Anticipating How Your Opponent Will Attack!

I was recently asked about how to anticipate what move somebody is about to attack you with.  The guy was very much looking for a way to be able to stay ahead of the game.

I think that he was a bit disappointed in my initial answer, until I explained in more depth.  The initial answer is that you DON’T try to anticipate the opponents actual attack.

Just to clarify, anticipate whether or not they are actually going to attack you by all means, but don’t try to anticipate that they will kick or they punch, or they will . . . . . whatever!

If you are trying to think too hard about what he/she/they are going to do next, the thought process will actually slow you down.  Assuming that you are in a pre-fight situation where somebody is threatening you, shouting and swearing, psyching themself up for an attack; then you should really be looking to engage their mind by talking in order to distract them whilst lining them up for a pre-emptive strike.

However, for the sake of argument lets assume that for whatever reason you do not get the chance to perform a pre-emptive strike.  Maybe the attacker did not get close enough, maybe he knew that you are a capable adversary so kept his distance . . . . . whatever.  But you are now in the position where he is about to attack from a fraction out of your pre-emptive striking range.  You know it’s coming, but you don’t know what form the attack will take.

Should you try to anticipate what the actual attack will be?

If you anticipate a punch and prepare for it, then he kicks instead you could be in trouble.  If you anticipate a kick and prepare for it, then he just rushes in and grabs you, again you could be in trouble.

It is always best to be taking the lead rather than responding (action rather than reaction), but this may not always possible.  So how do you react when you haven’t got a clue what the actual form the attack about to launched at you will actually take?

Well there are several things that you need.

Firstly, you need an automatic deeply drilled response that comes out automatically without you having to think about it.  That is why we practice basics over and over and over and over again.  So when you need them, you can respond automatically without having to be slowed down by “thinking” about what you should be doing or how you should be doing it.

Some form of reality based training or pressure training is good too, so that you don’t “freeze” under the effects of adrenalin.  However, if you have experience in real altercations this may not always be necessary.

However, the calmer you can keep your mind, the more likely you are to find an instinctive response to whatever comes at you. If your mind is running away with “oh my god, he’s bigger than me”, (or similar thoughts); you are likely to hesitate.  This is something I’ve discussed before in more depth before.

Moksu (meditation)

There are a number of elements to our training which assist in calming the mind in these situations.  Most obviously, a number of martial arts include some form of meditation (moksu) during the class, where you breathe deeply and clear the mind.

Physical technique done properly should be performed with a relaxed body.  The more you relax your body in training, the more your mind will follow and relax too (as body and mind are linked).  This is probably more important in many ways than the meditation (just my humble opinion).

Many martial arts also put an emphasis on diaphragmatic breathing (especially if they meditate).  This type of breathing is central to Yoga, Tai Chi and any discipline that is about relaxation, so there’s another clue.  Diaphragmatic breathing can be used to calm the mind and body in any situation from meditation, traffic jams, problems with work/relationships, through to a physical confrontation.  As it relaxes both the mind and body, you can see why it is an integral part in the execution of technique within many traditional martial arts.

So if you can keep your mind calm, relaxed and free from the distraction of having to actually think, then instincts and intuition take over.  Your ability to deal with any random attack and counter with a well-drilled response will be greatly increased.  An instinctive response will always be faster than a calculated thought out response.

That is why we do not try try to anticipate what the actual attack will be, as by doing so we limit our response options to what we expect will come at us; and by-pass our intuitive nature.

 

Target Hardening Against A Street Predator

If you have experience of Reality Based Martial Arts, you will already have come across the idea of target hardening.  However, it is not always included in traditional martial arts, so although this is not a new concept, I include it here for traditionalists who may not have heard of it before.

If you look at the way that animals hunt in the wild, they nearly all follow a similar pattern; whether it is lions stalking buffalo or wolves hunting moose.  They don’t go for the big, fit, powerful young bull with the huge big horns, they go the old, the sick or the young calves who can’t keep up with the herd.

Why?

Because it is an easy kill and they can get fed without too much risk of injury to themselves.  A hunter who gets injured can’t hunt effectively and starves, so they are not interested in a fair fight with the alpha male of the herd.  One on one, a lion is no match for a fit young buffalo.  One on one, a wolf is no match for a fit young moose.  So they look for the vulnerable members of the herd.  If they can hunt in packs to bring down prey larger then themselves, then all the better.

