Fear (Part 2)

In the previous blog, we discussed how fear is a natural human emotion in someone facing imminent danger. There are two instinctive reactions to fear: flight or fight. In this second blog on fear, we will dive deeper into our response to fear.


What is “flight adrenaline” and what does it do to us?

Flight adrenaline (norepinephrine) is a hormone that’s secreted by the adrenal gland when a human being – or virtually any animal, but specifically mammals – anticipates danger. Flight adrenaline greatly increases our awareness and alertness. 

In addition to making us considerably more alert and sensitive to our immediate surroundings, it also increases our peripheral awareness. To put it simply, it opens up our senses to detect danger. It allows – or actually forces us – to tune in to danger and/or the possibility of danger.

Flight adrenaline fine tunes our receptive and responsive abilities. It especially increases our desire and our ability to avoid danger because there is normally less risk in avoiding danger than in confronting it.

There’s an old Zen parable that best illustrates the distinction between these two reflexes:

A Zen master out for a walk with one of his students pointed out a fox chasing a rabbit.

“According to an ancient fable,” the master said, “the rabbit will get away from the fox.”

“Not so,” replied the student. “The fox is faster.”

“But the rabbit will elude him,” insisted the master.

“Why are you so certain?” asked the student.

“Because,” answered the master, “the fox is running for his dinner and the rabbit is running for his life.”

What responses does flight adrenaline cause in humans? 

Flight adrenaline (norepinephrine) signals us to be ready to run. It also enables us to run earlier and much faster than normal. That’s because, again, we are much better off to avoid danger than to confront it. In other words, it’s better to flee than to fight. Whether you believe it or not, we can actually run much faster when afraid.

What is “fight adrenaline” and how does it affect us? 

Fight adrenaline (epinephrine) is an adjacent hormone also secreted by the medulla section of the adrenal gland. Epinephrine, however, works in many ways almost entirely opposite of flight adrenaline. It decreases our peripheral senses and actually focuses, or tunnels, our perceptions and responses.

Fight adrenaline not only triggers our emergency senses but also our emergency reflexes to aid us whenever we cannot, do not or will not avoid danger. It makes us quicker and stronger, assets that we sorely need to confront and meet danger. In addition, fight adrenaline greatly increases our pain threshold anywhere from mild to superhuman, just as it can our strength. It also increases our dysfunctional override capacity: the ability to resist and even aggress after incurring physical damage. It can allow us to function despite a dislocated joint, broken bones, etc.; after the breath has been knocked out of us; or even when we have been knocked almost unconscious!

How can you best describe the differences between flight and fight adrenaline? 

Here’s the best analogy. Flight adrenaline is what rabbits have 99.99% of the time. Fight adrenaline is what grizzly bears are imbued with 99.99% of the time. Only the rarest of rabbits, in the rarest of instances, will fight. Even in the most extreme cases – when cornered and being eaten alive – rabbits will simply acquiesce into shock or continue their attempt to escape.

The grizzly rarely thinks of avoiding danger, much less running from it. Grizzlies have been filmed attacking automobiles! They normally only run to catch and/or attack a meal but very rarely to escape. When they do run to escape, it’s only from conditioned reflexes such as to run from men with dogs and rifles, but quite often, not even then.

Each human being also has a certain proportional amount of rabbit and grizzly reflexes, obviously in vastly different degrees per individual. The proportion depends completely upon a person’s inherited genetic DNA dispersal. If your natural tendency is more toward a flight response, you can train yourself to be more of a fighter. Sometimes flight is better depending on the scenario, but with martial arts training, you can learn to fight when necessary as well.

To learn more about TaeKwonDo, Jiu-Jitsu and other martial arts training that we teach in Chesapeake, give us a call at 757-558-9869 or contact us.

Fear (Part 1)

Fear is a natural human emotion that causes a person who’s facing imminent danger to have one of two completely opposite – but mutually instinctive – reactions. You either run away from the danger to totally avoid it, or you confront it head-on. This is the “Flight or Fight” reflex.

