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Fear Management

Conquer It Now, or Youll Sabotage Your Own Performance! by Peter Ragnar

The crowd looked menacing. Gang members were wearing their colors as they filed in. New Yorks Sunnyside Gardens arena was packed. My trainer taped my hands as my stomach churned. You know the feelingyou start breathing funny, and things start moving in slow motion. Its when your adrenal glands dump on you. Youve been told to get those butterflies to fly in formation, but what do you do when they panic and start looking for an exit? What do you do about fear? Well, Ive always been toldand its been reinforced over the years that you can explain it, suppress it or dissolve it. Jim Bull had been there many times. He was one of the top-10 middleweights in the boxing world of the 1990s. Training with him three hours a day, six days a week, taught me skills but hadnt KOd the butterflies. It never bothered me when he knocked me to the canvas, but the possibility of a stranger doing it riled meuntil Bulls wisdom spoke. He pushed me back against the cold metal locker. With his hands on my shoulders and his face in mine, he spoke words Ill never forget. Despite the decades that have passed, theyre as alive as the ringing of a bell. In a measured voice, he stated matter-of-factly, Hes more scared of you than you are of him. Suddenly, my fear dissolved. If this guys that scared, his legs will turn to rubber, I said. I didnt think he was that frightened of me. Looking back, I still have to laugh about it. Every time I train a new full-contact fighter, I pass on Bulls words of wisdom. Emotion Theres an acronym youll probably like as much as I do: FEAR. It stands for False Education Appearing Real. We fear what we dont clearly understand.

Thats especially true when we encounter a technique we havent seen before. When my friend, John Saylor, coached the Olympic judo team, he would drill a saying into his athletes: Make them fear your throw. In other words, dont allow your opponent to understand your attack. Thats why, in the early days of no-holds-barred events, strikers did poorly against grapplers. Their fear of ground fighting caused them to be more cautious about using their own skills. It wasnt that strikers couldnt be more effective; rather, it was a false education appearing real. And the media didnt help things, with their constant reporting on how strikers couldnt possibly win against grapplers. Yet the most educated fighters of the early 1990s didnt underestimate the skills of high-ranked kickboxers; they simply knew how to exploit the strikers fear of the ground. Very candidly, one night in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1994, Royce Gracie made an admission as we walked into the parking lot. The event in which hed just competed, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, had been a tough one for him. He conceded that he had to be extremely careful not to get knocked out, yet he never showed any fear of even the most skillful opponent. Thats when I concluded that once strikers learned the ground, their fear would dissolve and folks would start getting knocked out without ever going to the mat. Since then, many a grappler has received an impromptu boxing lesson in the ring, and as history bears witness, the punchers are becoming very effective. As I said, that night in Charlotte hadnt been one of Gracies best. What you really believe about yourself becomes most apparent when everything has gone wrong. When you feel competent and have selfworth, and youre able to sustain that belief during troublesome times, youre well on your way to conquering fear. While its been stated that the simple anticipation of danger, whether real or imagined, can cause fear, all fears must be faced if youre to grow. Either your life is growing, blossoming and flourishing, or its decaying. Fear is a most eroding emotion. In essence, its saying, Youre inappropriate for the game. That fosters self-doubt. Selfdoubt is not being able to trust your own mind and its conclusions. You can dispel the phantoms of fear only with reality-based thinking. Reality-based thinking entails not deceiving yourself about your skill level. Physical training is one thing, and mental training is another. Very few people consciously work on the second as hard as they do

the first. However, mental training is what allows you to use your body to its fullest. The mind wont struggle for any victory it believes is impossible to attain. Solution Half a lifetime ago, with my bare back against the cold locker and Jim Bulls words echoing in my ears, I embarked on a quest to master the self. After performing countless experiments, I now believe Ive discovered the secret not to suppressing or expressing fear, but to dissolving it. I know that sounds pretentious, but bear with me. Youve already experienced the tremulous condition of your body as it endures an endocrine cascade. Those hormones can be released only by your mental interpretation of whats before you or your anticipation of danger, whether real or imagined. Remember that your body is designed and wired for survival. Youre geared and stocked with all the bells, whistles and pharmaceuticals neededand you can actually write your own prescription. You may have seen what happens to a diabetics body during insulin shock, and youve probably noticed your own body tremble during times of extreme hunger. Thats because large amounts of nonvolatile acids enter your bloodstream. When your mind experiences fear, you flood your body with carbonic acid. As it enters your tissues, it can only be buffered, or stabilized, by a potassium salt drawn from your oxygen-carrying red blood cells. As potassium is taken from the blood cells of your muscles, an extreme weakening occurs. Rubber legs, rubber armswhat happened? Youve just lost all your physical strength. All strength athletes have a high percentage of potassium in their bodies. Potassium salts neutralize the other fear-generated nonvolatile or fixed acids, such as lactic acid. Once you begin to generate lactic acid, your muscles lock up and freeze. In essence, youre frozen in fear. How does your body handle this acidosis? It begins to hyperventilate. Thats your bodys compensating mechanism. When fear causes you to breathe more rapidly, it also taxes your kidneys to excrete the acid salts it has extracted from your bloodstream and pushes the acidic fluids through your bladder. And you know what that means.