Our caveman ancestors were no different.  One on one they were no match for a mammoth, but working together as a tribe they could bring one down.  And I’m pretty sure that they did not target the biggest bull mammoth in the herd.  So it should be no surprise that this basic primal instinct has been passed down to our modern day street predators (bullies, muggers, rapists, etc).

Our social conditioning and modern environment adds a number of different factors into the equation.  The human street predator doesn’t only have to consider whether he (they) can get overpower their victim, they have to consider things like, will they be caught by the police.  But the same underlying psychology of the predator is still there.

Street predators will usually look for an easy target where they feel success is assured without much injury or consequences for themselves.  Of course, if they are high on drugs or drunk then all bets are off anyway as all ability to reason is out of the window.  When drunk or high they are more likely to act in a completely random manor rather than a premeditated manor of a mugger or rapist.

So how you can you deter a street predator(s) by looking like a big young bull with bloody big horns (metaphorically speaking)?

The first thing to realise is that you don’t necessarily have to be big, powerful and strong (though it does of course help if you are).  What you really need to do is to exude an air of confidence and awareness.

Lets say for example that a potential rapist is looking for a victim.  One women go walks by who is looking around (aware of her surroundings) and confidently looks like she wouldn’t take any nonsense from anybody.  Another women of similar age, looks and build walks past; but this one is looking at the ground, afraid to make eye contact and with a very timid demeanour about her.  Which one do you think the rapist will go for?

Obviously he is more likely to pick the second one.  First of all, he is not likely to get too close to the first lady before she’ll spot him, so not so much chance of getting close and taking her by surprise.

Secondly, even if he has a knife (or any other weapon) and threatens his victim; the first lady is more likely to fight and shout for help.  Yes, he can still cut her and run off, but if she screams or shouts (if only once), then the chances of people coming to her assistance and his chances of being caught have been greatly increased.  Even if he kills her, he is still more likely to be caught and like the jungle predator who can’t hunt when injured, this can often be enough to deter him (them).

Some rapists intend at the outset to kill their victim when they’ve finished, but they want to do it where they have full control of the situation and they won’t be caught (often by taking her somewhere else).  They don’t want to do it where there is a risk that their victim can attract help.

So it is the second lady who is looks timid and looks like she has no fight in her who is more likely to be selected.  The irony is that women who have been attacked or abused before will often stop taking care of themselves and dress down in order to make themselves less attractive to a would-be attacker/abuser.  But as in the case above, they actually give out more “victim signals” by doing so.  Abusers and rapists can often read those signals and know intuitively that they have an easy target.

Michelle Yeoh: Confidence, Strength, Beauty & Grace

Men often find strong, confident looking women more attractive; but as discussed above, ironically these women are less likely to be attacked (even though they are perceived as more attractive) because they are more likely to put up a fight.

Although I use the example of a rapist selecting a woman victim, this can be read across to any street predator selecting a target, be it a mugger or just a bully.

Animals in the wild are seldom interested in taking on a target where they may get injured as it will limit they ability to continue hunting  and they risk starvation.  The human predator has more social conditions to contend with, but the mindset is basically the same.

I want to emphasis that I am NOT suggesting that all you have to do is look confident and you’ll never be attacked again.  But it will reduce the odds in your favour.  The best self defence of all, is not be attacked in the first place.

Martial arts training with help to give you an air of confidence which will help you.  Most traditional martial arts teach good body structure as part of their basic techniques, which also tend to teach the student a more upright and confident looking posture.  These things are not enough on there own to assure complete safety, but they do make a definite contribution and should not be overlooked.

Launch Of The World Combat Association

The British Combat Association was formed almost 20 years ago in the United Kingdom for the pragmatically biased martial artist who wanted realism over sport or style.

Iain Abernethy who is one of the BCA senior instructors and a world famous instructor for applied bunkai has been teaching all over the world and noted the need for a similar organisation on an international level.  So together with the founders of the BCA, Geoff Thompson and Peter Consterdine, they are launching the World Combat Association to support like minded pragmatic martial artists outside of the UK.

The WCA was launched just a few days ago and apparently the website has already crashed twice due to the amount of traffic it received.

