“Whatever you do, just don’t be a dog claiming to be a wolf. In Harris’s sparrows, males develop secondary traits that correlate with their fighting ability. Darker color is associated with dominance. However, experimental darkening of lighter males does not raise their status, because their behavior is not altered. In fact, these darker birds get killed—as the researcher Terry Burnham once told me: ‘birds know that you need to walk the walk.”
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Skin in the Game
“Bushidō is in being crazy to die. Fifty or more could not kill one such a man”. Nabeshima Naoshige
Preparing for violence is one of those “Catch-22” situations.
You’re trying to learn how to avoid violence, but have little experience.
But you don’t really want to go out and get experience, right? So you have to find a workaround, something that is proven to be useful.
I looked into how cops prepare. These are people, especially in certain specialties and locations, who can be reasonably certain of experiencing the real thing. How do they prepare?
In Deadly Force Encounters: What Cops Need To Know To Mentally And Physically Prepare For And Survive A Gunfight, Dr. Alexis Artwohl (behavioral science consultant to law enforcement ) and Loren W. Christensen (Vietnam vet, ex-cop, and Eastern martial artist) detail their recommendations for police who wish to prepare intelligently for extreme violence.
Unsurprisingly, the big problem is dealing with fear. The surprising thing is its mostly the physiological effects that are out of your control, aka what your nervous system does in your body when it perceives a life threatening situation.
Its a weird area, because you have to start talking about the brain as two different entities. There’s “you,” the conscious actor, and then there is the rest of your brain, the unconscious process, doing its own thing in the background. But these unconscious automatic parts of your brain are “intelligent” too. This part of the brain is watching and listening to the same sights and sounds “you” see and hear. The information coming in through your senses follows two paths. The faster path runs through your amygdala and other ancient parts of your brain. This part of your brain will evaluate the information based on very old assessments going back to the African plains.
Is it a snake or a spider – JUMP!!!!
This part of the brain is jumpy and paranoid and when it gets startled, it will cause many effects in your body. This is the challenge of a modern person in a dangerous situation. You need to use your higher brain and keep yourself under control while affected by the intense physiological symptoms of fear. Or, more precisely, what they call a state of arousal of the sympathetic nervous system.
The Autonomic Nervous System is made up of two parts, the parasympathetic (which controls low arousal states) and the sympathetic (which controls high arousal states).
I first heard about this stuff in Lt. Col. Dave Grossman’s books. While the information is slowly being processed by the prefrontal cortex (basically the conscious “you”), your body is already responding according to ancient scripts.
“When you perceive a threat, the sympathetic part of your ANS will kick in and your body will start to experience a high arousal state.” Some people enjoy this feeling. This is the rush from jumping out of a plane.
When we are in fear of our lives, a whole host of sensations and physical responses might occur. These are the effects that cops have to control when in a gunfight or dealing with a knife wielding assailant, as in the video clip below. They are trying to calmly deal with the threat, while they have a pounding heart, trembling, rapid, shallow breathing, dizziness, nausea, sweating, dry mouth, tingling in limbs, the urge to urinate or defecate. Tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, time distortion, dissociation. Automatic behavior.
Automatic behavior is what they call it when after the fact you say, “it just happened.” My gun appeared in my hand and he was dead. My hand hurt and he was laid out on the floor in front of me.
How do we prepare for all of this? It helps if you anticipate it will happen..
A “deadly force encounter” for a civilian will almost always happen unexpectedly and will involve people who are probably irrational and volatile
The only way to prepare is to rehearse. You really can only rehearse by using your imagination. This is where Stress Inoculation Training comes in.
In Deadly Force Encounters, Artwohl and Christensen break Stress Inoculation Training into three parts, the first of which is the most important: conceptualization of the stressor.
You have to run through scenarios in your head and rehearse what you would do. I suspect this is the reason for Walking Dead’s huge popularity. The news makes people anxious. So many of us are instinctively drawn to entertainment which helps us visualize dangerous scenarios. What would i do if…?
So the best thing you can do is accept the reality and likelihood of fear and stress responses in these situations.
Expect it will happen. You may freeze. You may piss yourself. Whatever.
Practice controlled breathing. Practice visualization.
In this clip below, the poor cop does not want to shoot this guy, but the man seems suicidally determined to force the cop to shoot. This is so common they call it “suicide by cop.” Note the cop wisely keeps this guy at the 21 foot foot limit.
I recently read an article on Bullshido (every time I hear that title, I laugh a little) called Five Hard Truths About Martial Arts That You Don’t Want To Believe.
The author basically says these five things (I’m paraphrasing):
You are terrible, even if you don’t know it.
You are an amateur and the difference between an amateur and a pro is the difference between, the quote Mark Twain, “between lightening and a lightening bug.”
Getting good at Martial Arts takes far more work than you are putting in
Amateurs don’t spend enough time to get really good.
You are out of shape, and no amount of technique will make up for your poor diet
Most of us eat poorly and have no cardio.
Size and Strength matter
You’re weak and you’re tired and you will gas out fast.
To learn to fight, you need to fight….a lot
You must spar (at least).
I’m not sure why everything has to be so extreme with these guys at Bullshido. I appreciate their creed and their search to separate the shit from the shinola in fight instruction. This is despite the fact that by doing Wing Chun (the worst, according them), not sparring every session (capital crime), and being a part-time fight student (apparently a complete waste of time) I am the bottom of the barrel in their eyes.
Let me just say this.
There over 7 billion people on earth. 318 million of them are in the US. Almost 39 million of them are in California. And a million of them are with ten miles of where I’m sitting.
I’m pretty sure that I can win a fight against more than 95 percent of them. Probably better than 98%. This is sort of a trick statement. Half are women (not that some women probably could give me a hard time, just not most of them). Half of those left are kids or senior citizens. I’m bigger than average and in better shape than average. Plus I train to fight.
OK, I will lose against Jon Jones or Michael Bisbing or even Miesha Tate or Amanda Nunes! There is no shortage of people who could likely beat me in a fight.
But everything I do in training is like a small weight on the scales balancing my capabilities against those of my hypothetical opponents. Meanwhile, I am enjoying a social activity, getting exercise, developing my balance and eye hand coordination etc etc.
I don’t get these all or nothing arguments! Its like the politics in the last 20 or 30 years. Politics used to be about the subtleties and nuances of the very complicated world we live in — now its black and white cartoons of reality with shit talking and name calling, with no room for intelligent assessment of the problems and the issues.
This is the same thing. Should I just quit if I can’t be one of the top 99.999999999%? The argument doesn’t make any sense!
I mean, I get it — he’s making a point and pushing buttons. I do it sometimes myself (Top 5 Reasons Wing Chun Doesn’t Work, for instance). But you are way more likely to have to defend yourself against some road raging mid-thirties aging ex-high school football player at a fender bender on Saturday night or in a club at 1 AM than you are to have to throw down against a world class athlete!
Everything you do to get yourself in better shape and to develop some skills will help in that scenario. Even if your fight turns out to be trying to save your life against some asshole on a stabbing rampage (like in Germany recently) or a home invasion, if you have done some mental preparation and some training, you will be better off.
The main thing you need is to make the promise to yourself that you will do whatever it takes to protect yourself and your loved ones. Of course, if you can get away, run!
But if you are trapped, a drop of true rage combined with a cold-blooded remorseless attack (careless of your own personal-safety) can do wonders. Just remember — people who start fights in bars and who break into houses are often not world-class athletes. If you can get away, don’t roll over for them. Fight back! If you turn it up to 110%, you might be surprised at what happens.