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
For the last few months I have had the privilege of meeting many different students that study Kung Fu.
In all of my encounters I had discussed our similar passion and excitement for Martial Arts and how it had been affecting our lives for the better but I have to confess I knew next to nothing about Kung Fu. I had read various articles on Kung Fu that had me at times scratching my head. I couldn’t separate fact from fiction.
At a Martial Arts History Museum fundraiser I had the opportunity to meet not a student but a Founder of a style of Kung Fu, Douglas Wong. After lightly discussing his martial arts resume with me, I concluded this man definitely knew Kung Fu. But it wouldn’t be until a few weeks later that I sat down with his wife Carrie Ogawa-Wong at Dragonfest and got my Kung Fu facts straight.
Carrie Wong (left) Kenpo Girl (Center) Douglas Wong (right)
Sifu Carrie Ogawa-Wong was just the informative woman to set me straight. She is not just a wife, mother and martial artist but is also a 2005 inductee of the Martial Arts History Museum Hall of Fame, an author and a martial arts competitor. In 1980 she was competing nationally and was ranked number 2 female competitor in hand and weapon katas by the Star Rating System. She made a return from retirement in 1991 at the Tat Mau Wong’s International Kung-Fu Championship in San Francisco.
She has studied...
Sifu Carrie teaches Children's Kung Fu, Adult Kung Fu, Tai Chi Chuan, and private classes.
Some of her students include Kevin Sorbo “Hercules, the Legendary Journey”,
Lucy Lawless “Xena: Warrior Princess”
and Ryan Gosling “Young Hercules”
Carrie training with Lucy Lawless
When I sat down to talk to Carrie, I told her I had been so confused on all the different styles of Kung Fu. Carrie laughed,
“The easiest way I explain it is with cars. Kung Fu is a car and each style is a model. The styles are all different but in the end they are all Kung Fu.”
Yes apparently all cats know Kung Fu.
I confessed to her I didn’t know much about Kung Fu and what I probably did know was misconceptions. I was familiar with the fact that Kung Fu is not a belt system. I asked if societies fascination with belt systems had affected them?
Carrie explained, “When we weren’t doing regular testing none of the students ever asked about it but if you are an instructor that focuses on it then that’s what they (students) will focus on. The American society has a need for promotion, a need to show their progress.
“We had our curriculum situated were we were able to incorporate sashes very easily. I’ve found it helps the kids but... I tell my students I can take away a sash but not what you learn. What you learn becomes you and it can’t be taken away.”
There are so many different systems in Martial Arts, I asked what Kung Fu provided her that no other system did?...
She clarified, “With our style we try to stress the spiritual and physical training. I took karate first and when I took karate no one talked about breathing or inner energy. No one trained your chi.”
This was something I had read about, that Kung Fu focused on a spiritual energy. The definition of chi in Chinese refers to “air” or “breathing”. These are two different things but both are essential for a martial artists to establish an “energy,” which we transfer into power.
I frowned, the image of Kung Fu and power in my mind were conflicting ideas....
Carrie was quick to disprove this misconception, “I try to convey that the softness associated with Kung Fu is a misconception. I was the only female in the fighting class of 20 men. We had other students from other Kung Fu schools wanting to fight, so they would come and fight with us—full contact.”
After further discussing the topic, I was reminded that 10x World Champion Kick Boxer, Don Wilson got his start in Kung Fu. Doug has trained previous champions such as William Henderson and Alonzo “Lumpy” Young.
We could go on and on about the misconceptions of Kung Fu.
Perhaps some of it comes from the publicity Kung Fu receives from Martial Arts Films. Perhaps some just want to judge a book by its cover? Either way Kung Fu is not the only system or style riddled with misconceptions and delusions.
It leaves us in a quandary on what to do and what to say when confronted with these misunderstandings?
We have dedicated large amounts of time in our lives to study and as Carrie stated, that knowledge becomes us over time. As that knowledge grows we in turn become the face and representative of that system we love so much. People are naturally going to be curious of our passion and the system we are studying. The first thing we can do is not get upset or continue to pass on false information.
Smile and remember you could be speaking to a future fellow scholar.
Jesalyn Mae Harper
Hello my name is Jesalyn. I'm a divorced single mom and a karate addict...