Posts Tagged ‘Fear’

Injuries can be frightening, recovery can be challenging, but keeping at it will stave off fear.
Audio by Jonathan Fader

Tearing my soleus – inner calf muscle – was the worst soft tissue injury I have suffered in my life (maybe I’m lucky?).  After skipping for 5min to warm up, I took part in an agility drill that involved jumping over a partner, then dropping prone and crawling under them.  On the third jump I felt and odd “squelch” sensation in my calf and tightness preventing me from extending my foot properly.  I stepped to the side and, thinking it was a simple cramp, I started stretching it out and working the muscle to loosen it, then continued into the next drill. (I found out later that stretching is the worst possible action of can take when dealing with a tear, as it, logically, exacerbates said tear!)

It turns out that tightening your calf/soleus through one activity (skipping), then immediately loading it in another (jumping) is a perfect storm for muscle mangling.  I was also informed, much to my chagrin, that soleus tears are so common in men over 40 that they are referred to as “The Old Man’s Injury” (ugh… time is real!)

Recovery was relatively straightforward; don’t stretch, take it easy for a few days, then slowly strengthen it by way of controlled exercise. I thought it wise to take time off of Krav maga, as bursting and kicking are fundamentals. Nothing too complicated, and not a terribly painful healing process.

On the road to a full recovery!  No problems!


The first day back to training, after four weeks off, I was trembling as I prepared for class.  I felt totally fine on the way to the gym, in fact I was happy to get back at it, but as I took off my shoes to step onto the mats, my hands were shaking.  What if my first sprint sets me back to square one?

Over the years I have encountered many people who cite “fear of injury” as their main reason for not starting to train in the martial arts or self-defence (or to justify avoiding exercise altogether).  I get it; people don’t want to suffer injuries.  But, I’m not talking about “fear of injury” in the sense of “*whiny voice* don’t wanna get hurt”, that is simply good ol’ self-doubt paired with cowardice (let’s be generous and say “self-preservation”), I’m talking about the realistic fear of suffering a chronic, debilitating injury. 

I expect it is often the case that “fear of injury” in the latter sense is more accurately a “fear of re-injury;” you have experienced the physical/mental/emotional pain of injury and recovery, possibly accompanied by a loss of mobility for the duration, and most likely had to stop training, thus you don’t what to go down that road again (or worse, end up with a more permanent problem).

Of course, in the martial arts, or any physical activity, you must accept that there is a degree of risk involved simply from participating (some injuries are caused by partners and are, to a certain extent, out of your control.)  But in many cases the injury, as with my soleus tear, are surprising.  So it may be the unexpected nature of certain injuries that contributes to the onset of anxiety.  Sure, you walked in expecting to be punched, bruised, or, at worst, KO’d, you are at peace with those potential consequences.  But then you pull a bicep.  Okay, it could happen.  It heals, but not quite 100%.  Now you start to feel weaker along the chain or arm muscles.  This leads to you straining you wrist due to weakened overall punching form, etc..  Your willingness to take a punch did not prepare you for being hindered by a common sports injury.  Not only were you unprepared, but now this injury has led to diminished performance in a set of techniques, techniques that, in turn, diminish your overall performance.  Now you are less confident and less likely to push yourself and, by extension, less likely to improve.

When a nonathletic individual suffers an injury, he or she is faced with the difficulty of completing normal daily tasks due to pain and a loss of mobility. Once the person returns to pre-injury level, he or she is still only faced with the challenge of completing normal daily tasks. An athlete on the other hand, is not only faced with the challenges of daily functioning, but also faced with the challenge of returning to the field… the act of returning to play forces an athlete to participate in the exact activity that caused the injury initially.

(2008) “Fear of Injury, Kinesiophobia & Perceived Risk”, p.289, Injuries in Athletics: Causes and Consequences.

Thus the rational fear of injury, gained from experience, can be very real and, if left unchecked, can become a mental/emotional/physical hindrance. (In extreme cases, if your fear or anxiety is allowed to take hold and increase, you could end up with full blow traumatophobia, abnormal fear of injury, or kinesiophobia, fear of moving due to pain, both of which may diminish your quality of life and delay recovery.)

You enjoyed that activity you were engaged in (let’s assume so, otherwise why would you pursue it?), but now your recreation/fitness/lifestyle activity has betrayed you and the joy it provides is replaced by pain and fear.

I’ve been there, twice.  Trust me, it sucks.

So, how do we mitigate anxiety?