Remedy If during a moment of panic youve ever felt like youve just been poured into a plastic baggie, heres the good news: You can defeat fear by preparing your body and mind for it. Ive developed a chi kung exercise for just that purpose. Start with the position known as the cranes nest. Its like youre seated on an invisible chair. Your back is straight and your head is lifted, as if with invisible hooks placed behind your ears. Your arms are outstretched like a cranes wings, with your shoulders back and wrists bent. As soon as your body begins trembling, just as it does when fear surfaces, begin 60 rapid breaths. Youll feel as if youre on fire. Actually, youre buffering the acid built up by holding this static position. Its applying intense tension coupled with deep relaxation. After the 60 breaths, focus on breathing like a sleeping baby. Imagine inhaling and exhaling through a small valve two inches below your navel. Practicing this way five minutes to 10 minutes a day is all you need. Soon, youll find an extreme sense of calm. Youre learning how to relax under pressure. Another physiological phenomenon that accompanies a strong fear or the sensing of danger is tachy-physio-psychic reaction. Thats what happens when youre looking at a gun pointed at you and all you see is the black hole at the muzzle. The rest of the world magically disappears. Its also what happens when youre performing a martial arts demonstration and the audience disappears. Things seem to be taking place in slow motion because your brain scrambles to make sense of whats happening. During a tachy-physio-psychic reaction, your peripheral vision diminishes. Obviously, in a fight, not seeing that roundhouse kick coming at your head is a bad thing. Oddly, that same kick that was so easy to block while sparring in the dojo wasnt even detected until it struck you.

Whats the solution? Training your peripheral vision while your physical body exhibits the same tension that fear produces. Resume the cranes nest pose. After doing the 60-breath hyperventilation and during the sleeping-baby breathing, look straight ahead. Try not to blink, which your body wants to do in fearful or dangerous situations. Next, bring your outstretched arms to where you can just see them from the corners of your eyes. Move them back until theyre just out of sight and practice seeing what you cant see. Oddly, the phenomenon of seeing beyond natural sight develops an increased ability to feel impending danger. In this exercise, youre learning how to see and feel under extreme tension. Whenever you train your mind to relax while your body scrambles to buffer carbonic and other nonvolatile acids with potassium salts, youre dissolving fear. By toughening your body as you recreate the physical reaction to fear, in essence youre dissolving it before the fact. Eating Dissolving fear is first accomplished by not mentally generating it. The best-trained athletes have the least of it. They use reality-based thinking. They know, measure and chart their progress. They know that what gets measured, gets done. Since one cant hit a target he cant see, they also set goals they can see and hit. They know the chemistry of fear can be conquered as long as self-doubt is controlled. They know the body must have plenty of hydration for the kidneys to excrete acids. They know they must practice certain breathing patterns and eat the right foods to bolster potassium salts in the body. Remember that nerve force is dependent on oxygen, and oxygen is attracted to potassium. Therefore, make sun-dried black olives, kelp, kale, dulse, almonds and sunflower seeds the staples of your anti-fear diet. Wash them down with plenty of distilled water. When you master your mind, your iron will can master your body. But never forget how mental images can bend your resolve. Every day, it must be forged anew. When the menacing crowd of thoughts calls out for your defeat, youll banish them with a wave of your hand, for youre trained to defeat them. Youll dismiss fear forever. About the author: Peter Ragnar is a 6th degree Ju-jitsu Master, and a best selling author of more than 25 books including How Long Do You Choose To Live?, The Awesome Science of Luck and hes the inventor of Magnetic Qi Gong.. For more information, call (800) 491-7141 or visit