#TheFifthPrecept of Gichin Funakoshi by Mireille Clark
5. Spirit first, technique second.
It has taken me years of contemplation on this precept to even start to come to the understanding of what it is trying to say. I offer the following personal interpretation:
Inner Spirit is what makes a person continue despite set backs, limitations, mistakes, ridicule, and other challenges. Without the right Spirit in training, you cannot advance in technique. There has to be a mental environment of willingness to commit to the movements, dedication to achieving results, and courage to continue to allow a person to experience success.
Fear stops us. Fear of doing it wrong, Fear of being hurt, Fear of looking silly, Fear of being rejected, Fear of being too old/young/weak, etc. Fear motivates us to abandon the effort. We may choose to complain about others who have applied themselves and succeeded rather than think that we could have achieved the same, and maybe even better, if only we had put in the right Spirit with our efforts.
How many years can you stand in a dojo and do the same movements as others, and never ever understand the lessons contained in those exercises because you are only doing “just enough” to pass to the next rank? It’s because your Spirit is lacking that you cannot experience the Art in what you are doing. Your heart doesn’t beat fast with the exertion, and you cannot exhilarate in the flow of the movement because you haven’t commited everything that you have into that strike. You have to picture WHAT you are doing with your movements so that you understand WHY you are doing them. Once you have acquired that knowledge then a world of possibilities opens to you.
Right inner Spirit is what is necessary in a self defense moment… with or without skill and technique. That inner desire, and focus to survive, and walk away from a confrontation will be more important than any complicated maneuver that you had learned in class. Your mind will find a way to keep you safe using the tools that you had provided yourself. If you spent all of your training time worried about how well your outfit looked, or trying to avoid doing the exercise properly because it was too difficult or physically draining, then you will have limited tools.
This is the same with life. Proper Spirit towards what we do, and why we do it, will allow us to benefit the most from every moment. We only have a limited amount of time on this planet to affect ourselves, and those around us. If we choose to put forth a positive, responsible, and grateful attitude in everything that we do, we can expect that this will become a good catalyst in the world around us ( even if we do not see instant results). If we choose to just mechanically move through the motions, then we will get limited results.
Train with your Spirit. How?
a) Face a challenge with a “yes” attitude. Do your best, and learn from the rest.
b) Ask your body to give more than what you think it can do. Tell yourself that you can do 1 more, and then do it.
c) Make each move in your training count. Feel the response of your body as it shifts weight, and work towards improving your balance, your power, your timing, etc.
d) Avoid looking at the clock. Time will continue whether or not you know what time it is.
e) Focus on what you are doing, and not what others are not doing. They are responsible for themselves and will get the results that they deserve from their efforts.
f) Be grateful for what you have achieved today. You are never guaranteed a tomorrow.. so be happy that today you were able to do what you did.
Thank to Colin Wee as well.
Last week at the open Luxembourg one of our athlete and also client of mine had an outstanding performance. Gold medal in the weight class – 48. What was it that made him achieve his goal. While others in his team did not. One factor is stamina and the technical skills and combat skills he learned from our head coach, Soerin Jagbandan, who is one of the best, if not, the best Holland has to offer. The other part was the mental side. For me not to stand in the way between the head coach and trainer and the athlete I toke the position of being an supplement on the mental status of this outstanding athlete, Machario Patti. Mark my word, you are going to hear more from him. I did not go to the tournament, so I decided to have a long briefing over the WhatsApp messenger. We started off on the subject breathing which is the main topic which always comes back in each session. The way we breath is very important and especially for athletes in the martial arts it is vital. The various rhythm in combat can cause irregular breathing which resukts in an overal failure. 3 rounds in f 1,5 or 2 minutes are to much for an athlete. Compare it to jogging with intervals of short sprints. Your breathing must adapt to the extra power your body has to produce and in order to provide enough oxygen for your muscles your brains triggers you to breath quicker. In combat it is the same deal. Except in combat, we are not as relaxed comoared to jogging. There are so much details to look at. All your senses are set for a 100% performance, you tend to forget to adapt your breathing in the changes in the rhythm . Rhythm was my next subject in the session I had with my client. As an example I told him about all great martial arts fighter. Some of them already passed away. One of them is Bruce Lee. During combat I have noticed the changes in rhythm which can overtake the opponent. The difficult part is that excepts for the breathing, which I discussed extensively, your senses are under great stress. As each martial arts athlete knows that this is very exhausting. When attacking your opponent waits for you to make a mistake. When striking your opponent an athlete should bare in mind, the chances for an counter attack are there, so during your attack, you defensive skills are, or better said, should be ready to overtake your own attack and defend against an overtake by your opponent. This is what makes martial arts so beautiful. Like the hart beat, metronome, this game has a rhythm which is set by both athletes. Split second decide when you have made the right move or not. I would like to tell you more, but I cannot expose to many details. It is not a secret but I cannot give away everything which is in line with my work as a mental coach. Please feel free to contact me individually and we can discuss more if you have questions or would like to learn more. The contact details are mentioned in my blog. Cheers!
Yesterday I was watching a documentary about cyclist Thomas Dekker fron the Netherlands, who was a very promising cyclist to be belong in the top 10 in the world ranking. 3 months before the big Tour he received a phone call from the Swiss doping authority. He was found positive and was expelled for an extended time. According to Thomas he could not practise any sport. Meaning in competition. I noticed that this very young man was destroying his life. But before I go what I think of this young men is really irrelative. Most top athletes do tend to have a strange way of living. That should be ok, as long as they get the job done, because winning is all that count. Isn’t it??? The documentary was a report on his post expelled period of him being accused of using EPO. Al the people surrounding him who loves him were in it as well. Also his manager. Young guy with a lots of money, several houses and fame. It can be a deadly combination to people, especially young people. And watching the documentary I was hopibg to see someone who help him out with his training and physical comeback, no I watched closely to see if there was any mental coaching. Spiritual guider or whatever you may call it. Maybe there was and is such a person in his life, but I doubt it. Why? Because his physical comeback was disappointing. I believe with the right person at his side he would come back even stronger. This role should be the responsibility of his manager. I mean managing things is also taking care if things, isn’t it? Taking care of you investment and you income, means also taking care for the future and tackling all the problems a long the way. Mental coaching is so important and as long things go well, mental coaching is at the background, but we all now that life has it’s ups and downs. I wish Thomas the best and may he find someone who can really help him.
I have not been writing much lately. Seems I am suffering from the same phenomenon as many sports athlete students have.
It is like a dead lock. Can’t find the spirit to go further.
One of the reasons might the fact I am working to much and have less time for sports and be amongst my sports friend and family.
The spirit is gone and I have to catch it back.
Well, today I am going a bit earlier to home from work and I will go to the Seongong, the Taekwondo gym were I am a part of.
Last weekend I had the the discussion with one of our students. Our A class students went to Luxemburg last weekend to compete in the Open Luxembourg tournament.
One of our promising athletes got gold and he used the mental advise I gave him. Also the artificial hyperventilation helped him a lot.
I asked him what the scores were of the 3 fights he had.
They were al won with great point differences.
For my this was the signal to move to the next step.
Coming Blogger posts will be about the rhythm during the fights.
I have seen all great fighters using this technique which I want to use for my clients, students and blogspot friends.
My inspiration is back and there are 5 students having certain goals which they are serious about.
My own goal is to make them European champion, world champion and the final move to Olympic Gold.
I know it is a long shot, it always is. Nevertheless we must try to let our dreams come true.
Soon I will be posting more.
My research paper explains whether or not playing sports affects young children in their everyday life. The reason I chose this topic is because I am interested in finding out if sports helps children’s social development. The relevance of this topic is to see if there is an improvement in the overall development with children who participate in sports compared to children who do not and if there is a difference, than hopefully sports can be one solution to children who have low self-esteem and do not have many friends and may also help motivate kids to do better in school as well.Based on my research findings, I have found that there are many benefits of sports participation in children. Ultimately, the best reason for children to play sports is to have fun. One major problem our country faces today is childhood obesity. According to Becerra (2009), twenty percent of children in the U.S. are obese, which will increase their risk of many health problems when they reach adulthood. One way children can benefit from playing sports is that it is a fun way to exercise and stay healthy. Not only can sports help children to stay healthy and fit, but it also helps build their self-esteem by giving and receiving encouragement from their coaches and gaining respect from fellow teammates or peers. According to Metzl and Shookhoff (2002), when asked why they play sports, kids say it is to have fun, to improve their skills, to learn new skills, to be with friends, to make new friends, to succeed and win, or to be physically fit. Kids have few ways of getting the attention and respect they need. Metzl and Shookhoff (2002) state that, “what is unique about sports is that they offer kids an arena where they can earn attention and respect by exerting their natural abilities (pg.1). Sports also gives kids a chance to release all the stress they have on their minds. They can literally run off the tension that has been building up in their muscles. After releasing you stress when exercising, you can concentrate much better. Exercise improves kids’ academics as well. Research showing a link between fitness and academics is growing. Nixon (2008) mentions that “by acting as a mild stressor, exercise is an alternative way to spur many of the protective benefits associated with calorie restriction and the release of brain-building growth factors, said Carl Cotman, director of the Institute for Brain Aging and Dementia at the University of California in Irvine” (par.8). Kids who are more physically fit perform better academically. It is also beneficial for children to participate in sports because sports are a social activity. Team sports are done with other people, but even individual sports are done as a team, such as swimming, golf, and tennis. This leads athletes to develop relationships with teammates, making new friends, thus socially developing. Also being around another adult such as a coach, other than parents or any other blood relatives is another way of developing socially. Metzl and Shookhoff (2002) stated the following:“For young athletes of all ages, attention from interested adults is not only flattering but also helps them overcome shyness and develop poise when talking to relative strangers in social situations. The ability to feel comfortable in a variety of social circumstances will be progressively more valuable in a world of multiple cultures and decreasing numbers of supportive communities” (pg.5).Although there are many benefits to children participating in sports, there are negative effects as well. The coach of youth sports teams has the power to make the experience enjoyable or miserable for the young athlete. Some coaches are in it to win games and championships rather than emphasize learning and enjoyment. Some coaches will act warm and friendly to young players when they perform well but then act like they barely know the youngster when they go into a slump. This can ruin a young person’s attitude and make the experience painful. Also, sports are not risk-free. This is especially true for sports like football or wrestling that are full on contact sports. Injuries are bound to happen. Sometimes parents may also put too much pressure on the young athlete. A father might say something like “I expect you to get at least two hits tonight”, because he hopes to bring out a good performance. Others might indicate that the family name is on the line and issue a threat. “You better not do anything to embarrass me,” could be a parent’s last words before their child takes the field.I myself have been a competitive athlete for thirteen years of my life. I have experienced both the positive and the negative sides of participating in sports. I remember every morning right before school I would have ice skating practice. After I was finished, I felt invigorated and I felt a sense of relief. When I was in school, my mind felt wide awake and it felt very easy for me to concentrate, listen, and understand everything the teacher was saying, especially in math class. Being involved in sports, I matured fairly quickly compared some of my friends who did not do any type of sport. . I was meeting new people and making new friends every day through figure skating and martial arts. Most of the people on my martial arts team were much older than me and being surrounded by them almost every day was what also made me mature quicker and became more and more open as a person as I got older. I was lucky enough to not have parents who forced me to do sports. The main reason why I joined sports in the beginning was because it was fun. I began to feel a lot of pressure from my skating coach when she told me one day to lose weight. This was the first time I had experienced any kind of negativity from my sport. I also faced many injuries as well, but thankfully nothing too serious, although the longest time I had to sit out of training was six months. Facing that negativity from skating made it no longer enjoyable for me so eventually I quit. I am lucky to have a supportive coach and team in martial arts. I feel that being in sports has made me confident, and also made me stronger emotionally because of what I had faced in ice skating.I believe that playing sports definitely affects young children in their ever day life in positive and negative ways. In my opinion and from my personal experience, I feel that the negativity I endured from my coach was actually a good thing for me because it made me stronger as a person and made me grow up. Participating in sports is also a great way for children to start staying healthy and also help them perform better academically. Sports is a great way to relieve stress and for children to makes friends and develop socially and gain self-confidence as well. Although there are some downsides to children doing sports, I believe the good outweighs the bad.
