Jim Shannon – Chicago Tribune – September 22, 1964

Kenukan / Bushidokan History: Jim Shannon was one of Sensei Jim Harrison’s Ju-Jitsu & Judo practice partners in the early 1960’s. According to Sensei Harrison, Shannon was an extremely strong Judo player and a really tough street fighter. The following newspaper article from 1964 confirms that assessment!

Chicago Tribune
Tuesday, September 22, 1964

Judo Expert Flips Robber
Parachutists Jump on His Accomplice

An armed robber and his accomplice got the worst of it yesterday when they encountered a judo expert and a group of parachute jumpers in a Calumet City tavern.

“It looked as if the sky divers were practicing parachute jumnps on them,” Police Chief Casimir E. Linkiewicz said after the two robbers were treated in St. Margaret’s Hospital, Hammond.

The story began when Paul R. Chamnik, 27, of 10430 Avenue L, armed with a .38 caliber automatic, and Ray W. Soto, 31, of 10245 Avenue N, announced a holdup at the Palace Club, 263 Torrence Ave.

Take Patrons’ Wallets

Soto stood by the door as Chamnik went along the row of patrons at the bar, ordering them back one by one and taking their wallets and money from the bar.

When Chamnik reached James Shannon, 31, of 14421 S. Kimbark Ave., Dolton, he jammed the gun in Shannon’s ribs and ordered him to move quicker.

He shouldn’t have. Shannon is a former sergeant with the 187th regimental combat team who made two parachute jumps in Korea and holds a second degree black belt in judo.

Chamnik suddenly found himself on the floor. Shannon had grabbed his gun hand and had flipped him. The gun went off, the bullet passing between Shannon’s legs and thudding into the floor.

Others Jump Accomplice

This was the signal for 14 other patrons – fellow members with Shannon in the Midwest-East Skydiving Club – to rush and overpower Soto.

Shannon, who weighs 158 lbs. to Chamnik’s 210, had to be pulled off Chamnik by police, who arrived a few minutes later.

Chamnik was charged with attempted robbery of the Palace and with the robbery a few hours earlier of another Calumet City tavern. Wallets taken in the earlier holdup were found in his car. Soto was charged with attempted robbery. Preliminary hearings were scheduled for Nov. 2 in Calumet City branch of Circuit court.”


Budo 武道

By Jim Caldwell – Shin Ryu Kan

The Japanese term Bu-Do 武道 martial way is associated with martial arts such as Karate-Do, Ken-Do, Kobu-Do, Iai-Do, Aiki-Do and Ju-Do. It is sometimes confused with Bushi-Do 武士道 the warrior’s way which is the ancient Japanese Samurai warrior’s code of ethics which dictated his way of life and governed his morals. Bu-Do is a philosophy of training and living and is a guide for attaining self-perfection. To understand the literal meaning of Bu-Do the ideograms that comprise it must be further investigated. The first ideogram or Kanji character Bu 武 is made up with three simple characters Yame 止 stop, Ichi 一 one, and Yoku 弋 piling. Although the Ichi character translates as one in this situation it is probably a horizontal stroke that represents a hand holding a weapon. Possibly the Ka, Hoko 戈 halberd, spear, lance, javelin, arms with one character displaced and a nickname of “tasseled spear” may better represent the literal meaning of Bu. When put together the characters comprising Bu mean stop weapon. Do 道 the way is comprised of two simple characters Shinnyu 辵 / 辶 advancing and Kubi 首 neck. When the two characters which comprise the Do 道 character are put together they mean the way, pathway or road. The characteristics of Do 道 are the following:

  1. Inseparability of moral theory and ethical practice.
  2. Are cultural Furyu 風流 elegance.
  3. The spiritual essence expressed in physical exercise and having an objective character.
  4. Should not have a “sport aspect.”
  5. Their aim is peace and amity among nations.
  6. Are “ways” to be traveled which, though beset with countless difficulties, is wide and manageable for those who will but persist with training made in the prescribed manner.
  7. System of moral training and ethical practice.
  8. Egoless (a doctrine that teaches the negation of self or the individual so that he may become one with the universe). This is the doctrine’s essence.
  9. Focus upon Ri 理 reason and upon Ji 次 particular event.
  10. Trainee endures hardship that is a companion to frugal living.
  11. Trainee must become absorbed in Furyu 風流 elegance.