Fear is a subject of particular importance to martial artists, yet one that has been inadequately addressed. No matter how much martial arts you learn or how proficient you become at it, if the time comes to face a genuine life-threatening situation, you will experience the two-edged sword of fear – fight or flight – and will be forced to exercise one or the other. When a person thinks they are being threatened, typically the person’s heart pounds like a jackhammer, and one becomes short of breath, sometimes almost to the point of hyperventilation. There is nausea, often described as “butterflies,” in the stomach. Some individuals experience an inability to control their bowels. The degree of emotional and physical intensity varies with the person.

As undesirable as all these powerful symptoms may sound, they are actually indicators that the body is ready to perform at its highest level. World-class athletes and people who freeze from terror under stress both experience the same series of physiological reactions. What determines how successful the outcome will be is how rapidly the individual is able to either retain or regain control. Fear is stimulus-specific.

There are people who manifest few, if any, of the usual biochemical reactions, as cited above, to what are traditionally considered life-threatening circumstances. They are considered “fearless.” Yet what would be considered overwhelming stress varies drastically from person to person. Although considered fearless by most of the world, some Navy SEALs readily admit to being scared before every mission, gunfight, firefight or battle.

So what exactly is fear? The dictionary defines fear as “an emotion of alarm and agitation caused by the expectation and realization of danger.” However, a topic as important as fear requires a far more technical elaboration. This technical analysis is essential to your full understanding.

A medical dictionary informs us that fear is “a somatic (part of the body) disturbance or expression of anxiety (stress), neurosis (nerves) or an anxious psychotic (mental disturbance), which may stimulate hyperthyroidism, an excessive condition of glandular secretion by the thyroid. This includes an injection into our system of a hyperadrenal, another glandular secretion of hormones, chief among which, and this is important, are norepinephrine and epinephrine – “flight” and “fight” adrenaline, respectively. This common human condition is what is known as the “Flight or Fight” reflex (or Flight or Fight “Instinct” or “Response”).

In the upcoming series, we will explore the many aspects of fear in a question-and-answer format and how to train to overcome it.

To learn more about our martial arts training in Chesapeake, call 757-558-9869 or contact us.

Learning Leadership

I think team sports are great, but are they teaching leadership? Because there is no cultural emphasis on or education on leadership, some aspiring leaders in these sports lack foundation in their own character development. What is the use of seeking to be the best team without the means to become better people?

Have you ever seen a bad loser before? What about a bad winner? In our martial arts program, not only do we teach the principles of being the best person you can be, but we also teach leadership education.

When you recommend our program to others and they say, “Johnny is in baseball,” or “Susie is in volleyball,” ask them, “What kind of leadership training are they getting?” How are they being the best person they can be by playing these sports?

Most coaches of team sports focus on developing the particular skills needed for the team to win. You need an education that not only teaches you a skill but also teaches you to be someone who achieves greatness with honor and humility, who naturally earns the respect of those whom he/she serves and leads. That’s what we do. In fact, THAT’S ALL WE DO!

If you are interested in getting yourself or your child involved in a sport that builds leadership skills, give us a call at 757-558-9869 or contact us. We have martial arts classes for all ages and abilities in Chesapeake.

Telling the Truth

On my first ship, USS FORRESTAL (CV-59), I worked in Weapons Department. Being a Seaman Recruit, your duty watch is less than glamorous. For a year I got to climb down vertical ladders and check the security of the Weapons Magazines (places where we keep the ordnance). This is very important because if somebody did gain access they could do some serious damage to the ship if not sink it. You would complete your rounds and then report back to Aviation Ordnance Control Station (AOCS) to report your findings. “All Secure” was the response 99.9% of the time.

One time the AOCS First Class sent a guy down to one of the magazines to put a note on it that just said, “Roving Security – Bring this note back to AOCS.” I wasn’t on watch when this happened but working for the Gun Boss, I heard about it the next day. The sailor came back and reported “All Secure.” When asked if he was sure that he checked all the magazines, the sailor said, “Of course Petty Officer Ratliff.” At that time the AO1 took the sailor to the access trunk and they both climbed down two decks (see the picture) and looked at the note posted on the WTD (water tight door). Needless to say that sailor was in BIG trouble.