Becerra, J. (2009). Children and Sports. CRS – Behavioral Health Advisor, 1. Retrieved from Health Source – Consumer Edition Database.
Metzl, J D. & Shookhoff, C (2002) Benefits of Youth Sports. In The Young Athlete: A Sports Doctor’s Complete Guide for Parents (Ch. 1, pg.1)
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Tags: Goals, Peak Performance, sportsWritten by Mike Edger, Posted in Articles for Athletes, Articles for Coaches, Sports Psychology | Leave a commentGoal setting helps athletes commit to the goals and objectives they have for their sport. Professional baseball players like Chase Utley, Derrick Jeter, and Tom Brady have reached the top of their game by setting, evaluating, and reformulating goals throughout their career.Things to consider when setting goals:Goal should identify a specific action or event that will take place.Goal and its benefits should be quantifiable. Goal should be attainable given available resources.Goal should require you to stretch some, but allow the likelihood of success. Goal should state the time period in which it will be accomplished.Write down your long term goal or “Dream Goal” for your sport. Continue reading
But as there is no language for the Infinite, How can we express its mysteries In finite words? Or how can the visions of the ecstatic Be described in earthly formula? So mystics veil their meanings in these shadows of the unseen
Mahmud Sa‘adu’l-Din Shabistari (quoted in al-Attas 1963: 25)
Contemporary accounts of Malay culture that focus on shamanism, dance, medicine and performance reveal only a partial view of Malay mysticism. However, given knowledge of the Malay martial art (silat) a more comprehensive understanding of Malay mysticism, religion, sorcery and magic becomes possible. Recognizing the silat master’s (guru silat) role in Malay mysticism reconfigures the social anthro- pology of Malay religion, sorcery and magic. Hence this account explores Malay mysticism, shamanism and sorcery from the perspective of silat, which may be considered as a kind of embodied war magic or warrior religion.
Shadows of the Prophet: Martial Arts and Sufi Mysticism is based upon my doc- toral dissertation (Farrer 2006b). Part I of the book, reflections, outlines the method- ological and theoretical base of the research. Chapter 1 outlines the fieldwork method of performance ethnography used to investigate a transnational silat organization called Seni Silat Haqq Melayu. This group are an offshoot of the Islamic Haqqani- Naqshbandi Sufi Order headed internationally by Shaykh Nazim, and led in South- east Asia by a Malay Prince; H.R.H. Shaykh Raja Ashman. Readers who prefer to delve directly into the ethnographic materials may skip Chapter 2, which contains an extensive academic literature review of anthropological theories of art, embodi- ment, magic, and performance read alongside Malay animism, shamanism, ritual and theatre. This reading encouraged me to merge perspectives from the anthropol- ogy of art with the anthropology of performance to conceptualise silat through the “performance of enchantment” and the “enchantment of performance.”
Part II, echoes, sketches eleven silat styles, alongside silat weaponry, dance, and martial techniques, before turning to the distinctive features of Seni Silat Haqq (Chapter 3). Next, I address the cosmology of silat, especially the shadow and reflection soul, which relates to Islamic Sufism, Malay magic, shadow theatre, and to notions of appearance and reality. Changing tack I consider Islam as a war- rior religion, analyzing the secrets of the prayer, chanting (dhikr), and the idea of becoming a shadow of the Prophet (Chapter 4).
Part III, doubles, explores the guru silat in the creation and maintenance of silat, and provides detailed genealogical data. I outline the career of the guru silat and regard how they double one another through spontaneous bodily movement (gerak), consider ritual empowerment granted through worldly and other-worldly powers, including rajas, saints, and spirits, and explore the relation of the guru silat to the
state (Chapter 5). Chapter 6 considers silat practitioners travelling from England to Malaysia, and Malaysian practitioners travelling to England to stage a theatre show. British students experienced social dramas engineered through collective forty- day retreats where adherents expected to break their egos (nafs), which considered alongside theatre raises questions concerning how social and aesthetic dramas feed into one another.
Part IV, shadows, charts the unseen realm (alam ghaib). Divination rituals pro- vide the guru silat with a personality theory, followed by an ordeal through boiling oil to reveal the power of God to grant invulnerability. The experience of these ritu- als examined together with cross-cultural and historical data, alongside theories of debunking, ritual heat, and war magic, let me to propose a theory of occulturation, meaning the attribution of occult power to esoteric skills (Chapter 7). Finally, Chap- ter 8 traces death and the afterlife. In summoning the shadows of the potent dead via martial dance, artwork, and urobic icons silat physically and spiritually transforms the practitioner by relinquishing their fear of death.
The College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences at The University of Guam pro- vided a research grant of US$ 1,785 so that the pictures herein could appear in colour. For the most part, the Department of Sociology at The National University of Singapore supported my doctoral research undertaken between 2001 and 2007. Living in Singapore facilitated many bursts of intensive field work into Malaysia and promoted continuous access to the Singaporean Malay community. Special thanks are due to my principal supervisor, Roxana Waterson, for her patient guid- ance, amusing anecdotes, and her careful reading of my drafts. My second supervi- sor, Farid Alatas, provided many valuable insights, especially over sheesha smoked in Arab Street. Mutalib Hussin, my third supervisor, alerted me to the literature con- cerning riots in Malaysia. Ellis Finkelstein, acted as my unofficial guide and mentor throughout, and taught me the ethnographic method. Maribeth Erb gave continual support and encouragement. Todd Ames, Anne Ames, and Paul Rae read through various drafts of the dissertation and extended useful suggestions. Many thanks also go to Lian Kwen Fee, Lee Hin Peng, Lily Kong, Chua Beng Huat, Hing Ai Yun, Pauline Straughn, and Volker Schmidt who each helped in their own way. Jim Fox encouraged me to focus upon the Naqshbandi Sufi Order. Joel Kahn, Tony Reid, Matthew Mathews, Geoffrey Benjamin, and Vivienne Wee provided stimulating discussions on Malay topics. Thanks also go to my former teachers Bernard Bur- goyne, John Crutchley, Hamish Watson, and William Outhwaite who encouraged further studies. Michael Roberts persuaded me to write about noble death. Last but not least my thanks go to Bryan Turner who suggested that I ‘‘publish furiously.’’
Shaykh Nazim and H.R.H Shaykh Raja Ashman both generously gave their per- mission for this study to be undertaken. Pa’ Ariffin introduced me to silat in 1996 and provided warm hospitality during my many stays at his houses in Malaysia. Hospitality was also extended by his family including Muss, Din, Tutak, Watri, Jad, Fatima, Mrs. Mahidin and Pa’ Tam. I would like to thank the entire Seni Silat Haqq Melayu troupe, including Moone, Cecily, Chief, Colin, Toby, Paul and Nazim. Nir- wana Gelanggang in Kuala Lumpur, especially Cikgu Kahar, Jazwant, Solleh, and Rambo taught me valuable lessons. Cikgu Ezhar initiated me into silat gayong. I am grateful to the late Razak for hosting me after some particularly greasy fieldwork.
I would like to thank Mahaguru Hussain bin Kaslan for allowing me to observe his black-belt class, guru silat Samat for lessons in silat cimande, and Sheikh Alau’ddin who put me through a silat instructor’s course with the Singapore Silat
The Martial Arts:
Let me acknowledge those who contributed to the development of this paper. ␣ Morgan State University SCMNS ␣ Dr. Aradhya Kumar – Morgan State University Physics Department ␣ Henry Corcoran – Morgan State University Physics Department ␣ Ron Chapel, Ph. D. – Martial Science University
␣ James Frederick – Frederick’s Kenpo Karate ␣ John Edmunds, Sr. – House of The Dragon Martial Arts Institute (R.I.P.) ␣ Dr. Richard Ochillo – Morgan State University Biology Department ␣ Dr. Joseph Montes – Morgan State University Biology Department ␣ Dr. Lurline Whittaker – Morgan State University Family Sciences ␣ Dr. Grace Coffey – Morgan State University English Department
The Martial Arts: An Introduction To The Arts Themselves And The Sciences That Make Them Work.
I. Introduction A. Definition of Martial Arts B. Examples & Brief History of Some Martial Arts
1. American Kenpo Karate 2. Tae Kwon Do
3. Five Animal Kung-Fu 4. Ju Jitsu 5. Ryukyu Kempo
The Sciences of the Arts A. Physics
1. Structure and Stability a. Stances
b. Blocks 2. Force and Absorbing Force
a. ForceEqualsMassxAcceleration b. Utilizing Gravity on Downward Motions c. Torque d. Transmittance of Force
i. Recoil, Energy Transfer and Work ii. Surface Area
iii. Structural Integrity of Weapon iv. Stability of Target
a. SpeedEqualsDistanceDividedbyTime b. Decrease Distance to Protagonist’s targets
i. Positioning ii. Maneuvers
c. IncreasedistancetoAntagonist’stargets i. Positioning
ii. Maneuvers d. Decreasing Time of Actions
i. Biomechanical Efficiency (Biology) ii. Elasticity
iii. Target Selection
iv. Positioning 4. Leverage and Mechanical Advantage
Various Fulcrums i. Hips
1. Lifting & Throwing
2. Joint Breaking ii. Shoulders
1. Lifting & Throwing
2. Joint Breaking iii. Arms
1. Joint Breaking
b. Joint/Tissue Isolation i. Joint Locks
ii. Chokes c. LeverageofPinning
B. Biology 1. Target & Weapon Selection or Protection
a. HardandSoftTargets b. Body Geometry and Weapon Fitting c. WeakerVitalPoints
i. Vital Organs ii. Joints
d. Never Clusters i. Creating Pain
ii. Nerve Activation KO’s 2. Joint Manipulation
a. Hyper-Flexion b. Hyper-Extension c. Twisting d. Shearing
3. Choking a. AirPassageCompression
b. Carotid Artery Compression 4. Body Reactions (Autonomous Nervous System)
a. StrikingSequences b. Joint Manipulation c. “Herding”
5. Biomechanical Efficiency (Physics Crossover) a. MusculoskeletalStructure
i. Stability ii. Force Transmission
iii. Leverage b. Muscle Firing Sequences
i. Force Generation ii. Speed Enhancement
6. Maintaining Health a. Nutrition
i. Carbohydrates – Energy ii. Proteins – Maintenance and Upkeep
iii. Fats – Joint Lubrication b. Proper Exercise Methods
i. ii. iii. Continue reading
(The Inner “Secret” of Martial Arts)
What makes Martial Arts tick? What is the real force behind a powerful punch, a well-executed kick, or a beautiful flowing kata? How can a student train night after night, year after year and still enjoy the training routine?