First off, when you are injured go see a doctor.  Have the injury treated if it requires immediate attention (eg. cuts and breaks). If it doesn’t require a trip to the Emergency Room, great, but still see a physician to check for related, possibly hidden injuries (eg. concussion).  Furthermore, seeing a doctor will help in determining the full extent and nature of the injury; for example, is it a soleus tear rather than the calf cramp you “expertly assessed” it as.

After receiving a professionally trained opinion regarding your initial injury, you want to take action.  While I am not a psychologist, it stands to reason that exerting or maintaining control and actively engaging in a solution that improves your situation should help reduce the anxiety surrounding the injury or mechanism of injury.  While this may not entirely eliminate the possibility of fear, as some is natural, it should reduce the intensity.  (Be mindful that “control” via avoidance could set you down the path of the aforementioned phobias.)

Know that, in the vast majority of cases, you WILL heal, you WILL get back to doing what you love.  Don’t give up, don’t stop taking care of your mind and body!  A positive mindset and an active participation in your own recovery will, logically, make it easier to face the injurious activity once more in the future:

  1. Get Checked Out – After the initial injury, you will want to see both a doctor and a physiotherapist, preferably a sports focused one (if you can, everyone’s resources differ.)  I say both because doctors are great for diagnosing and treating acute injury, but physio specialists are better for helping you develop and execute a recovery plan.
  2. Understand Your Injury – You don’t just want to heal your wounds and get back at it; you want to understand why and how you were injured, in order to reduce the chances of a re-injury and so to your fear of re-injury.  Take the responsibility of learning about the anatomy and physics that got you into trouble in the first place, and then get better.  Sometimes this means understanding basic kinesiology, sometimes it means learning to keep your hands up in sparring.
  3. Set Rules and Expectations – Be honest about your limitations and create guidelines for yourself in order to stay active in a safe manner.  Everyone is different, and every injury requires a different approach to healing and rebuilding.  Here are some general considerations:
    • Modify Activities – Go slower, engage in reduced intensity or lower impact versions of exercises/techniques/drills.  It is in your best interests to be honest and realistic. For example, in the martial arts, it is unlikely that you can train throws, takedowns, or groundfighting while recovering from an injury. But, again, it varies based on the nature of the injury. Talk with your instructor, any competent one will be able, and willing, to accommodate you.
      • Are you allowed to “audit” classes?  Ie. Attend class to watch and listen, but not participate.  This is a good way to stay in the headspace of your activity while healing.  Plus you will be surprised how much knowledge you pick up by watching others
    • Be Realistic About Severity – Be aware of how limited you are in range of motion and level of exertion. Are you able to participate safely (for yourself and others)? Will one wrong step re-injure you, or worsen the severity?  It may be that some time off is required.  Talk with your instructor!
    • Know Thyself  – Yes, more, deep self-reflection is required!  Are you the type of person who can actually sit on the sidelines, will you follow your own rules?  If you are like me, possessed of a sometimes reckless willingness go harder than you should, let those around you know your self-imposed limitations and let them help you stay accountable.  If you cannot keep yourself reined-in enough to train safely, maybe do something else to keep fit while you recover?
  4. Keep Active! – Don’t fully stop unless you really have to.  “Stay off it” isn’t always accurate, scientifically informed, advice, even coming from a doctor.  Broken arm?  Focus on your lower body, or use this as a time to start engaging more cardio work. I find that Humans have a sort of mental inertia, stopping fully will make “getting back on the horse” much harder.  Additionally, your removal from any activity allows you way too much time to think and creates a void for negative memories of the injury to grow and exaggerate, impacting your comfort level with said activity when you return, thus increasing the possible onset of fear and anxiety (if you return at all).
  5. Re-Check – Reassess the injury as it heals, then reassess the plan for recovery in parallel.  Also, don’t neglect your mental well-being throughout the process!  Consider how you are feeling; what are your thoughts regarding your return to action, do you feel a creeping dread, do you feel fine until it it’s “go time” (like I did)?  Should you see a counselor to help with overcoming the fear of re-injury or the anxiety of returning to 100%?  There are sports therapists who specialize in “Sports Counselling (Mental Strength Training).”

At the end of the day, you have to decide your own path.  I assert that if you be truthful with yourself, take an active role in your recovery, even if that means modifying exercises or sitting out on certain drills, you will be able to ease back into your favoured activity while you heal.  Yes, I have a hard time sitting on the sidelines, and too many times I have said “of course I’ll spar!” when I know I shouldn’t, and set my healing back a week.  So, for me, injuries often mean time off to protect me from myself.  (Honestly, if I was into mountain biking or rock-climbing I’d probably be in a wheelchair or a pine box by now.)

