“The ones kneel who shake with fear”


“The keen sword in the coward’s hands is not a weapon”


The majority of those who do martial arts do it in “the terrific environment” of the gym. The floor is smooth, the light is soft, there is enough room for everyone, and most important, your brothers collaborate with you and reckon upon some respect. The atmosphere encourages the students to be able to deal with the aggressor who is equal for strength to a greater or lesser extent. However, the first street row, much skilled competitor, or the sharp knife in hands will arrange everything. The legs weaken, the heart in the throat, you want to bury your face in your hands and run away. It happens to everyone, and those who´ve never been in the situation, they either lie or were born to be fighters, and this is an anomaly! Since the fear is normal!

The fear to lose both of welfare and social status exists in human nature. This emotion is bound up with people’s subconsciousness which arose from primitive consciousness and is called “instincts of self-preservation”. There are three main instincts living in human being: sexual instinct, power instinct and instinct of self-preservation. Using these instincts, one can subdue people’s will and manipulate them. However, one can also use the instincts to stimulate themselves for accomplishing purpose. *

* Instinct is a total of innate tendencies and aspirations, expressed in the form of complex automatic behavior. In the strict sense, a total of complex inherited acts of behavior characteristic of the individuals under certain condition. Instincts form the basis of animal behavior. The instincts of higher animals fall under modification under the influence of the experience of individual. With regard to human being, within the framework of psychoanalysis instincts are considered as inherited (native) tendencies taking the part of conative power of complex human behavior models. Instinct is hierarchically organized nervous mechanism which replies to certain available and enabling impulses fully coordinated, essential, and proper to species movements.

(N. Tinbergen’s definition).

Thus, we have determined that we are dealing with our inner "demons" in the face of the enemy or danger. It is half the work! We have recognized the relevance of such emotion as fear. We have not hidden behind the bravado of the all-conquering hero. Now it is necessary to understand its nature and find any possible ways to oust our inner “demons”, because the fear binds our bodies, makes our technique monotonous, urges on to make one mistake after another, and being in affective state, the fear steals our souls. Then the mind (or the conscious actions) disappears, and since that moment the behavior is determined by the stereotypes proper to the instinct of self-preservation. The human being begins to tremble, to scream, to cry, and to laugh; his hands and legs shake, he catches his breath. "Emergency behavior" makes the poor fellow to go like sixty God knows where, to fall down in a dead faint or just stand, gazing into space. Such uncontrolled, unconscious behavior is classified as three mental states:

1) Agitation. It consists in the desire to run away, to hide from the source of the threat.

2) Epileptic clouded state. It is shown as uncontrolled fury and aggression.

3) Numbing. It is expressed in a state of absolute or partial stupor.

Having learnt to control negative (asthenic) emotions in the hour of danger, we have a chance to suppress aggression even in the face of a strong opponent. Human emotional variety is very wide: from supreme horror and grief to serenity, from euphoria and full internal harmony. Graphically the scale of the human emotional life can be represented in the form of "An emotion rose" with all the gradations and shades. In psychology there are the valence pairs of "basic" emotions, either of which has their opposites.

Therefore, the antipode of fear is anger. Cold anger, I would say. If the fear takes away energy, weakens mental and physical qualities of a warrior, that cold anger is akin to courage, call the internal rise, confidence and conscious and volitional physical activity. Thus, it is necessary to find the mechanism of switching the reaction caused by instinct of self-preservation to a threat, from negative (asthenic) reaction to positive (sthenic) one. The ability to find the proper methods of “switching”, to elaborate recommendations and to instruct the teachers and their pupils practical techniques, is the goal of the new sport of “psychopedagogy”. Fortunately, for the true seekers, the cultural heritage the East countries already has quite effective methods. So, from my point of view, instead of discovering the continents again, the “discoverer” in sport ought to refocus their efforts and concentrate on the researching and development of existing ways. I guess we need deep insight to metaphorical linguistics of old texts and knowledge of philosophical and religious teaching’s matters in the historical context to understand their meaning. After that we can engage the interpretation, talk about physiology, biodynamic and psychology in the language of the Western World.

Human being may be frightened at the sight of turned gun on him — it will cause short-term fear. At the same time, for example, the thoughts of imminent death are often accompanied by chronic fear which doesn’t leave the man for long time. Fortunately, regulation of both emotional states has equal mechanisms, because the origins of both lie in identical feeling of existential threat, hidden in the instinct, on the unconscious level. We can't change the evolutionary set, inherited in the form of instincts. However, we are able to consciously control and modify reflex responses and emotional states in which they are expressed. One of them is fear, and it can be defeated!

