During the civil wars in feudal Japan, an invading army would quickly sweep into a town and take control. In one particular village, everyone fled just before the army arrived - everyone except the Zen master. Curious about this old fellow, the general went to the temple to see for himself what kind of man this master was. When he wasn't treated with the deference and submissiveness to which he was accustomed, the general burst into anger. "You fool," he shouted as he reached for his sword, "don't you realize you are standing before a man who could run you through without blinking an eye!" But despite the threat, the master seemed unmoved. "And do you realize," the master replied calmly, "that you are standing before a man who can be run through without blinking an eye?"
Self-defense usually involves violence. At first the violence is directed at you, which leads to you reacting, many times with violence. The use of violence by a reasonable and prudent person should be guided by a set of ethics. When faced with violence a person may either evade, by avoiding or retreating, or face the violence.
Avoiding violence may be a reasonable alternative sometimes, but not all violence may be avoided. By constantly avoiding violence, some timid people retreat from society and become recluses. They lock themselves inside their homes, surrounding themselves with burglar alarms, guard dogs, and firearms. However, none of these things make them feel safer. They become more frustrated afraid, and alone.
Many times, you must face violence and deal with it. However, some view any conflict as a personal assault which may only be resolved through violence or the threat of violence. These bullies are just as bitter, frustrated, and alone as their timid counterparts.
The timid constantly run away from violence, but they cannot do this forever. Bullies may have their way for a while, but at some point they meet their match. Both the timid and the bullies are reacting to the same emotion—fear.
Fear is natural, but it is only an emotion; it cannot harm you by itself. However, the hesitation it causes may get you killed in the blink of an eye. This "fear reflex" must be neutralized before any form of self-defense may be effectively initiated. You must learn to transmute your fear into a feeling of indignation.
Fear is nothing to fear, it is necessary for survival. It is what causes us to jump back onto the curb instantly when an approaching taxi sounds its horn. We are all born with a few primal fears, such as the fear of loud noises, darkness, strangers, and heights. As we age, some of these basic fears decrease, such as the fear of strangers, while other fears may increase, such as an excessive fear of heights. As we mature and venture into the world, we may develop new fears, such as the fear of flying. Many fears develop because we learn to fear certain things from people around use. Children do not naturally fear spiders; others teach them to fear spiders. As humans, we are very prone to learn fear. As a result, everybody is afraid of something.
False Evidence that Appears Real
Most people fear the unknown: an unfamiliar situation or doubts about their abilities to deal with the situation. The more information you have about a situation, the less you fear it. The more familiar you are with your abilities and capabilities, the less fear you will have in a given situation. Thus, the more knowledge you have about the world around you, the less you fear it. The confidence you attain through Taekwondo training gives you the courage you need to face any situation.
When confronted with a dangerous situation, everyone experiences fear. Taekwondo training helps us to control the fear and act appropriately. The root of fear is the apprehension generated by the unknown and a loss of control. People feel more fear when walking into strange dark house late at night than they do walking into a haunted house at an amusement park because they know what to expect in the haunted house. When you give commands to an orderly crowd of people, there is little fear because you feel in control, but if the crowd becomes unruly, the fear increases substantially. When Taekwondo students confront their fears, they find they are not so fearsome and they become stronger persons from the experience.
People do not study Taekwondo because of a fear of spiders or enclosed places. They begin their studies for reasons such as physical fitness or discipline, but one of main reasons they begin the study of Taekwondo is a fear of crime, primarily a fear of crimes that may be committed against themselves or their families. This fear of crime may come from many different sources.
Fear of Crime
One would assume fear of crime would primarily come from having been a victim, but research has shown that fear of crime far exceeds actual victimization rates. Although previous experience as a victim is related to fear of crime, the inconsistency between fear of crime and victimization suggests that fear of crime may be largely independent of the incidence or distribution of crime itself.
