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Defeating Fear


Dear Friend,


There is a little talked about reality in Arnis, and that is that people are afraid of the weapon and are afraid of being hit by the weapon.  Part of this fear come from a realistic assessment of the situation—someone is swinging a hard object at you.  It will likely hurt, it may cause physical damage, and your response may cause you to embarrass yourself.


Part of the fear also comes from the fiction of being hit by a stick.  That is the back of the head thought a blow from a stick will cause your bones to shatter and you’ll be mangled in the process.  Is the thought rational?  No, it’s not based in reality.  The part of you that is out there working the stick isn’t rational, though.


Fear makes people behave foolishly.  The increase in stress levels leads to stiff, non-responsive muscles.  It leads to the brain getting stuck.  It also leads to poor fighting decisions.  It gets in the way of the reflex response that Arnis conditions so well.  It does, in other words, create the exact opposite response that the Arnis training motto promotes, “Go with the Flow.”


How Do You Get Past the Fear?


There are certain basics of the psychology of fear that let’s you get past the fear.  Let’s take a look at those basics.


  1. Isolate what causes fear responses.  Usually the stick itself for beginners.  Having a stick swung at you.  Blocking (the fear of missing the block).  The unpredictability of the maneuver (the more random, the more fearful).
  2. Break training into small, manageable steps.  These steps should not be set up according to what makes sense from a logical, teaching stand point alone.  They should be set up according to how much fear the training triggers.
  3. Repeat the step until command is very high, and you feel fully confident in the thing that you are doing.
  4. Don’t worry about boredom.  Overcoming fear is more important than overcoming boredom.  Remember that not everyone that goes into Arnis is suited for Arnis.  If people are not willing to do enough reps to overcome fear, they are a danger to themselves and others.  They must either change their behaviors or leave practice.
  5. Much of Arnis is already built to desensitize you to fear.
    1. Twirling—This allows a person to handle a stick in a non-threatening manner and get full control of it.  Twirling starts very simply and progresses on up to very complex.  It is an ideal fear deflator.
    2. Sinawali—Slightly more fear in the sinawalis, but these are safe rhythmic drills that scale up steadily in complexity.  They also build very high stick command.
    3. The basic striking and blocking patterns.  These patterns are predictable to make developing command and confidence easy.


I hope this information benefits your practice.  Please send the link to your friends.  You know the ones you don’t mind having an extra edge ;)


Warm regards,


Guro Mikel Steenrod