometimes I didn't like the way someone was teaching or training with me; it somehow made me uncomfortable. When I chased it down enough, I usually found that it was some fear of my own, whether fear for my safety, or fear of looking foolish in front of them, or sometimes even because that person was simply challenging to train with since they were dealing with their own issues as well and unable to work with and empathize with me and my training. For the latter issues, it was an opportunity for ME to learn to connect and perhaps lead the way to mutually beneficial training.

More often the issue was simpler and sourced in my own fear. I desired to train hard, intensely, and effectively. I am a big person and I attacked my sempai with vigor and intensity seeking to understand technique as deeply as possible. Some of them would respond well to that understanding what I needed and offered. Other would respond to that differently and step it up to my limits and beyond, sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally. That triggered resentment in me due to my own fears of injury until I was able to remember our mutual goals in training and communicate our expectations of training with one another.

On principle, I frequently sought out the people who frustrated, discomfited, angered, or just plain made life difficult for me, seeking to understand that relationship and change it or be changed by it.

As my skill increased, I found myself fearing my own power and ability to injure my partners. I had trained in other martial arts where all we learned about how to strike vital points, maim our opponents, break limbs and torsos and faces, and 'kill with a single blow'. I gave all that up because it didn't really address what I needed to address; my own fear of hurting people. My own fear of my temper, my rage, and my bloodthirsty, emotionally satisfying desire to destroy someone evil person in some sickening and somehow justifiable fashion. My dark side. I had to deal with that too, and it was particularly challenging to deal with and nearly resulted in my quitting Aikido.

How has all this impacted my life?

I examine my own reactions to things from time to time and ferret out why I reacted a certain way. Was it in defense of some silly bit of ego? Was it because of some fear? Was I holding on to some need to be right? If I don't like that aspect of myself, I devote a some time to working on it. I apologize to people I feel a need to apologize to; sometimes they are mystified by that.

I can't say I have no fears any longer. No, I still fear things. But my fears are much smaller things now. They don't rule my life any more, either in my attempts to avoid or overcome them. I know how to face my fears and work on them and I can relax more easily and sleep more soundly knowing that I can face them at will. When I recognize that I am responding to something out of fear, I can smile and make a conscious decision to change my response.

Aikido training has done that for me, not because it was Aikido training per se, but because I specifically sought that out in my training and Aikido is an excellent tool for modeling and working on those and many other sorts of issues.



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