I recently moved into a new apartment, and with that has come a host of new sights, sounds, and experiences.
If you live in one house long enough, you become accustomed to that place’s personality. Creeks, cracks, and groans become almost imperceptible parts of your daily life. However, when you move somewhere new, each sound is noteworthy to your consciousness. In a familiar home noises that are commonplace are easily distinguished from those that are abnormal. At a new place the differentiation is less defined.
Almost every individual has, at one time or another, heard an unusual noise that has set them on edge. Something sudden and concerning. During those stressful times there is initial surprise or dismay as the noise develops, followed by stillness, quiet, and listening, ultimately concluded by a decision (investigate/escape/act) or lack of decision (freeze/ignore).
I’d like to explore one method you can use to optimize your readiness to make a decision and perform to the best of your ability when that moment arrives.
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In my new laundry room there is a large access panel into the ceiling. When we first arrived the hatch was open so we knew it led up to the “attic” of the building. We also noticed that in order to maintain heat and security the hatch was quite thick (about 2-3 inches of hollow metal) and heavy.
Why it was open we didn’t know nor did we think much of it. We simply raised it back up until it latched shut. A few days later I was working alone in my office when I heard a deep thud from the laundry room and the rattling of springs. I felt the vibration of the action through the walls and knew immediately that something unusual had happened.
I thought about the hatch. I was worried about it’s connection to the rest of the building, it’s comfortable human size, and the fact that it had been opened before. I grabbed the nearest implement handy that I was proficient with (a metal pen) and peaked outside the office. Unfortunately, the laundry room door was shut.
I waited, completely quiet, to detect any follow-up rustling (continued activity would be a strong indication of something alive in the room).
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It was at this pivotal time that I used a technique that you can use as well in tense moments.
When suddenly stressed the body’s Amygdala begins to enter survival mode, and in doing so desires to lock the body into inaction. It’s primitive responses of fear, stillness, and hiding have preserved human life for thousands of years and has stuck with us ever since.
To counteract these effects, I do something very simple – I shift my weight to the balls of my feet. I also adopt a very slight raising and lowering of the body weight. Essentially a bounce, but slow and deliberate and almost imperceptible.
Shifting the weight to the balls of the feet sends a subconscious signal to the body that you are about to take action. The body relinquishes some of it’s physical lockdown. Not only that, but the emotional state begins to change from one of fear and “what-if” to one of readiness and action, be it fight or flight. The slight bouncing promotes a continuation of blood flow and energy flow.
As martial artists, we conduct a large amount of our training on the balls of our feet. As we move, slide, spar, and defend ourselves we often need that mobility. The physical connection of that ball-of-foot stance puts us back in touch with our training and helps reconnect to that mindset. Training is of no value if we are too busy getting lost in our own heads and allowing the primitive parts of our brain to lock us into inaction. “The lizard brain” can be both helpful and harmful, so we must also develop small habits which can best circumvent those reactions which are least valuable.
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I spent a moment worrying about all the ways a person could slide into the apartment with weapons, tools, and bad intentions. My muscles were tense. As soon as I shifted to the balls of my feet and utilized the slight bouncing I immediately returned to my training. I felt ready and collected and even thankful that I was the only resident in the apartment. I was also fortunate enough to have my metal pen right nearby. I knew where the intruder would be and he wouldn’t know where I was, which means he’d have to be faster than me inside of a 1-2 step radius. Even if he had a gun I like my odds at that range with the element of surprise.
I continued to wait and listen patiently until I was convinced that either no one was in the room…or that they had settled in and were folding laundry. I carefully investigated further and found nothing of consequence accept a faulty hatch door which had fallen open once again.
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I’m sure I didn’t respond perfectly, but that’s ok. I was able to overcome my body’s natural reflexes that hinder decision making and quick movement during times of need. Yes, lots of training was a big part of it. But the body has very subtle psychology and energy that can be manipulated.