If you would like to be a founder member of the WCA, please checkout the following for more information:

The WCA website: http://www.worldcombatassociation.com

The WCA facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/WorldCombatAssociation

The WCA in Iain’s website: http://www.iainabernethy.co.uk/news/world-combat-assocation-live-video


Blogging Carnival: Womens Self Defence

Following on from the recent Anti-Bullying Blogging Carnival, hosted by Colin Wee’s Blog: Joong Do Kwan; I have agreed with Colin that I will host the next blogging carnival.  The theme this time will be “Women’s Self Defence”.

If you are interested in participating, please register yourself and your blog with Colin Wee on his registration page.

The basic format of the blogging carnival is that all registered martial arts bloggers will all write about Women’s Self Defence.  Postings should be prepared in advance, but all published on the SAME DAY.  This day will be Saturday 14th July 2012.

I will be providing the HOSTING for the blogging carnival, so a few days before the launch date, all the links to your posts should be forwarded to me.  I will list all entries on the Carnival Hosting Page with link backs to your posts.

I will send you a link for the Carnival Hosting Page too, which you should include at the end of your post.  For the readers it will provide a lot of interesting links and reading matter on the subject of Women’s Self Defence.   For the bloggers it will provide link-backs to your site (which helps your Google rating) and a lot of traffic from other high ranking martial arts sites.

On the day of publication, all bloggers should promote the Carnival Hosting Page through their own networks (blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc).

So if you’re interested in taking part, don’t forget to register with Colin Wee.

 

Engage Your Opponents Brain To Increase Their Vulnerability

Since the last of the Neanderthals died out about 20,000 years ago the human brain has continued to evolve from what was primarily an animal brain governed by instinct, to a much larger and more complicated brain capable of logical thought.  A very large part of our brain today deals with communication, reason, social behaviour/interaction and a whole lot of other things that other animals are not capable of.  The ideas of guilt and remorse, right and wrong, good and evil, are all absent in the animal kingdom.

However, we still have the primitive parts of our brain which controls many of our more basic instincts, including amongst other things: violence.

When we find ourselves in a confrontational situation, decades of social conditioning and logic will often restrain us.  Even most thugs will stop at beating somebody up rather than actually killing them, whereas most animals would not really give killing a second thought.  In a confrontational situation adrenalin is released into the body and extra blood goes into the limbs to prepare for the fight or flight.  A side effect of this is that blood is drained from the brain, so the higher functions of logic, social conditioning and reasoning become much less efficient.  However, the more primitive part of the brain (sometimes called “the reptilian brain”) still functions normally and this is the part that deals with violence.

This is the same for both the aggressor and the victim.  Although not everybody fully understands this process, it is used intuitively to gain advantage.  A bully may shout, swear and threaten to intimidate his/her target; but as they do so they psyche themself up by adrenalising themselves.  This reduces their own higher brain functions and taking themselves to their own lower “reptilian” brain.  By doing this they can to a certain extent anesthetize themselves to their own barbaric behaviour which their higher brain functions might question and reject.  It makes sense then to shut down those higher brain function which might restrict and limit their plan to harm somebody.  It’s a bit like a warrior giving out a battle cry before the battle begins, it serves the same purpose.

Of course there are some exceptions to this.  Sociopaths believe that the rules do not apply themselves, so violence comes easy to them without having to psyche themselves up.  Most “professional” street predators (rapists, muggers, etc) are sociopaths.  But I would guess (and it is a guess) that most average street thugs do have some small level of conscience which they prefer to silence, so that they do not have to face it.

So how can you use this knowledge to your advantage when confronted with a thug who is psyching themself up?

Well the first thing to do is to try to get them back to their higher brain functions if you can, where they are less likely to attack.  You can do this by asking questions that make them think.  In FAST (Fear Adrenalin Stress Training) Defence, they recommend asking in an assertive manner “what do you want”?

But it could really be anything.  You could say something completely random like “isn’t it a shame about the polar bears at the North Pole”?  The normal response will be something like, “What the f***”?  Either way, it gets them thinking and going back to the higher brain function and away from the reptilian brain.  At best this may be enough to avert an imminent attack.  Hopefully it will make them pause as their higher brain functions (including conscience, reasoning, social conditioning, etc) kick back in, even if only for a moment.  This momentary hesitation should be enough time for a trained martial artist to successfully launch a pre-emptive strike and hopefully finish the situation then and there (before they realise and start psyching themself back up again).

