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Fear is the Mind Killer: How to Build a Training Culture that Fosters Strength and Resilience

Fear is the Mind Killer: How to Build a Training Culture that Fosters Strength and Resilience

by Kaja Sadowski


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How do we cultivate inner strength?

Martial arts and self-defence are about so much more than physical skills. Learning to fight is a catalyst for growth. It makes our students stronger, more confident, and more resilient — at least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. Too often, the students who need that strength the most struggle to find it.

Learn how to build a training environment that helps all of your students grow. Help them face their fears, grapple with failure, test themselves, and come out far more capable than before.

Fear is the Mind Killer covers the fundamentals of designing a healthy training culture, from policy-writing and classroom strategies, to building drills and stress testing. You’ll get a primer on the science of motor learning and motivation, and learn how to work more effectively with underserved populations, including women and survivors of violence.

This system-agnostic guide gives you the tools you need to assess your existing school environment and make sure that it's serving the needs of all of your students, or to build a new school that is accessible, ethical, and effective. It will help you ask the right questions and find the answers that make the most sense for you and your community, and includes sample drills and planning exercises to get you started.

You know what your students need. Here’s how to get it to them.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781999066307
Publisher: Kaja Sadowski
Publication date: 05/20/2019
Pages: 268
Sales rank: 558,208
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.56(d)

About the Author

Kaja Sadowski has been a physical instructor since 2004. She taught figure skating, rock climbing, and mountaineering before coming to martial arts in 2010. She joined the coaching team at Valkyrie Western Martial Arts Assembly in 2012, and is the school's co-owner. She teaches group and private lessons to students of all experience levels, and has traveled extensively to teach at events across Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Her primary weapon is the rapier, and she also teaches unarmed striking, grappling, knife combat, and self-defence. Kaja has been a civilian auxiliary with the Vancouver Police Department's Force Options Training Unit since 2015, participating in realistic tactical training scenarios and providing guest instruction to their Special Municipal Constable program.

She holds a Master of Arts in English Literature, and did the majority of her graduate work on medieval English and French chivalric romances. She has presented at a number of academic conferences, and has taught at the undergraduate level in literature, history, and medieval studies. She regularly leverages her academic training to serve her martial arts research.

Kaja lives in Vancouver, Canada. When she's not punching people in the face, she enjoys embroidery, board games, and powerlifting.

Table of Contents



Chapter 1. Failure: The Keystone of Learning

Motor Programs

Blocked, Random, and Variable Practice

Failure and Problem-Solving

Chapter 2. Policies: Reducing the Cost of Failure

Understanding Risk

Identifying Problems

Public-Facing Policy

Internal Policy

Chapter 3. Training Culture: Cultivating Self-Reliance


Good Partners


Opting In

Modelling Failure


Chapter 4. Stress Testing and Stress Inoculation





Chapter 5. Hitting Girls and Other Taboos

Hitting Girls

Force and Realism

When Equal Isn’t Equal

Chapter 6. Dealing with Psychological Trauma

What Is Trauma?

The Instructor’s Role


Fixing the Conversation


Appendix I: Sample Exercises

Getting Comfortable with Contact and Hitting

Reading a Partner’s Movement, Intention, and Mental State

Integrating Play and Problem Solving

Introducing Students to Stress Testing

Appendix II: Recommended Reading

Appendix III: Works Cited

About the Author

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