The three mental attitudes for Do 道 for self-improvement are:

  1. Reigi 礼儀 appreciation and courtesy
  2. Manzoku 満足 satisfaction
  3. Judaku 受諾 acceptance

When the Bu-Do 武道 characters are combined they literally mean the way to stop weapon or in an abstract presentation the way to stop conflict.

In ancient times many fighting arts were developed during the course of fighting battles. In Japan during feudal times the country was mired in a series of civil war. War fighting methods eventually developed into Ryuha 流派 styles in association with various fighting methods, various weapon systems and individual. The main purposes of these Ryuha’s were to develop and maintain proficiency in the art of killing and maiming other opponents a Bushi may encounter in battle. Put simply, a study or method of self- protection which became known as Bu-Jutsu 武術 martial arts. Peace ensued over the land during the Tokugawa period of Japanese history for approximately 200 years. There was no need during this time to continue developing technique for war fighting. A transition occurred when the need for self-protection, Jutsu 術, diminished and the need for self-perfection, Do 道, arose thus many of the Ryuha in order for the Bushi to maintain proficiency and to develop the self- made this change. Donn F. Draeger in his Classical Bu-Do states [1] The Bu-Do thus serves as the vehicle of both moral and supra moral education. As such the Bu-Do is considered to be not instruments for killing but vehicles through which individuals can aspire to moral perfection. Though the classical Bu-Jutsu and Bu-Do share a concern for morality, differences in the priority accorded moral acts distinguish them. If the classical Bu-Jutsu and Bu-Do are three dimensional forms, the following priorities hold:

Classical Bu-Jutsu:

  1. Combat 
  2. Discipline 
  3. Morals 

Classical Bu-Do: 

  1. Morals
  2. Discipline
  3. Aesthetic form

People study the martial arts for various reasons, some to learn a better self-defense, some for a good exercise program, and some to learn a way of life and to better their selves. Whatever the reason is, if the art that is being studied contains Do 道in its suffix then the course of study is fixed and one should remember the literal translation of Bu-Do, the way to stop weapon, while practicing. While studying any Do 道 art we should all strive to learn ways to stop conflict and develop self-perfection.

  1. [1]Classical Budo, Donn F. Draeger, Weatherhill, New York & Tokyo, 1973, p36


Fear and the Flight or Fight Reflex – Part 6 of 6

By Jim Harrison (Originally Published By MA Success Magazine)

Obviously, I can’t go out looking for street fights to prove my martial arts skills are effective. That would be contrary to the self-defensive nature and philosophy of peace practiced throughout the martial arts. So how will I know if my skills will work in real life?

Today, we are rarely allowed to even protect ourselves physically because of decisions made by people who control our rules, laws and courts. We must “turn the other cheek” even if it kills us. Further, because of the senseless violence, misuse of weapons and the cowardly “gang mentality” prevalent in today’s society, it’s extremely dangerous to defend yourself.

I strongly recommend avoiding most confrontations. There are simply too many inherent dangers – physical, legal and civil – to justify fighting nowadays. If, however, you are attacked, you are not only justified to fight back but are forced to. If you wish to live and / or avoid injury, you have no choice.

When that happens, you can rely only on your martial arts training and ring experience to carry you through and help you survive an attack. If that training has been tough, practical and realistic, you will, more often than not, prevail. Remember, however, your attitude is more important than your skill.

President Theodore Roosevelt once stated – so poignantly – “It’s not the size of the boy in the fight. It’s the size of the fight in the boy.” Truer words were never spoken.

Here, I speak strictly for myself, and not for anyone else reading this. If I’m personally confronted with a serious threat, I invariably take appropriate and aggressive measures to protect myself – regardless of whatever potential legal or other consequences may result. I can worry about any of that later because, if I don’t win that encounter, I may not have to worry about anything since I could be crippled or dead!

Suppose I’ve trained in the martial arts mainly for fitness and health. Does that mean my skills might never work in a real self-defense situation – because I might or might not freeze out of fear? How can I know?

You can’t! Like the student skydiver who climbs into the airplane, like the rookie fighter pilot who takes off on his first sortie, or the beginner boxer climbing into the ring for the first time – they never knew if they could perform effectively, if at all, that first time. However, most do; and few completely freeze.

