Understanding and Defining Fear

Written by: Cristiano Del Giacco

Early in December of 2012 I entered a private eye surgery clinic and underwent a procedure to correct a detachment of the retina in my left eye. This had been my eighth operation in a little over ten years. During my down time and recovery I had a lot to think about, as now this was pretty much all I could do. My regular day to day busy schedule of work, teaching, training, studying and writing had come to a halt. The following series of articles will be based on my thoughts and contain paraphrases of the conversations I had with myself during this time. And no I do not think am not crazy for talking to my self…


Fear is a primitive emotional phenomenon that, for centuries, has played a pivotal role in the pursuit of survival. Often perceived as a form of weakness by those in many societies, the feeling of fear actually has a significant purpose in our lives and must be recognised for it’s actual need in order to define it, recognise it and effectively utilise it. Now, I am no psychologist, psychiatrist or other individual possessing a doctorate or extensive knowledge of the human psyche. But I am one of the many people that finds subjects of this matter intriguing, constantly questioning and pondering the reasons behind my own physical actions and motivations in regards to decision-making.

During my down time recovering from surgery I spent many an hour watching footage of Jiu Jitsu fights online. Not only did I view fights from world class black belts, I also watched many from the lower belt categories. The confidence in the movements and techniques executed buy black belts, down through to the white belts greatly differed. Now this can be attributed to many factors including experience and skill level. But another factor, in my opinion, could attribute to this gap in confidence. The factor of fear. Now, I know this may lead you to think that when I mention fear I am referring to the fear associated with competition, the possibility of injury and intimidation. But, the fear I speak of is the fear of failure, not just failure to win, but fear of failure on a micro level. Let me explain. I remember watching a couple of white belts roll with each other in the gym. At one point one of the individuals found himself with the other in his guard. He was setting up a basic sweep, which I had seen him execute very well in the past. He attempted the sweep and everything was going right. His training partner had also experienced this sweep in the past and offered resistance towards it. Now, as much as he fought against the sweep he would eventually succumb and land on his back. However, the small amount of resistance presented at this time caused a moment of doubt in the mind of the guard player. I could see it in his face. He had put so much faith into the effectiveness of his sweep that when it did not work instantly he found fear on the micro level. He could have pushed through with the sweep, as the resistance though evident, was not as strong as he had perceived. Instead, he panicked. Rather than take the risk and continue with the sweep he opted to close his guard, allowing his partner to regain and solidify his base. He may have felt safe holding his guard locked but he had lost the opportunity to progress the position, he had lost the element of surprise and he had lost mentally. Not only did fear of failure force him to back out of a sure thing, it forced him to panic further. Not only did he not hit the sweep, in an effort to go to plan B, he totally released his grips and fumbled to gain alternate grips. This moment of panic was the perfect time for his partner to initiate his game and capitalise on his fear.

Fear does not always have to be the shaking of knees, cowering in the corner image of weakness so dominant in the defining minds of those within society. It is a far deeper and complex emotional element that can also be used to drive and motivate us. Fear, as mentioned earlier, is a form essential in our subconscious to our survival. Fear, along with causing panic, will cause you to initiate in a match. Fear will help you to drive forward and be the dominant rather than the submissive. I believe it is all about perspective; it is all about self-emotional and mental exploration. Take the time to visualise a match. Visualise every situation possible. When you arrive at one that ignites the feelings of butterflies in the stomach begin self-analysis. Be honest, what is it causing this feeling of fear. What is the foundation of the fear. If you are honest with yourself you will find it easier to deal with this emotion. Do not be the tough guy, do not ignore it. The more you acknowledge it the more you will be able to resolve it, understand the need for it. Your mind and body are causing you to feel fear for a reason.

The reason for fear these days, in our society anyway, rarely revolves around those that our primitive ancestors experienced. Now it all comes down to what is relevant to us, what is our perspective on what warrants fear. We may not have the problems associated with literal survival as our ancestors did, but our mind still has the same toolbox of emotions. The feeling of fear is not just thrown at us for the heck of it. In my opinion, there is always a cause for it. Know what it is, accommodate or overcome it. Do not let your ignorance of fear hold you back in life. All bold maneuvers, discoveries and conquests in life happened after fear, not without it.

Written by: Cristiano Del Giacco

Original photo by: Benicio Murray 

About The Author

Cristiano Del Giacco
Co-Founder & Lead Editor

Co-Founder of howweroll.com.au. BJJ enthusiast based on the Gold Coast and collector of Kimonos, travelling the world training with some of the worlds best.

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