I’m not saying that this will work every time against every aggressor, but it could give you an edge when you need it most.  This type of tactic is often practiced in reality based martial art training, but is usually absent where people don’t not look beyond the boundaries of their own traditional martial art.

 

Are Traditional Martial Arts Any Use To Somebody Who Is Being Bullied?

My on-line friend Colin Wee, 6th Dan TKD, has proposed an Anti-Bullying Blogging Carnival.  As I used to be bullied a lot back in far distant school days, I thought this was a good idea, so this is my contribution to the Carnival.

The obvious answer the title question is of course, YES, traditional martial arts can help somebody who is being bullied; but there are some limitations that need to be taken into consideration.

For somebody just starting their training, traditional martial arts can take quite a while to learn up to a proficient standard.  Something like Kickboxing is simpler and can be learnt to a proficient level considerably quicker.  Confidence is quickly gained when hitting an actual target (like focus mitts or punchbag).  Traditional martial arts may have more depth and include a much greater range of techniques and capabilities (grappling, pressure points, grab releases, etc); but the emphasis on perfecting technique makes them more difficult and slower to learn.

For somebody who is being physically bullied NOW, taking up traditional martial arts alone may be a bit slow to produce results.

Another factor which is much more important however is the pre-fight build up and the emotional response to the threat of violence, which is often overlooked in traditional martial arts.  A fight can be won or lost before the first punch/kick is even thrown by one person intimidating the other and undermining their confidence.  Bullies routinely use this tactic as part of their build up; be it name calling, threatening, minor pushing around; all testing the response and intimidating their victim into a feeling of helplessness and fear.  This loss of confidence and fear leads to hesitations and even freezing at a critical moment making it even easier for the bully to dominate in a physical conflict as the victim can become too scared to even fight back.

Simplistically put, the bully psyches them-self up, whilst the victim is psyched down.

Some instructors who have been in a number of altercations in their younger days assume that the pre-fight stage is a matter of common sense once you know how to fight.  It may be common sense to somebody who has actually had experience at real fighting.  But it is not common sense to somebody who has not been in that position before and hasn’t had that experience.  It certainly is not common sense to somebody who has been routinely bullied and has developed an ingrained behaviour pattern of backing down and acting passively when threatened, they just don’t know anything else.  When under this type of pressure, blood goes to the limbs (for fight or flight) and away from the brain.  Therefore the  brain does not think very clearly and relies on instincts and experience.  If the last experience when being bullied was to act passively, then the chances are that they will act passively again.  Not always, sometimes they snap and go for it, but in most cases they will do more or less the same as before.

Many years ago, whilst rising up through the coloured belts in my Karate, I trained hard, was naturally flexible and had good technique for my grade.  However, when sparring or entering in a competition I would often not do very well, even when I was faster, sharper and had better technique than the person that I was facing.  I realised later that it was because I was not very aggressive and had a passive nature.  Yes, I was bullied a lot at school and no, I didn’t really stick up for myself.

So if I was not doing well in the relative safety of sparring and competition, what would have happened if I’d been involved in a street fight?

Many traditional martial arts give little consideration to the pre-fight stages of the conflict and how to deal with it emotionally or psychologically.  Many systems do include pre-arranged sparring routines which can be used to work this area and include emotional intensity/pressure.  When you face somebody who is going to come in at you fast and strong and if you don’t block, side step or evade, they’ll take your head off; then you do get used to dealing with the adrenaline and fear but it can take a long time.

Shortly after passing my black belt I was sparring with my Sensei.  Whilst he obviously got the better of me, I stood my ground quite well and made it work for it.  He said to me afterwards with a little smile, “what happened to that green belt that I used to be able to kick all around the dojo”?

Traditional martial arts training had made a big difference to me mentally and emotionally and by the time I had obtained my black belt I had overcome much of my limitations caused by my passive nature.  However, it had taken me nearly 4 years to get there.  For somebody who is being bullied NOW, that is a long time.

