Dealing with Feelings

The Role of Emotions in the Martial Arts and in Life

How do you feel? I remember one of my professors at college was fond of giving himself a mood test every morning to discover how he felt. He would rate himself on a series of adjectives and score the test so that he could accurately judge his mood. As Martial Artists we need to know how we feel much more quickly and efficiently than this. Why is it so important for us to be “in touch” with our feelings? Well, for one thing, if your emotions are screaming scared and you can run away, that is probably the best thing for you to do. It is no good when you are sparring to try to convince yourself to attack when your feelings are pushing your body into retreat. So, now you’re “in touch” with your feelings, what can you do if you need to advance despite having fearful emotions that are inhibiting your actions. First you must exhale very strongly and repeatedly, allowing the breath to return naturally after each exhalation. This will have the effect of stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system and consequently slowing the heart rate and lowering the blood pressure, allowing you to feel more calm. Conversely, if you are all fired up about something, but realize that rushing in will likely hurt your chances of success, use the same breathing technique to calm yourself and allow the engagement to be appropriately timed, and with a suitable level of intensity. You must be “in touch” with your feelings, but your emotions must not be permitted to override your consciousness.

The major emotions that we must learn to control are Apathy, Grief, Fear, Lust, Anger and Pride. The other words we use to describe emotions can be seen as subcategories of these states. Sometimes we just want to win so badly, or have such a need to achieve a particular goal, that the “lust” for success overwhelms our abilities. Apathy and grief arise naturally when we suffer a major setback in our lives, or perhaps at the death of a pet or the passing of a loved one. While it is important to acknowledge how we feel we can use our breathing to rebalance these emotions and recover ourselves. Whether in a sparring match or on “the battlefield of life”, the sooner we can regain our composure, without denying our feelings, the quicker we will be able to go on with what needs to be done to cope with our situation and move on to new successes.

Higher levels of feeling, like inspiration, joy, love and bliss are states to which we can constantly aspire. Generally these only occur when we also feel a degree of safety and security and can turn our awareness to focus on the inhalation of our breath as well as the exhalation. Inspiration is another word for the process of breathing in.

© Robert H. Mason 2004

Grand Opening Success

The weather threatened to turn nasty but fortune smiled on the karate school and the day was bright and sunny in every way. Plantation City Councilman Jerry Fadgen, whose son Rusty was a student here for many years, cut the red ribbon to signal the official start of our Grand Opening Ceremony. Master guitarist Michael Bianco then played three songs in his inimitable style to entertain the crowd of parents, students and visitors. Mr. Fadgen gave a short speech on the significance of the twenty- four years of unique service this karate school has provided to the community. Sensei Mason followed with an introduction of special guests including Sensei Downey, Navarrete, Polsky, Voto, Vance, FungSang, Kendra Smith and Liotta who were all in attendance. Sensei DiRocco and DeGraaf also stopped by. A wonderfully executed demonstration rounded out the day. Thanks to the following participating students: Sensei Rodrigo Navarrete, David FungSang, Kendra Smith and Jeff Liotta. Sempai Lucas Barreto, Christopher Ramos, Joshua McCoy, Dustin Collins, Sean Harper, Max Becks, Paige Becks, Brian Collins, Max Hew, Shannon Harper and Kaison Gottleib, plus students Camille Hood, Garath Robinson, Lindsey Rosenthal, Victoria Hurst, Andy Hurst and kickboxer extraordinaire Corinna.

Simple Rules of Self Defense

If you are attacked fight back immediately and with ferocity. Do not go quietly with an abductor. Yell “Hands off” and “Fire” to get attention. If you see a suspicious person approaching you, thrust out your hand and yell “STOP, BACK OFF”. They can speak to you from that distance, but if they ask for the time, or some other question that could distract you, do not be distracted, stay focused on them and just say “I cannot answer that, please leave”. If they continue to approach you then you are being attacked and should run if possible, yell and defend yourself if necessary. Do not wait for them to strike you first. You are already under attack. If they are close enough and you cannot run you must strike and yell with all of the ferociousness of an attack dog. Even a large Pit Bull only weighs about seventy pounds and they cannot develop the dexterity of that we can. We just have to tap into the feral instincts that our ancestors possessed in order to bring our natural strength to bear on the situation. Through regular training you can increase your fighting skills, but you must also move through your everyday life with confidence, awareness, perception and observation skills, in the knowledge that you are fully competent to take care of yourself.

The news video of the thirteen year old Tampa girl being abducted by her murderer, without a fight or a shout, is surely warning enough that compliance with an attackers’ request has no place in self-defense. If you’ve ever seen a mother trying to cope with a three-year-old having a tantrum you can get a sense of the resistance that an older child with training could bring to bear against an attacker.

In addition to practical self-defense we also need to teach children to function independently on their own behalf. As part of our Junior Program we require the children to learn to conform to the Dojo protocols. Getting their class card themselves, removing their own shoes and changing clothes if necessary; putting their shoes on again prior to meeting their parent at the front door after class, all forms an important part of this training. The sense of being able to take care of themselves in this way can generalize to the sense of competence, self reliance and confidence essential for successful self defense. As parents we undermine that process when we interfere with it.

© Robert H. Mason 2004

On Being a Champion

by Matty T. J. Stepanek

A Champion is a winner. A hero…

Someone who never gives up even when the going gets rough.

A champion is a member of a winning team…

Someone who overcomes challenges

Even when it requires creative solutions.

A champion is an optimist, a hopeful spirit…

Someone who plays the game, even when the game is called life…

Especially when the game is called life.

There can be a champion in each of us, if we live as a winner,

If we live as a member of the team,

If we live with a hopeful spirit,

For Life.