In violence, fear is the first enemy. It can cripple you. Paralyse you. It can shut down decades of training in a moment. It can regress you to the level of a child and leave you helpless in the face of danger. Or it can be managed. It can be faced and understood. It can be the catalyst that pushes you to fight harder, to be stronger, to overcome pain and damage, to get home safe. This post is about fear. Every now and again, it’s good to look into the darkness.
In our culture it’s spat at. It’s shameful. Only cowards fear. Strong people, the people we want to be, they don’t fear anything.
But this is nonsense. Show me a human being and I show you someone who feels fear. Show me a successful person and I show you a person who is better at facing and handling fear. All the good things in life, they come through change and change is a great source of fear. To grow we have to feel fear, and do it anyway.
Why should a person interested in self defence be interested in fear? Because it is your first enemy. The animal in front of you shouting and swearing and posturing, he’s your second enemy. And he’s often relying on your first enemy to do his work for him.
Why do we experience fear? What is fear?
When met with a perceived danger, the brain dumps stress hormones into your bloodstream in sudden and large doses. The dose will depend upon the nature of the threat and how sustained it is. How it affects you and your performance will depend upon how much of a surprise the threat is.
In situations where the threat comes as a complete surprise, your glands will dump a large kick of adrenaline and you will go from relaxed to panicking in a heartbeat. In situations where you see the threat coming some moments or minutes before (why aren’t you running away?) the adrenaline build-up may be slower and more steady, and you may be more likely to handle it without the dreaded freeze. This suggests that awareness is your greatest asset pre-conflict. Not just to see the danger and avoid it, the best of all self-defence strategies, but to prepare for danger you have to fight or have made a decision to fight.
Violence is simple. Not easy, but simple. Someone, one or many, will come to do you harm. This harm will consist of striking you in the head and body to cause damage, humiliation and pain. To prevent this, you can either run or fight. If you choose to, or are forced to fight, you must do so with violence. This seems obvious, but in the world of martial arts training, it is often overlooked. Fancy techniques will not serve you. The dance will not serve you. You must, very simply, strike the aggressor in the head and body with enough force and repetition to cause enough damage to take him down, before he can do the same to you.That’s it. The reality of violence is this simple. The overwhelming majority of assaults begin with an overhand right punch. A simple 360 block and simultaneous cross to the throat or face will end the threat in a moment. The jab and cross from good stance will stand you in very good stead against multiple opponents. Advanced technique is for the movies. All you need are the basics and the will to use them.
Technique is not your problem. In a few Krav Maga lessons, you will already have the tools to do the job, a good stance and a solid left right.
Your problem is overcoming fear to use these simple tools. Your problem is that, in most cases, the victim of violent assault does not act to defend themselves. They may have years of training, but they fail to act in the critical moment and are quickly beaten. Why? Fear, of course. An inability to manage the pre-conflict fear and stress hormones that are dumped into the system.
Krav Maga training excels at preparing people for this challenge. Never forget that facing violence requires two things:
1. A repetoir of simple striking techniques delivered from good stance.
2. The strength of mind to deliver.
One of these is useless without the other.
To train to face violence, you must condition yourself to handle stress and fear.
In Krav Maga, we use two processes to do this job. First, we apply graduated pressure to your techniques, requiring you to carry out the basic movements of Krav Maga while under stress, in chaos and from physical disadvantage such as from hard exercise and disorientation. Second, we use role-play and assault drills to desensitise you to pre-conflict stress and the fear of being hit. This means time in the Fence, dealing with bad language and aggression, and getting the gloves on against multiple opponents.
Lastly, remember that fear happens to everyone. Rory Miller, in his book Meditations on Violence, states that when violence professionals, such as prison staff and Special Weapons and Tactics teams are taught, they are taught that the Freeze will come each and every time they do battle. They are taught to process this freeze through the OODA loop.
Observation: I have frozen. I am experiencing adrenal freeze.
Orientation: I need to fix this, or I will get hurt.
Decision: I will move my left foot forward. I will take a step.
Action: Take the step. Break the freeze.
Fear happens to everyone. The difference between winning and losing is how you process the fear. The animal in front of you on the street has fought every weekend for most of his adult life. He has probably served time and has a sting of convictions. He comes from a broken home where emotional and physical violence was the norm. He is conditioned to handle the fear and stress of combat. More, he won’t feel it like you do because he is expecting to fight and he is expecting to win. The overwhelming majority of his opponents break down and never even throw a punch back. To stand a chance, you will need to act. You will need a set of basic, instinctive strikes and the will to use them. You will need to break through your fear and let the training carry you through. And you can do this. Krav training is the best training in the world. It is simple, proven and effective. It is yours. A good Krav instructor will not just arm you with techniques, but will push you with hard training until you are confident in the face of fear. Until fighting is familiar to you. Until you are strong enough to do the job and come home safe.
And the bonus is that, if your confidence shines through you, the likelihood of being chosen as a victim is reduced to vanishingly small odds.
Train hard, fight easy.