Eliminating the fear response

Discussion in 'Ninjutsu' started by Supra Vijai, Jun 19, 2011.

  1. Supra Vijai

    Supra Vijai Black Belt

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    Foreword: This may be phrased a little weirdly and be utterly ridiculous sounding so apologies.

    A couple of days ago, I was sitting an exam for my psychology class and one of the topics of study was the different components of the human brain and what they control - Hippocampus for Spatial memory, Occipital lobe for Visual perception etc. One thing that caught my attention was the Amygdala being responsible for emotions (most notably fear) and the different cultural or nurtured influences that impact on how much fear it is appropriate to show.

    So as I sat there in my exam furiously scribbling away my answers, my mind started thinking back to something I've finally started to really "get" during training - there can be no fear when training, especially not in something like Muto Dori - and that's something that requires concious effort for me at this stage. I "know" my opponent has a bokken and will have sufficient control of the weapon just as I "know" we'll be moving at half pace or so in order to work the mechanics but there is still a little burst of adrenaline that fires off as Uke begins to move (or a big burst if it's Mr. Parker :p)

    Anyway... I guess my question is, with the warriors of Fedual Japan and indeed all other cultures, they have proven it's possible to overcome or eliminate the fear during combat. Short of suggesting everyone who ever went into battle had a lobotomy prior to the event, how does one actively get to the stage when fear is a non event? Again in my personal journey, Mushin is still elusive I'm afraid and I'm worried I may be doing the meditations before class incorrectly even though they are guided ones because I still seem to end up trying too hard to let go if that makes any sense at all.

    Help? Thoughts? Surgeons?
     
  2. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    The answer is, simply, Mushin. Practice Mushin as much as you can, in everyday life, driving, walking, whenever you can (probably not so much on dates, though...). in terms of the meditations, if and when you find yourself thinking, or moving away from the guidance being provided, don't "fight" it, simply acknowledge it, and then let it go. Really, just (internally) go "Oh, I'm thinking." Then stop whatever thought it is. As time goes on, that'll become easier and easier, but it does take some internal discipline and control (which is a big part of what meditation is supposed to be about, anyway... if it was easy, it wouldn't be anywhere near as beneficial!).

    But let's clear something up. The ancient warriors of Japan, or anywhere else, didn't ever get rid of fear. You can't. All you can do is learn to handle it and keep going despite it. A big part of the Samurai reason for doing so is down to the value system present: It would be considered a greater shame (and therefore something to be greater feared) to be seen a coward than to go into battle and die. So in a real way, fear is why they went so "eagerly" into battle.

    Reading books like the Hagakure really drive this point home - there are numerous stories where Samurai deliberately put themselves in positions where they are likely, or definately going to die (in battle, by being ordered to commit seppuku, or similar) rather than being thought a coward. There is a story there of a warrior who, when battle started, still had his armour off being repaired and cleaned, and rather than wait, and have people think he sent it off at that time to avoid the battle, went out in his hakama and kimono. Got slaughtered, but at least no-one could say he was a coward! In another a Samurai left a bar early, and his friends later got involved in a fight where a rival was killed. Although the first Samurai had legitimate reasons for leaving early, he told his friends to say he was there and involved, despite the fact that the punishment was to commit seppuku, rather than be thought a coward who left early to avoid the fight.

    So for them, it comes down to which has the higher value, the fear of dying, or the fear of reputation being marred. After all, death happens to everyone, can't be avoided, and is over quickly. Reputation, on the other hand, extends to the entire clan, family, society, and so on, and extends down the years.

    But the method of overcoming that "I don't really want to die!" feeling was a combination of the social conditioning, and the practice of Mushin.... which, realistically, is a Traditional Japanese approach to adrenaline training more than anything else. And adrenaline is what most people really feel when they think they feel fear. All it really is is adrenaline with a negative emotional attachment. Give the same adrenaline a positive emotional attachment, and we call it excitement. Something to consider.
     
  3. Supra Vijai

    Supra Vijai Black Belt

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    Thank you for that. A great explanation with several things to consider! Sorry I realise the use of the term eliminate was probably not the best choice, at the time it was the only way I could come up with to describe the controlling of the fear to the point where it may as well be absent.

    Your reply has also reminded me of something I meant to ask after it came up in class a little while ago. Are there any particular translations or versions of the Hagakure that I should keep an eye out for when shopping? From looking at a couple of versions of the Go Rin No Sho at least I know there can be differences.

    One last thing (for now - I know I have far too many questions to say forever), in a modern Western context, what would be a suitable mindset to adopt when comparing which is worse? Fear of death or...? I get the feeling it really has to be a personal distinction but just hoping to get a prod in the right direction

    Thanks in advance!
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2011
  4. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Hagakure is an interesting text, in that I am not aware of any complete version out there. The original text was dictated by Tsunemoto Yamamoto to a younger samurai over the course of about a decade or more, in the form of conversations in the early 1700's, and is made up of over 1300 articles. As many are essentially repeats of points/lessons/ideals that exist in many other articles, most translators pick and choose those that they feel give the best over-all "feel" of the tome.