I have seen amazing feats of strength; agility and stamina performed by expert martial artists and have often wondered where this power came from. In the martial arts this phenomenon is called “KI”, or, the Chinese version “CHI”.
Many believe that it is a powerful force that is mystical in nature, energy whose source is located in the lower abdomen of your body. Many try to harness this “CHI” through deep abdominal breathing, meditation, or by training privately with a master who will someday divulge his most deepest secrets to them “CHI” is the story of a 130 pound mother picking up one end of a car that has fallen on her son. (We’ve all heard that one). It allows one to be able to walk over a bed of red-hot coals in one’s bare feet and not get burned. It is watching someone break tons of ice with a single blow of their hand. Or could “CHI” be something that exists even in a deeper and darker place? Many masters believe that it takes long years of training and development to actually begin to accomplish “CHI”. Many claim to have it, but few can demonstrate it.
Since I believe that for everything that happens in life there is an answer (even though at times it seems impossible to locate that answer). I prefer to look at “CHI”, or inner strength, from a scientific point of view. As stated before, the center of the muscular activity of a martial artist is in the midsection of your body, the lower abdomen. This is your power center. Newton’s third law of motion states “that for each and every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” When the action is in the form of a kick or punch, the reaction goes in the opposite direction in the abdominal muscles. In the case of a strike, the non-striking hand is drawn back with as much force as the striking hand itself, there by reinforcing the reactive force of the abdominal muscles. The student within his/her own body provides this reaction. (The complete idiot’s guide to karate, Hassell and Otis.)
Since the largest muscles in your body are located in or near the center of your body and provides the external power needed for performance, by exercising and eating correctly, you can keep those big muscles in and around your gut toned and firm.
Those masters who posses large stomachs and who claims to have “Chi” are only fooling themselves. Instead of “Chi”, they have heart-destroying fat. (See MPKA Blue Book/ Health and Exercise). Let’s break down “Chi” into its component parts and see if we can somewhat unravel this mystery.
We will do this in twelve steps.
1. The first rule of building “Chi”, or inner strength, is to build outer strength. A weak body cannot continuously call up inner reserves if the outside body has not built up these reserves in the first place. There is just nothing in existence to call up. By working muscles to exhaustion, then letting them rest, will allow these same muscles to perform at a stronger and quicker pace the next time that they are asked to perform that same task again. It is a continual process. The key word here is “continual”, day after day, year after year. Muscles are obviously inside your body, as are your vital organs. When you exercise, you are working out the entire body, inside and outside. The more often you perform a difficult strength task, the more inner strength you create.
Familiarity builds endurance, speed and power. What may seem like “Chi” to others in this instance is just plain old confidence in one’s ability to perform over and above what is expected in a given situation. (Look in the MPKA Blue Book, page 124-126, to understand how physical external “Chi” works when performing breaking routines.)
2. “Chi” also comes from a balanced use of mind and body. Your mind (brain) controls your body, for good or bad, for strength or weakness, for health or sickness. By constantly sharpening your mind you build quick mental reflexes. An alert and trained mind can activate the body to react to an outside stimulus in split seconds, sometimes to the amazement of others. The faster that you can perform a certain task, the easier it is to call up those inner reserves to bolster lightning quick reflexes, reflexes that the average person does not have, or have never used. Just as you must exercise the body to gain outer strength and endurance, so must you exercise the mind to gain mental strength and automatic action and reaction. The person who reads, does cross word puzzles, learns intricate katas and practices them often, engages in math and science projects, or who take up an exciting hobby that involves thinking and problem solving, is developing a well-honed and sharp mind.
3. An indomitable spirit can certainly contribute to the development of “Chi”. With a leap of faith and the initiative to succeed at all cost, you can produce a spirit on fire. You believe in yourself and your abilities. Your spirit becomes alive (read the “c-zone” in Riding the Wind, pages 86-88.) Faith created, faith demonstrated, and faith reinforced can never be destroyed. Your face has a healthy glow to it; your mind and body are filled with excitement. You don’t anticipate your next move, you just do it, with flow, and ease, and confidence. (MPKA Red Book page 112.)
4. The banishment of fear when performing or facing a certain task will contribute to the creation of a strong “Chi”. I am not afraid, I can do this thing, and I can do it better than anyone else. With fear and stomach butterfly’s gone, energy rises, strength increases, and power surges to every muscle, bone and sinew of your body. You move forward, afraid of nothing. Your only concern is the moment at hand; everything else is completely blanked out. You are not concerned about your surroundings or about the people around you. Everything falls into place and fits perfectly together as in a jigsaw puzzle. Now, to accomplish this you must learn to control the “Flight or Fight” syndrome. Simply stated, when fear or danger comes upon you, you may choose to run, you may freeze and do nothing, or you may opt to fight back and stand your ground. In most cases, a well trained, well adjusted, mature martial artists will stand his/her ground, assess the fear, and make the correct decisions needed to handle or to diffuse the situation. Remember this point, someone with strong “Chi” will not fear sounds in the night, foggy evenings, monsters, or ogres, whoopees or wheepees, as investigation will always turn up a simple solution. Yes, it is always wise to be cautious, alert and on guard but, it is shameful and self destructive to be full of fear. Train your body, train your mind, train your spirit, be strong and be prepared. There is no fear, there are only bad situations and bad people that have to be dealt with. (Riding the Wind Pages 119-120 and pages 207-209.)
5. A strong, realistic, vivid imagination can contribute to a stronger “Chi”. Here are two good examples of this.
A. Let’s discuss the simple reverse punch, as performed traditionally. You are in a side 45-degree horse stance, knees bent, left hand out in front of your body in a guard position, right hand is on your right hip. Your eyes are focused on your opponent’s chest, which allows you to view him from head to foot. You are breathing easy as you observe your opponent inhaling and exhaling air. As you notice him filling his lungs with air you prepare to strike (a balloon filled with air will burst when struck by a sharp object, one that has no air will not.) Quickly you twist your hips, move to a forward bow and arrow stance as your right hand lashes out towards the target area, while your left guard hand recoils with a snap to your left hip. Your target area is his nose, so you are aiming for the back of his head (as in board breaking, you are punching through the target, and not to the target.) You imagine a burst of energy arising from your gut, and like little direction arrows, this energy goes up through your chest, travels down your arm and exits out your striking fist, which slams into the attacker’s nose, exerting a loud kiai, as your arm locks in an extended position, fist clenches and tightens, while at the same moment in time your legs and fist lock in a forward position. Your attacker goes flying backwards across the room. The more vivid your imagination, the more energy that you will produce, thus the more “Chi” that you generate. So much for the theory that the reverse punch is a simple process. Again, nothing mystical, science prevails.
B. You prepare to pounce on a vicious attacker with all you have, however, he is very large and you are much smaller. How can you overcome the difference in size? Again, your imagination comes into play. You imagine a leopard up in a tree branch, frozen in time. His eyes narrow as he stares at his intended victim. His mouth curls back as he bares his sharp teeth. The black leopard crouches lower. Suddenly, he leaps with a loud roar (kiai), Bares his claws and hits his foe with all four feet. The sudden lunge and the thrust power knocks the much larger animal to the ground as he goes for the swift kill. After a short flurry of action there is utter silence. The prey has been vanquished. To succeed against your larger opponent you must imagine the leopard, no, you must become the leopard. You move quickly, strike at his vital areas with also a flurry of action, finish him off and end the action in a matter of seconds. You, the leopard have succeeded. Your “Chi” has shown its strength. (See Riding the Wind Page 77.)
6. “Chi” can be built by adding excitement to your routines. Have you ever performed a top winning kata and felt chills or sensations running throughout your entire body? There was something special about that day. To repeat this moment take pen and paper and list everything that contributed to that winning effort. Put down all the details, no matter how trivial they may seem now, memorize your list. Did you practice extra hard for this event? Was the level of competition excellent, thus motivating you to try harder? How did you feel physically and emotionally on that day? Again, memorize your list. Now every time you practice your kata, kumite, or take your next belt rank test, call to mind your list and determine to duplicate this winning event again.
7. To gain strong” Chi” you must become an expert at what you do. The rule of thumb is Practice, Practice, and Practice. “Chi” is automatic, non-thinking, reflective action, muscle memory, timeless, powerful, and is part of your very soul. To do anything well you have to do it over and over until it becomes a part of your nature. The more you punch with form and power, the stronger your punching “Chi” becomes. You can also build kicking “Chi”, kata “Chi”, kumite “Chi”, or overall martial arts “Chi”. This is where the time element comes into play and helps explain why a master with many long years of practice shows a dynamic, powerful “Chi”, while those with much less years in the arts are still building theirs. (see Riding the Wind Pages 156 to 159.)
8. Using visualization can enhance “Chi”. Once you learn a technique, kata, etc, sit relaxed and go through each move in your mind in slow motion. Notice every detail, every hand and foot movement. Do this day after day for thirty days. Then visualize yourself in the winner’s circle receiving your award (belt rank, trophy, certificate, etc.) By visualizing often, you will move your skill and talents from the conscience mind (where you have to think), to the sub-conscience mind (where you just react). You want this information to flow freely throughout your body, thus you are creating deep-seated “Chi”. (See Riding the Wind, Pages 177-179.)
9. Step number nine is going to take us deeper into “Chi”, which some may consider this to be on the mystical edge, but what I still consider as science. Tuning into vibrations. The vibrations that interest us are the thought waves that are put into action from outside sources. We call this telepathy (communication from one mind to another without the use of speech, writing, or gestures.) Two minds which are perfectly attuned and in harmony with each other send and receive thoughts that are picked up by both persons. Any good husband and wife team can attest to this fact. So called snap judgments and hunches, which prompts a person to form an opinion and to decide upon a course of action, are usually the result of stray thought waves that have registered in the mind. It is always best to do research when making a decision, but sometimes things happen so fast that we may have to rely on our mental instincts. A savvy person soon finds successes in these decisions because he/she senses enough positive vibrations to react positively in that moment of time. This takes practice. Begin with minor problems, experiment and discover how many times you made a positive or negative decision built upon your instincts. In time, you will become very experienced, with the majority of your solutions being on the positive side. (see Riding the Wind Pages 68 to 71.)
