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In The Eye Of The Storm

By Tom Fredrick

Many of us senior students spent a few hours with Sensei last night. We, his senior students of 20 yrs+ stature, had our customary "open class"...alright! Sensei allows us to do anything we want, while he moves around to us either individually or in pairs (if doing drills). This is definitely "closed door", always fun and is only reserved for us "old timers".

About an hour into our training, Sensei clapped loudly, stopping everything. He announced that we would be, having a "sit down" in the middle of the dojo, and then given a "Q & A" period. Of course, for anyone who has read my material, this is where the rubber meets the road.

Truths are discovered and myths uncovered....via live scenarios and acting out imaginary situations. We started discussing some of our real life encounters that ended in violent solutions. Someone asked Sensei, "how come I can remember every second of every fight or confrontation that I have ever been in, and in minute detail? How come when you're embroiled in a self defense situation, or 'a fight', that everything seems to be moving in 'slow motion' even though it's a lightning fast event, rarely lasting more than a few seconds"? Others reported the same experience.

Sensei shared with us that after many years of training, our brain's "fight or flight" response becomes altered, inexplicably, and we no longer feel the overwhelming adrenaline rush, and subsequent events retain their clarity as seamlessly as recalling a great play at a sports event or the minute details of a movie we watched. We become relaxed and revert to our trained responses and don't fall prey to mindless activity, as "untrained" people do, when in the throes of an adrenaline rush brought on by a dangerous situation. Like the bar-room fight we've all seen - two guys go at it, flailing madly at their opponent. In the end, no one is really hurt, and it generally ends up in a few minor scratches and "post fight" threats and screaming.

"I have always taught you to be relaxed, to breath properly and naturally, and you all have formidable martial arts skills. How many of you panic or get queasy at the thought of fighting with our young students? No one right? It's as I've always told you, confidence and ability permeate a good martial artist's aura and are projected to the opponent quickly, defeating him on the mental plane first, and on the physical plane (or, in reality) second, as he can't be beaten by untrained, everyday people who start trouble out in the street" (our definition of anywhere but the dojo).

"I've told you all, time and again, that we don't do martial arts to 'beat people up', but to challenge, and master, ourselves! You are judging your skills using other martial artists as your measuring sticks and that isn't realistic. You only fight with other black belts so you begin to compare your skill level to theirs. Karate has never been taught to be offensive or brutal, but as it is said: 'karate begins and ends with courtesy'. We have trained to master our minds and physical bodies, for personal growth through our practice of martial arts, not to bully or intentionally cause harm to others. The by-product of this training is superior fighting ability. I've told you many times that we practice to defend ourselves from people in the streets, not against other black belts and trained fighters, who are also taught 'not to give offense'.

So then, it's just as easy as fighting with one of our new or junior students. There is no fear, no urgency to cause harm, and no worries about the outcome. Just as in the fights you have described in the street, night club, work, or anywhere. They act, and you react, w/o fear or apprehension. You are in that place called 'the eye' of the storm, where everything around you is a swirling mixture of violent activity, but you are the calm center of the storm, doing what you love to do best, on 'auto-pilot'. It's really no different mentally, than watching the fight from the comfort of your living room sofa. You are in the 'eye of the hurricane'."

A great karate teacher once said in an interview: "I have led thousands on the path up the mountain, when we finally reached the well, we stopped to quench our thirst, some drank deeply, some stood there and looked at it, but did not drink, and many never even knew the well existed at all".

About The Author
Tom Fredrick is an accomplished martial arts practitioner with over 30 yrs. of active training and teaching Okinawan Karate, Yang Tai Chi Chuan, and Escrima. He served in the USMC, and has also worked in law enforcement, undercover airport security, and as a personal bodyguard. He is a partner in Full Circle Martial Arts and Safety Enforcement


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