Overcoming Your Fears | A Martial Artists Way
Fear is such a big topic. It consists of so much legitimacy yet so much distortion. In situations where facing our fears can be developmental or constructive, letting fear take over can act as a heavy barrier to our personal growth. It becomes a barrier that keeps us from becoming the best person we can be. It can even keep us from sharing our progress with others.
The Science of Fear
We’re a species built to fixate on threats and fear, it’s how we’ve survived long enough to transcend our most basic needs like food, water and shelter. Fear can drive many of our most transformational actions but fear is just another emotion. Fear is born in the part of your brain called the Amygdala and acts sort of like an alarm system. Your 5 senses send a signal to your amygdala and your amygdala tells your body how to react; the knees weak, palms sweaty, heart racing sort of physiological signs of fear we all know so well. This is super helpful in situations where we are actually in danger and super not helpful in situations that can help us grow like public speaking, group activities, trying new things and the list is endless.
The Reality of Fear
Emotions like fear are just information and it has made my life so much easier to start looking at them this way. I think we forget sometimes that we have a lot of agency when it comes to our emotions. A big myth that I have let take up a lot of space in my being is that I don’t have control over my circumstances and therefore I don’t have control over my emotions. I think the reality is, we have a lot of choices in our day to day lives, routines and behaviours. Our days and our lives consist mostly of the choices we make every minute, we make A LOT of them. We have a lot of control over those choices. From how we spend our time to the thoughts we choose to entertain or beliefs we choose to act on, many of us have a lot of power and a lot of privilege to make those decisions in this society and culture.
When Fear Takes Over
In situations where facing our fears can be developmental or constructive, letting fear take over can act as a heavy barrier to growth. To become the best person we can be. It can even keep us from sharing our progress with others. I believe giving into our less useful fears can do a lot of things. Fear can:
- Perpetuates shame and insecurity about ourselves
- Cause tension within ourselves and others
- Keep us from acting in line with or expressing our beliefs and values
- Prevent us from setting goals and always aiming higher
- Keep us from realizing our true selves. (See “Who am I?” for more on the true self)
Mindfulness, Martial Arts and Fear
Let’s talk a bit about Master John and the origins of Douvris Martial Arts. For Master John, martial arts, more specifically karate, has always been a major part of a mindfulness and spiritual practice. The dojo is where Master John started learning about his true self, his abilities and his responsibilities in our world. Starting Martial Arts at just 8 years old and eventually becoming the lead instructor at his dojo from the age of 20 – 24, MJ discovered his purpose and decided to open his own dojo, where he would teach students the tenets of martial arts and the power of self development.
Opening, running and maintaining a brand new business in this world is no small feature. This involves risk taking, problem solving, a lot of the time and financial instability. Master John borrowed $1000 dollars from our yiayia and papou (that’s grandma and grandpa in Greek, but they’re his mom and dad) to rent a studio for his classes and purchase his business license. He went into this with very little money, family support and a whole lot of fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of failure. Fear that he didn’t know what he was doing. Do you think I’d be writing this today if Master John had given into those fears? If he had taken the “safe” road and gotten a “normal” job after college like his parents wanted? Our incredible students, instructors and franchisees might have been on a very different path right now. Even myself, I don’t know where I’d be without Douvris Martial Arts. Can any of you see MJ working in an office? Or fixing computers? (I’m laughing just thinking about that)
That’s a very real conversation we had when this pandemic closed our dojos for in person classes. The fear hasn’t necessarily disappeared over these 35 years either, because fear is a natural emotion. Fear is something that keeps us safe and healthy at times. However, the reality is that most days we aren’t facing life or death situations. Many of our fears won’t result in devastation. In fact, facing our fears can allow us to grow and find so many opportunities. Master John acknowledged his fears when he founded DMA and he continues to honour and face his fears every day in this dojo. For Master John, helping our community become the best people we can be and teaching us how to help ourselves become the best people we can be, transcends any fear he’s ever had when it comes to the karate school. When this started we could have let fear paralyze us but instead we let it motivate us into action.
What is your biggest fear? Have you ever let fear take over? Are you doing it right now?
Mindfulness and Fear
Practicing mindfulness regularly can help us observe, describe and seek clarity in our emotions and thoughts. This in turn guides our path and direction in this lifetime. We can better respond and tend to our needs. We can choose what and who to spend our resources on. Resources like space, money, time, emotional, physical and spiritual efforts, love, care and so much more. We can even choose which fears to listen to and which to overcome and transcend. Excuse me if I’m making it sound like a simple task because I know and you know that it definitely is not. However, the more we are able to acknowledge, accept and let go of our fear, the more opportunities we will have to share our growth and development with others.
Practicing Overcoming Our Fears
It may be cliche to say “do one thing a day that scares you” but, seriously do something every day that scares you. Expose yourself to these situations in controlled environments. Practice facing small fears so that the bigger fears start to feel a little smaller. For example, sometimes I say hi to strangers or strike up a conversation in a line-up for coffee because something that terrifies me is public speaking and embarrassing myself in social settings. This small thing in my daily routine like saying hello to a stranger in an elevator has been transformational for me in the sense that every interaction I add to my bank of not embarrassing interactions gives me more evidence to claim my fear as unreasonable or misplaced and as a result, letting go of it. It also sometimes adds to my bank of really social embarrassing interactions and I grow less sensitive to those situations to
This is such a big topic and we want to hear your thoughts on it, Douvris Community. Email or send us a message on social media about your fears and how you’ve overcome them or even how you plan to overcome them going forward.
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