    My version is a copy of William Scott Wilson's translation, not too bad (given to me as a "surprise" gift from a girlfriend many years ago... she didn't like that I guessed what it was before she gave it to me!) http://www.amazon.com/Hagakure-Book-Samurai-Yamamoto-Tsunetomo/dp/4770011067

    In terms of what type of approach a modern Western individual could adopt, very similar ideas exist in modern military groups (the US Marines Code of Honour is a very good example, and really just one of many). Personally, though, as I'm not military, I tend to weigh up things based on the situation. I have no need or desire to necessarily put myself in a dangerous position just for the sake of appearances, so my training is more about being ready, willing, and able to go in, or extract myself (and others) as dictated. Essentially, it's based in being commited to doing what is the correct thing in any situation.

    It's an extension of part of the Warrior Philosophy of people like Jack Hoban and his mentor Robert L. Humphrey, who was the developer of what he refered to as the "Dual Value Philosophy". A part of it is "Wherever I go, people are a little bit safer because I am there". To me, that doesn't mean I go into combat if something happens, it means that I am commited to doing what needs to happen to keep everyone safe... which may mean engaging in conflict, or it may mean avoiding it. But the big thing is that I can't be "scared" to do anything, as if I am, then I'm not fulfilling my commitment, and I'm reducing the likelihood that I'll be around to keep people safe in the future.

    Hmm, that's getting a bit philosophical, isn't it?
     
  5. Supra Vijai

    Supra Vijai Black Belt

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    Just a tad :) Much appreciated though as is the link to Amazon. The Dual Value Philosophy also seems to be something I'd be interested in and will get something out of so will definitely look into that as well.
     
  6. Dean Whittle

    Dean Whittle Yellow Belt

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    Supra,

    I'll take a slightly different angle to this than Chris and address the other aspect of your question, namely can the fear response be eliminated?

    The short answer, I believe, is no. Fear is a primal response designed to keep us safe from danger, and the internal chemical reaction our bodies produce during stress (conflict) is designed to maximise our chances of survival. It's not something we want to eliminate. However, it is something we can, and should, learn to control by confronting and examining our responses to stressful situations. Over time put yourself in increasing stressful (fearful) circumstances, both at training and outside, utilise the mindset training Chris teaches you and you'll notice a ability to handle greater levels of stress (fear).

    Within the context of training, you may partner up with those more experienced than you and ask them to train harder. Once you can comfortably handle that situation then you may consider training outside the dojo in an environment where people don't know (and don't care about) you, an MMA stable for instance, or an RBSD school. The Japanese call this kind of training musha shugyo, a Warrior's Quest, it was designed to test their physical and mental abilities, and it will do the same for you.

    Also talk to Chris about our Adrenaline-based Stress Response training if you haven't already been exposed to it. That will definitely help you develop a greater control over your fear.

    With respect
     
  7. Supra Vijai

    Supra Vijai Black Belt

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    Thank you for the response Mr. Whittle. I gave cross training a shot as you mentioned but I don't think I am confident enough with my ninjutsu to be very successful at it. As it was I found I was trying to adapt too much of Krav Maga to suit or to conform to the movements of Taijutsu and as a result was doing neither system justice. It is something I am very keen to try again down the track however and will keep your advice in mind.

    The adrenaline based response is something I have been exposed to briefly but definitely something I could use a lot of practice with so again something I will keep striving to get better at.

    I look forward to the oppurtunity to train with you again in Sydney soon :)
     
  8. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    An announcement on that in class this week, by the way....
     
  9. Supra Vijai

    Supra Vijai Black Belt

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    Oh, brilliant!
     
  10. seasoned

    seasoned MT Senior Moderator Staff Member

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    [​IMG] Eye.jpg (82.9 KB)
    A bit simplified, but something I came across years back. Become the tiger.
     

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  11. Sukerkin

    Sukerkin Have the courage to speak softly

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    Some wonderful thoughts in this thread, gentlemen; my compliments.

    As to 'handling' fear, the only way that I ever found that worked is acclimation. For example, I am terrified of heights and I tried to conquer it by going climbing. To an extent it worked but I did not manage to shake it off completely and it's crept back over the years that I haven't been 'facing it'.

    Situations can have an impact too, even on fear recognised and controlled. Apparently I went a rather interesting shade of green when we were at the top of the Calgary Tower (a building rotating and swaying is not natural!) - and you would not have gotten me to step on that glass floor for love nor money! Yet I scampered up a slope next to a big drop on Ben Lomond without a second thought.

    {In case it's not clear, Ben Lomond is a Scottish mountain, not a person :D}.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2011
  12. Ken Morgan

    Ken Morgan Senior Master

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    Training, training, training, that is how you get out of deadly situations alive. You train so much that the techniques and responses are embedded in your bones. Yeah you may be terrified, but your body, because of your training, knows what to do instinctively and your odds of survival jump dramatically.