This is why I am in favour of reality based training which uses scenarios to de-sensitize people to the threats, abuse and taunts, and teaches them to function even under the effects of adrenaline and fear.  Humans always learn much more quickly when in an emotional state, which is why reality based training gets very quick results and change that freeze reaction to an active response.  As mentioned above, when under pressure the brain losses blood and relies on experience.  If you can simulate a realistic experience where the victim takes action (be it assertive verbal behaviour to dissuade an attacker, or actual physical fighting back), then that becomes the default experience the next time that person is in that situation.

One of the first times I did this kind on training there was a young lady who was a reasonably high grade in Taekwondo.  When the trainer (as part of the training scenario) venomously called her a “f***ing bitch”, she started to cry.  She had obviously been through some abusive experiences in the past, but her traditional martial arts training had not prepared her to emotionally deal with this simple abuse and she went straight into the old ingrained behaviour pattern.  However, she continued the exercise and learnt a new response to take away with her, so I applaud her courage for sticking with it.  She took a bigger step forward that day than the rest of us.

I would warn however, that although learning under heightened emotional pressure produces quick results, it also hard-wires the response.  So if you overcome the “freeze” response but swing wildly, then the wild swinging could become your hard wired (and not very effective) response.  This is why I believe that scenario based training (reality based training) is very beneficial, but it should be used sparingly and should NOT become the default training method.  Traditional martial arts are the best way to obtain the best long term results, but if you don’t have the time, then you need a little extra.

Martial Arts Perth

Women’s Self Protection & Raw Power

I have written before about women’s primeval survival instincts which featured a video by Black Belt Hall Of Fame member, Melissa Soalt, otherwise known as “Dr Ruthless”.

The video below also features Dr Ruthless teaching self protection to women, most of whom are completely untrained in martial arts.  Although this video does not really include anything dramatically new, I think it is good (especially for women) to remind ourselves how powerful women can be with the right motivation and a real will to survive no matter what the odds.

As I mentioned in my previous article, society can teach women that they are the fair sex and weaker, sometimes giving the impression that they should not even try to fight back if attacked.  Woman are often taught that they don’t stand a chance.

However, just take a look at how much raw power untrained women can generate when they keep their heads instead of panicking and when they ignore any inappropriate social conditioning that might affect their personal safety.

Most predators look for an easy target.  Even  lions look to isolate a weak, old or injured buffalo from the herd; then don’t go for the strong young bull with the great big horns.  Why?  Because they don’t want to get hurt themselves, why would they?

A street predator (mugger/rapist) looking for a victim is just the same.  They select a target who they think will not put up much of a fight.  If it does become a real fight however, often they’ll back off as that is not what they are after.  Even though women generally may not be able to win an all out fight against a man, what is often overlooked is that most street predators are not looking for an all out fight.  Making as much noise as possible (like in the video below) is also a deterrent as the attacker knows that this will attract attention, which is the last thing that they want.

Of course this may not work against a drunk who is just looking for trouble and not thinking at all; but a mugger/rapist is more often sober and calculating and can potentially be even more dangerous.  So if he calculates that this target is too difficult or that the target will attract help from others, then they might just flee the scene.

So . . . . . respect to the ladies . . . . . give yourself more credit.

Do You Train To Win A Fair Fight?

A little while ago on the BunkaiJutsu Facebook page, I put on the following quote by Gichin Funakoshi:-

“When there are no avenues of escape or one is caught even before any attempt to escape can be made, then for the first time the use of self-defence techniques should be considered. Even at times like these, do not show any intention of attacking, but first let the attacker become careless. At that time attack him, concentrating one’s whole strength in one blow to a vital point, and in the moment of surprise, escape and seek shelter or help. It is most important to be on guard without becoming excited and to act with presence of mind throughout the situation from the beginning and even once the situation is in hand.
When delivering the one blow against the attacker, the importance of using one’s whole strength and being especially accurate cannot be overemphasized”.
Gichin Funakoshi, from his book Karate-Do Kyohan,

It generated quite a bit of interest and comment, so I thought I’d explore it a bit further.  What is easy to over-look here is that it shows a very different ethos and approach to how we are taught in most traditional martial arts today.

Gichin Funakoshi demonstrating on a makawawa

Today if we do any sparring, we face each other from outside of striking range, bow, take up our fighting stance, then start inching towards each other until we start to exchange strikes/kicks.  Basically, its all about having a “fair fight”.  It’s sport.