10. A calm, serene person who eliminates stress and worry in his/her life can develop “CHI”. Peace, or stress works on the body, mind and spirit, which can either clog your life with utter chaos, or which can open your existence to see and view things and situations with a deep and positive meaning. Stress is a downer that can make you become negative, irritable, bitter or fearful. This is certainly no atmosphere for “Chi” to dwell in. On the other hand, one at peace with himself and the world around him allows the channels to open up, thus permitting the qualities that produce “Chi” to emanate and pulsate throughout your entire body. As stated before, many believe that “Chi” is developed down in your gut, and it certainly cannot come into existence in a gaseous, acidic, knot tightened gut. There is simply no way that someone who is full of stress and worry can produce “Chi.” (see Riding the Wind, pages 94 to 105.)
11. Successful people develop “Chi’, whether it be in the business world, athletics, medicine, teaching, etc. As students study to become knowledgeable in their career fields, they are not only amassing information to help them succeed, they are also developing skills and instincts that comes only from experience and wisdom. On the spot business decisions are made that leads to landing a large contract, an athlete who does something unusual and who scores the winning touchdown, a skilled surgeon who has to make a surgical adjustment while operating to save a life, or a teacher who motivates a student to raise her school grades, thus creating a whole new and bright outlook for that student. “Chi” can be seen in many people working in various occupations, which we call inner strength, skill, talent, wisdom, experience, etc. The point being made here is for the martial artist to not only develop Chi” in the martial arts, but to also develop “Chi” in all aspects of his/her life. “Chi” is “Chi” and it should always shine in whatever you are doing and where ever you may be. (See Riding the Wind pages 152 to 155.)
12. In this last step we must ask, is it possible that some people are born with “Chi” and develop it as they grow and mature? There are those who can play a musical instrument at a very early age in life and who cannot read a note of music. Where do the skills of a young artist come from who has never taken an art lesson. Is this the mystical “Chi” that we hear and read about? Can we classify “Chi” with words like talent, skills, ability, or is it something very special, only given to selected people at birth? No matter the answer, this group is small in number, while the rest of us have to work hard to develop “Chi”. We may not all be child prodigies, but with time and effort, we can become very talented in our chosen martial art field. What’s most important is that, as teachers, we can help our students to develop “Chi”, something that they may never do on their own. The rule is : when you have something good, give it to others so that they can have something good also, and that is the most powerful “Chi” that you can have.
“Chi” can be developed by,
1. Building outer strength.
2. A balance between mind and body.
3. An indomitable spirit.
4. Banishing fear.
5. Developing a strong imagination.
6. Be an expert.
7. Adding excitement.
8. Using visualization.
9. Tuning into vibrations.
10. Being a person of peace.
11. Becoming a success.
12. Using what you are born with.
The ultimate formula for strong “Chi” is to combine all these forces together that spearheads right to the task at hand. You have the power of several men, your hearing is acute, your eyesight is sharp, your breathing is relaxed, and your strength and stamina has no bounds. You break more cinder blocks than you ever did before, you perform the perfect kata (the crowd goes wild), you lift weights far past your imagination, and you run faster and jump higher. Again, what is this mystical “Chi”? It is all these scientific combinations merging together to form super inner strength, or is it something unknowable? The perception is up to you.
As a footnote, I believe that in years past it was easier to develop “Chi” than it is today because everything that a person received was done so by hard work and lean times. Today, much is given to our young folks on a silver platter. The word “given” means just that, no work, no struggle, no tested by fire.
As a side note, I have taken courses in the mystical, magic, astrology and the dark arts. I could have presented “Chi” in this manner and given the reader many experiments to try. After much study, I am convinced that this is not the way to go, for this is the way of evil, and only harm and bad would come out of it. As for super “Chi”, I have not yet found the person who actually witnessed a shaolin priest picking up a 500lb urn and moving it to the side by using only his forearms. There are many legends and myths in the martial arts that cannot be proven. As for MPKA, and myselfwe will go with what is realistic, and with what works.
Meanwhile, may the force be with you.
Meditation is perhaps one of the more important parts of the Muay Thai Sangha system. It is something which we already do in everyday life allowing us to focus on the task at hand – but the depth of meditation is superficial. The events around us in the world soon rob us of our attention and our concentration is gone. The mind that wanders outside our own body is the source of all types of suffering. By deepening our meditation until our mind comes to a standstill we can unlock the potential and unused ability within. We maintain a balance of mindfulness and happiness for ourselves bringing contentment and direction to life in a way not possible through any other technique.
Meditation in one respect is like many other activities: sports, crafts and skills of all types. For all of these activities, you will never become skilled just by talking about it or reading about it. Like any skill, you gain expertise by doing it. Meditation will be of only limited use if you practice it on-and-off, so the key to success in meditation is the commitment to meditate once or twice a day. Like embarking on a new career with a new employer, if you turn up for work only when you feel like it, you are unlikely to go very far in your career.
Every student has the same difficulty in the first few months of practising meditation – therefore those of you who are interested to progress in meditation should follow the advice below.
The sitting posture which has been found to be the most conducive for meditation is the half-lotus position. Sit upright with your back and spine straight – crosslegged with your right leg over the left one. You can sit on a cushion or pillow to make your position more comfortable. Nothing should impede your breathing or circulation. Your hands should rest palms-up on your lap, and the tip of your right index finger should touch your left thumb. Feel as if you are one with the ground on which you sit. Feel that you could sit happily for as long as you like.
Softly close your eyes as if you were falling asleep. Relax every part of your body, beginning with the muscles of your face, then relax your face, neck shoulders, arms, chest, trunk, and legs. Make sure there are no signs of tension on your forehead or across your shoulders.
Close your eyes and stop thinking about the things of the world. Feel as if you are sitting alone – around you is nothing and no-one. Create a feeling of happiness and spaciousness in your mind. Before starting, it is necessary to acquaint yourself with the various resting points or bases of the mind inside the body. The first base is at the rim of the nostril, on the right side for men and on the left side for women. The second base is at the bridge of the nose at the corner of the eye – on the right side for men and on the left side for women. The third base is at the centre of the head. The fourth is at the roof of the mouth. The fifth is at the centre of the throat above the Adam’s, apple. The sixth base is at a point in the centre of the body at the meeting point of an imaginary line between the navel through the back and the line between the two sides. The seventh base of the mind is two fingers’ breadths above the sixth base. This base is the most important point in the body. It is the very centre of the body and the point where the mind can come to a standstill.
Feel that inside your body is empty space, without organs, muscles or tissues. Gently and contentedly rest your attention at a point near to the seventh base of the mind – at the centre of the body. Whatever experience arises in the mind, simply observe without attempting to interfere. In this way your mind will become gradually purer and inner experience will unfold.
If you find that you cannot dissuade the mind from wandering, then your mind needs an inner object as a focus for attention. Gently imagine that a bright, clear crystal ball, the size of the tip of your little finger, is located inside at the centre of the body. Maybe you’ll find you can imagine nothing, but later you’ll be able to see a crystal ball of increasing clarity. Allow your mind to come to rest at the very centre of the crystal ball. Use the subtlest of effort and you will find that the crystal ball becomes brighter and clearer. If you use too much effort you will find that it gives you a headache.
If you find that your mind still wanders from the crystal ball, you can bring the mind back to a standstill by repeating the mantra, “Samma-araham” silently, as if the sound of the mantra is coming from the centre of the crystal ball. Repeat the mantra over and over again without counting.
Don’t entertain thoughts in your mind. Don’t analyze what’s going on in the meditation. Allow the mind to come to a standstill – that’s all you need to do. If you find that you can imagine nothing, then repeat the mantra, “Samma-araham” silently and continuously in the mind. If you find that you’re not sure about the location of the centre of the body, anywhere in the area of the stomach will do. Persevere because today’s daydream is tomorrow’s still mind; today’s darkness is tomorrow’s inner brightness; today’s perseverance is tomorrow’s fulfillment. Don’t be disappointed if you find your mind wandering. It is only natural for beginners. Make effort continuously; keep your mind bright, clear and pure, and in the end, you will achieve your goal.
Keep repeating the mantra and eventually the sound of the words will die away. At that point a new bright, clear, crystal ball will arise in the mind of its own accord. The crystal ball will sparkle like a diamond. This stage is called pathama magga (primary path). At this stage the shining crystal ball is connected firmly to the mind, and is seated at the centre of the body. You will experience happiness. With continuous observation at the centre of this crystal ball, it will give way to a succession of increasingly purer bodily sheaths until it reaches the ultimate one called “Dhammakaya”, the highest level of attainment of supreme happiness.
Regular Practise is the Most Difficult Part
Meditate at least once a day, picking times when you know you will be free. If you wish to meditate in the morning, you should first do a little exercise to refresh your body then sit down to meditate for thirty to sixty minutes; this will give you the perfect start to your day. Alternatively, in the evening just before going to bed, find time to meditate, helping you to relax your mind and allowing you to make the most efficient use of your time asleep.
Set a start time for at least one period of meditation and stick to it. When it is time for meditation, stop what you are doing, find a quiet place to sit, close your eyes and meditate. Don’t make a time limit for it. Be happy when you meditate and just let the time go. If you are happy meditating for half-anhour, then just practise for half-an-hour. If you are happy meditating for an hour then meditate for an hour. The most important thing is to fix the habit of meditation in your daily life and meditate in that period of time every day.
Tags: focus, The ZoneWritten by Robin Clarkson, Posted in Articles for Athletes, Articles for Coaches, Sports Psychology | Leave a commentIf you understand the playing zone, you understand sport.The big thing to realize is you have to go to the playing zone, it does not come to you and once you understand the parameters which allow you to enter, raise, expand and enhance the zone, you have to have a change perspective in what you do.What the playing zone is and how it works goes like this:The zone, like sport, works on space and time.And you have to think of the zone as a room in your mind.To enter this room you require stillness of the mind, which reduces the thoughts, which creates space, which the zone loves because that’s what it works with.To expand this room you require disciplined simplicity, in other words, the ability to do the simple things well, for when discipline and simplicity combine, they create a compound that expands the space and time.To raise the level of the room, in effect going up some stairs, you require inner peace, for those that are settled and calm in their thoughts and lives always perform at a higher level than if their life was full of inner turmoil.To enhance the playing zone, you require concentration on the task at hand, for concentration focuses the mind.And for the zone to work in the physical world it projects the image onto the minds-eye, which is connected to the brain, and because you are in the zone, what the inner and outer eyes see, the body does.All of this can only be developed through simplicity thinking for simplicity thinking likes space, whereas the opposite, complexity thinking does not like and wants to fill the space and hence is why so many people have dramas in their lives and so few get to the experience of being in the zone. And there is also the little matter of disconnecting from the ego, for the ego is part of the complexity thinking.So key words for understanding the zone and how it works are:DoorwayStairsRoomProjectsMindseyeConnectsBrainFor the simple truth of the matter is this, if you:Understand the playing zone; you understand the training required for sport for both the body and the mind.Expert Author: Robin Clarkson – “Be A Winning Coach”
Stress can be good or bad for a person engaged in a sporting event. Good stress can improve a performance whereas bad stress can cause them to, in sporting parlance, not be at the races. This article will examine these two types of stress, what causes them, how they affect sports and how they can be combated.
Sport is a fairly general term for a range of activities that require varying mental and physical skills. For example, archery and ice hockey have many skills in common but probably more skills that are disparate. Physical exertion may be more intense in ice hockey than archery but mental pressure and judgement would be more in archery.