USS Forrestal Navy Ship

If this sailor had the COURAGE to tell the truth, he probably wouldn’t have gotten into so much trouble. He learned a valuable lesson that day….and so did I. Sometimes life throws you these circumstances to see if you will use your INTEGRITY to tell the truth. This says a lot about your character and HONOR, which is doing the right thing all the time, even when no one is watching.

I sometimes do this while in class. I know that someone is talking and then I ask the question, “Jeremy, were you talking?” and wait for the response. If they say, “Yes, sir,” then I just ask them to be quiet or have them do five pushups. If they say, “No, sir.” Of course I have to ask again and if the response is the same then I make an example out of them by calling them out.

It is a little embarrassing for the student to be caught in a lie in front of their fellow students, but it serves as a warning to have COURAGE and tell the truth, even when you know you might get in trouble. This student is less likely to lie to me in the future, and he has shown other students what not to do. Wise is the man who learns from his mistakes. Wisest is the man who learns from other’s mistakes.

At Virginia TaeKwonDo, we try to teach more than just martial arts. We also want to teach children (and adults) to be truthful people, full of integrity and honor. If you are interested in the classes we offer, please give us a call at 757-558-9869 or contact us.

You Pay One Way or Another

When we were younger, doing grown up things looked so much better than the things we were doing. Grown-ups slept when they wanted, ate what they wanted and bought what they wanted. Who wouldn’t want that, right? Life was rough because we had a bed time (which was too early), we had to eat all of our food (which was gross because it wasn’t candy), and we only could buy what we could afford with our allowance (which came in the form of coins and cash instead of those awesome plastic cards adults had).

What we didn’t know was that parents paid for all those lessons with either skin, blood, time and/or money.

Sometimes doing what we want when we want could cost us more than we bargained. Deciding to go hiking on a trail we’ve never been on before might cost us. We might end up skinning our knee and losing a little blood thinking it might save some time when in fact it actually didn’t.

So what did we learn? Sometimes blazing a new trail may lead to set backs. Does that mean we don’t take risks in the future? No, but it means more time might be spent on calculating the risks before acting. That’s a life lesson.

Parent LeadersEveryone has problems and we need to keep that in mind when it feels like our world comes crashing to a fiery end. We all have some sort of issue going on that we need to power through in order to become a stronger person. Whether it be that one heartbreak we all have gone through or that credit card company we say yes to, these problems are in our lives to make us stronger people. Personal, professional, mental and physical problems teach us just how strong we can be.

Our lives as an adult will consist of countless decisions we have to make and some of them (the majority of them) will have consequences. Choosing to go out with some friends to Happy Hour might leave us suffering a hangover the next morning. Buying an expensive item means that there won’t be any room in the budget at the end of the month. Overextending our credit will only lead to financial burden and lead to more loss of money and time worrying about it. Sometimes we think it was easier to make decisions when our parents just gave us two choices.

We all have that one friend that our parents warned us about or didn’t like and for good reason. We all have been let down or disappointed in someone we thought was a good friend. Unfortunately, it is possible that you will be left behind for something bigger or better. This is just how people are sometimes and these disappointments will always happen no matter how much you try to avoid them.

On the bright side, our adult friendships may be stronger than ever once we have experience picking out good friends and detecting warning signs before we get hurt. This way we won’t feel that we wasted our time with someone who seemed not to care.

When we were younger, our parents seemed like the bad guys. They gave us curfews, they made us get jobs and they got upset every time our grades dropped. Part of growing up is realizing that parents are actually looking out for us and only want what is best for us.

In class the other night I asked how many student’s parents said they hope they have kids that grow up to be just like them. Over half of the class raised their hands. In order to be a good leader, you have to be a good follower, and right now our parents are the leaders. Hopefully, you are one of the lucky ones that is able to establish a solid relationship with your parents and keep it through your adult life.

At Virginia TaeKwonDo, we try to teach more than just martial arts. We also want to teach children (and adults) how to be better people. If you are interested in the classes we offer, please give us a call at 757-558-9869 or contact us.