For one thing, you won’t have any choice in a street confrontation. If you cringe and cower when attacked, you may very well be killed. Therefore, your only chance will be to go for it!

Secondly, understand that you will not normally perform in a real fight as well as you did in practice. Fear does cause us to be uptight emotionally and, consequently, hinders or restricts our ability to think quickly and accurately. Fear also tightens us up physically and makes our moves – in this case, punches and kicks – stiffer and slower than normal.

However, there are a rare few, natural fighters who actually “turn on” in real and serious fights or in battle. But even these rare types also draw on their previous practice and experience.

Fear-driven stiffness is totally unavoidable. Only experience will allow you to loosen up. Often, however, as a real fight progresses, you’ll find that you will loosen up, too. Further, the sum total of your training sessions and ring experience will promote self-confidence, which leads to a more relaxed attitude in combat. The less you think about what can happen to you, the more you can focus on what you have to do to defend yourself.

And finally, when another person picks the fight with you or assaults you, he’s the one in the wrong. You are right! And being right, especially feeling right, empowers us immensely. So, in any attack situation, give yourself a big dose of “righteous indignation” and go for it. Don’t lose your temper. Keep cool, calm and collected. And explode into action.


Fear and the Flight or Fight Reflex – Part 5 of 6

By Jim Harrison (Originally Published By MA Success Magazine)

What is the third and final stage in this training process of overcoming fear?

Stage Three involves the street or combat zone. Tournaments and ring fights are always planned in advance. You know the date and even the approximate time that you will fight. Consequently, you normally have plenty of time to think, and to worry, about the possibility of losing.

Street fights, however, are normally spontaneous eruptions and, consequently, you have little, if any time to anticipate them and little time for the flight adrenalin to activate. In most self-defense situations, you know only that there is impending danger. As a Law-enforcement officer, you realize that a combat situation might develop but not always. In military combat, and certainly with a SAD (Search And Destroy) Team, you know that combat is definitely impending, it’s just a matter of when?

In police situations and military combat, you also know that there’s a very likely chance you will be wounded, crippled or killed. In the sport ring, of course, the chance of injury, and especially death, is much more remote.

Therefore, there are two different types of fear involved in these two different environments. The fear of humiliation and possible injury in the sport context, as opposed to the fear of serious injury and possible death in the others.

In competition, ring fights to the knockout are more decisive, but still conducted with restricting rules and a referee who can stop the fight. In combat, it’s a fight for life or death, with no rules and no referee – only your brains, skill, experience, conditioning, determination and luck. Without rules, the man with the best ability to improvise, and who will take the greater risk, is usually the winner – providing that plain luck doesn’t interfere.

Where is the turning point in overcoming fear?

Whatever game we play that involves risk, it is essential that we prepare ourselves, both mentally and physically. However, to enter the game we must normally push ourselves to enter it, and that is the critical turning point. We must actually – and perhaps often – force ourselves to step on the mat or into the ring, to climb out on the wing of a plane, or paddle into the rapids, and so on. Basically, to take that step from which we simply cannot retreat.

The rest is easy. Because there you are: In the match, in the air, in the canyon, or in the fight. Then you simply do your best to not only survive, but to excel and to win. It just takes that first difficult step, jump or leap.

More often than not, once you take that crucial step you will find the experience exhilarating! So go for it. Even when you lose or fail, you will feel better for having tried. Then you say to yourself, ‘I’ll do better next time.” And with that attitude, “next time” will surely come.

Overcoming fear is a matter of courage. Not being afraid is stupid. To stand and advance into the jaws of fear is simply to conquer, first, yourself, then your opponent. And conquering your opponent may be easier.

How can I develop your kind of attitude, one of unadulterated confidence in the ring or in combat?

I don’t know that everyone can. I can only relate my experience of how I did it, and how many of my students and the fighters I’ve coached have. But I do know that, unless you try, we will never know if you are one of those people who can or not.

One, you begin by initiating the steps I set forth earlier. By working out in a tough training hall, including a tough instructor / coach and tough teammates / sparring partners. By competing in sport contests, formal bouts and matches. And finally – if this is your desire – by testing your skills, conditioning, attitude and fortitude on the street in self-defense and / or in combat.

Like I said, to learn to swim you’re going to have to get wet.