The body’s response to stress is to change the bio-chemistry in the blood. The hormones adrenaline and cortisol are pushed into the bloodstream which passes through the body. This gives the body an energy boost. The muscles will become tighter and prepared for some exertion. The senses will become more attuned; pupils will dilate to allow more light to enter the eye and thus improve eyesight. This response is known as the ‘fight or flight’ response. It is triggered when the person, through their nervous system, senses a stressful event about to occur. In this way the body can overcompensate for a stressful event by putting too much adrenaline into the blood stream or not enough.
There seems to be two ways to affect this response. The first is the actual event that is causing the stress. The second is the perceived amount of stress that the person places on the stressful event. They are, obviously, closely related.
In the first instance stress could be caused if the person is new to the sport and does not have the skills or knowledge of the sport. They will feel overwhelmed and worried about things like the rules of the game, what position they should be in, what are their responsibilities or how to do a particular activity. On a physical level, they may not have developed the physique to do certain activities.
In this instance it is important not to take the sport too seriously. If the sport is a form of relaxation or stress relief then this should be clarified each time anything becomes overwhelming. Remember that it is supposed to be fun. Remember, also, that making mistakes is a part of learning. You can only improve by making these mistakes and you will be better for them.
The second way to influence the body’s response to a stressful event is more to do with people that are experienced in the particular sport. In this case, we are talking about fine-tuning a performance. It is often said in professional sport that the difference between two competitors is not their fitness or skills but their mental preparation because the physical skills are virtually identical.
This is true. Many top sportspeople use mind techniques and sports psychologists to give them an edge. Simply put, the mind techniques are a way of putting the right amount of stress on a particular event, in the mind of the sportsperson, so that he or she peaks at the right time.
For example, a stirring speech by the coach can have two results. It could inspire the person to a great performance or it could put too much pressure on the person and limit the performance. This is a highly personal issue for people. Knowing how to mentally agitate the stress responses in the body to peak at the right time is a rare skill or talent. Generally, it comes through knowing the person involved.
Music is also used to ‘calm nerves’. In this, we mean mediate the stress response in the body. The relaxing music can help the person forget about the stressful event. On the other hand, high energy or dance music is often used to motivate and get the ‘blood flowing’. The music is often personal and different music can elicit different responses in people.
Stress is crucial to obtain a peak performance in any sports. Attaining the perfect level of stress for the individual at the right time is often harder than attaining the peak physical condition. From a stress management perspective, knowledge of the persons stress levels and how to alter these levels is the only way improve the individuals performance.
Athletics has a complexity beyond being able to perform a physical skill at a consistently optimal effort. Team dynamics, the emotional well being of the team, can influence the outcome of an event. Stress and anxiety can become crippling to a team or an individual athlete at any time for several different reasons. If an athlete is injured, stress and anxiety can also become an overwhelming problem during the healing process. An athlete’s adherence to rehabilitation and attitude can become non-compliant. However, athletes can be educated on how to manage or eliminate stress and anxiety during activities. Injured athletes can practice methods to improve the rehabilitative process and adherence to a program.
Most athletes associate stress and anxiety with injuries. However, stress and anxiety can infiltrate an athlete’s world. An athlete can feel pressure to succeed, pressure of failing, fear of injury, fear of re-injury, or anxiety about overcoming an injury. Some athletes have to overcome the fear and anxiety associated with returning to sports. “The major sources of stress that have been reported by sports performers include fear of failure, concerns about social evaluation by others (particularly the coach), lack of readiness to perform, and a loss of internal control over one’s environment.
There is a difference between stress and anxiety. Stress exists when a perceived situation and abilities to handle the perceived situation are not equal. “It is a response that we can learn to change and to regulate unstressed people are more effective, healthier, and happier”.
“Performance stress comes from social evaluation and the feeling of threat to one’s ego that evaluation brings”. Signs of negative stress include the following:
- having low self confidence
- making negative comments about yourself
- being more self-critical
- consistently performing under your ability (particularly in pressure situations)
- having trouble sleeping the night before an event
- experiencing difficulty getting loose before a competition
- feeling ill or upset before an event.
Symptoms of general anxiety include:
- muscle soreness
- trembling restlessness
- shortness of breath
- being on edge
- startled response
- loss of concentration
- poor sleeping patterns
“The intensity of the anxiety that is felt before and during sports is so gripping, immediate and debilitating, that one feels compelled to provide fast relief for those anxious athletes”.
“Anxiety comes from concern over the lack of control over circumstances”.
During a competitive event, adrenaline can be released. Adrenaline release can have positive and negative effects. Positive effects include the physiological arousal alertness as the body is prepared for explosive activity. Athletes and their support system need to identify the stressors and then formulate an individualized plan to manage the stressors. “A fragmented or enfeebled self system can give way to temporary states of psychosis when under extreme pressure during competition”. “Shame and embarrassment are constant threats in sports because the game is usually played in front of people”.
“Psychological factors have been found to play important roles in the occurrence of and recovery from a sport injury” . When an injury occurs, an athlete may go through the grieving process. In order for the athlete to progress, the athlete must complete the grieving process. The five stages of grieving include denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. In addition to the five stages of grief, athletes also report feeling of distress, shock, guilt, isolation, and loneliness.
In order to deal with an injury, an athlete needs to be educated about the injury and rehabilitative process. An athlete can begin to decrease anxiety by accepting responsibility for an injury, monitoring attitude, establishing a support system, setting attainable goals (short and long term), and instituting a cross-training approach into the healing process. “For some athletes the injury might take the athlete away from a team or a social structure that gives them a sense of belonging and security”.
The level of stress occurring after an injury can be reflective of the athlete’s personality, history of stressors coping recourses, and stress management methods. Positive reinforcement and encouragement incorporated in the rehabilitative process can help ensure confidence in returning to activity.
”The psychological impact associated with injury has been shown to affect motivation, positive self-talk, concentration, and feeling of control during rehabilitation sessions” .
After becoming injured, an athlete may have fear regarding returning to play, losing position, and increased pain. Reducing the fear of re-injury can possibly result in an adherence to the rehabilitative process. Poor adjustment can evolve into non-compliance and can inhibit the healing process.
Six characteristics were identified among athletes having difficulty adjusting to injury. The characteristics identified were:
- feelings of anger and confusion
- obsession with the question of when to return to sports
- exaggerated bragging about accomplishments
- rapid mood swings, withdrawal from significant others
- fatalistic thinking, and dwelling on minor complaints
To change an individual’s reaction to pressure requires making changes in two main categories:
- thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of stressful situations
- the physical bodily responses to stressful conditions
“Stress and coping are ways the body reacts and adapts to stressors to return to a state of equilibrium after a traumatic event”.
In order for a stress management technique to be used properly, the athlete’s environment, personality, and ability to effectively use the technique need to be taken into account.
“Through implementing stress management techniques or reinforcing lifestyle buffers, the athlete learns to share control of the rehabilitation process with the athletic trainer”.
Stress and anxiety management strategies can cease an athlete’s stress and anxiety. Other benefits of implementing stress and anxiety management include: decreasing pain, decreasing the occurrence of an injury, increasing the adherence of rehabilitation, enhancing physical healing, assisting in adjustment to being injured improved coping with the stress of the injury, and enhancing mental readiness to return to full participation.
“A calm explanation, reassurance and involvement in the rehabilitation plan can counteract psychological disturbance”.
Psychological strategies that can be implemented in order to achieve a positive outcome include visual rehearsal, emotive rehearsal, body rehearsal, thought stoppage, and mental practice.
Effective methods to decrease stress and ellicit coping techniques include:
- social support
- relaxation techniques
- thought stoppage
- coping with frustration
- establishing a positive environment
The role of the support systems has been shown to play a vital role in recovery and rehabilitative process and to affect the adherence to rehabilitation. Support systems can educate and help implement intervention strategies and psychological rehabilitation techniques.
Some of the techniques include:
- relaxation modeling
- goal setting
- positive self-talk
- pain management
- stress management
- cognitive reconstruction
Athletes who report having lack of social support or high stress related to life events are more likely to sustain injury. All of the previously mentioned techniques are effective. However, an athlete needs to find the technique that meets his/her needs and one which he/she feels comfortable executing.
Athletes can be faced with stress and anxiety prior and during their sporting activities. Sports is no longer ‘just a game’; some athletes feel tremendous external pressure and internal stress to succeed and perform to perfection. Being placed in the media spotlight in the sport world can become a positive or negative stress for an athlete. Identifying and accepting the onset of stress and anxiety is a positive first step. Selecting and implementing the appropriate stress and/or anxiety management technique accomplish the next step to overcoming and managing the source of the stress and anxiety.
“Sport psychology consultants are trained to help athletes understand how pressure affects them, and then introduce them to strategies to help them overcome the effects of pressure”.
These strategies are useful for athletes to prepare for an event, to overcome the anxiety and fear associated with injuries and the rehabilitative process, and to deal with stress. Stress and anxiety experienced during the rehabilitative phase can be inhibiting and can affect the adherence to the commitment of healing process.
Some techniques that can apply, such as:
- thought stoppage
- establishing a positive environment
- enhance the rehabilitative process.
Athletes should also establish a rapport with their athletic trainers and support systems. A support system can result in adherence to the rehabilitative process. If injury occurs, the athlete’s support system can alleviate the grieving process. In order for athletes to prevent or eliminate the occurrence of stress and anxiety issues, management strategies should be implemented. Implementing and effectively applying a stress a management technique can become an essential element in an athlete’s routine. In addition to the daily routine, the athlete can implement the select technique to daily life stressors.
A loss in interest could be a natural progression
Lance Smith explains how the coach should respond when an athlete loses interest
All too frequently athletes stress out because they did not know how to say “enough”. Usually it was because they did not want to hurt the coach’s feelings. Coaches can also feel stress, often because they felt an athlete’s lack of interest was personal – somehow they felt they were failing as a coach.
If an athlete is not enjoying the sport they should not be in it. Most will agree this is a fair comment. If we agree that it is the athlete who comes first and is the reason for the coach being there, we must also agree that the coach has a responsibility to an athlete when interest wanes.
Lack of interest may be short term, it may be permanent, it may apply only to certain events (“I hate hilly races”), to specific periods (exam time), or signify a loss of confidence, mental staleness or performance anxiety. Or it may mean they have had enough of running and want to try something else.
This is when a coach must understand
To start with, do not let the athletes get down on themselves if interest goes. It might only be temporary and if not, do not expect them to carry on just pleasing others or in fear of hurting someone’s feeling. If passion for the sport is no more, accept it and help the athlete move on. And let us face it, not everyone holds a lifetime interest in a sport or subject. Some do, but not all – look at all the train sets, stamp albums, roller skates, golf clubs and Harry Potter books hiding away in cupboards because interest was supplanted by something else. And do not worry about so called “burn out”. If there is love for the sport they will not burn out. A loss in interest could be a natural progression. No one ever called losing interest in collecting stamps a “burn out”.