Fear of crime may come from the news media, word of mouth, or personal experience. The news media over reports serious crime and thus may overly influence a much larger population area than just the area where the crimes occurred. Many people turn to friends and family when they fear crime. This seems to be a reasonable reaction to fear, but, instead of reducing fear of crime, family and friends can sometimes be a source of fear by causing worry about things not directly related to crime itself.
Property victimization has more effect on fear of crime than personal victimization. People who know about crime in their community or who have personally witnessed a crime tend to have greater fear of crime. Fear of crime may reduce victimization because people with a high level of fear may take more precautions that lower their chance of ever becoming a victim. The effects of victimization on fear of crime can persist for years after the crime occurred. Fear of crime is more pronounced in vulnerable people.
Some types of people are more vulnerable to fear of crime than other types. Research shows that women and the aged are more fearful even though they are the least likely to be victimized. People who feel powerless to prevent crime have greater fear of crime: the aged, unmarried, widowed, and persons living alone. People are less fearful of crime when they feel they feel they have control over their lives and when they interact with and have the support of neighbors.
Part of fear of crime is fear of the effects of victimization, such as physical injury or loss of income. The poor fear crime more because it is a greater burden on them since they have less insurance, tend to rent rather than own, are less able to cope, and have less income. People with more education have less victimization, but they still have an increased level of fear of crime. People in rural areas have a lower fear of crime but communities in rural areas that are experiencing rapid growth have heightened levels of fear.
Fear of crime not only affects the way people carry out their personal lives, it also effects their choices in whether or not to get involved in another person's life when they are bystanders to the person being victimized by crime.
Bystanders play an important role in preventing street crimes. Police rely on bystanders to be their eyes and ears on the streets. Bystanders are also potential witnesses whose presence in an area helps deter crime. When a bystander witnesses a crime, he or she may run away, call for help, watch but not respond, try to help the victim, try to apprehend the offender, or try to take his or her own vengeance out on the offender.
Criminals fear bystander intervention because the bystander is present at the time the crime is committed. They do not fear the police, wince they plan on leaving before the police arrive. When a crime occurs in their presence, bystanders must make sudden decisions about what they are going to do. The situation, type of crime, their self-defense abilities, their morals, and their personality help them determine whether to intervene or not get involved.
As stated above, fear is not a bad thing, it is necessary for our survival. It helps keep us out of trouble by making us cautious. Taekwondo students need to understand fear, and learn how to use it to their own advantage.
The Body's Reaction to Fear
When faced with danger or fear, humans usually react in the following sequence:
- We stop what we are doing.
- We turn toward the source of the threat.
- We freeze while we assess the peril.
- If we see danger, we hide if we can.
- If we cannot hide, we flee.
- If we cannot flee, then we will fight for our lives.
The body's fear response has evolved over millions of years as a way to protect the body from harm. The newest part of the brain recognizes and identifies a threat and mobilizes the oldest part of the brain (to respond to the threat. The body's central alarm system is the amygdala, which is located in the temporal lobe deep within the brain behind the ears. It constantly assesses the environment for any threat and takes action if a threat is perceived. When it perceives a threat, it takes control of the body and initiates several actions on of which is to alert the hypothalamus, a small, walnut-sized gland near the base of the brain, which sends a signal down the spinal cord to the adrenal glands.
The human body is equipped with two adrenal glands, one atop of each kidney. The glands secrete hormones, (adrenaline, nonadrenaline, and corticosteroids), which are responsible for the physiological changes that accompany fear.
Metabolically, fear is very demanding on the body as it prepares itself to take flight or fight. Some of the preparations are:
- The heart begins to pump faster and harder. This extra effort generates more heat, so the body begins to sweat in every nook and cranny. The palms sweat.
- As the pulse rate rises, blood pressure rises as blood is pumped more quickly through the veins.
