Positivity vs. Negativity – Battle of the Fittest

Martial Arts

Art takes many forms; as an author, I consider myself an artist. In my free time, I am also a ‘martial artist’. The term ‘martial arts’ is closely associated with the fighting arts of East Asia; the term is however derived from Latin and means ‘arts of Mars,’ the Roman god of war. I practice Muay Thai (also known as Kick Boxing); the word ‘muay’ comes from the Sanskrit word ‘wavya’ which means ‘bind together’ and the word ‘thai’ refers to the country Thailand. Its generic name means ‘unarmed combat,’ a true test in any battle of the fittest.

Positivity vs. Negativity - Battle of the Fittest
Muay Thia
Author Joanne Reed
Muay Thai in Namsan Park, Seoul

Martial arts have health and spiritual benefits; the spiritual benefits include teaching self-respect, respect for others, patience, humility, self-control and modesty, the health benefits derived from the conditioning that helps keep the body fit, strong and properly toned. To be effective, a good Muay Thai fighter must keep his physical and mental condition in balance, he must move with speed, but also show common sense and intelligence, he must train both his mind and his body with dedication, concentration, and discipline. Muay Thai also develops a sense of brotherhood, a fighter will help others when the opportunity arises, and will never resort to fighting unless there is no other option available.

The history of Muay Thai can be traced to the middle of the 18th century. During battles between the Burmese of the Konbaung Dynasty and Siam, the famous fighter Nai Khanomtom was captured. The Burmese knew of his expertise in hand-to-hand combat and gave him an opportunity to fight for his freedom. Nai Khanomtom managed to knock out ten consecutive Burmese contenders. Impressed by his skill, he was freed and returned to Siam where his fighting style became known as Muay Thai and later recognized as a national sport.

Getting Balanced

If you ever feel a bit off-balance or stressed-out I recommend you find a Muay Thai class and develop your fighting spirit because, perhaps without realizing it, we are all engaged in fierce battles every day. These battles occur within us between positivity and negativity. For the sake of this article, I will call positivity ‘Yang’ (positive, bright, masculine) and negativity ‘Yin’ (negative, dark, feminine). Picture those two in a ring; if your first impulse is to cheer and expect ‘Yang’ to win, I’m sorry, but you’re mistaken, in a battle of the fittest, ‘Yin‘ would triumph.

Positivity vs. Negativity - Battle of the Fittest
Yin and Yang
Yin and Yang in the Battle of the Fittest

Battle of the Fittest – Negativity

Our brain has a negative bias, it loves negativity! Our brain is wired with a much greater sensitivity to unpleasant rather than pleasant news. Dr John Cacioppo, the ‘Scientist of Loneliness’ from  Ohio State University, conducted a study to demonstrate this effect by contrasting the effect on the brain of pictures arousing positive feelings (such as sport cars, holiday shots, ice creams, etc.), negative feelings (such as mutilated faces or dead cats), and, for good measure pictures to arouse neutral feelings (of everyday objects, such as dinners plate and hair dryers).

The subjects had their brain activity recorded during the experiment providing data to Dr. Cacioppo to analyze. The results showed very clearly that our brain reacts more strongly to negative rather than positive stimuli. Our attitudes are more heavily influenced by downbeat rather than good news and that information is stored in our short to long term memory. This is why ‘Yin’ has a better chance of winning against ‘Yang.’

Our weighting of negative input is an evolutionary development to keep us out of harm’s way. Back in prehistory, when humans faced life or death situations every day, it was far more important for the brain to respond to negative rather than positive stimuli. If a wild animal charged towards you, you needed to fight or run away and to take that decision in a split-second. But, in non-threatening situations, like being offered food, or a gift, there is no such requirement for speed – your brain can react very slowly. To make matters worse, not only do we react more quickly to negative experiences, we are looking for them all the time. This makes it extremely easy for our minds to get into a negative feedback loop; you are hyper-aware of negativity and when it happens, you react quicker, it impacts you more and you remember it for longer. One scientist described the brain like Velcro for negative experiences but Teflon for positive ones. 