For adepts of the Martial Arts it means the necessity of solving of two fundamentally different tasks, leading to one goal:

1. To remove the death anxiety as reflex to the existential threat

2. To learn, how to fight without active participation of the consciousness (with one’s brain on autopilot).

The path of self-programming is to transfer the desired affirmation and ideas from the conscious level to the unconscious level. Id est., instead of the normal evolutionary reflex the opposite conscious reflex response (behavior) is created. The unconscious self-preservation reflex, as reflex response to life-threatening, produces the state of cool anger expressed in confidence and readiness for congruent behavior instead of the fear.

The first step of the conduct encoding is to establish clear, proper set of commands for the programming of our psyche. This set has to be short (easily assimilating), clear and expressed in exclusively positive form. Depending on the predisposition of your mind to learn, the commands can be verbal or written textually. For programming to begin to yield results, it’s necessary to learn the selected affirmation not like it’s a poem, but play in them, think about them, empathize, in other words, move to the subconscious level.

Short-term fear that arises before or during the combat can be quitted by the way of “switching” of consciousness from the subject or object of the threat to the achievement of specific targets or objectives. Abstracted mind does not “see” the life-threatening; correspondingly, the person isn’t afraid. The way for the work of subconscious level of the psyche, which is aimed to solve the situation without the participation of the analytical apparatus, is released.

Good examples of the techniques of psycho-programming are Kung-Fu schools, based on the habits of animals. The adepts get used to the selected animal not only for the purpose of exemplary military conduct, but to eliminate the barrier of fear and fight on “autopilot”. For this they use two methods: self-programming and meditation practice. At first the transition to the transformed state of consciousness may take considerable time. However, at a certain level of training, to enter the “image” of the person, it is enough to use a trigger. The transformation takes less time. The starting mechanism may be an image, word or phrase, physical action (for example, bunch fists), a deep breath and exhale, battle shouts.

Isn’t it strange – trying to remove the conscious acts in combat? It would seem that in the critical situation, you need to think consciously! Here they say, “Is that where the shoe galls?” The adept isn’t proposed to refuse from the processing information the external (coming from environment) and internal (your body) information, which is the thinking. He is taught to the manipulation of his consciousness. For the period of combat, the fighter is profitable to cast aside the “human” component of the thinking, leaving the care of self-preservation in the hands of the “animal”.

The complexity and impermanence of combat are characterized by the variety of types of intellectual problems, ways of their solution, and types of thinking. In matter, it is accepted to distinguish three types of thinking in psychology: clearly-effective, visual-figurative and abstract.

1. Clearly-effective thinking solves problems by real transformation of the situation and performs motor action, whether it body or the surrounding items.

2. Visual-figurative thinking is a set of methods and processes of figurative task solution assuming visual view of the situation and manipulation of images of its items, without implementation of practical actions with them. It allows fully reconstructing the diversity of various actual characteristics of the subject. In contrast with the visual-efficient, in the visual-figurative thinking the transformation occurs only in figurative terms — we do mentally what was done with the assistance of real action. This type is based on the emotional, sensory perception of phenomena and objects.

3. The peculiarity of abstract-logical (verbal-logical), conceptual thinking is based on the understanding and estimate, not using empirical data. It distinguishes the man from the animal, since it is based on cause-and-effect relationships. It uses the information of previous experience, predicts the future, identifies (recognizes) the person as a person.

It is obvious that the first two types of thinking are most useful for the process of combat. By the way, they refer to initial, the “animal” part of the psyche, which subsequently formed the basis for the emergence of the human psyche. Abstract-logical apparatus is the prerogative of the human psyche, in a battle it will more likely to hinder than to help. Such conclusion can be done on the facts about the speed of information processing by the human brain. At the level of abstract-logical thinking people is able to process 100 bits of information per second. At the same time, visual-figurative and sensory processing reaches ten million units per second. This fact explains the mystical, superhuman abilities of the Kung-Fu masters, when any aggression is suppressed effectively, with adequate actions, as if the Master is anticipating every next step of the enemy. There is no mystery! The master owns the technique of manipulating his own mind. His mind, getting rid of the gives of the intellect, almost instantly starts in the battle adequate movement programs. He attacks and defends before he thinks about it.

Of course, the selection of the motor programs is limited by the set that was “encoded” in the psyche of a fighter during of long practice. It’s trite to say so but it is an axiom: no one is born as a Master; he’s born to become him. After scanning, recognizing the existing combat situation, person can implement to the action what has already been laid earlier, i.e. “motor cliché, components, prototypes” brought to a state of skill in the process of practice. The Master behavior which impresses unaware people can be called: unconceptual, intuitive, transformed state of consciousness. However, behind the veil of the mysteries there are explainable processes and facts. The secret lies in thoughtful, purposeful work. One can overcome chilling fear in the combat! The psychotechnics of a combat is able to solve the problem. But this is quite a different story.

Originally, this article was published in magazine "Martial Arts" at 02.2015:

Igor Messing

Translated by Ekaterina Pryamova
Club “Jook Lum”, St. Petersburg, Russia

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