    For the military and police, that’s why they train so much. You can never stop, you must be constantly “upgraded” and ready to go. Too much time off and your body starts relaxing and getting out of the instinctive mode.

    I don’t know what other militaries do, but when we send a battle group to Afghanistan, they go into the field and train for six months, hard, before they even board the plane and go over. Apparently the training is harder than the reality.

    Anyone who says they have conquered fear is either lying or is mentally unstable.
     
  13. jks9199

    jks9199 Administrator Staff Member

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    Fear doesn't go away. That burst of adrenaline is hard-wired when the body and mind encounters something it reads as danger and isn't confident in its ability to handle. It's all about prepping the body for the encounter...

    Your reaction to fear is what controls this. Exposure to various stimuli, different challenges, all this can convince your body and mind that even though THIS encounter is odd -- we can handle it. So instead of that burst of adrenaline & associated hormones pushing you into a place where you're out of control, it bumps you up into the zone, where everything is primed but not overwhelmed.

    There are different routes and names for this. Several have been provided by others. One more that I'll add is simply facing new challenges. Do something that takes you out of your comfort zone, whether it's something simple and small like trying a new food or something huge like trying skydiving. Practice facing uncertain and unknowns with confidence and controlled actions instead of avoiding them or creeping into them.

    (Stolen in part from some of Rory Miller's thoughts in Facing Violence.)
     
  14. Stealthy

    Stealthy Blue Belt

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    When I cross train I am not trying to learn how to do the other styles I am merely interested in testing my defences against them and their defences against mine(I stick with Koto Ryu since I don't know the matrices for any of the other ryu).
     
  15. Supra Vijai

    Supra Vijai Black Belt

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    That's what I mean by not doing the system justice (IMO anyway), I found I was rejecting a lot of the principles offered because I knew something else worked better (again for me, personally). As a result it became that I was treating training there as a proving ground for what I'd learnt in Ninjutsu and it may just be me but that didn't feel right as I felt I was wasting their time. My ideas on cross training or expectations of it may very well change over time though so will definitely revisit it at some stage in the future :)
     
  16. Indagator

    Indagator Blue Belt

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    Would it be fair to say, in regards Mr Parker's first post in this thread, that one of the key differences in the mindset and attitude towards death held by the Japanese in the past as compared to the modern Western mindset would have been ultimately influenced at the outset by their ingrained belief in reincarnation (for the most part anyways).

    What I mean to say is, death's maw holds less horror if you believe you'll have another life (or several dozen...)

    Just wondering, trying to understand better some of what was layed out in that post.
     
  17. Thesemindz

    Thesemindz Senior Master

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    A big part of getting over fear is experiencing the things that make you afraid. Many students face fear when they first begin sparring. They turn away, they turtle up, they close their eyes. But over time, as they've been punched and kicked and not died, and as they get more confident in their ability to take strikes, and block strikes, and evade strikes, that fear starts to diminish. A big part of what made it so scary was simply the fact that it was unknown. Once they're more familiar with the practice, it doesn't seem nearly so scary anymore.

    Fear is a natural evolutionary instinct. It kept us alive when there were sabretooth tigers in the bushes. It keeps us alive today when it keeps us from going down dark alleys. But there are times when the fear is unwarranted, and we can overcome those unwarranted fears through consistent training.

    Gavin de Becker's Gift of Fear is an excellent book on the subject. With the exception of the anti-gun propaganda at the end of the book, I really enjoyed it and I thought it had a lot of interesting lessons. Give it a read if you haven't. It'll change your perspective on the fear response and its place in self defense.


    -Rob
     
  18. Chris Parker

    Chris Parker Grandmaster

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    Well, such aspects of the culture and social environment will definately play a part in it, but the thing to remember here is that the reincarnation belief is part of the Buddhist teachings, not the Shinto ones. And other parts of the Buddhist beliefs involve not killing anyone or anything. So to have a Samurai, a warrior whose career path revolves around the concept of killing people, then ascribe to other aspects of Buddhist teachings can cause some conflict.

    Of course, the Samurai (and the Japanese) found a way around that... the idea was that, as their lives involved killing (one of the greatest and most unpardonable sins in Buddhism), their reincarnation would be to come back as a much lower creature. But the idea of a Samurai (a member of the ruling class coming back as, say, a slug, would undermine the authority they had, so the karma attributed to the Samurai was that they were destined to come back as a Samurai again, and live through the same violent existence once more.

    So while it was most likely (pretty much definately) a part of the mindset, and influenced the cultural beliefs, it wasn't necessarily as big a part as the social conditioning to not reflect badly on the family/group/clan/lord etc.
     
  19. Indagator

    Indagator Blue Belt

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    Thanks for that insight Mr Parker.123
     

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