More often lack of motivation is short term and the most frequent causes are staleness and pressure, or more frequently a combination of the two. The pressures of training and racing can and often do build up until the athlete becomes stale. This is the mental equivalent of overtraining. Physical fatigue is fixed by easing back or resting and the same goes for mental fatigue. The brain simply says “enough”.
Imagine a lift with a limit of 10 passengers. If an 11th person gets in the lift will not work. The brain is like the lift, stress is the passengers. The brain can handle a certain number of stresses, add another and there is a shut down that can vary from a loss of interest to mood changes (temper outbursts) to withdrawal and denial (how many times have we ignored something bad hoping it will go away – it never does of course). Exams can add another passenger to the lift. Expectations, loss of confidence, drop in form, argument with boyfriend/girlfriend, car breaking down; needing money and hundreds of other pressures can add more passengers.
Often the one stress too many is the stress of competition. Adding the stress of a race or commitment to training can put one too many passengers in the lift. So the brain gets overloaded. In this situation the solution is simple. Do not race. Ease off. Let enthusiasm return. Or suggest the athlete races without expectations. Obviously if motivation does not return the athlete needs to move onto other interests, as mentioned at the beginning.
Perhaps the most common pressure is the pressure athletes put on themselves – the fear of failing. It happens to everyone. But this is one stress that must be faced and not avoided unless it starts to affect other aspects of life such as exams or relationships. If the fear of losing starts to dominate an athlete’s running they must learn to focus on what they can control, which is running the best they can and not let exterior factors (i.e. the rest of the field) dominate their thoughts.
When lack of self confidence or performance anxiety is a race-day concern, the athlete should be encouraged to have fun rather than go for a performance. – “get out there and enjoy it” may be a better pre-race last word than “give it everything” or a discussion on tactics. A reminder to “keep concentrating, remember the tactics we worked out” is preferable to “you can win this”. And have them take on board these words by noted NBA coach Pat Riley from his book “The Winner Within”. (G.P. Putman’s Sons, 1993): ”
… Losing is just as much a part of life as winning. It is critical to realise that failure is as much a part of the picture as success. No matter how hard you compete, you ultimately have to absorb losses. So you do absorb them, with grace and determination to learn whatever they might teach. But never be tempted to embrace them. Be angry. Be upset. Be determined to come back stronger next time.”
So if motivation decreases, do not let it worry you or the athlete (that only adds another stress to the list). A little understanding and consideration will have an athlete leaving the sport feeling positive about it, and may well return. Leave with guilt feelings or with a sour taste in the mouth because the coach lacked understanding, applied pressure and the athlete will probably never return.
The only time interest-loss becomes a concern is when it is an excuse to not push oneself when there is no overload. That is just being lazy, and lazy athletes never make good athletes.
The martial arts are both art and science. The word “art” is defined as the activity of creating beautiful things and the word “science” is defined as a methodological activity, discipline, or study”. While these two definitions are correct, I prefer the contributions of an anonymous poet: “Art is a passion pursued with discipline science is a discipline pursued with passion“. At their most basic level, the martial arts are nothing more than ways to prevent someone from harming or killing you. At their highest aspiration, the martial arts are paths to self-knowledge and the expression of beauty.
The martial artist must be both scientist and artist. He must learn the traditions, theories, principles, laws and techniques upon which martial artistry is based. He must then practice them with passion and discipline so as to properly learn and understand what he is doing. Only then can he master himself and the martial arts.
THE TRINITY OF THE MARTIAL ARTS
There are three aspects of being, which the martial arts aim to develop: Body, Mind and Spirit. These three aspects must be developed in balance for a person to become properly balanced as a martial artist and therefore as a person.
The first aspect, Body, is developed through the physical exercises involved in martial arts training. Rigorous physical conditioning exercises lead to increased strength, endurance, flexibility and equilibrium. In addition, repetition of martial arts basic and advanced techniques leads to improved physical ability and fluidity of movement.
The second aspect, Mind, is developed through mental training. Meditation teaches the student to focus his mind and to coordinate his thinking with his movement. It also aids him in his abilities to relax and to concentrate. Mental training also calls for active learning in the way of listening, reading and thinking. Students are not to restrict themselves to learning just about the martial arts, but must learn about history, philosophy, law, science, medicine and any other subject that might have a bearing on the martial arts.
Following the philosophy and ideals of the martial arts develops the third aspect, Spirit. Practice of the martial arts is a pursuit of personal improvement. It is not enough to have a strong mind and body the true martial artist should also strive to be strong in spirit. He should have a goal in life and a firm foundation of beliefs to guide him. The true martial artist is humble but confident, willing to give way to others but unwilling to accept injustice.
By developing all three aspects of the martial arts trinity a martial artist can become a total person and eventually a master. Without equal development of all three aspects, a martial artist will never achieve balance in his life and will never be a true artist.
The Code of the HwaRang Warrior and the Nine Virtues
The Code of the HwaRang Warrior and the Nine Virtues of the HwaRang are to be observed by all students of the martial arts. They were compiled by Won Kwang Bopsa and taught to the HwaRang knights to give them a proper code of conduct to live by. Together they form the foundation of all Korean Martial Arts philosophy.
THE CODE OF THE HWARANG
1. Be loyal to your country.
2. Be obedient to your parents.
3. Have faith and honor among friends.
4. Perseverance in battle.
5. Justice — never cause unneeded harm.
THE NINE VIRTUES OF THE HWARANG
Hi (Humanity) Sum (Goodness)
Oui (Justice) Duk (Virtue)
Yeh (Courtesy) Chung (Loyalty)
Ji (Wisdom) Yong (Courage)
THE TENETS OF TAEKWONDO AND STUDENT OATH
The tenets of Taekwondo and the Taekwondo Student Oath were created by the founding fathers of taekwondo in the early 1960’s. Based on the philosophy of the HwaRang, they are to be understood and memorized by all students of Taekwondo.
TENETS OF TAEKWONDO
TAEKWONDO STUDENT OATH
1. I shall obey the Tenets of Taekwondo.
2. I shall obey my Instructor and senior students.
3. I shall never misuse Taekwondo
4. I will be a champion of freedom and injustice.
5. I will help build a more peaceful world.
MARTIAL ARTS RITUALS AND TRADITIONS
Over the years, the martial arts have developed traditions of their own as well as picking up those of the cultures they developed in. There are many martial arts from several countries and each art has many styles. We practice the Chang-Hun and Olympic style of Taekwondo and Sungja-Do Hapkido. Our rituals and traditions come from Korea but many of them are practiced in most martial arts.
People outside of the martial arts often misunderstand bowing. In the Orient, bowing is a sign of respectful greeting — not a sign of submission or worship. To bow to another person is to indicate that you trust him enough to willingly take your eyes off of him. In the West, we shake hands. This grew out of the battlefield practice of clasping the enemy’s sword-drawing hand during negotiations to insure that he could not draw his sword. Today it is used as a greeting.
Bowing to instructors and fellow students is a sign of respectful greeting. Bowing to the United States flag shows respect for the nation we live in. Bowing to the flags of other countries shows respect for the country where our martial arts originated. There is no worship involved, only respect.
The first martial arts uniforms were nothing more than the common street clothes of the people of China, Korea, Okinawa and Japan. In the late 1800’s, Dr. Jigaro Kano invented the sport of Judo and invented a reinforced Jacket for Judoka to wear so the students’ throwing techniques would not tear their clothes off. This uniform became modified over the years until we have our current uniforms.
Many people, including martial artists, are confused about belts and their colors. For many centuries, the belt did not signify rank. Again, it was Dr. Kano, the founder of Judo, who introduced the use of different belt colors to denote ranks. He did this to make it easy to identify different ranks for competition. Different systems use different colors. Most Chinese martial arts don’t use belts but use sashes instead. In Japanese martial arts, the belt was used to keep the jacket closed and was white. With years of practice, the belt would become soiled and stained and would eventually turn black. The colors used in the Korean martial arts are based on the colored robes worn by the different classes of royalty in the ancient Kingdom of Silla.
After two to three months, you should be ready for your first rank promotion. What does it mean to go up in rank? Does it mean that you have perfected a certain amount of knowledge? No. Rank promotion means that you have an adequate grasp of certain knowledge needed to learn on the next level. So, a promotional examination is held to insure that you are able to learn on your next level — not to see if you have perfected your previous knowledge.
After three to five years of continuous study, the average student will normally earn his Black Belt. This will mean that he is a novice — a beginner. Unknown to many outside of the martial arts, there are ten degrees of black belt. In the Korean martial arts, 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree black belts are generally instructors teaching under the guidance of a master-instructor. 4th, 5th and 6th degree black belts are considered experts and have earned the title of “Master”. 7th, 8th and 9th degree black belts have earned the title of “head-master” or “Grandmaster” and are considered capable of forming their own martial arts styles (known in Korea as “Kwans”, meaning “schools of thought”). Although some may claim the rank, in the Korean martial arts the 10th degree black belt is an honor reserved for exceptional martial artists after their death.
The yells used in the martial arts serve many important functions. Known in Korean as “Kihap”, the yells used by martial artists are designed to unite the internal spiritual energy of the martial artists, “Ki”, with his external physical energy. The word “Kihap” is formed from two Korean characters, “Ki”, meaning “energy”, and “Hap”, meaning “to combine or coordinate”. So, “Kihap” means “to combine or coordinate energy or power”. “Kihaps” are used during Patterns, sparring, self-defense, breaking and other activities to unite the spiritual and physical energies of the martial artist. “Kihaps” also serve other important functions. During sparring and self-defense, “Kihaps” are used to insure that the abdominal muscles are tensed and able to withstand a blow. “Kihaps” can also be used as self-defense techniques — a sudden loud “Kihap” will often cause an attacker to momentarily pause in his attack.
Patterns (forms), known in Korea as “Hyungs” or “Poomse”, are prearranged series of movements designed to help students practice their techniques alone and to help standardize techniques among schools. Practicing patterns helps teach the student to focus his attention and to perfect his movements. While practicing patterns, the student should always visualize an opponent. Otherwise, he is just dancing.
Always a favorite part of any martial arts demonstration, board and brick breaking serves an important purpose. It takes proper mental and physical coordination to be able to break properly. If one succeeds in breaking one inch of wood, then one should train harder and plan to be able to break two inches the next time. Breaking demonstrates an ability to generate and focus adequate physical power as well as proper mental focus.
There are many types of sparring ranging from pre-arranged “one-steps” to full-contact fighting. In all cases the opponent is the same — your own lack of knowledge. In the martial arts, we do not spar with the intention of trying to win, or “beat” our opponent, we spar to improve our own techniques and to learn of and destroy our own limitations.
Martial arts tournaments can be great fun but should never become more important than proper traditional martial arts practice. Tournaments show one aspect of the martial arts — sport. Self-improvement and self-defense are as more important than winning trophies.
The martial arts often get a bad rap because of the violence involved. Martial arts techniques can cause horrific damage when misused. For this reason, instructors should be very selective about who they accept as students. The martial arts are intended to teach self-defense, self-control, and self-confidence. It is hoped that as a student learns of his potential for destruction, he will also learn of his need for control and discipline. REMEMBER: THERE IS NO HONOR IN DEFEATING A MUCH-WEAKER OPPONENT; YOUR REAL OPPONENT IS YOUR OWN LACK OF SELF-CONTROL.