But that doesn’t mean I quit!

I’m currently dealing with a back injury.  But I’m actively dealing with it! When I’m not training Krav Maga, I’m doing my physio-assigned back exercises, I’m reading about self-defence theory, I’m working on basic kicks and punches with my daughters (“To teach is to learn”), I’m running, I’m working with a personal trainer for core strength, I’m focusing energy on changing my diet to improve my physical performance.  And before I know it I’m back into the lower impact basics (“Defence”) classes.  Those go well, so then I’m planning ahead for where my back needs to be in order to ease back into the “Warrior” classes. (and I probably should be auditing the “Novice” coloured belt classes)

Adopt the mindset that this is temporary and you WILL overcome it as you would any physical challenge.  Some people say “I was injured while biking, I’ll never get on a bike again.”  But, in my opinion that leaves behind a part of your life that you enjoyed, it narrows the breadth of your experience and allows you to give into living based on fear.  That’ a slippery slope, and life is too short!

Written by: Corey O

Know your self.jpg

Sometimes the answers we seek have already been learned but we are too proud, to scarred or too weak to accept the reality. Sun Tzu knew this thousand’s of years ago in ancient china. The full quote goes as such:

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself you will succumb in every battle.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War

There are two aspects of this quote, one the good strategy of studying your enemy is something I can talk about another time as I want to focus on knowing your self.

Fear is a powerful thing. It is a built-in biological mechanism designed to protect us from harm and death. Once upon a time, this was good when the threat was lions and tigers and bears, Oh My! But now in the modern world, we are still using these mechanisms designed to protect us from predators against things like homework, large social structure, modern workplaces, social media and generally far too much stimulus than we are really designed to handle.

What this means is that we often create fear where none need exist.

but did you die.jpgI often say when teaching the only real fail in self-defense or in general is death.

So you are worried about being judged, even if you are judged, did you die?

So you lost your match, but did you die?

So what, you failed your final exam, but did you die?

We often for one reason or another either from external pressure or internal ones activate the fear mechanism to not do something or to stress out when we dont need to. This is not good. If you are stressed due to a perceived fear then you will not be able to focus or perform as well as you can. Which means it might just actually all be in your head. This is what the knowing your self aspect of the quote means. If you are unable to control your emotions and fears in any given situation you will not be able to do the best that you can. If you take every “Failure” as a learning experience then you will ever grow stronger. But if you perceive every “Failure” as a near-death experience your body will treat it as such and you may just spiral into an unproductive fear loop that paralysis you and prevents you from the growth you know you are capable off.

Ask your self honestly, how well do you really know yourself. If you look deep and dont like things about yourself or your life then change it. If you learn what the issues are that are causing the fear it may even help you move forward. One thing is for certain is that if you only ever dwell in your fears than it won’t be better. For you and you alone have the power to change how you perceive things. Whether your fear something or not ask your self honestly, will fearing that thing or not fearing that thing cause you immediate death? If the answer is no, then guess what you have nothing to fear but fear its self.

So how well do you know your self? and what are you afraid of?

P.S. If you lived a full fruitful life, then death is not even something to fear for you will have left a lasting legacy behind you that hopefully caused the growth and development of the next generation of humanity.



I recently experienced a situation which reminded me about the power of fear. Our lights needed to be replaced in the gym, and unfortunately for me, that meant climbing 2 stories up to reach the lights. We had to find a ladder tall enough and safe enough to get someone up there.

Given my recent surgery, I asked some of the other business owners to help go up the ladder. Unfortunately, none of us are big fans of heights, including me. Clearly, the fear of heights was stopping other people from doing what was needed to be done. So… up I went. It was not comfortable, I don’t like the heights as much as the next person. Yet, up and down I went several times.

Then, I hear one of them say, “Oh, but I’m scared of heights.”

I reply, “Dude, I’m terrified! But I am still up here.”

They said, “You’re a soldier. Soldiers do not fear.”

Pfft, whaaaaat?

This is, of course, nonsense because the common sense in the army is that you don’t want a soldier with no fear because those are usually the soldiers who get other people killed. Either that or they go on suicide missions and usually die in the process of taking out an enemy encampment, which earns them some kind of post-death award. Which doesn’t do anything…

Unfortunately, I don’t think I would get a post-death award for falling off a ladder.

You need fear. Evolutionarily, fear is a survival tool. Fear can be a useful tool to remind you that you are mortal, yes you can get hurt or die, and that whatever you’re afraid of is potentially dangerous. Fear of death is reasonable. However, not everything will kill you! The litany against fear in Frank Herbert’s Dune illustrates the best example of the power of fear and the even greater power of facing fear.

