Over the years many people have asked me how to get over fear and that ‘fight or flight’ behavior that accompanies every combat situation. Most learned people would answer these questions by saying that there is no way to do such a thing. They are not wrong. However, when I am asked this question, I respond by asking ‘why?’
Fear is a natural defense mechanism. And in a fight, if it can be controlled properly, it is the best technique for defense. Fear will keep the adrenaline constantly flowing, without having to could your mind with anger to do the same. And unlike anger, it will make your mind work in a sort of hyperdrive. Reaction time will be shorter, the fighter’s tunnel vision will come down and the situation, in every sense, will be amplified. Fear keeps you on your toes and makes you more alert, and though it cannot be ignored or abolished, it can be controlled.
So the question isn’t how to get rid of it, but how to harness it and make it work for you. Such a thing is easier said than done. In fact, in my experience, it is not a thing that is actually consciously done, but something that will happen on its own if you let it.
It comes down to training. While you are obviously conscious during a fight, you do not use the conscious part of your brain to directly assess what is happening, and how to respond. You do not go through a mental list of techniques and pick one out. All you do with your conscious brain is take in what is happening, and make the big decisions, like when to stop, when to hit first, when to run, when to fight, etc.
So yeah, it all comes down to training. Not to training your mind to deal with fear, but training your mind to take in techniques and moves and make them instinct. This is were repetition of forms and katas (Japanese term for martial arts forms and technique movements) comes in. Do that side kick three hundred times, the right hook six hundred, the left jab two thousand, do it till you cant do it any more, then do more.
Once you have every technique and move built into instinct, you can let fear take over. Use it to keep you moving, keep your mind hyped up to take in what’s going on, then rely on your training to take over. Pretty simple right? Keep reading.
So what about working up the balls to get in there and start pounding away? What about the fear of loosing and never getting that trophy, or worse yet winding up unconscious or dead on the ground. Again, training is the answer. Not training in form, but sparring and real experience.
To get past this hindrance, confidence needs to be built up. The best way to do this is experience, get out there and start brawling. Unfortunately, and fortunately for those you would pick to attack, this is not acceptable in our society. Therefore, the best realistic way to train for confidence is to spar in real life situations.
Krav Maga, a newly popularized martial arts style, has become famous for training students to deal with combat situations with the utmost efficiency. Their secret is situation sparring. Setting up real life situations and going over them over and over, reacting in the situation how you should in a real fight or attack. Yeah, you are going to know its fake, but it’s just like those forms. When you do this over and over with many different situations, it becomes instinct. When/if it happens in real life, you will be conscious and in control of your actions, but your instincts will help a great deal in dealing appropriately, without letting fear get in the way.
This can be done alone and in a shorter amount of time also. All you need is a little bit of space and your imagination. When you train on that heavy bag, when you shadow box, or even when you do real sparring or matches, use your imagination. Imagine your opponent, imagine the exact situation, when you feint or duck out of the way during shadowboxing, imagining you are really there with someone else, and you are ducking from a real punch, and coming back and attacking and really hitting your opponents face. Its not as good as real life, but done over and over it will build into your unconscious, it will make you faster, you will run farther, jump higher, etc.
To summarize, fear is not something that can be dealt with by ignoring. You need to overcome it with training, you need to let your instincts take over and go with the flow. Hell man, you need to appreciate what fear does for you. Without it you would be relying on your every day run down reactions and burnt out stamina. Plus, your going to get adrenaline either from fear or anger or neither. Anger will cloud your mind and your instincts, none at all will limit your abilities, and fear will only improve your physical attributes and awareness.