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Mastering Fear Through Self Defense Training

Updated on October 4, 2011

There is a lot of talk about fear in the self defense industry, and it’s no wonder. Most people aren’t comfortable with dangerous confrontations (big surprise). But the fact is there’s a very simple biological explanation for this…as animals we are hard wired to avoid confrontations which can threaten our survival (makes sense to me).

The problem is we don’t always live in a peaceful world, and sometimes we are called to risk our safety to protect those we love or simply stand up for things we believe in. This is where the trouble comes in.

To make this even worse there are tons of ‘gurus’ out there misleading people telling them that this or that program will ‘eliminate your fear.’ I have worked with plenty of special ops soldiers over the year (Navy SEALS, Delta Force, Israeli Special Forces, and more), these are guys who most people would consider fearless. These guys jump out of planes into combat zones and take care of business, but if you ask them they will tell you that they definitely do feel fear, they just channel it to increase their focus and mental acuity (making fear an asset not a weakness).

Why Most People Think Fear During a Fight Is Bad:

When most people think of fear they think of seizing up, not knowing what to do or say, worrying about being embarrassed or being injured or killed.

But these are just some of the things fear can do to you in a fight. These are the bad things. If you don’t train your response to fear it can start controlling your brain, making you weak and vulnerable.

Fear Doesn’t Have To Make You Weak and Vulnerable:

Fear can also be your ‘savior’ in a self defense or otherwise dangerous situation. We have all heard the stories of grandma’s lifting 200 pound objects to save a grandchild. Under stress people are capable of amazing things (things they would never be able to do normally) and it is all made possible by fear (or to be more precise adrenaline and the fight or flight response).

Here is just a short list of all the positive things fear can contribute: mental focus, increased strength and speed, increased pain tolerance, increased blood flow to the muscles, decreased blood flow to the skin (this is why people go pale, it decreases risk of bleeding out from small skin wounds) and the list goes on.

The benefit to you is that when used properly fear can be your best weapon to win any fight.

The secret is learning how to tap into the huge benefits of fear and block out the debilitating responses.

With the proper training you can channel your fear into a powerful weapon making yourself one dangerous person.

The problem I see all the time in my line of work is that people expect that learning some self defense skills or a martial art will magically make their fear disappear. This just doesn’t happen.

First of all the fear never goes away completely, even trained fighters feel it every time they get in the ring (they do however learn to channel it properly).

Second, you have to train yourself in fear inducing ways in order to really master fear in a fight.

If you don’t train under high stress you will likely slip into the negative responses and probably wind up losing and getting injured when you do encounter a fight

Martial Arts Studios Rarely Train You Under Stress:

The majority of your time in a standard martial arts studio will be practicing techniques in front of a mirror in a class type setting. Sparring usually comes much later and you won’t spar that often.

This is a big problem because intense sparring is the one and only way to induce an adrenaline dump (and if you get too comfortable with your sparring partner even sparring can lose its adrenaline dumping power).

How to Train With Fear:

The best way to train to use fear properly is to spar often and try to make sparring sessions as stressful as possible.

One great way to do this is to have your sparring partner yell and swear at you (the military has done this for ages, that’s why drill sergeants yell and insult soldiers).

You can experiment with other things that make the session more stressful or uncomfortable. One technique that works for many people is sparring in front of groups of people. Losing is embarrassing and will because you do get nervous just like high school speeches. This is one advantage of joining a competitive fighting organization. The controlled setting won’t really prepare you for a no holds barred street fight but you will experience an adrenaline dump.

For more great fighting and self defense tips check out or my blog

Stay Smart and Stay Safe,

Bob Pierce



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