- Blood drains from capillaries near the skin's surface causing the skin to become pale and cool. The coolness causes "goose bumps," which makes body hairs stand up. In animals, this effect makes them look bigger to their attackers, but in humans, with much less body hair, this purpose is defeated. In addition, when blood drains from the skin's surface, cuts will bleed less. This helps protect against blood loss during combat.
- Blood also drains from the the torso, causing the enteric system to shut down. The stomach empties and the digestive system stops the digestive process. When responding to danger, the body needs all its energy for immediate action so it cannot afford to waste any energy on digestion. Saliva flow is reduced so the mouth becomes dry. The digestive shut down causes a queasy feeling and the feeling of butterflies in the stomach.
- Face becomes flushed, which may begin with a faint blush at the top of the ears, caused by vasodilatation of the facial blood vessels, due to adrenaline.
- The eyes dilate so vision becomes more acute.
Some people may void their bowels or bladder. This was useful during caveman times to avoid rupture of the bowels or bladder, but it is problem now that we wear clothes.
The pituitary gland unleashes a hormone into the bloodstream that prompts the release of the stress hormone cortisol from the adrenal cortex. Glucose is produced and released, making more of it available to the muscles, thus giving the body more energy.
The blood that is drained from these areas of the body is pumped into the muscles and other vital organs, preparing them for quick and powerful action. All the senses become sharper, so you are more aware of your surroundings and more information is being sent to the brain for processing. The muscles heat up and swell, giving the illusion of larger size. As the muscles receive this oxygenated blood, they quiver with energy, so you began to tremble and you legs shake. Explosive power is on tap and ready for tremendous exertion of energy. The body is ready to take flight or to fight.
The first action taken by the amygdala during a threat is to freeze you in your tracks. The freezing allows the amygdala to set "General Quarters" throughout the body and" man battle stations" in the brain's neo-cortex (decision-making center).
While the freezing action gives the body a few seconds to prepare for battle, it is not always beneficial in today's environment. In primal times, freezing was an aid to self-preservation. Many animals are color blind and have poor eyesight, but are adept at detecting movement. For example, if a rhinoceros charges toward you and you freeze, the rhino cannot discern you from a tree and may stop its charge. However, a charging truck does not have this sight problem. If you freeze in front of an approaching truck, the truck will strike you, therefore, in this circumstance, the freezing instinct was harmful to you. Taekwondo students learn to overcome and control this instinct to freeze in the face of danger.
Fear or being scared can cause goose bumps. The purpose of goose bums is to raise the hair, such as in an hair-raising experience. Hair-raising began in our hairier days as a response to cold. As hair stands on end, it traps and insulting layer of air around the body. At some point, one of our ancestors realized that his puffed up appearance scared away a would be attacker, which caused hair-raising to develop into a self-defense mechanism. Nowadays, our less hairy bodies still associate hair-raising with cold; when we get scared, we get a chill down our spines. The upending of our expectations may also give us chills and goose bumps. When there is any sort of surprise or intense emotion, such as a moving passage in music, we may get chills and goose bumps. In a scary movie we may get goose bumps. One part of the brain says "We are going to die!" while another part says, "We are okay!" Sometime these false alarms bring a felling or pleasure. which is what draws is to watch scary things.
Flight or Fight
While the body is preparing itself for action, the amygdala has fed its treat assessment to the thought-processing areas of the brain, which in a few seconds must decide whether to run away or take action, the "flight-or-fight" response.
After assessing the threat, the brain may decide it is minor, judge it an acceptable threat, and embrace it, such as the fear you experience when making your first parachute jump. After a fearful experience, we have a feeling of relief and elation, so acceptable threats may actually be therapeutic. They allow the amygdala to engage and give one the "rush" of fear without the accompanying danger.
So in a self-defense situation, when you feel cold, turn pale, get goose bumps, your pulse rate increases, and you begin to tremble, it is not because you are unduly fearful, it is the natural response of your body preparing to either flee or fight. Taekwondo training teaches students to deal with their fears, accept their bodies' reactions to fear as normal, and to take the proper actions to deal with a threat. Everyone, even a world champion black belt, feels fear in a dangerous situation. It takes courage to face what caused the fear and prevail over it. Courage comes from the skills, knowledge, and confidence gained through Taekwondo training.
