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!”