Japanese Philosophy: Giri 義理

By Jim Caldwell – Shin Ryu Kan

Giri [1] is a difficult subject that is enigmatic to understand Japanese culture. As one embarks in the study of an Asian martial art, it is incumbent upon one to learn about and absorb the philosophy and culture of the source country. This is especially true for those students who enter into the deep study of a martial art. It is axiomatic that if one ever desires to comprehend the essence of any martial art form, one must learn about and attempt to understand the way of thinking of those who created the art. In the Japanese culture this is especially true and evident with the subject of Giri. Giri 義理 translates as [2] a sense of duty, sense of honor, obligation, justice, courtesy, debt of gratitude. The Gi 義 character can be broken down into two characters that comprise it, the character Hitsuji 羊, translating to sheep or lamb and the character Ware 我, translating to self. In essence, the Gi 義 character could be viewed as “putting the anointed lamb over self makes righteousness.” Sometimes the Asian, specifically Japanese, philosophies are in sharp contrast to Western culture and values which make them hard if not impossible for Westerners or Occidentals to understand.

Because of the propensity for Japanese to think in abstract terms, one of the more difficult parts of Japanese philosophy for the Westerner to understand is their complex system of Giri, duty and obligation. [3] ’Giri’ runs the Japanese saying, is ‘hardest to bear.’ A person must repay Giri as he must repay Gimu, but it is a series of obligations of a different color. There is no possible English equivalent and of all the strange categories of moral obligations which anthropologists find in the culture of the world, it is one of the most curious. It is specifically Japanese. Such terms as On, Ninjo, Giri and Gimu can be very confusing and even if the definitions are understood, are still hard to accept. Giri is thought to be impossible to properly explain in English.

Starting with the concept of On 恩 which translated definition is [4] a favor; a benefit; an obligation; a debt of gratitude; kindness; goodness. On 恩 is an obligation when someone does something for or to another. [5] On is in all its uses a load, indebtedness, a burden, which one carries as best one may. An On 恩 may be small or large, good or bad. It may be a minor thing such as an acquaintance picking up the tab for lunch or a major insult requiring a vendetta. If one accepts or adopts this concept as a way of life, it requires you to keep a mental “file cabinet” of all your obligations. In Japanese society one that follows Giri as a way of life never worries about On debt owed to himself. Sometimes I give neighbors vegetables from my garden, apples from my tree or I will help them with a chore. I give these things without expectation of a return. I once saw a documentary on Japanese culture where a farmer kept a list of all of the unpaid On debt, which is inherited, he and his family had incurred. He periodically would review these On debts and decide which one he needed to tend to without worrying about what was owed to him or his family. Some of these On debt dated more than a hundred years. His sense of Giri was evident.

Regardless of how many On debt one has accrued, it is inherent to the one that follows Giri as a way of life that they get repaid. The one that the debt is owed to may have forgotten about what he did that caused the On debt. It does not matter. It still must be repaid. It is inherent in Western society to forget about a debt if it is perceived that the person the debt is owed to have forgotten.

The thing that insures that one does not forget is called Giri 義理. One either possess it or does not; however, if one has Giri 義理, one will never forget it. Call it honor, duty, or obligation, a man with Giri 義理 can be relied upon 100% of the time. Observing and practicing Giri 義理 demands that all obligations are repaid in full measure and with interest if required. Personal feelings in the matter are completely irrelevant. It is irrelevant whether one wants or likes what is provided to them. If one has received an On debt, Giri 義理 demands that it be repaid. There is an old Japanese saying that goes, [6] Death is lighter than a feather, but Giri 義理 is heavier than a mountain. It is impossible to have a little Giri 義理. One has to fully embrace it if it is a professed way of life.

A special type of Giri 義理 is Gimu 義務 which translates as [7] duty, obligation, responsibility, one’s duty to society, a lifelong duty. Gimu 義務 applies to those On 恩 that are of such magnitude that, no matter how much one does, one can only repay a fraction of the debt. An example of this would be man’s obligation to family or country. [8] Gimu, which means the duty of re-payment, is endless and that no matter how much is repaid, it will never be enough. 

