What greater motivator is there than fear? It is fear that elicits from us our most extraordinary actions. Don’t run from it. Harness fear. . .
F.E.A.R. – FALSE EVIDENCE APPEARING REAL
Fear is powerful enough to make us instinctively avoid it. Fear is a physical and mental response to a perceived threat, and its presence has been a major factor in our survival.
The key word here, of course, is “perceived.” The best way to change our perception of a situation is experience and education.
The interesting thing about fear is that it can cause internal panic, leading to a host of negative outcomes – poor decision-making and an inability to think clearly being among the most noticeable. It is important we understand this so that we can make a conscious effort to manage it.
When looking at this subject from a combat perspective, it, like our opponent, must be subdued and brought within our control.
MY EXPERIENCE WITH FEAR
I fell in love with Muay Thai from the first day I stepped into the gym; the technicality, art, and culture of the sport resonated within me. Now 23, I began training with Kru Nigel Green seven years ago… and I had no intention of becoming a fighter.
Initially, my intentions were unclear, even to me. All I could say for sure was that it made me feel good and helped me to stay focused through all the various things that were happening in my life. Each individual has their own motivations for starting Muay Thai and, like most things, this is subject to change at any moment.
Despite feeling accomplished in many areas, there was this voice inside my head that was telling me I had to take the next step. I decided to take my first fight in October 2017. From the day I signed my name on the dotted line, I was in a constant state of alertness, constantly scanning and analyzing, mentally readying myself for the big day. No matter how frequently I trained, sparred, and prepped for my fight, one nagging question would simply not let me rest: “What if?”
“What if I get knocked out?“
“What if I make a fool of myself in front of everyone?”
“What if I’m not up to the standard that everyone has led me to believe?”
FEAR LEADS TO CLARITY
My brain was in overdrive up until the night before the fight, when I had a moment of clarity – a sudden thought that gave me rest. “All the questions I have will remain unanswered, until I put myself to the test.” From that day onwards, my perception of fear has changed.
Although I didn’t have the answers to my questions, what gave me the confidence to fight was my preparation leading up to it. All the video footage and study about your opponent can only give you an insight into how they behaved at a given time, so it is impossible to predict their style or behaviour on the day. The only person you know everything about is yourself; that’s where all your attention should be focused. Everything you do in the gym should serve to not only improve your physical state and technique, but also to eliminate any doubts you have about yourself.
Fear can lead us to hyper-vigilance, over-analysis, and imagining countless scenarios before they have occurred. Taking a fight puts a lot of stress on your mind and body. It is just as easy to become mentally drained as it is physically. Floods of adrenaline and stress hormones open you up to illness and injury, leaving you with less-than-fulfilling training sessions. Making sure you are getting enough rest is crucial for your recovery, hormones, and motivation. And rest includes thinking about anything but the fight for a while.
FEAR IS A QUESTION OF “WHY?”
Of all the things that helped me utilise fear, conversations with my kru have had the most profound impact. During times of stress, I believe it is essential to have someone or a number of people who you can trust and can offer guidance from their experience. He expanded on one of Bruce Lee’s principals: “to accept defeat is to be liberated by it.” This shouldn’t be interpreted as to not to care about winning. Rather it’s about treating both winning and losing as an opportunity to grow.
My kru helped me to eliminate all outside interference and got me to focus on my “why.” In fighting and in life, we all have a why that acts as our main driving force. If this is big enough, we will find a way to achieve what it is that we seek.
FEAR IS A MASSIVE ADVANTAGE
Despite there being negative aspects of fear, if we can harness its power, being in this emotional state offers us huge advantages in the short term. We have all heard stories of average people carrying out unbelievable feats of strength and endurance in dangerous situations. This is because the fight-or-flight response enables us to access a higher percentage of potential energy stored within our muscles. Our focus becomes laser-like, almost as if the world has stood still around us for that moment, which is extremely useful when coming up against an opponent who would gladly inflict pain upon us given the chance. Fighting presents a unique opportunity to see the full extent of your capabilities, and the results can be astounding. Extraordinary potential is not normally unlocked unless in extraordinary danger.
Aiming to get used to that anxious state should be your goal. Accept that this is how you will feel when entering a fight. If we take the initial feeling of anxiety as truth, we will instinctively avoid the situation. To accept something is the first step to overcoming it. With acceptance comes the realisation that we aren’t just passive observers. We can and should play an active role in changing our false evidence into actual facts. It’s easy to build your opponent up in your mind, but in reality, they aren’t much different from you.
FEAR IS NOT THE ENEMY
It is very easy to remain in the comfort zone. The world is full of people who, out of fear and uncertainty, don’t pursue their goals. Not only is this doing an injustice to yourself, but you rob the world of the gifts and unique skills you are able to provide.
I would encourage you to be mindful of the fear associated with whatever it is you want to achieve, whether in or out of the ring, but don’t let it dictate your course of action. There is nothing that cannot be overcome with the right mindset.
- Have confidence in yourself – believe in your abilities!
- Educate and train yourself with conviction. These are tools to sharpen the mind and body.
- Have at least one person who can offer you guidance.
We all have our own ways of dealing with fear. This article was a short insight into the way I perceived my situation and how I dealt with the mental aspects with which I struggled. The most important thing I have learned from my experience is that we should never strive to be fearless. Feel fear, but do it anyway.
- Muay Thai practitioner, personal trainer and nutrition advisor based in northwest England.