Dr. Petrotta is the International Director of the International Sungjado Association. He is a certified Personal Fitness Trainer, a certified 8th Degree Black Belt in three different martial arts and the holder of three Ph.D.’s in Martial arts Science, Philosphy and Theology.
The five elements are, in ascending order of power, Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, and Void.
地 Chi (sometimes ji) or tsuchi, meaning “Earth“, represents the hard, solid objects of the world. The most basic example of chi is in a stone. Stones are highly resistant to movement or change, as is anything heavily influenced by chi. In people, the bones, muscles and tissues are represented by chi. Emotionally, chi is predominantly associated with stubbornness, stability, physicality, and gravity. It is a desire to have things remain as they are; a resistance to change. In the mind, it is confidence. When under the influence of this chi mode or “mood”, we are aware of our own physicality and sureness of action. (Note: This is a separate concept from the energy-force, pronounced in Chinese as qì (also written ch’i) and in Japanese as ki, and written alternatively as 気, 氣, or 气.)
水 Sui or mizu, meaning “Water“, represents the fluid, flowing, formless things in the world. Outside of the obvious example of rivers and the like, plants are also categorized under sui, as they adapt to their environment, growing and changing according to the direction of the sun and the changing seasons. Blood and other bodily fluids are represented by sui, as are mental or emotional tendencies towards adaptation and change. Sui can be associated with emotion, defensiveness, adaptability, flexibility, suppleness, and magnetism.
火 Ka or hi, meaning “Fire“, represents the energetic, forceful, moving things in the world. Animals, capable of movement and full of forceful energy, are primary examples of ka objects. Bodily, ka represents our metabolism and body heat, and in the mental and emotional realms, it represents drive and passion. ka can be associated with motivation, desire, intention, and an outgoing spirit. Besides the obvious examples of heat and flame, lightning can also be thought of as an extension of Ka.
風 Fū or kaze, meaning “Wind“, represents things that grow, expand, and enjoy freedom of movement. Aside from air, smoke, and the like, fū can in some ways be best represented by the human mind. As we grow physically, we learn and expand mentally as well, in terms of our knowledge, our experiences, and our personalities. Fū represents breathing, and the internal processes associated with respiration. Mentally and emotionally, it represents an “open-minded” attitude and carefree feeling. It can be associated with will, elusiveness, evasiveness, benevolence, compassion, and wisdom.
空 Kū or sora, most often translated as “Void“, but also meaning “sky” or “Heaven“, represents those things beyond our everyday experience, particularly those things composed of pure energy. Bodily, kū represents spirit, thought, and creative energy. It represents our ability to think and to communicate, as well as our creativity. It can also be associated with power, creativity, spontaneity, and inventiveness.
Kū is of particular importance as the highest of the elements. In martial arts, particularly in fictional tales where the fighting discipline is blended with magic or the occult, one often invokes the power of the Void to connect to the quintessential creative energy of the world. A warrior properly attuned to the Void can sense their surroundings and act without thinking, and without using their physical senses.
Representations of the Godai
The most common representations today of the five elements, outside of martial arts and fictional references, are found in Buddhist architecture. Japanese stone lanterns as seen in Zen gardens and Buddhist temples have five divisions which represent the five elements, although the five segments can be hard to discern. The bottom-most piece, touching the ground, represents chi; the next section represents sui; ka is represented by the section encasing the lantern’s light or flame, while fū and kū are represented by the last two sections, top-most and pointing towards the sky.
Another common symbol of the five elements is the gorintō, a stone tower of modest size used mainly in Buddhist temples and cemeteries. It is composed from bottom to top of a cube, a sphere, a triangle, a crescent and something resembling a lotus flower, shapes that also have the meaning described above.
Confront your fears. Take stock of your fears and make a pact to conquer them today.Do you fear flying-take that first flight to freedom, do you fear heights – Bungy Jump your way to see the world as you never have before, if you fear public speaking, join a toastmasters club in your area.
Imagine. Imagine yourself in the most difficult of situations, like being in a zombie apocalypse with machine guns, chainsaws, and machetes. Imagine the thrill, the excitement, the experience of going through something so difficult, yet so exciting. The power of being strong also gives you adrenaline rush.
Music. A key factor for feeling an adrenaline rush. Play fast music and dance to it. This does actually give you adrenaline rush. You just got to “feel” the music and the vibe to it. It also motivates you to do things at a faster pace. It can also get you pumped up for an important event, like a track competition.
Put yourself in a stealth situation. Being stealthy and taking part in a situation where there is a risk of getting caught and/or getting into trouble is sure to raise adrenaline levels. This doesn’t mean go rob a bank or do something seriously illegal. If you are a student at a “no gum policy” school, risk chewing gum once and a while while attempting not to get caught. If you are an adult, attempt to secretly look at your co-workers’ emails. Bottom line, do something that makes you very nervous but won’t get you arrested or anything if you get caught.
Origin of Fears
Where do fears come from? Why do they arise? Spiritual masters assert that the root cause of fear is our separation from the Source. It follows that only submergence in the Source through enlightenment brings about the final dissolution of fear. Says Swami Sivananda, founder of the Divine Life Society, Rishikesh: “A sage beholds only the Immortal Self everywhere so there is no fear in him. There is fear only when there is duality, when there is a perception of an object or a person other than oneself.”
Adds the venerable Francis of Assissi: “What do you have to fear? Nothing. Whom do you have to fear? No one. Why? Because whoever has joined forces with God obtains three great privileges: omnipotence without power, intoxication without wine, and life without death…”
Because fear embodies separation and love unity, sages affirm that there are only two primary emotions, fear and love. Both are mutually exclusive. Where there is fear there is no love and where there is love there is no fear. A quick test of your spiritual quotient is the level of fear within you. The less there is, the closer to God you are. Indeed, the spiritual journey could well be said to be the movement from fear to love. Writes thinker Gerald Jampolsky: “Fear and love can never be experienced at the same time. It is always our choice as to which of these emotions we want…”
Jampolsky may use the word choice and in the ultimate sense he is right, but to get to the stage where we can have mastery over our fears enough to be able to choose having them or not, is not easy. Only deep and rigorous self-knowledge can help us reach this stage, but that finally is the road each traveler must go if he wishes to outpace fear.
Types of Fear
Within the blanket insecurity caused by detachment from the Self, there are other broad categories of fear. Chief among these is the fear of the unknown, of which the primary one is the fear of death. Says the Peace Pilgrim, who walked through the length and breadth of the US to create awareness of peace: “Almost all fear is fear of the unknown. Therefore, what’s the remedy? To become acquainted with the thing you fear.”
This is wisdom and is easily the best way to dissolve individual fears that come in the way of effective living. Says an animator and film-maker: “I always feared having and bringing up children, because I feared it would make me lose my individuality, but ultimately I overcame this fear, through love for my children.”
Equally crucial is the role of desire in stoking fear. As long as man is in the grip of desire, he will never escape fear for he either fears his inability to obtain the object of desire or having obtained it, his ability to retain it. The wily goddess Maya’s gossamer veil is chiefly constituted of these two components. Says J. Krishnamurti: “Fear is not to be put away by appeasement and candles; it ends with the cessation of the desire to become.”
Both these categories are finally rooted in lack of faith in oneself and in God. The more faith we develop in ourselves to cope with life and triumph over its manifold terrors, the less we fear the unknown. The more confident we are of our ability to withstand temptation, the more feeble is the hold of desire.
And as our faith and trust in God increases, it pervades the dank and dingy places of fear with its genial sunshine and causes it to disappear.
The annals of saints and sages all over the world are rife with wondrous tales of courage and valor, endured out of sheer love of God. Here, for instance, is the tale of one anonymous martyr persecuted as a Huguenot under Louis XIV, quoted by William James in The Varieties of Religious Experience. A group of six women undressed her and rained blows upon her with a “bunch of willow rods as thick as the hand could hold, and a yard long.” In vain the women cried, “We must double our blows; she does not feel them, for she neither speaks nor cries. ” This was the worthy woman’s response to her torture: “And how should I have cried, since I was swooning with happiness within?”
Perfect faith gives perfect security. The knowledge that all that happens is for the best can put to rout all fears of the unknown. It is this surrender that supported the great prophets of the world even in the face of death. Jesus Christ, Mahatma Gandhi and others were led to perform their mighty acts despite the threat of death because they were secure in their surrender.
For us lesser mortals, it may not be quite so easy to sashay straight off into surrender, but a belief in God is the beginning of faith and faith is the final frontier. A strong philosophy that works for all seasons is a great shield against the onslaught of fear.
Says Ashish Virmani, assistant editor at Mansworld magazine, “The most important thing to combat fear is to have a sound philosophy in life – a philosophy for life and for death. I think in many ways Buddhism has helped me overcome many of my fears. For example, I used to fear, as a teenager, that people would laugh at me or talk about me behind my back. Now I realise that it doesn’t really matter what people say or think because it is their privilege to think what they are thinking, and it is my privilege to carry on with my life regardless and achieve my goals.”
Go Beyond the Comfort Zone
There’s much to be said in praise of tribulation, although the realization will come only in hindsight. Take a moment to survey the soul-journey and the physical stop-over, which has been scheduled only to study unlearned lessons. So then why fear anything? “Fear is illusory; it cannot live. Courage is eternal, it will not die,” said Swami Sivananda, founder of the Divine Life Society, Rishikesh. So why do we let the temporary moment shadow the glory of the divine self? It requires a conscious effort to move beyond the circumstance and watch our own actions and words with a level of detachment. We are here to learn. Every situation of strife that you encounter is a karmic lesson and your own previous deeds have created today’s situation. Fears are largely the results of experience over many incarnations. When they haunt you, they are not to be seen as retribution or a calamity, but an opportunity to build soul-muscle. The other participants in the moment may have been with you on a previous journey, there may have been cues you failed to pick up. Here’s your chance to do so and complete your lines appropriately; the one prompting you may have been someone you once ignored deliberately, totally, but are forced to listen to now, only for your own good. The stage is set for your karmic progress. So why tread hesitantly? Walk in with confidence, be sure of your part and don’t fear being center-stage. The Casting Director up there never errs, and if you’re the chosen one, believe in yourself and not the undermining voices whispering in your ears. There is never a life given that cannot be lived fully.
Look at your fear, any fear, in the eye. It could be a physical deficiency that you perceive as repulsive, and fear that others will feel the same and avoid you, while they may not have noticed, let alone scrutinized it the way your hyper-sensitivity would believe. It could be an attachment that brings you the fear of loss – a wife or a house or a car, all these can be overcome with detachment. Above all, there is fear of death. Confesses Shailesh Vyas, a language trainer (36), “I have always had an intense fear of getting pregnant, because I thought I would die during childbirth. Not only did the fear make me delay my marriage as far as possible, it also led to so much negativity, that I stopped breathing during the delivery and even had to have a Caesarian done. Strangely, the fear stemmed from no particular reason or experience.”
These are fears born of the total identification with the physical body, fears born out of ignorance of the real Self.