Ninjo 人情 is what ones heart tells one to do and this may quite often be in conflict with Giri 義理. Ninjo 人情 translates as [9] human feelings, human nature, humanity; humane feelings; humaneness; sympathy, the heart; kindness; tenderness or probably a better translation would be for Giri-Ninjo 義理人情, justice and charity, duty and humanity, be torn between love and duty; be hard put to it not knowing (unable to decide) whether to choose duty or love. The Giri-Ninjo 義理人情 translation demonstrates the conflict between Giri 義理 and Ninjo 人情 and is a better term and translation than Ninjo 人情 stand alone. It is a measure of the man whether his personal feelings Ninjo 人情 or honor Giri 義理 win out. One’s happiness is immaterial. One either lives by Giri 義理 or does not embrace it at all.

How does this affect an individual’s life in the Dojo? When one is accepted into the Dojo an On 恩 is immediately received. Even though an individual pays his share of the Dojo tuition this does not cancel the fact that the Sensei has accepted you as his student and thereby laid an On 恩 obligation on you. The On 恩 is repaid by being a good student. Such things as showing respect toward your seniors, practicing hard, paying attention in class, attending the Dojo regularly, not dishonoring the Dojo in word or action, and keeping the Dojo rules all contribute to paying off the original On 恩. Other minor things such as buying the Sensei a cup of coffee or bring him some venison from a recent hunting trip or help video a Kata also contributes to this. Favors done by the student for the instructor or the Dojo are not regarded as placing an On 恩 on the Sensei.

If one progresses to the point where one accepts the Sensei as his master teacher or mentor, in turn be accepted as a disciple, the matter becomes more serious. Whether one consider the matter to be Gimu 義務 or Giri 義理 is a personal thing. The realization that a person has permanently altered his life and way of thinking, takes an obligation beyond mere Giri 義理. Remember, no one can force any one to accept Giri 義理. If one accepts it, one’s personal feelings must never be allowed to interfere. I recently was reminded by my young teenage daughter of the issue of force, when she so aptly reminded me in her strong-willed stance that I could place a requirement on her but couldn’t actually force her to perform a task, believe in or accept an ideology. In other words, quoting an old adage, ‘You can lead a cow to water, but you can’t make it drink.’

One wants a new upgrade on one’s smart phone, but one’s tuition is due. One wants to take one’s mate to a concert, but there is a special class scheduled that night. The Sensei embarrassed you in class, but he is your Sensei. One wins a free trip to an exotic tropical location, but one is needed to teach in the Dojo while the Sensei takes his vacation. One wants to get married, but one’s future would require less time spent in the Dojo. All of these are examples of the conflict between Ninjo 人情 and Giri 義理. To the person of honor, the correct choice is self-evident.

Giri 義理 also works downhill. When a position of authority is achieved, Giri 義理requires a certain obligation and duty. In most cases, students of a Dojo never become aware of the load placed on the Sensei until they become master of their own Dojo. This is one reason one may have noted the way one’s own Sensei is always very respectful to his Sensei. One never truly appreciates one’s own parents until one has a family of one’s own to raise. The person who teaches classes when they are sick, who sells his car to get the Dojo a new mat and who works all night to get enough extra money to send a prize student to a tournament or for special training. The person who does things such as these and never tells anyone about it is a person who lives by Giri 義理.

All one’s Giri 義理 is upward in the beginning of training. With each promotion is incurred with a new load of On 恩, both upward and downward. One’s instructor has guided you to where you are, thereby increasing one’s obligation toward him. One’s responsibilities are increased to the Kohai juniors and to the Dojo with the acquisition of new rank. With rank and authority comes increased responsibility and obligation. Is it any wonder that the seniors seem to smile a lot less than the juniors?

The whole theme of this article has a very serious overtone because the subject of Giri has a serious undertow with Japanese society. Giri 義理 is not intended to be fun! Almost every student who has entered a traditional Dojo has inquired about spiritual training and martial philosophy. The concept of Giri 義理 is a part of the spiritual forging process. Please do not confuse this process with a religious practice or a conversion to a religious dogma, it is not. If one ask to study Do 道 the way do not complain if it hurts. A sword cannot be made by petting a piece of iron ergo neither can a swordsman be made by insuring that the student is happy.

