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

Front cover image of Fear is the Mind Killer: How to build a training culture that fosters strength and resilience

“Once a decade, or less often, a book comes along that changes the game. This is that book. In it, Sadowski lays out the theory and practice of creating training environments that nurture student growth by building an emotionally safe environment for practising physically dangerous things, and a physically safe environment for practising emotionally dangerous things. How to push them, how to let them fail usefully, and how to make sure that every student gets the support they need to handle the stresses of effective training.  Drawing on her experience of running a martial arts school, and helping train police officers, she lays out the foundations for truly effective practice: how to put your students under realistic levels of combat stress without breaking them, and without the instructor turning into a caricature of a drill sergeant. It is perhaps the most important martial arts book of the 21st century so far. If there is one book I wish I’d read before founding my school, it’s Sadowski’s Fear is the Mind Killer. There is no better resource for creating effective and ethical training environments.”

— Guy Windsor, Consulting Swordsman

“We are at the beginning of a renaissance in self-defense and martial arts training. The focus is shifting, and must shift, away from egotistical instructors and received wisdom or dogma. Teaching is about the student, and all of us instructors have to focus on that simple fact. We need to learn how to reach each individual student, regardless of how much or how little they resemble us. We need to help them find and refine the tools that they need for their problems. We need to be facilitators in growing each student’s strength, understanding and resilience. Kaja Sadowski’s Fear is the Mind Killer is the best manual available on how to do that,  In particular on creating an environment where the people who most need the skills (and are least likely to seek out instruction) can feel comfortable enough to grow into their natural strength.”

— Rory Miller, Chiron Training


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 under-served 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 chapters on:

  • Sport science, coaching theory, and the importance of allowing students to fail and of using chaos, challenge, and play as drivers of growth
  • Policies and high-level structures that reduce the personal cost of failure for students and allow you to get on with the job of teaching
  • Classroom tools that build the trust necessary for students to lean into failure; allow flexibility, variation, and fun without sacrificing control of the group; and cultivate the self-reliance and internal regulation students need to get the most out of their training
  •  Stress testing and stress inoculation tools that put the right kind of pressure on students, and allow them to experience intense situations that build their confidence in their own skills without unreasonable risk
  • Addressing the social pressures and myths that stack training environments against women
  • Accommodating and challenging students with a history of violence and psychological trauma without causing harm
  • Sample exercises and recommended readings to give you more concrete tools for expanding your teaching practice

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


Order now!

Print and e-book editions are available from the following retailers:

You can also ask your local bookstore or library to bring in a copy. Fear is the Mind Killer is available internationally via my distributor, IngramSpark. To order larger quantities for your school or organization, or to buy a copy directly from me, please contact me.


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