Observes Ashish Virmani, “Death is inevitable for everyone who is born on this earth but what is more important is making the best of every day that one lives.”
Fears drain vitality; sap the body of all energy. Natural fears, like that of the student fearing the teacher, are necessary for the former’s growth and progress, but unnatural fears, born in the mind, of impending illness, financial ruin or personal abandonment – none of these are rational.
Observes Devesh Vyas (33), general manager, sales and marketing, Raheja Constructions: “My deepest fear is the fear of having no money and not being able to provide for my family and myself. The best way to overcome such irrational fears is to stay with the fear, observe it and what it does and allow it to reveal itself. Since these fears cannot be done away with, the best way is to cope with them, accept their existence and carry on with life.”
This indeed, is what reiki master and workshop trainer Anand Tendulkar did. Says he: “I was always afraid of public speaking yet since my work demanded it, I had to keep doing it, and today I have completely overcome my fear.”
While individual fears can be eliminated in numerous ways, eliminating the cause of fear has only one solution. To go deep within and dismantle the false self, the ego self that entraps us in self-centered fear-generating ways of being. We can do this by meditating on the atman as Swami Sivananda suggests. J. Krishnamurti, on the other hand, suggests a direct face-to-face confrontation with the ego self. Says he: “Thought has created a center as the ‘me’ – me, my opinion, my country, my God, my experience, my house…Can the mind look at fear without the center? Can you look at the fear without naming it?…It requires tremendous discipline. Then the mind is looking without the center to which it has been accustomed and there is the ending of fear, both the hidden and the open.”
Fear Kills the Will and Stays all Action
Fear in our day-to-day lives has to be dealt with immediately. It is a poison that should not be allowed to circulate. Repeat the name of your favorite deity, or chant a familiar mantra when you feel a fear taking hold of you. Watch for the seed of a growing anxiety, pull the weed out before it becomes a thriving parasite and numbs you of life. Joy is life’s nourishment, fear is starvation. Fear is the opposite of belief. Fear denies faith. What have you to be afraid of if you believe that you are here on a purpose? Is there a school board without an exam? Can there be a life without struggle? No. All difficulties are tests set to strengthen us, not overcome us. If you are not careful, fear will keep you rooted here and now, in your little physical form, six feet plus though you may appear.
Wayne W. Dyer writes in his book, Pulling Your Own Strings, “Any time you catch yourself paralyzed by fear – in a word, victimized – ask yourself, “What am I getting out of this?” Your first temptation will be to answer, ‘Nothing.’ But go a little deeper and you’ll see why people find it easier to be victims than to take strong stances of their own, to pull their own strings. It’s the way of the smaller self to wallow in littleness, to avoid risks, and here we aren’t talking about risks like dodging a bullet in Iraq, but confronting an innate fear of say, deep-seated jealousy. It’s these fears, which keep you immobile and weak, clutching at non-essentials, thrashing about with no place to escape. Where can you go leaving your self behind?”
Mobilize your Courage and Inner Resources
The story of Krishna and Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita is an illustration of a positive intention to overcome fear. At the beginning of the Mahabharata war, Arjuna could not fight his cousins and uncles. Krishna, God Incarnate, knew it was Arjuna’s duty to do so and did not allow Arjuna’s momentary weakness to overwhelm him. He exhorted him to fight and did not allow him to run away from the battlefield. Krishna did not allow fear to paralyze the otherwise courageous Arjuna or have him remembered by history as a coward. Till today, Arjuna is a symbol of valor.
Sometimes, though, fears get obliterated without consciously working on them, through deep and sustained meditation. As long as she could remember, Anupama Ramchandra had feared the dark. In 2004, Anupama attended a Vipassana course at Igatpuri, Maharashtra. “I was given a separate cell and I was certain the nights would be an agony.” Anupama, hardly new to Vipassana, had resolved to diligently meditate this time.
“Days of intense meditation left me too restless to sleep. My body became super-sensitive to the slightest sound and movements. When in the forests around the Dhamma Centre a twig snapped, I’d feel it on my skin.
“I fell into a restless sleep one night. I dreamt of being sucked into a vortex. It was a strong sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach. When I woke up the next morning, I knew I’d never be afraid of the dark again. Thanks to Vipassana, I’d eliminated one big samskara.”
Writer Armin Zebrowski makes a distinction between the human ego and the spiritual ego. “The human ego consists of desires, passions, wishes and emotions. The spiritual ego is the highest ideal of compassion and is represented by intuition, which supplies us with inspiration. Fear is a feeling of the human ego. It is not an emotion the soul is familiar with.”
Such a fine, insightful explanation. It is the essence of this exploration into fear. Why do we distance ourselves from the inner self, which is the core of our being? Why lose track of the radar, which signals the presence of the soul, which we will be in every lifetime, and not the physical or emotional surroundings we find ourselves in now? Why do we get caught up with fears that are just the projection of our individuality this time around? Why put all of one’s identity into a job one holds and could be sacked from next week? Why preen with a sense of special-me just because fame once knocked at your door, or beauty decided to bestow just that little bit more? Essentially, why the fear of a lack of recognition and appreciation? Just enjoy the delight of your senses for yourself, or even by yourself, and let go the rest. There is no judgment waiting to condemn you. We often perceive non-existent threats to our independence, privacy and freedom and react with anger through prevailing fear.
Egoism and self-centredness lead to a sense of alienation. The fear of being overlooked, and the desire for importance leads to immense anxiety. Today’s whirl of social activities and celebrity circus performances provide woeful examples of insecurities eating up those trying to gain or retain attention. Hysterical demands for invitations, which they fear, may not be forthcoming, or ensuring a late arrival to prove the pressure of very important work, are reflections of insecurity. Legendary actor, Amitabh Bachchan, has acquired a reputation for putting to shame people who invite him for a function and, although his adherence to punctuality is well-known, people are still appalled when he does turn up on time. A few years ago, at a book launch organized at a music store, Bachchan walked in five minutes before the appointed time, only to find the sweeper clearing the floor and a few waiters arranging glasses. No sign of the writer or any of the glamorous organizers or other guests. The chief guest, however, waited and did the honors two hours later with no audible complaint, and even the very curious could only speculate at the irony they imagined in his expression. Bachchan in India has no fear of being overlooked, neither does any non-famous, ordinary individual need to crave public applause. We are all doing what we are meant to, and are perfectly placed in positions to learn our lessons.
Another instance recalled by a fashion photographer involved a photo-session for a magazine cover, which featured four top male models of the decade. Four smart, good-looking men, unquestionably the toast of their time. However, their misplaced anxieties, wrapped up in their celebrated egos, provided many moments of mirth in the photographer’s studio. This is what happened that evening – each of them got to the studio within a few minutes of the others, but two of them kept circling the studio in their respective cars, calling from their cell-phones and asking the staff if all the other models had arrived, not willing to be the first one in, each reluctant to be the one who came in and waited. This went on, till the photographer took matters into his hands, not wanting this formula driving to go on all night, and lied systematically to each one saying two others had arrived and so on. The shoot took place, and the photographs looked great. But, no one present that night ever forgot the fears these men displayed, when ironically, they had been called to participate in a shoot, which actually celebrated their handsome faces, great physiques and success in a chosen field. Unfortunately, their immature behavior left behind impressions that were anything but glorious.
Deepak Chopra believes that control is the way the ego solves the problem of fear. “Whenever any of us falls into controlling behavior, one of the following scenarios is at work in the unconscious:
o We are afraid someone will reject us
o We are afraid of failing
o We are afraid of being wrong
o We are afraid of being powerless
o We are afraid of being destroyed
Fearful thoughts keep chasing each other in a vicious circle. Insecurities mount and the fear of loss of control leads to more fear, and a paramount desire to keep the face of control secure. What do we achieve? Tension and unhappiness.
Dada Vaswani also believes that one of the greatest maladies is loneliness, and all fears arise from a basic fear of abandonment and frustration. He says that long queues outside cinema theaters indicate the growing internal loneliness, when all diversions are sought externally, with little thought for introspection or self-expansion. Mind games, instead of soul-food. Fears are only self-imposed limitations, not lines drawn in concrete. You can learn to use the computer even when well into your 60s, if you believe you can do it. But if the fear of embarrassment or failure holds you back, then it is the fear that controls you and the desire suffocates and dies. You will sadly, take away from yourself a minor but significant sense of accomplishment. You give the fear a larger-than-life status, and put life itself in the sidelines. Fear is undermining. If fear has its rationales – of caution and wisdom – give it a good hearing, then proceed. If fear gains the upper hand, confusion prevails. Objectives blurs, confidence is lost. What is the choice you want to make? A few smudges on a clean mirror don’t make the mirror useless, the smudges just have to be wiped off.
Disarm the Dragon with Loving Forgiveness
The presence of fear indicates the inability to love completely. We often hold fear up against ourselves as armor. An instrument of defense even in the presence of family and friends. Why is fear a tool of survival? Love ensures a more comfortable trek, some provision for nourishment and protection against a few blows and setbacks. Fear can’t be part of this ongoing, wholesome process. Yes, life’s journey requires checks and surveys, of pauses and progress, but certainly, the journey can be free of fear. Free of believing in half-loves, inadequate communication and incomplete acceptance. Fear predicts an inability to let go, a restraint and an inactive pause in which precious moments of growth are arrested. Instead, use the power of visualization to untangle knots. Think of yourself as the victor in spiritual warfare, where negative thought is defeat and positive endeavor a spur. Let go of the thoughts that attract the fear to you. Set yourself free and invite the free flow of love and good energy.
The most vulnerable is the most fearless. Like a newborn, says Deepak Chopra in his book, The Path to Love: “Newborn infants, because they have no past, lack all defenses; a baby is completely vulnerable to any intruder or harmful influence, utterly dependent on outside protection to survive. Yet, paradoxically, no one is more invulnerable than a newborn child, because it has no fear. Experience has yet to create its imprint on the nervous system, and without a frame of reference there is no threat.”
Chopra points out some patterns of futile behavior:
o We constantly compare ourselves to an ideal that we can never live up to. The loveless inner voice drives us by saying, “You aren’t good enough, thin enough, pretty enough, happy enough, secure enough.”
o We look for approval in others. This behavior basically projects our inner dissatisfaction with ourselves in the hope that some outside authority will lift it from our souls.
o We rely on love to remove the obstacles that keep it away. All sorts of unloving behaviors are allowed to persist with the attitude that we will become affectionate, open, trusting and intimate only by a touch of love’s magic wand.
This very instant, do yourself a favor. Trash all debilitating thoughts. Empty the mind, while simply knowing that the Self is all, and set yourself free. Because fears are just hollow concepts built in the mind and drawn from interpretations of experiences. If a salesperson in a store has been rude to you once, you shudder to enter the store again, even if you quite like what’s on display inside. Ever paused to consider that perhaps that salesman is not employed there any longer? Or, you can learn to ride a bike and wobble along in the fear of falling, but if you believe that it’s just a wonderful joy-ride, choose to steady your hands and look straight ahead, hey, it could well be one unforgettable ride.
Being in constant awareness will help create a meaningful abandon.