Many of our students share their stories with us when signing-up for our couses. In a lot of cases they have been victims of a violent attack. Some had previous training in various self-defense systems and martial arts. Amost all of those with previous training and also those with no training froze during their ordeal. Their main reason why they sign-up for training with us is to learn how to prevent freezing up duing a violent confrontation.
Why do people freeze up?
Let’s talk about how real-life combat actually affects you. A lot of our students are prime athletes. They run daily, or they have some other exercise regimen, and they’re in peak physical condition. But when we run them through a real-life scenario – say a simulated carjacking, or robbery, or home invasion – within thirty to sixty seconds they begin to shut down physically. They’re panting like they just ran five miles, or played a full game of whatever sport they’re involved in. And it was only thirty to sixty seconds.
Why is that?
Why is a conditioned athlete not able to take that fitness and transfer it into reality combat conditioning? The answer is adrenaline – the adrenaline dump, the overwhelming fear, the fight-or-flight response that your body is going through. All the running and all the basketball and all the cycling and all the spinning and all the cardio classes in the world can’t prepare you for what your body is going to experience in a real altercation. It’s going to shut down. This is very important to understand. In the C.O.B.R.A. Defense Program, we train diligently on counteracting this physical shut-down by getting students used to the adrenaline. Adrenaline inoculation training includes an instructor screaming instructions, and putting you through attention diversion drills. You also have a bad guy dressed in pads, and he’s steering you left and right, grabbing, holding – sending you into the unknown. Being able to fight through this is so very important.
Are tained martial artists prone to freezing up?
Now let’s talk about the trained martial artist. If someone has a lot of skill, but hasn’t experienced real-time training – that adrenaline dump and the fight-or-flight response –they haven’t learned to control this reaction. One of the things that adrenaline will do is take the techniques you’ve learned and trained so diligently on, and throw them right out the window. Your hands feel like they’re gigantic bricks. You feel like you’re moving in slow motion, like you’re stuck in the mud. It’s the bad dream syndrome: “I can’t move. I’m stuck in the middle of the street. Nothing’s working. I’m hitting the guy and it doesn’t hurt him.” That’s what adrenaline does. It makes your vision fuzzy. It shuts off your hearing. It makes it seem like you’re looking through a straw.
Scenario training as a tool to overcome freezing up
We have a home invasion drill that we do, in which a student goes through a series of events, including attention diversion drills. They’re striking shields and bags. They’re engaging a bad guy. They’ve got to open a locked door and go through, then shut the door and relock it. All these different tasks simulate an actual home invasion. In the middle of this drill we shout out a color. We yell it right in their ear as they pass us. At the end we ask the student, “Do you remember your color?” The first time students do this drill, nine out of ten times they have no idea what the color is. They’re just happy they made it through.
We had a class in which we had several experienced martial artists, as well as several police officers. And there was a distinct difference between the police officers, who have had the real-life training, and the martial artists, who have trained in a static atmosphere. Striking shields and pads and even sparring are done in a controlled atmosphere, which doesn’t lead to the fear that is involved in a realistic experience. It makes a distinct difference. Even some of the law enforcement officers had a challenge with this drill. They couldn’t remember their color. You’re going through this entire scenario, and you’re confused, you’re panicked, and it feels very, very real even though you’re in a controlled environment in our facility. Your mind is your worst enemy at this point, because it shuts everything else out to focus on the threat that’s right in front of you.
After doing this drill several times, the same students not only remember the color, they can remember every move they made, every strike they threw. When did they end up on the ground? Where was the bad guy standing when they approached him? They can recall all of this. What this kind of training provides is clarity in combat. The fog begins to lift. Your mind stays in control in spite of the body’s physical reaction to what’s going on. The freezing up is reduced. You’ve created the ability to focus in actual real-time combat. This is priceless.