Keep this technique in mind the next time you find yourself in a tense situation, be it home invasion or otherwise. It might just help during the inevitable creeping of an amygdala hijack.
I’ve done a few giveaways in the past on this site celebrating community, Facebook, etc. But I’ve never done anything quite like this. This giveaway is special in that it has nothing to do with me or Ikigai Way. It’s simply about you…or more accurately…a special martial artist in your life.
I’ve been working with the Karate Depot team to create the “Selfless Sensei” Charitable Giveaway. The prize: a $1000 gear shopping spree to the winner.
In my mind, every reputable martial arts instructor is doing his/her community a great service by providing quality instruction and guidance. But every so often a teacher goes above and beyond through acts of great charity and giving. It’s in this spirit that we celebrate the holiday season, and hopefully we can make one generous Sensei’s holiday a whole lot brighter.
Your job is to go to the contest page and nominate an individual who has brightened the lives of others and should be rewarded for their selflessness.
How Do You Enter?
Entry to the competition is easy. Simply click here to visit the contest page, then click “enter contest” below the main image to be taken to a simple form where you fill out the appropriate information. Include a short description of your nominee and in what way this individual has acted charitably or made an unusual difference. You can even submit a nominee anonymously if you find it to be more appropriate.
Who Is Eligible To Be Nominated?
As I said earlier, I think all teachers do a great service. But this contest is focused around acts of giving. Therefore instructors that have taught for free, helped disabled or underprivileged students, or rallied their community in some significant way are the desired candidates.
How Will a Winner Be Chosen?
Nominees will be openly accepted until December 15th. After that there will be a voting period where visitors can select their favorite story (Dec 15th-Dec22th). On the 24th the winner will be announced and the prize awarded.
Let’s make a difference in the life of someone who makes a difference!
I recently finished the book “The 47th Samurai“, by Stephen Hunter. One of the main driving forces of the book is a seemingly simple yet utterly misunderstood word: “Samurai”. Young men throughout the book cling to this idea of Samurai and are driven by it, distorted by it, and blinded by it.
For generations the notion of Samurai has shaped Japanese culture and now affects every culture around the world. The power of it has only increased as Anime and Chanbara films grow in influence. These days it is impossible to avoid Bushido, Ninja, and Samurai (and the slew of individuals claiming mastery over each).
Concepts like Bushido have been subject to centuries of nuance and development that are so subtle that practitioners spending a lifetime trying to grasp them still cannot truly put the entire philosophy into words. The greatest poets and writers have only been able to give us the essence of it.
Samurai, even during their glorious Sengoku Period, were complex creatures that were prone to as much obsession and compulsion as they were to honorable sacrifice and courage.
Modern day individuals cannot and should not be Ninja or Samurai and they should not strictly follow the code of Bushido. The reason why is because assassination and suicide are not parts of our modern culture. Nor are the rights of Kirisute Gomen, Seppuku, or Jo Uchi. Furthermore the right to kill peasants/criminals in order to test the sharpness of a blade, or to eliminate an enemy’s family through political intrigue, are seen as uncouth acts at best.
It is critical to remember that when invoking the name of Samurai or Bushido you invoke everything that comes with it, not just the parts that sound good in platitude.
Honor It Instead
Honor the Koryu arts by training in them diligently and absorbing the best of what they have to offer. Recognize the truth of the matter – that you are an individual who is bettering him/herself through ancient philosophy and applying those parts of it to your life that improve your health, happiness, and skill set. Embracing “the essence” of the art is a far more worthwhile goal than trying to join a long extinct class.
To train in the Koryu arts is to seek a better understanding of Budo. To study the way of Samurai/Bushido/Ninjutsu is to understand what it is and what it is not. If you say “I follow the way of the Samurai”, understand what you’re saying. It’s not just a couple of quotes about personal strength and courage.
Honor the old ways by avoiding fake titles, self embellishment, and delusion.