Filled with Fear

"Daddy I'm a coward."

These are the four words that I spoke to my father after a fight I had with another student in my class room who decided that he just had to beat me up after school for a ridiculous reason. I did not want to fight this large bully. He was much larger than me and much stronger. He was brave enough to want to fight a skinny lightweight to show off for the school. I did not show up after school to fight. I just went to work at the fruit market where I delivered fruit and vegetables on a bicycle.

The next day everyone in class stared at me like I was some kind of fairy mutant. There was nothing I could say that would help. Everyone wanted to project their own fears onto the victim which would somehow make them feel braver or something. At least that is how I figured it at the age of 13.

I had a minor accident at work the day before and my left wrist and forearm was bandaged from some superficial cuts which resulted from a fall on the bike and scraping my arm along the large metal sharp-edged basket. This was not a good excuse. The bully wanted to kick the crap out of me and the Romans wanted a spectacle.

I again tried to escape and go to work but I was ambushed by the bully and his cronies who figured me out. It was interesting that some other spectators were also on hand when I turned the corner.

I could not escape. There I was face to face with the biggest, strongest, fittest guy in the middle school. He was the captain of the Youth Boxing team. He was angry for no real reason. I was scared.

There was ice and soot on the ground from leftovers of a snowfall a week or so previously. I was wearing loafers while the big man was wearing work boots. He had traction and I did not.

He was standing in a boxing stance and circling me and throwing light jabs to my face. He was not landing because I was moving and evading. I found that I could not hit him. I was close enough at times but felt weak and unable to harm my assailant. I felt butterflies in my stomach and felt that the strength was drained out of my arms.

He kept on jabbing and attempting to land a right cross but, at least, I was able to evade his attack. It felt impossible for me to strike him. I felt fear and an inability to hurt him. Was it mercy or only fear?

The Transformation

Finally I slipped in the gutter on some ice and soot. I went down to the ground and he was on me instantly. He tried to get a hold of my neck and head but fear made me strong enough to not only escape his grip but even to stand up.

He punched me again over my left eye and cut me. Suddenly I just hit him in the mouth with what felt like a limp punch. He fell back and lost his balance. He got up again to the thrill of the onlookers and approached me. But something changed inside me.

The jeers of the onlookers and the name calling got to me and my fear turned into rage. Not at the bully who later became a very close friend of mine but at the crowd.

Unfortunately for the bully I turned my anger on him and hit him a little too much and hard as punishment for his transgression.

Everyone was stunned that he hit the ground and did not get up. A couple of them wanted to fight me, or so they were saying. I felt alone.

Something surprising happened then. The bully yelled at the crowd as he slowly got to his feet. He shook my hand and said it was a fair fight. I was instantly accepted by the students.

Cowardice and Natural Reactions

When I got home I started to analyze what had happened and came to the conclusion that I was a coward. I could not defend myself when confronted. I was afraid for over 24 hours before the fight and could not just simply punch the bully right in the face until the fear finally transformed into rage.

When my father got home that night I blurted out the four words, " Daddy I'm a coward". He had me explain why I felt that way. He explained to me that I was suffering from what most normal men experience before a fight. I had all of the symptoms of Tachy Psyche phenomena. Even though I was not in fear for my life, the fear symptoms came on anyway.

He said it is not cowardice but natural. If one could just let loose the adrenaline it would help with the speed and strength needed to fight. The problem arises when a person can't figure whether to fight or run. I wanted to run but was trapped. I also felt there was some element of a desire not to harm another which was part of the mix but even today I am not so sure.

After I fell down and felt anger all bets were off. I was able to perform. In my life I have found that if I was suddenly attacked without preamble I instantly hit back. If there was some loud posturing by a belligerent loud and scary person or persons I would find the fear chemicals coursing through me and I was in a quandary due to indecision. My fine motor responses would become non-existent. I could barely speak. I just wanted to leave the situation. It would usually take some sort of contact like a punch to the head to wake me up and start fighting.

Thinking Is the Enemy

I found that if I was attacked without time to get confused my training would kick in and I would strike out. If I had some time to think I found that I would look for a way out and all of the panic symptoms would have time to work on me.

I did learn, after some time, to stop and breathe deeply, if time permitted, and get some control of myself before a fight. This was important because, as a police officer, I usually had time to prepare before dealing with serious felonious attacks.

The idea of only spasmodic striking training working in a fight is not always true. Even the most basic strikes of close combatives are not so easily accessible to everyone. The fear factors are still in effect and many men who have trained in close combat cannot fight when called on to do so.

Training in WW2 combatives is not an innoculation against the adrenaline stress responses of the body. It is the hope of the trainer of the military that at least training in the basics will help when the feces hits the fan.