Even when we practice bunkai (applications) against more street style attacks such as haymakers, in most clubs, the attacker usually start out of striking range first, then moves into distance with the haymaker.  Again, this partially reflects the “fair fight” mentality; as if two guys have agreed to “step outside and sort it out”.

Note, I did say “partially” as I do realise that somebody could randomly swing at you, ready or not.

Even in that step outside scenario there is the concept of an even one on one fight.  I know it’s not always adhered to as one may pull out a weapon or mates my join in, but the concept is still there, and most traditional training seems to buy into it.

What most traditional martial arts do not train for the guy being right up in your face shouting and swearing, then head-butting you.

The old Okinawan masters did not practice sport.  Several of the old Okinawan masters are recorded as saying that Karate is mainly for defending oneself against untrained thugs (rather than matches with other trained martial artists).

Funakoshi always taught that fighting (even a “fair fight”) was wrong and should be avoided if at all possible.  He taught that Karate was mainly to make you a better person rather than a better fighter and as such if you were set about, he advised that the first course of action should be to run away.  That way nobody gets hurt.

On the few occasions that Funakoshi was forced to physically defend himself, he felt that it was a personal failure to have gotten into that situation in the first place, or for not having handled it better.  I personally think he was a bit hard on himself, but that’s just my opinion.

So if you hold true to the philosophy that you should decline any fights and run away if you can, then what do you do if you are cornered and have to fight whether you like it not?  The person picking on you is usually doing so because he/she thinks you are an easy target.  Are they looking for a fair fight?

No!  They’re looking for an easy victim.

So should you be expected to fight fair against somebody like that?

No, you shouldn’t have to, because you shouldn’t be put in that position against your will.  You didn’t pick the fight and you didn’t agree to have one.  Self protection is about defending yourself from harm, it is not about having a fair fight.

Should you step back into your fighting stance and warn them, “back off, I do martial arts”?

No.  That warns them to be more careful.

This is the scenario Funakoshi was talking about.  Let them bluster at you and become over confident, then hit them with a pre-emptive strike to a vital point.  Then run!

This is the way that modern Reality Based Martial Arts train.  Don’t you find it a bit strange that people talk about Reality Based Martial Arts as if it is still quite new, when Funakoshi was talking about it decades ago?

To my mind, it suggest that most of today’s so called “traditional martial arts” are not that traditional.  It isn’t what Funakoshi taught!

The Gift Of “Peacocking”

This article looks at the pre-fight stage when somebody is trying to pick a fight with you.  It will not apply to a mugger or any form of “professional” street predator who is more likely to launch a surprise attack.

What is Peacocking?

Peacocking is a phrase usually used to describe somebody dressing or behaving in a manner designed to get the attention of the opposite sex.  However, from a martial arts/self protection point of view it is taken to mean how somebody puts on a display of puffing themselves up to make themselves look bigger and tougher in front of a potential opponent.  The chest is pushed out, shoulders pulled back, head held high and often jutting forward and arms often held out from the sides of the body.

The purpose of this behaviour is to intimidate the other person and to build themselves up before a fight.  Or to put it another way, it is to psych themselves up and psych the other person down.  It can however take many other forms such as pointing or shaking the fist at somebody.

Very broadly speaking the type of peacocking will depend on how confident the aggressor feels.  A very confident aggressor is more likely to keep his hands out to the sides of his body, which shows his intended victim that he is completely in control of the situation and he can take is victim as his leisure.  A less confident aggressor is more likely to have his hands between himself and his intended victim, pointing his finger or shaking his fist.  This still gives him some kind of barrier, just in case it doesn’t quite go the way he wants it to.

Why is this important

It is often said that a fight is won or lost before the first punch is even thrown.  It is also said that fighting is more mental than physical.  Both these statements are true.  If an aggressor can mentally intimidate somebody enough before they even attempt to strike their victim, then their victim is likely to hesitate, or worse still, freeze, giving the aggressor the chance to land a successful blow completely unopposed.  That gives them the upper hand from the very start of the fight.

This type of intimidatory tactic comes naturally and without any training to those with a bullying mindset.  It is very intuitive.

Defensive tactics

There are basically 2 main ways to deal with this type of threatening behaviour.  One is act very aggressively or assertively in order to deter the aggressor, the other is the act passively in order to lull the aggressor into a false sense of security, then hit him as hard as you can with a pre-emptive strike.

