Dealing With Fear and Self-Defense

rock climbing 2 patton quote

“Bran thought about it. ‘Can a man still be brave if he’s afraid?’ ‘That is the only time a man can be brave,’ his father told him.”

- George R.R. Martin, “A Game of Thrones”

In “Freedom from Fear,” Peyton Quinn says, “We can allow ourselves to be ruled by fear, or we can determine that we will rule ourselves through out own positive self-worth combined with rational optimism.” I agree with Peyton, and notice that he says “ruled by fear” or “rule ourselves.” This does not mean we can eliminate fear, but we can learn to deal with it. In this short articles I’ll address this, and then provide some resources for further study.

Everyone experiences fear, especially in a combat or self-defense situation. General George Patton, who I quoted at the beginning of this newsletter, also said, “And every man is scared in his first action. If he says he’s not, he’s a goddamn liar. The real hero is the man who fights even though he’s scared. Some get over their fright in a minute, under fire; others take an hour; for some it takes days.” Experiencing fear is not something to be ashamed of, it is our emotional equivalent of warning lights.

For purposes here, I want to focus on dealing with fear in a self- defense situation. When threatened, and the paralyzing fear that cam come with such threats starts to take over, we want to make the decisions that will allow us to control and use our fear instead of its controlling us.

I’ll share two steps taught by Sanford Strong on breaking through paralyzing fear:

1. Decide what you fear most: being injured or being controlled by a criminal. Accepting injury as the price we pay to escape violence is crucial.

2, Mind-set against your fears by visualizing how you will escape. That focuses you on escaping him instead of obeying him.

To survive criminal violence, you need to muster and concentrate every resource available to you for a few desperate seconds. Use your fear, combined with anger at your attacker, to drive yourself to extraordinary, undreamt-of animal strength and ferocity in times of danger.

(The drill for focusing fear after this article will help with the visualization elements.)

Another reason visualization is so important is that it is much safer than the alternative of putting yourself into life threatening situations on a regular basis. (Which is one way to train to use fear.)

One of the best, if not the best, way to train yourself to deal with the fear of being attacked is to engage in adrenal stress training. I’m fortunate to be friends with two of the best trainers in the country for this type of training. Peyton Quinn’s courses at RMCAT and Bill Kipp’s FAST Defense training seminars both provide excellent instruction on overcoming fear to defend yourself. I highly recommend and encourage people to take this kind of training, even if they are already dedicated martial artists.

Peyton Quinn’s site:

Bill Kipp’s site:

I also strongly encourage people to learn how to breath. One of the simplest breathing techniques is autogenic breathing, which I wrote about in my book How To Protect Yourself By Developing A Fighter’s Mindset” and taught in my “Restraint, Control & Come-A-Long Techniques” DVD. There are also many other resources that teach this, including a couple listed at the end of this article.

In a nutshell, this breathing technique, also called combat breathing or tactical breathing, is performed by breathing in through your nose to a slow count of four, Hold the breath for a count of four and then exhale slowly for a count of four. Then hold empty for another count of four. Repeat as necessary to help control stress and fear.

In closing, I’ll remind you that fear is natural, and there is nothing embarrassing about experiencing it. However, with training that includes visualization, breathing, and adrenal stress scenario training, you can learn to deal with your fear and actually use it to help you defend yourself. Your mindset is key. So take the steps now to learn to control your fear and don’t let it control you.

Resources for further study on this topic:

“Warrior Mindset: Mental Toughness Skills for a Nation’s Peacekeepers” by Michael J. Asken, Lt. Col. Dave Grossman with Loren W. Christensen

“Freedom from Fear: Taking Back Control of Your Life and Dissolving Depression” by Peyton Quinn

“Strong On Defense: Survival Rules To Protect You And Your Family From Crime” by Sanford Strong

“Turning Fear Into Power” by Bill Kipp

“The Gift of Fear” by Gavin DeBecker

“On Combat” by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman and Loren W. Christensen

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

- Frank Herbert, “Dune”

Drill For Focusing Fear

This drill teaches you to channel and focus your fear, allowing you to run or successfully mount a counterattack. It is adapted from the book “Attack Proof” by John Perkins

1. Go into a dark room. Windows and doors closed, all lights off.

2. Close your eyes.

3. Stand relaxed. Breath slowly through your nose deep into your belly. (dan jun for you fellow Korean martial artists.)

4. Visualize tension leaving your body as you exhale and the power of nature entering your body as you inhale. Imagine flooding every cell of your body with energy. Do this for five minutes.

5. Now imagine the most depraved criminal you can think of. Imagine that this horrendous criminal is about to attack and psychotically torture the person who depends on you most, the person you are closest to in the world. But first, he’s going to torture and kill you to get you out of the way.

6. Visualize the dark, tragic future this criminal could create. Imagine the tears, the regret, the shame. Now take all your fears, frustration, and helplessness and crush them deep into the bottom of your stomach. Take all the wrongs and humiliations that have been dealt you in life, all the anger and blind rage, and set them to burning. Ignite them with a sense of justice unfulfilled. Unfulfilled until now.

7. From the pit of your gut, drive the fire into your feet, and then let it roar back up through your legs, hips, back, chest, shoulders, and then out your hands and mouth in the loudest, deepest animal scream your diaphragm can handle. (If you have practiced dan jun breathing and proper kihap technique, this will be quite powerful. But even if this is your first experienced with such a training, you will be amazed at the power, ferocity, and volume you create.) Perkins calls this the warrior cry. Depending on where you live, you may have to yell into a pillow, or wait until you are alone in the house, out in the woods, or in a self-defense class. But it is important that you release the potential paralysis that can occur in a moment of crisis – and become familiar with it. You need to know that you can explode and act when you’re terrified and your family depends on it.

8. Perkins suggests and recommends that you do this once a week, even after you have become proficient at self-defense skills.

Most of us have been conditioned to be polite, listen, obey and behave. And that is a good thing for living in our society. However, the criminal knows this, and uses it against people. Criminals rely on us being socially correct. Drills such as this help us relearn what animals know, and that is at the first sign of danger we must often fight or run for our life. This drill will help us focus our fear and do what we must to survive because our personal safety is our first responsibility.

“Do one thing every day that scares you.”

- Eleanor Roosevelt

Watch the Understanding Fear Presentation

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