Emotion-Based Defensive Response
A Non-Traditional Martial Arts Approach
When discussing self-defense training, we really need to
be discussing more than just learning some tricks and techniques
for dodging punches or escaping locks and holds. Why then,
are most instructors content with stopping at, and most students
satisfied with learning, self-defense in a vacuum?
Well, I have my own beliefs, mostly involving the fact that
most have never been in a real-world self-preservation situation
with an assailant out to do maximum damage with any technique
or weapon they choose. Basically...
... they don't know any better.
In this issue, I want to look at a foundational idea that
the rest of our training philosophies should take into account
if we are to prepare ourselves in the most efficient and effective
First, we need to consider the learning curve of the average
human being. When we think about how we learn best, aside
from the methods that we might have been exposed to along
the way, it becomes obvious that the "natural" way to learn
can be seen in the following pattern:
Do - Think - Feel
That is, the most efficient and effective learning model for
most of us is to:
* Do the 'thing' in a hands-on fashion.
* Think about the 'thing' - work at understanding what makes
it 'tick' and how it can be used - it's impact and use for
* Have an emotional response - we either like-it, don't like-it,
or it doesn't matter.
So, what's the problem you might ask. That's the way martial
artists train in just about every dojo or training center
The problem is that...
... the above formula is only half the equation!
The problem is that, we may learn best this way but, we operate
very differently when under stress. I don't mean just danger,
but any time stress factors play on us. Whether we're talking
about fear, sadness, happiness, or whatever, we simply operate
in a different way than we learn. And, this must be accounted
for in the learning curve or we will simply be unprepared
for a real-life encounter with an attacker.
The difference that I'm speaking of is really an exact opposite
of the learning formula. When under stress, human beings operate
by the formula:
Feel - Think - Do
This means that in a life-threatening situation we will:
* Have an emotional reaction - to the type of attack, the
assailant, the environment, rules and regulations that we
are bound by, and a hundred other factors.
* Access memories, beliefs, and mental functions - and then,
based on what we think about the situation and what we know...
* We go into action - and do the best we can with what we
To say that the formulas are different, is more than an understatement.
What are we to do with this information? How can it help us
to better train to be prepared for a life-saving situation?
Quite simply - we can make sure that we are producing and
working under a particular emotional mode when training for
self defense. This will require a training atmosphere akin
to that used by actors-in-training than what we are typically
used to seeing in a martial arts academy.
The Four Base Emotions
The human being enters the world with four base emotional
triggers that, based on future stimuli and the addition of
the higher mental functions, combine to produce the many emotions
themselves. But, from a primitive, self-preservation perspective,
it is these 4 base impulses that we will concern ourselves.
The four base emotional responses to stress are:
* Confident, stability - we're basically unmoved by the threat,
because there is no perceived threat.
* Defensive repulsion - we are overwhelmed by the source of
the impulse and instinctively cover our targets or pull away
to a safer distance.
* Aggressiveness - we quickly move in to take control of the
* Evasiveness, avoiding - we sidestep or evade the problem,
seeking primarily to completely avoid having to deal with
the problem at all.
While there have been countless martial arts and self-defense
systems that have been designed around a particular emotional
response mode, no one mode is right or wrong in and of itself.
Each one is an option to be channeled and used as a tool,
if only we knew how.
Jeffrey Miller is the founder and master instructor
of Warrior Concepts International. He is the author of "The
Karate-Myth" and the Danger Prevention Tactics video, among
others. For more info, subscribe
to his ezine here.
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