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
My dojo hosts many seminars...
Yet I distinctly remember one of my first...
I showed up and as I joined the mat one of my fellow peers made the comment,
“Wow you look pretty today.”
I was slightly taken aback. It wasn’t a compliment I was use to receiving on the mat. When I asked him what brought that about, he said,
“You actually have makeup on.”
This threw me for an even bigger loop. Attractive was never an adjective I thought to describe myself as on the mat. During training I would use adjective such as confident, strong, athletic, and maybe even badass…
It was a few months later, I was told by a potential sponsor who wanted me to test their gear out, said that they were withdrawing their offer because my photos on my social media were...
not “hot” enough.
Photo credit: BJJEE at bjjee.com
I was blindsided, confused and I’ll admit it a little hurt.
I had originally thought I was suppose to test the Gi’s and promote them in a business like manner. The truth of the matter was this company didn’t want me promoting their merchandize with my talent and reputation. They wanted me to promote them with one of the oldest marketing tactics, based on the philosophy that sex sells.
Regardless of this marketing scheme that has been around for hundreds, if not thousands of years; our society has become more progressive, reforming their ideology on feminine beauty to include qualities such as confidence, strength and athleticism. With this psyche, it’s natural that female martial artists could become sensuous and even provocative. But at what point of time do we cross the line and focus not on a martial artists capabilities but rather their appearance?
At what point of time do we as a society begin to sexualize martial artists?
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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