There are a million reasons why people join Martial arts. The rationalization usually following the line of being bullied at school, rape statistics or they possibly have already been harmed. While these are perfectly good reasons to learn Martial Arts, as instructors we have to look at the deeper underlying cause.
Fear is such a powerful motivator that for centuries we have manipulated it and used it for psychological marketing schemes.
This is referred to as Fear Appeal.
Fear Appeal describes a strategy in which one incites a fear to motivate people into purchasing products or supporting policies.
A women's gun training campaign ad demonstrating Fear Appeal.
Some of these fears, such as a violent attack are justifiable. According to the FBI, the overall violent crimes committed in 2016 rose at 4.1%. There were an estimated 17,250 murders committed, rising 8.6% from 2015. These statistics are enough to make anyone think twice before walking down any alley.
Some Dojos play on the fear of becoming one of those statistics. Making potential students not only believe that they will be attacked but are also incapable of defending themselves. This trend has become particularly popular with targeting women to the point that almost anywhere you go you will find some kind of “self-defense” seminar.
The truth of the matter is anyone is capable of defending themselves with the proper knowledge and application.
While Dojo’s might be trying to better their enrollment with this tactic; they could be actually sabotaging their own efforts. While fear can be an excellent motivator, it can also be a double edged sword and can become a deterrent.
There is a fine line where fear appeal morphs into the Fear Factor.
No not that Fear Factor...
Where Fear Appeal is based on motivating;
Fear factor is when a person’s state of mind prevents them from action. The fear of the unknown in a Dojo could cripple a potential student from ever crossing the Dojo threshold. We have all heard the countless stories of students who passed the Dojo countless times wanting to sign up, but never having the courage to actually enter and sign up.
If a student can curb their anxiety and sign up, they may still grapple with it.
Any little trigger could cause their acute stress response, also known as the fight or flight response. In other words, a student under too much duress can become literally
“deer in the headlights.”
A student motivated by fear appeal is more likely to channel their fight response in a high stress situation and possibly lash out. Where as a student grappling with the fear factor more than likely will channel their flight reflex in a distressing situation, causing the student to quit.
As instructors, it’s not our position to motivate students or manipulate them.
As instructors, it’s not our position to motivate students or manipulate them. However, with proper training and guidance, students can learn to recognize that they are slipping into that state of mind and how to control it. It requires instructors to not only recognize a student’s physical abilities but also their mental and emotional capabilities.
As Instructors, do we not contemplate our own physical, mental and emotional capabilities?
We all come up with theories of how we would respond in the event that someone attacked us, because we as human always contemplate the “what if”.
Every Martial Artist has theoretical moments of what their response would be in a high stress situation such as a physical attack. Will all of our training allow our muscle memory to kick in and defend us? Or would our adrenaline kick in and override our clear conscious thinking? Would our acute response kick in and which would it be? Fight or Flight?
The purpose of Martial Arts is not to rely on your acute stress response in a confrontation, but rather to suppress it and react with a clear mind.
In a confrontation, you can learn thousands of systems, methods and techniques to defend yourself, but it won’t mean anything if you panic.
Knowledge is powerful, but it is not dangerous until it is applied.
We need both the mind and the body to be the warrior. As Martial Artist, always remember our goal is not to be stuck in the fear factor but to transcend into the
When I first got back on the mat after taking a long sabbatical I was powering through not only learning new material but re-learning old material.
I was taking privates and attending group classes to play catch up. I began to not only climb the ranks but also began teaching and running classes for my Sifu. It was riveting and exciting to chart my growth in almost every aspect of my life and it was all because of Martial Arts.
I received my blue belt...
I fought through my green belt...
I trudged through my 3rd brown only to breeze through my 2nd brown…
And then it hit me.
It hit me hard.
At some point in the study of my 1st brown and when I was so close to achieving black belt, the number one killer of Martial Arts careers hit me.
The Plateau Effect
Many of us have heard people use the phrase “you’ve hit a plateau.” This correlates to the Plateau effect. The Urban Dictionary describes the phrase as a reaching point where gradual progress is no longer possible and stagnation is likely, where advancement can only be achieved by a sudden, difficult and possibly risky leap up to the next level.
I found myself in a situation where when judging my own progress, there seemed to be little or none. Worse of all was this feeling of deficiency and even inadequacy. It was beginning to consume not only my training by my attitude of the dojo.
I began to dread going to the dojo whether it was to train or run class. Fearing the idea of having to talk to anyone because I just couldn’t muster the previous enthusiasm I once had. My dojo was once considered a home and it was now nothing more than work.
Terrifyingly enough there are many students as well as instructors that can suffer from the Plateau Effect.
I immediately contacted my friend Andrea Harkins. Mrs. Harkins is a 2nd Degree Black in Tang Soo Do, a 2nd Degree Black in Taekwondo and an active Tai Chi Student. Apart from her impressive Martial Arts resume, she is also a fellow writer and motivational speaker.
Mrs. Andrea Harkins a.k.a The Martial Arts Woman
Mrs. Harkins explained how her Martial arts and speaking work together,
“I use martial arts as the basis for all of my motivational talks, as well as what I share on Facebook and social media. I found that most people have an interest in martial arts and that even non-martial artists enjoy hearing how the martial art mindset works in real life.”
Andrea is so inspiring that she recently had a book published titled “The Martial Arts Woman”.
The book features over 25 female martial artists and their stories of overcoming obstacles in Martial arts.
“My overall mission has always been to make the world a better place through both positivity and martial arts. It is an empowering blend that you do not normally see.”
Andrea believes every student will reach a plateau at some time or another but there is never really a precise time it will strike and what can cause a plateau may vary amongst students and instructors. One day, you show up to class and think...
“I don’t want to be here.”
“A plateau often happens in a belted system somewhere between the middle colored belts and black belt. The training gets more difficult. The student either does or does not want to put forth the effort. The plateau is created because they do not have the time, energy, or desire to push through.”
Whatever the cause or time frame the side effects are the same.
-Stop coming to class
-Do not give 100% effort in class
-Don’t ask questions or seem concerned
-Issues in personal life
-A change in demeanor
-Seeking training elsewhere
Each student is an individual and can have different reactions to hitting a plateau. My Sifu constantly reminds us,
“that each person’s head is a different world.”
Mrs. Harkins with a few of her students.
Jesalyn Mae Harper
Hello my name is Jesalyn. I'm a divorced single mom and a karate addict...
I am currently a 1st Brown belt in American Kenpo and a Junior Instructor at Double Dragon Kenpo Karate under JR Diaz, I am part of the Parker/Planas Lineage and study Karbaroan Eskrima with JR Diaz, under Guro Ed Planas
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