If a person is exposed to stressful situation over a long, continuous period of time, the body enters a heightened state of arousal where sleep can be difficult and fear responses continue for hours or days after the cause of the stress is removed. Usually rest and sleep relieve the symptoms, but for some, the symptoms may plague them for years. Research has show that those who produce higher levels of of a peptide called Neuropeptide Y, or NPY, are able to deal with stress better than those with lower levels. The peptide works in the prefrontal cortex of the brain to help inhibit arousal and keep a person focused under stress.
Being aware of your surroundings and being prepared for a possible threat is not the same as being paranoid. Paranoia is an abnormal worry of either a real or an imagined threat. Preventable violent situations occur everyday, just remember they are preventable.
People tend to confuse worry, apprehension, and fear. The difference between these is vital to making appropriate responses to perceived threats. In his book The Gift of Fear, Gavin de Becker defines worry as "fear we manufacture." To worry is to choose to consider the negative possibilities concerned with one of the following:
- Something that is not happening now.
- Things you have no control over.
- Things you can change but for one reason or another choose not to.
Fear itself is a powerful, useful and, most importantly, unconscious tool. Linked strongly to intuition, it will advise you of danger that you may not be consciously aware of. People tend to worry so much about imagined things that they do not recognize a real threat when it occurs. The only fear you should be concerned about is fear of something that has a high probably of occurring and you cannot control or prevent it. Even then, do not let fear cause inaction. There is always hope where there is action.
Adams, M. J. & Ray, M. C. (1993). Fear of crime among college students. Campus Law Enforcement Journal, 23(4), pp. 33-35.
Belyea, M. J. & Zingraff, W. (1978). Victimization and fear of crime among the elderly living in high crime neighborhoods. Rural Sociology, 53, pp. 473-486.
Hill, C. (1991). Olympic Politics.
Howlett, D. (1999). Loving a Good Fight: It's in our Nature. USA Today, November 9, 1999, pp. 6D.
Humphries, D. (1981). Serious crime, news coverage, and ideology. Crime and Delinquency, 27, pp. 191-205.
Kennedy, L. W. & Silverman, R. A. (1985). Perception of social diversity and fear of crime. Environment and Behavior, 17, pp. 275-295.
Krannich, R. S., Greider, T., & Little, R. L. (1985). Rapid growth and fear of crime: A four-community comparison. Rural Sociology, 50(2), pp. 193-208.
Lee, G. R. (1982). Sex differences in fear of crime among older people. Research on Aging, 4, pp. 284-298.
Sacco, V. F. (1993). Social support and the fear of crime. Canadian Journal of Criminology, 14, pp. 307-330.
Shapland, J. (1984). Victims, the criminal justice system, and compensation. British Journal of Criminology, 24, pp. 131-149.
Shotland, R. & Goodstein L. (1984). The role of bystanders in crime control. Journal of Social Issues, 40, pp. 9-26.
Skogan, W. G. (1987). The impact of victimization on fear. Crime & Delinquency, 33(1), pp. 135-154.
Skogan W. G. & Maxfield, M. (1981). Coping with crime. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Smith, S. J. (1988). Fear of crime: Beyond a geography of deviance. Progress in Human Geography, 11(1), pp. 1-23.
Toseland, R. W. (1982). Fear of crime–who is most vulnerable? Journal of Criminal Justice, 10, pp. 199-209.
Tyler, T. R. (1980). The impact of directly and indirectly experienced events: The origin of crime related subjects and behaviors. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 34, pp. 13-28.
Warr, M. (1984). Fear of victimization: Why are women and the elderly more afraid? Social Science Quarterly, 65, pp. 681-702.