“If you don’t like something, change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” – Mary Engelbreit
I discovered an amazing video on YouTube you just have to see. It shows an animal behavior expert named Kevin Richardson roughhousing and rolling around with full-grown, adult male lions. This man possesses a special gift when it comes to interacting with dangerous animals.
Confronting the Predators–As the lions saunter through the African bush, Kevin walks right up to them and begins to pet them. No hesitation, no cautious approach. The huge lions circle around and rub up against him like giant housecats. And make no mistake: these are wild lions. Massive and powerful, these predators become as gentle as lambs in Kevin’s arms.
Kevin knows lions. Dubbed the “Lion Whisperer”, he runs a sanctuary for big cats in South Africa. He takes in injured cats, nurses them back to health and rehabilitates them. Animal experts the world over were amazed when a young lioness was filmed with Kevin jumping in a lake and swimming around! (How many cats do you know that like water?)
A Special Magic–Of all the feats Kevin has demonstrated with lions, possibly the most astounding involved a young lioness named “Pelokghale” who recently gave birth to cubs. Of course, a lioness’ mothering instincts are among the strongest in the animal kingdom. They rarely allow other members of their own pride around their newborns, much less a human. When Kevin announced he was going to approach Pelokghale and her cubs just days after she gave birth, people were shocked. The risk of serious injury was very high. But to everyone’s surprise, not only did the lioness accept him; she even seemed to enjoy his company.
Everyone was even more shocked when the lioness actually nudged one of her newborn cubs over to Kevin, offering it to him! Never before has this behavior been witnessed. Yes, Kevin has an extraordinary ability to win over deadly predators and earn their respect. How does he do this? The answer is simple:
His Attitude! “Kevin’s confident attitude is key to his relationship with these predators”, the narrator of the video says. “His projected self-assurance and calmness somehow allow him to enter into their world”. Of course, Kevin has spent years working on his attitude and developing this confidence. (Don’t try this at home.)
But this isn’t the only story I’ve heard about attitude winning over predators. About ten years ago, a movie called the Ghost and the Darkness was released. It told the story about man-eating lions who stalked workers building a railroad line through the Tsavo region of Africa. One of the main lion trainers on the set was a tiny French woman (about 5 feet tall) who commanded the lions with ease. In the words of one of the cameramen, “She was incredible. You would have thought she was ten feet tall when she worked with those lions. She had the big males eating out of the palm of her hand; she was in total control.” Her secret? According to the cameraman, it was all in her attitude and the way she carried herself. She walked into the cage with no fear.
Animals Sense Fear–Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer, warns his clients that the way they carry themselves is picked up by their animals. When an owner consults Milan to help with a problem dog, Cesar discovers that in almost all cases, it’s the owners who “signal” their dogs to behave badly. At the root is usually a lack of confidence, indecision and meekness. These signals are viewed by animals as weakness. And when you are seen as weak, an animal tries to dominate you.
In some cases, an owner’s timidity is caused by their hidden fear of dogs. To overcome this, Milan has a simple exercise: He takes his client into the middle of a huge pack of dogs – which include intimidating pit bulls, German Shepards and Rottweilers. When he senses his client’s fear, he tells them to keep their posture erect and “act like you’re the most popular person in high school walking down the hall”.
Instant Results–After the owner adopts this posture at home, they witness an almost instant transformation in their dog’s behavior. Dogs that were unruly before step right in line. Dogs that would hog the couch, now give it up without a fight. Dogs that guarded food, snapped or growled become calm and submissive. But there’s no magic here. It’s all a result of the attitude the owner projects and the way they carry themselves. The right attitude can work wonders.
Milan points out that you have to be the leader. Only then will your dog become calm and submissive. He says, “The most important thing we provide every day is that we are the pack leader, that we set the rules, the boundaries and the limitations, and then we love. Most people get a dog because they need somebody to love. So they are going after what they need, not what the dog needs. And that, to me, creates instability immediately, and the dog sees the human as a soft energy. They don’t follow the lovable leader; they follow a dominant one.”
Can This Work for You? If a confident, self-assured attitude works with some of the most deadly predators on the planet – as well as our four-legged friends – can it work for you? Can you use the same secrets on the street, at the office, at school, in tournaments or in competition? Of course. Having a self-confident attitude helps you in relationships, in the workplace, at school as well as on the street in self-defense situations. Developing a calm, confident attitude is one of the life skills we teach at Karate for Kids. But the best results are achieved indirectly: The more martial arts skills and techniques you have under your belt, the more confident you feel. The more confident you feel, the more calm and self-assured you’ll be around other people. It’s simple.
Unstoppable Self-Confidence! Look at higher ranks who have trained at our academy for many years: Do you notice how calm they are? Do you notice their self-assured manner? They seem to have an attitude of “I can handle it” or “Don’t even think of messing with me”, don’t they? See, it’s not just the physical techniques we teach that help protect you. The more you grow at Karate for Kids, the more you’ll realize it’s the life skills and mental conditioning that pay the biggest dividends over time. One martial arts instructor put it this way: “As you age, your physical skills can diminish. But as long as you keep training, your mental conditioning, state of mind and confidence keeps getting stronger”. That’s one of the secrets of our program here at Karate for Kids that many people don’t grasp until they’ve trained for a long time.
Avoid Becoming a Target–You often hear us say “Don’t be an easy target.” What does this mean in practice? Well, one of the best ways to avoid becoming a target is by being alert, staying aware of your surroundings and walking with confidence. In other words, attitude. That’s because like all predators, human attackers are opportunity seekers: they look for the easy strike or the weak one in the pack. See, a potential attacker makes a split-second mental decision when he sizes you up: “Should I choose this person to attack? Does this person look like they might fight back? How do they carry themselves? Could I get injured? Is the risk worth the reward?”
One of the big secrets to avoiding being a target is by carrying yourself in such a way that an attacker would rather move on to somebody else rather than confront you. This does NOT mean flexing your muscles, showing off your skills or being threatening. It means calmly walking with confidence and letting them know you’re aware of them. The more confident you look, the greater the risk to your attacker, and therefore, not worth their time or effort.
What Works in Nature, Works in Our World, Too. This is how a confident attitude can pre-empt attacks. Bullies sense fear in the same way animals like dogs and lions sense fear. It’s often said that the best martial artists never have to use their skills. One master said, “It’s always my students that get to use their techniques – never me”. Do you know why that is? The answer is simple: masters project an aura of confidence that says, “I can take care of myself. Move on to someone weaker.”
Just like it took years for Kevin Richardson to develop the attitude to charm lions, it takes time to develop your attitude and street-savvy, too. Just keep training, attend every class you can and keep building your skills. And before long, you’ll have the self-confidence of the Lion Whisperer!
–Senior Master William J. Babin