Ring fighting shows this to also be a factor in who will win when one is a beginner to the ring and one is a seasoned fighter. The seasoned individual will have a handle on the adrenaline response and use it to his advantage while the inexperienced man will find that no matter how much training he has done it becomes a completely different story when facing someone who wants to harm you for real.

I am not equating ring fighting with serious life and death attacks on the street or battlefield but even the scaled down fear response of the ring is enough to put the lie to complicated mystical techniques until a man has had a good deal of experience or he is a bit sociopathic and does not feel the fear but enjoys harming another human being.

As a police officer responding to a scene of potential violence you have some time to take control of your breathing and have a better chance of dealing with a violent situation. When taken by surprise in the fashion of an assassination style attack, even the battle hardened man will have some lag time before a good defense can be mustered. It is hopeful that the attacker fails somehow to kill the police officer outright.

Channeling Fear

Yes-- even training in the raw WW2 combatives or any other hand-to-hand is not a guarantee that you will not freeze in a fight. I have found that when a person is protecting a loved one, the fear factor doe not hamper, at least, a fast attack by the protector against the attacker.

It seems that one must get out of the trap of confusion. If there is time to think and get control of your breathing you may have a good chance of fighting well. If there is no time to think you may become startled and your hand will come up to deflect and you may strike your attacker immediately.

If you have experience of real fights you will find that Guided Chaos training will really enhance what you can do. The question remains for many of us when confronted with little time to overcome fear whether or not we can transform fear into righteous rage. Maybe thinking of getting back to your loved ones could help. It has helped me.

No amount of training of ANY KIND will completely prepare you for dealing with sudden adrenaline responses. If you have the presence of mind to control your breathing before an event you can deal with it. If you have had a number of real life and death fights and have not become a burn-out you will more than likely be very effective. If you have no conscience and like to hurt people and are an adrenaline junky then you can join some military special forces group-- they are looking for you.

If you train consistently and regularly to flip the switch from fear to righteous rage you will have a better chance than if you just practice self defense strikes or techniques, no matter how simplified or combative. It is vital that you regularly practice a system of fear visualization and transformation exercises to tune your nervous system for life-and-death combat. You want to do "Fright Reaction Drills" that prime your nervous system for a full adrenaline-dump reflex. This will begin to channel your reactions so that all the raw, natural, animalistic and instinctive power begins to flow in the right direction for fighting. Once this well of energy is tapped, it then has to be integrated into your movement in a holistic and primal manner that doesn't conflict with natural human anatomy and movement. This is a key error of many systems: they prescribe movements that don't actually follow the way the human animal is genetically constructed to respond in a fight-to-the death. If you try to visualize a gorilla using reverse punches, sportive grappling or flowery kung fu moves you can see the absurdity of this. This is especially important for individuals who are not in touch with their primitive side and need to recognize its power to save their lives.


If you like our Newsletter, tell a friend.    

"Since I chanced upon your website your concepts on combat have been swirling in my mind like a new-found lover.   having browsed Attack-Proof in the amazon website and found it so sensible, i forthwith ordered a copy from a local book importer which will become available in a few weeks (the accompanying video may be problematic to acquire. my craft requires me to live near the boonducks).  having gone through the maze of various arts and methods, at 51 i think i am now able to know the difference.  hence i concentrate on the filipino arts, military-related combatives and yes, the internal arts (being of chinese ancestry i find in the internal a very deep sense of rootedness, calm alertness and spirituality.  but you are right - it is very difficult to find the martial in these arts unless the sifu really knows or is willing.  in manila though i met yi quan adepts who can really rumble).  i know next to nothing of your method, but there's so much truth in the bits and pieces that i have.  wholly practical and devoid of the war-freakeness of other systems. a refreshing but dead-serious approach."
--Jerry, Philippines

"The more I learn the more I know that you have got this correct.
I heard about an assault that happened in Springfield, a couple was walking to their car, in downtown. They have opened a bunch of college bars and dance places,some [undesirables]  have been coming into town to meet college girls. One bar has been playing gangster rap style music and it caused a riot in down town and 50
cops were called in. Anyway this couple took a short cut through the alley,
Springfield is safe right? 5 cars in a car pulled along side, words were
exchanged they jumped out and beat up both the guy and his girlfriend with the
girl getting beat up worse. It may have gone really bad after that but a
another  group of people were came down the alley and the criminals fled. In this
case  awareness and not being in that situation would be the only thing to have
helped  outside of a glock."

GET REAL  with your training. Learn to become as powerful and elusive as
possible.  Learn to use your weapons as well as possible so that you can
exercise  restraint, if possible, at all times.
NEVER assume that you are  facing an unarmed opponent. Remember: you may
not have time to see  anything before attacked. That is why serious self
defense is a dicey game  to play when blidsided or attacked by multiple
assailants. You have to  make the choice to stay alive and deal with the arm
chair quarterbacks of  the world who can't or won't understand what a person
must do, in some  cases, to survive.
--Take care,  JP