I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Ultimately, the greatest fear is… not knowing. The unknown is the most terrifying thing to everyone. Fear of the unknown is a fear that can freeze even the strongest of us. Thus, because the fear response is so engrained in our biology, we’re scared of things that don’t technically logically need to be feared. Going up the ladder feels scary because it’s high, but it is quite safe in reality because there are two people holding the ladder and at least five other people watching.

Being a soldier didn’t make me any less fearful of a situation, it just gave me the ability to learn to face my fears. I don’t forget about fear. I’ve simply learned that sometimes, even when you may be scared, a job still needs to get done. Some people are more accepting of fear than others, but it is not an excuse not to move forward.

In the end, life is about moving forward and getting things done. Sometimes, that means facing your fear. Maybe as a species, we can’t out-logic fear yet. But we can face it. Fear is not an excuse to stop moving forward. Know fear, use fear, and keep moving forward.

“In the moment when I truly understand my enemy,

understand him well enough to defeat him,

then in that very moment I also love him.”

-Ender from Orson Scott Card’s Enders Game, 1985

It is also the moment you can defeat him.

Perhaps this quotation has been said, written or thought 1000 times. To me, this quotation defines the difference between a true self defense style and just another martial art.

Because you see, the real enemy is death (read: the unknown).

In that split second when your life is on the line, accepting death as part of life is often the difference between the end for you or for your enemy. When you truly understand your enemy (read: death), you can fight in defense of your life without holding back.

The quotation above is from the adapted film Ender’s Game by Gavin Hood (now available on Netflix), based on the novel of the same name by Orson Scott Card. It is how the protagonist, Ender ends his war against the enemy. Although he is duped into believing his war is a simulation, this mindset allows him to forgo his emotions and giving his all to win. The key is to “understand him [the enemy] well enough” because if you know too much and/or think too much about what might happen, you are lead to inaction. In a life or death scenario, that means it’s your end not theirs.

This is what a self-defense scenario could be like.

As the defender, if you hold back in the moment for fear of death, then you most likely meet your fear. But when you embrace death as you love life, you let go of your fears and give it your all to fight for your life without fear of death, and thus increase your ability to defend yourself.

Recently, someone in a manner of incoherent rage attempted to insult me by insinuating that because the core of what I teach is self-defense, I am somehow less a fighter or a warrior. While in the ring or cage many opponents are likely to beat me, this does not bother me because this is not why I train, or what I teach. (Unless, of course, I am training someone for the ring.)

I do what I do, so that I may walk in peace knowing that, should the need arise, I will do all that I must to face my fear and come out the other end a survivor.

Training to preserve your life in that one moment is radically different than training to win a fight with rules and where death is unlikely. How many modern fighters would enter the ring if they knew death was certain?

Once upon a time, I know many more would easily take to such call, and now in modern society, many see this as barbaric.

Yet, such individuals understand something far better than many of us, and that is death. If you are not willing to fight 100% in that moment of need, and your attacker is, then they will overcome you with will alone.

If in that moment of imminent harm or death, you are too concerned with the law or what others might think, then you will surely meet that which you fear.

To train for self-defense is to train to walk in peace.

With the hope that you never need to use it. With the knowledge that you can control it. But with the wiliness to use it all at 100% should the need arise.

In Ender’s Game, Ender wins because he lets go and fights to win because he doesn’t see losing as an option. Yet, when he realizes the war was not a simulation and he has just destroyed his enemy, and not solely in self-defense, he feels anguish. He realizes what he did was not self-defense but something else, and because of this, the deaths of his enemy were in vain.

This simple yet complex idea is why murder is wrong, yet killing in self-defense is justifiable regardless of the scale.

This same mentality can be taken from the microcosm that is self-defense and applied to the macrocosm of war, as depicted in the film’s story.

Remember the real enemy.

If we forget even for a split second that death is part of life, then our enemy no matter the scale will surely overcome us. The question you have to ask yourself is, “Will they feel remorse after your death? Or will they feel something else entirely?” But in the split second moment of fear, you don’t have time to question. You cannot rationalize, you can only act.

With this, I leave you with a quotation from another literary masterpiece, one of my favorite quotations of all time — so much so that part of it is immortalized on my body:

“I must not fear.

Fear is the mind killer.

Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I will face my fear.

I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.

Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.

Only I will remain.”

 -Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear from Frank Herbert’s Dune, 1965

Written by: Jonathan Fader

Edited by: Zerlinda Chau