  1. [1]Giri Bujin Magazine Article, Frederick J. Lovrett, San Diego, CA 1970’s
  2. [2]Koh Masuda, Kenkyusha’s New Japanese-English Dictionary, Kenkyusha, Tokyo, 1974
  3. [3]Ruth Benedict, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1946, p133
  4. [4]Koh Musada, Kenkyusha’s New Japanese-English Dictionary, Kenkyusha, Tokyo, 1974
  5. [5]Ruth Benedict, The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1946, p99
  6. [6]John Pickett, First Precept of the Imperial Rescript to Soldiers and Sailors, Meiji Era, 1883, Translation
  7. [7]Koh Musada, Kenkyusha’s New Japanese-English Dictionary, Kenkyusha, Tokyo, 1974
  8. [8]Randal Hassel, Giri, The Japanese Way, Black Belt Magazine, Nov 1983, p62
  9. [9]Koh Musada, Kenkyusha’s New Japanese-English Dictionary, Kenkyusha, Tokyo, 1974


Fear and the Flight or Fight Reflex – Part 4 of 6

By Jim Harrison (Originally Published By MA Success Magazine)

Where do you start the process of learning to overcome fear?

Stage One starts in the dojo or gym. There, the training should be rugged and demanding, sometimes even brutal and intimidating. And it often is, especially so in the case of boxing gyms, judo dojo and wrestling and sambo halls. In fact, if the training isn’t tough and hard, you might as well forget about becoming a real fighter.

Instead, you will simply be, and remain, a wannabe, with only dreams and wishes. Because, in any lesser or weaker atmosphere like that found in the run-of-the-mill or the average karate, aikido, kung-fu and taekwondo school – you will develop a considerably lesser amount of actual fighting ability and warrior-like attitude. Worse, you may develop false confidence. False confidence will always betray you when you need the real warrior’s attitude gained only from true confidence.

It’s very simple. If you want to swim, you have to – at the very least – get wet. And to be a champion swimmer, you’re also going to get tired, cold, and half-drowned – regularly. And if you are forced to swim with sharks, you better train for it as if your very life depends on it. Because, usually, it does!

What would be required of me in that kind of tough training environment?

In the tough dojo or gym, you must attend classes, practice sessions and workouts regularly and consistently. Don’t permit yourself excuses for missing practice, unless your reasons – like injury, illness, etc. – are honest and legitimate.

You must train daily, preferably, or at least every other day. You must work hard and train hard. You must work through fatigue and discomfort, through all obstacles except potentially disabling injuries and mental stress. Further, you don’t ever slack off. You must be willing to shed sweat, blood and even tears.

You should organize a schedule and curriculum that is more demanding than you think you can endure, and stick to it. And then increase it. You must train yourself to be tough before you can be tough. The tougher and rougher you train, the rougher and tougher you will become.

Training tough and consistent is the first step in overcoming fear. Learn to overcome the fear of work, regimentation, discomfort, pain and frustration. Take any setbacks in stride and overcome them as quickly as possible.

To put it in brutally frank terms, strive to reach the point where you simply cannot, will not, and do not accept failure!

You cited three stages in this process of overcoming fear. Wouldn’t Stage One – rugged training – accomplish this alone?

No! Now you must put your training skills to the test. Robin Webb, a former British Isles heavyweight boxing champion and a former sparring partner of Muhammad Ali’s, once said: “No coward steps into the ring twice.” To successfully build courage, you will have to step into the ring for perhaps the first time in your life, and no matter what happens, then step into it again and again.

Stage Two involves competition on the mat, in the ring, and in the arena. Having the determination to prepare as well as possible, and the fortitude to show up and do the job as well as you can, is the mindset needed to overcome your natural, inherited and genetic adrenal dispersal – no matter how it is proportioned. It is a matter of mind over fear! Courage!

So, after you have prepared (Stage One), you must systematically test yourself somewhere, sometime, against a worthy opponent in a competitive environment. That takes courage. Then you must continue to select or challenge more and more worthy opponents. And each time you choose a worthy opponent, it will require of you more courage.

But be careful. There’s an old saying, “Don’t bite off more than you can chew, but don’t spit it out if you do!”


Fear and the Flight or Fight Reflex – Part 3 of 6

By Jim Harrison (Originally Published By MA Success Magazine)

What can an individual do about his or her personal degree of flight and fight adrenalin?

Absolutely nothing! Each human being has inherited a specific amount of flight and fight adrenalin. Consequently, we must accept our normal reactions to fear, regardless of how desirable or undesirable, how acceptable or unacceptable, it may be to us.