Positive Outlook

When faced with decisions or uncertainties, it is natural to have a fear of the unknown, I confess – this happens to me a lot, which creates a lot of anxiety and negative emotions.  Unfortunately, the nature of the world is uncertain; nobody knows what will happen tomorrow, and it is important to maintain a positive outlook.

According to Sadhguru, Indian yogi, mystic, and author:

you cannot overcome something which does not exist. Your fear is always about something that does not exist. Fear is happening because of excessive imagination. It is about things that haven’t happened yet, but you are creating those things in your mind. Fear means that you are producing horror movies in your mind. Produce something else, produce a comedy, a love story, an action movie.”

In the battle of the fittest, it is important to have a positive outlook and understand that we all have a natural tendency to be negative; you must train yourself to be a ‘Yang.’ Being positive, overcoming negative emotions requires dedication, discipline, and patience – just like with Muay Thai – and just like being a successful Muay Thai fighter it is necessary to train your body and spirit to work together, so that when the time comes to do battle against ‘Yin,’ the negative spirit, the odds will be in your favor.

And this, my Dear Friend is your Quest.

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  1. Huh, I did not know or business are direc for negativity. I feel both dave and I have mastered the , how to overcome that, we both are extremely positive and a large part of why we are together.

  2. Martial Arts… I love it. You are indeed a true daughter of Athena. 🙂

    Well spoken on all the benefits of martial arts, particularly the self discipline and personal growth. As someone with 17 years of training, I can vouch that the ironic truth is the more you master the arts, the less you have to use them. Self mastery comes with mastery of the skills, as well as an awareness of potential trouble and the wisdom to avoid it.

    You can get these benefits from almost any art too. The only ones I’d discourage a reader from trying are American sport karate and MMA arts. Both work with a good instructor, but Sport Karate as taught in the US is lacking in technique and discipline too often. MMA fighters tend to develop a more confrontational and competitive mindset in my experience also.

    Can you tell I could talk forever about this? 😀

    The rest of your post is very good and pretty much spot on as well. The only thing I’d disagree with is “negative” as relates to Yin and Yang. In regard to Taoist teaching, the yin and yang are about balance. “Negative” in the sense of Yin is hard to translate specifically also, but think of it in terms of energetic charge like protons and electrons as opposed to the emotional state definition.

    Loving your blog thus far and am glad I found it. 🙂

    1. Thank you for your comments and for sharing your extensive knowledge and experience about martial arts 😀🙏! I can tell you are passionate about this subject. I note your point about Yin and Yang ☯️

  3. An excellent piece. Ironically, I live close to a Muay Thai studio and have wondered about it; now, courtesy of your blog, I have insight. Many thanks.

  4. I am so glad that I read your post. I have been thinking about learning some form of martial arts for the workout and also to establish a good mind/body connection in addition to gaining confidence and strength. I feel very inspired by you. Thank you.

    ❤ Alana

    1. Thank you Alana for your kind words! You made my day! It made me really happy to know that I managed to inspire you somehow . I would recommend to anyone to try and practice martial arts, it will no doubt help you gain confidence and strength and will help establish a good mind/body connection as you rightly said.

  5. I enjoyed your discussion. While I am not into martial arts, I appreciate your details about the studies done that contrast how our brains experience positivity and negativity.

  6. There are negative and positive things. Good things can happen to bad people and bad things can happen to good people. I don’t think anybody is only positive or happy 24/7. In North America, there is even such a phenomenon as people seeing bad things too positively which makes them gamblers and losers in the investment market, as well as easy prey for online scammers.
    My personal point is that we need to access everything critically and stay optimistic about outcomes.
    To live a normal life one first of all needs to become boss and manager of their own life. Secondly, we must start loving ourselves.
    Self-respect and confidence are big issues. Most frequently we are seeing overly confident people or the ones totally lacking confidence.
    Putting honey and ice cream on everything doesn’t make it a dessert. I think being optimistic realist is really the best and allows one to be balanced and honest to themselves.

    1. Thank you Inese for sharing your insights. I agree with your perspective i.e. putting honey🍯 and ice cream 🍨🍦 on everything doesn’t make it a dessert! Being optimistic realist like you are suggesting is a good way to do this life journey. Cheers to that 🥂!

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