After taking Aitoshi’s Ninja Secrets class on ground fighting last Monday night, I had a profound epiphany: panic is a choice. It might not seem like a choice right away (i.e., if you’re startled by a spider crawling on your desk or, say, snuck up upon by an invisible ninja, then the element of surprise likely seems out of your control). However, once that initial adrenalized state of surprise passes—which is basically when your brain realizes cognitively what’s going on—then your maintenance of that panic energy is actually a choice. This may seem like a pretty controversial statement considering any standard definition of the word. Panic is described as an overwhelming sense of fear, anxiety, frantic agitation, fight-or-flight reaction, etc. Seems pretty uncontrollable, right? Like you wouldn’t have a choice because this is your body’s natural reaction, right?
When you breathe, you have control. When you assess what’s happening and remember you have options, you have control. Most importantly, when you remember panic can’t control you, you have a choice.
For instance, in the ground fighting class, Aitoshi taught us all about four-quadrant breathing. For those of you who weren’t fortunate enough to be there, this basically means you can breathe from your chest, your belly, the sides/back of your ribcage, even your shoulder blades. What this essentially equates to in a fight is that no matter where the attacker is trying to hold you down—whether a side mount where they’re crushing your ribs, or if they’re putting their full weight on your belly trying to pin your hands down, or whether they’re attempting to pin down your chest—there is ALWAYS a way to find oxygen. You just have to find the spot in your body where the attacker is not putting pressure. You can breathe into that spot. And when you breathe, you take control. When you take control, you are no longer being controlled by someone else. And when you choose to put your energy into a place of options, you choose to conquer panic.