So many people, especially fighters – and even would be fighters – berate themselves because of their personal “fear factor.” By this, I mean those feelings of fear that they encounter prior to – or at the initial outset of – a confrontation, a match or a real fight. Although it is normal to feel irritation or disappointment in ourselves because of our fear, it is absurd to blame ourselves for something we had absolutely no control over- something we were born with or without.

We have inherited all of our physical characteristics, our mental faculties, and our emotional responses. Certainly, every parent would give his or her child every desirable asset and attribute they could possibly think of- beauty, brawn, brains and bravery – if they possibly could. They can’t, and we can’t.

Are we, then, helpless to change our inherited condition? Can we, despite our inherited degree of fear, develop more courage than we were born with?

What we do to change, control or counter any undesirable or unacceptable characteristics we were born with is greatly, if not entirely, up to us – although parents, teachers and mentors can help guide us considerably. Nevertheless, we as individuals are the only ones who can deliver the goods – through desire, discipline and determination.

If you lack intelligence, for example, you can improve your knowledge through education and determination. If you are physically weak, you can improve your physical structure and strength through hard work and determination. If you lack emotional discipline and fortitude, you can, again, improve your attitude, discipline and self-control through sheer desire, will power and determination.

Determination is based on desire – the desire to strengthen any inherent weakness you might have, whether internal or external. And the degree of passion behind your desire will largely determine your outcome. How badly do you want to improve? And how willing are you to do what it takes to succeed at self-improvement.

Only you can answer those questions.

So, does that mean I can learn to control my fear?

Absolutely! Human beings can learn to improve and/or control virtually any characteristic or handicap they have. That is, if they sufficiently desire to, and have – or will develop – the will and the determination to do so.

As a martial artist or a fighter, how can I learn to control my natural, or genetic, fear?

First, by understanding what you are up against. That, again, is why the preceding technical information was used to initiate this chapter. It’s essential for you to understand the problem before you can affect a remedy.

Second, you need to find a solution to the problem. There is a solution, and it must be worked at in stages. So, third, you must learn those stages that a fighter will normally need to improve his level of bravery, and you must then, systematically, follow them.

There are three stages to the process of overcoming your natural fear and increasing your courage. But I must point out that every stage of this solution will be a very difficult challenge for anyone who has not traveled this path before. But then, what goal in this world is not difficult if it is worthwhile?


Fear and the Flight or Fight Reflex – Part 2 of 6

By Jim Harrison (Originally Published By MA Success Magazine)

What is “flight adrenaline” and what does it do to us?

Flight adrenaline (norepinephrine) is a hormone that’s secreted by the adrenal gland when a human being – or, virtually any animal, but specifically, mammals – anticipates danger. Flight adrenaline greatly increases our awareness and alertness.

In addition to making us considerably more alert and sensitive to our immediate surroundings, it also increases our peripheral awareness. To put it simply, it opens up our senses to detect danger. It allows – or actually forces us to tune in to danger and/or the possibility of danger.

Flight adrenaline fine-tunes our receptive and responsive abilities. It especially increases our desire and our ability to avoid danger, because there is normally less risk in avoiding danger than in confronting it.

There’s an old Zen parable that best illustrates the distinction between these two reflexes:

A Zen master out for a walk with one of his students pointed out a fox chasing a rabbit.

“According to an ancient fable,” the master said, “the rabbit will get away from the fox.”

“Not so,” replied the student. “The fox is faster.”

“But the rabbit will elude him,” insisted the master.

“Why are you so certain?” asked the student.

“Because” answered the master, “the fox is running for his dinner and the rabbit is running for his life.”

What responses does flight adrenaline cause in humans?

Flight adrenaline (norepinephrine) signals us to be ready to run. It also enables us to run earlier and much faster than normal. That’s because, again, we are much better off to avoid danger than to confront it. In other words, it’s better to flee than to fight. Whether you believe it or not, we can actually run much faster when afraid.

What is “fight adrenaline” and how does it affect us?

Fight adrenalin (epinephrine) is an adjacent hormone also secreted by the medulla section of the adrenal gland. Epinephrine, however, works in many ways almost entirely opposite of flight adrenalin. It decreases our peripheral senses and actually focuses, or tunnels, our perceptions and responses.