There are of course a number of variations on each theme and cross over tactics where you act passively first to let them get confident, then flip the switch and “go mental” to completely confuse them.  But for now we’ll stick to the 2 main tactics above.

Aggressive/Assertive

If you really do not want to fight, then acting aggressively or assertively to dissuade them might be your best tactic.  You can “go psycho” on them swearing, snarling, threatening with spittle dribbling down your chin in display of frenzy.  This might work and deter them if you do it convincingly enough.  However, if you are not convincing enough, you are laying down a challenge which they might take up to save losing face; especially if their mates (or worse still – girls) are watching.

If you can act very assertively without actually threatening them, then should they decide that you might be a bit of a handful they can back out without losing face (because you have not actually threatened them).  The key here is to make him want to back out and to make it easy for him to do so.

The video below shows an example of a training session from a FAST Defence seminar using postural and verbal skills to deal with an aggressor in an assertive manner without actually threatening him back.

Note:  Contains bad language.

(FAST = Fear Adrenalin Stress Training).

passive

By acting passively, you build up the aggressors confidence letting him think that he has a soft target.  This is best for when you believe that you are going to have to fight and that there is absolutely no way out.  When you believe that no amount of aggressive or assertive behaviour will detour the aggressor.

The more that you let him feel confident and in control, the more that he is likely to go into peacocking mode.  The more that he does this, the more open he becomes to a pre-emptive strike.  As he sticks his chest out and juts his head forward, so his neck and jaw line are left exposed for a quick strike.  If his arms confidently by sides (like a Western gunfighter) to make himself look bigger, then his arms are out of the way and should be unable to block your surprise attack.

That is why I called this posting the “Gift” of peacocking, because if you get somebody into that mode, they leave themselves incredibly open to you.  If you have trained for any length of time and are confident in your abilities, then having somebody leaving themselves so open should enable you to finish the fight very quickly and efficiently.

Here’s an video example below.

Note:   Contains bad language

Summary

Of course should you ever be in that situation, then whichever tactic you use will be a judgement call at that time.  There will never be a completely right or wrong answer as there will always be so many variables and you can’t always predict accurately whether or not the aggressor will back down or not.

Either way, it is worth practicing both sets of tactic as drills.  This type of type of scenario training can yield quick results, so you don’t necessarily have to practice them over and over again so that it interferes with your normal training.  But it is certainly worth seeking out a qualified instructor and  doing some courses if your club does not normally do this kind of thing.

How To Keep Calm In The Face Of Danger

I asked the following question on my Facebook page:

“Many martial arts include meditation of some sort. Does this help us in combat? Or is is just part of being a better person?”

As I have a lot a high grade and intelligent martial artists on that page, I got quite a bit of intelligent feedback as I expected.  However, I personally think it goes a little bit deeper than most people give it credit for; both for combat application and for making you a better person.

Starting with combat application however, most experienced people will tell you that fighting is actually more mental than physical, so there’s the first big clue.  Many say its about 90% mental.  However, this concept is not often explained in depth.

If you face somebody in a real street situation and your mind is on the point of panic, you won’t be able to think or focus.  This will manifest in your physical movement as your body becomes tense, your techniques become short and choppy and all sense of timing, rhythm and distancing disappears.  Worse still, you might just freeze altogether.

It not just important that you maintain calmness under pressure, it is essential.  Regular training in martial arts teaches us to do this mainly by subjecting us to regular pressure training.  Even if its just the pre-arranged fighting sequences, as the attacker increases the intensity of the attack so the defender has to react faster and more accurately to avoid being hit.

Of course this can be taken to a higher level with scenario training which is common in reality based martial arts training.  But some form of meditation is also often used to calm the mind before and after training.  Karate has it “moksu” at the end (and sometimes the beginning) of each class and I’m sure many other martial arts have their own equivalent.

Calmness of mind is easy when kneeling (or sitting) in a nice quiet dojo (training hall), focusing on our breathing under no pressure at all.  But how exactly does this help us when some great big muppet from hell is screaming in your face “who the F**k you looking at”, you’ve just had an adrenalin dump and your legs are turning to jelly?