Fight adrenalin not only triggers our emergency senses, but also our emergency reflexes, to aid us whenever we cannot, do not, or will not avoid danger. It makes us quicker and stronger, assets that we sorely need to confront and meet danger.

In addition, fight adrenalin greatly increases our pain threshold anywhere from mild to superhuman, just as it can our strength. It also increases our dysfunctional override capacity- the ability to resist and even aggress after incurring physical damage. It can allow us to function despite a dislocated joint, broken bones, etc.; or after the breath has been knocked out of us, or even when we have been knocked almost unconscious!

How can you best describe the differences between flight and fight adrenalin?

Here’s the best analogy. Flight adrenalin is what rabbits have 99.99% of the time. Fight adrenalin is what grizzly bears are imbued with 99.99% of the time.

Only the rarest of rabbits, in the rarest of instances, will fight. Even in the most extreme cases – when cornered and being eaten alive – rabbits will simply acquiesce into shock,or continue their attempt to escape.

The grizzly very rarely thinks of avoiding danger, much less running from it. Grizzlies have been ftlmed attacking automobiles! They normally only run to catch, and/or attack, a meal, and very rarely to escape – and then only from conditioned reflexes such as to run from men with dogs and rifles. But quite often, not even then.

Each human being also has a certain proportional amount of rabbit and grizzly reflexes, obviously in vastly different degrees per individual. The proportion depends completely upon a person’s inherited genetic DNA dispersal.


Fear and the Flight or Fight Reflex – Part 1 of 6

By Jim Harrison (Originally Published By MA Success Magazine)

Fear is a natural human emotion that causes a person who’s facing imminent danger to have one of two completely opposite – but mutually instinctive reactions. You either run away from the danger to totally avoid it, or you confront it head-on. This is the “Flight or Fight Reflex.”

Fear is a subject of particular importance to martial artists, yet one that has been inadequately addressed and perhaps even grossly overlooked in the field’s collective literature. No matter how much martial arts you learn or how proficient you become at it, if the time comes to face a genuine life-threatening situation you will experience the two-edged sword of fear – fight or flight – and will be forced to exercise one or the other.

When the human organism thinks it is being threatened, typically the person’s heart pounds like a triphammer, and he becomes short of breath, sometimes almost to the point of hyperventilation. There is nausea, often described as “butterflies,” in the stomach. Some individuals experience an inability to control their bowels. The degree of emotional and physical intensity varies with the person.

As undesirable as all these powerful symptoms may sound, they are actually indicators that the body is ready to perform at its highest level. World-class athletes and people who freeze from terror under stress, both experience the same series of physiological reactions. What determines how successful the outcome will be, is how rapidly the individual is able to either retain or regain control of his instrument.

Fear is stimulus-specific. There are people who evidence few, if any, of the usual biochemical reactions, as cited above, to what are traditionally considered life-threatening circumstances. They are considered “fearless.” Yet, each of these people has some particular personal situation in which he finds it difficult to maintain his composure.

For example, there are people who are unperturbed by the sounds of gunfire, sirens and screaming, yet who become rubbery-kneed at the sight of a baby’s soiled diaper. So, the threshold for what would be considered overwhelming stress varies drastically from person to person.

Although considered fearless by most of his peers, Jim Harrison readily admits to being scared before every match, gunfight, firefight or battle. In these excerpts, he clearly explains, based on real experience – in the ring, on the street, and in the battlefield- what fear is all about and how you can overcome it.

What exactly is fear?

The dictionary defmes fear as “an emotion of alarm and agitation caused by the expectation and realization of danger.” However, a topic as important as fear requires a far more technical elaboration. This technical analysis is essential to your full understanding.

A medical dictionary informs us that fear is “a somatic (part of the body) disturbance or expression of anxiety (stress), neurosis (nerves), or an anxious psychotic (mental disturbance), which may stimulate hyperthyroidism- an excessive condition of glandular secretion by the thyroid.  This includes an injection into our system of a hyper-adrenal, another glandular secretion of hormones, chief among which, and this is important, are norepinephrine and epinephrine- “flight” and “fight” adrenaline, respectively.

This common human condition is what is known as the “Flight or Fight Reflex” (or Flight or Fight “Instinct”or “Response”).

In the upcoming series of excerpts, Mr. Harrison will explain, in a question-and-answer format, the many aspects of fear – and how to train to overcome it.