I’ll come back to that in a moment.  Have you ever noticed that you often have a little voice inside your head?  Have you noticed that unless you consciously control this little voice it is usually negative, telling you that you can’t do something or you will fail.  Ironically, most people know that it is there, but 99% of the time they are completely unaware of it.  When something goes wrong and that little voice “oh no, this always happens to me”.  Did you stop and consciously think that thought, or did it just materialise automatically?  If we’re honest, it usually just materialises without us giving it a second thought.

When somebody cuts up in their car how often does that little voice shout out a string of expletives questioning the other drivers parentage?  Again, was that a conscious thought, or was it just automatic?

For most people (if we’re honest), it is just automatic with no conscious consideration.  But does that reaction help us in any way?  Does it do anything in any way shape or form to make the situation better?

No, of course it doesn’t.  If anything it makes us feel worse.  So why do we have this mechanism inside our heads that automatically responds to situations, usually making them seem even worse?

OK, back to Mr Muppetfromhell.  What will that voice be saying when confronted by him?

He looks real big”.  “Oh god, he’s going to kill me”.  “I’m a black belt, this will be so embarrassing if I get beaten up”.  “Should I run”.  “Will he chase me”?  “What if I hit him and it doesn’t stop him, he’ll be even more angry”.

And so it goes on and on.  As with the other examples, does this voice help you or hinder you?  Do you have any real control over it, or does it just happen automatically?

You really need to silence that “nutter” inside your head.  The more dangerous the attacker that confronts you, the more difficult this is to do.  Ironically, the more dangerous your attacker, the more essential it becomes to be able to do this.

This is where the meditation (moksu) comes in.  This is why you focus on your breathing in an attempt to silence your own personal little nutter.  This can also be done with kata/forms too, which is often described as a moving meditation.  However, if you’re a high grade, try to think back to when you were a beginning.  Whether it was kata or moksu, did you find it really hard to focus without that little voice coming in, saying things like:

“My knees are aching kneeling here”, “how long will this last for”, “that was a good session”, “I scored a good roundhouse kick against Charlie tonight”, “I could murder a pint of beer after that session”.

Sound familiar?

How many of you have those thoughts, (or can remember having them) when you meditate/moksu?  If you can’t silence the voice in those peaceful conditions, how on Earth do you expect to do it in the face of Mr Muppetfromhell when he’s frothing at the mouth?  But over time, often a number of years, many learn to do it.

However, most people are not aware that part of the reason for meditation/moksu is to silence the voice (your personal nutter), never mind being aware of why that is important in combat.

I’ve recently been listening to an audio book by Andy Shaw called Creating A Bug Free Mind.  Although it is not a martial arts book, it has a direct read across (as described above).  In it, he gives you an exercise to do to see how in control of your own mind you are, which I would ask you to try.  The real life combat applications (as described above) will become apparent.   Simply think of any happy memory.  It can be a promotion, first date, birth of a child, holiday, absolutely anything that makes you feel good and happy.  Now try to hold that thought and that thought only for just 15 seconds without any other thoughts coming into your mind.  Please stop reading and try that now!
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I’ll guarantee that most people will not able to hold that happy thought for just 15 seconds without another thought interrupting.  I would guess that many of the higher dan grades can do it due to their years of training.  If you are an instructor and you can do this easily, then I suggest that you ask your class to do it and you’ll probably be shocked how many can’t.

So now hopefully I’ll have changed a few minds as to what the meditative side is for and what you are actually trying to achieve through it.  Understanding what the point is, goes a long way to helping achieving it more quickly.  It might also help to understand why many senior martial artists include Tai Chi and Chi Gong as they advance.

So if actual fighting really is 90% mental, how can we control our minds in a real fight, when we can’t hold a happy a thought for 15 seconds?  How do get that control over your mind so that you can hold a thought for 15 seconds or more?

There are ways that this can be achieved quite easily (without years of meditation).  I can’t really do it justice in a few blog postings, as it took me several chapters to really get my head around it.  However, if you go over to Andy Shaw’s website, you can download the first 5 chapters of Creating A Bug Free Mind completely free.  I’ll tell you in advance, this book is heavily marketed, but it really is one of the best self development book I’ve ever come across and it will show you how to silence that voice.  This can be done in days or weeks rather than years.  As such, I believe that it will really accelerate your martial art training.   I’ve used the example of Mr Muppetfromhell screaming at you, but it applies just as well to friendly sparring in the club, or focus on your kata/forms.