In self-defense, the technique can be useless without psychological training because the emotional state of an aggression or a threat that arrives at any time of your day can despite your preparation lead to blocking you or not putting the right level of aggression or underestimation of danger.
Today if you search the web, bulletin boards and ads on the internet is full of self-defense courses that promise you in a short time to learn defense techniques in case of aggression but it is not just a matter of self-defense techniques.
Have you ever learned something extremely complex and with practically infinite variables in a short time?.
Here, they are promising you that! And you know the worst thing?
Without knowing you.
If you want to believe it, you are free to do so, but do you know why they do that?.
Because fortunately the chances that you will be attacked are very low and maybe even if you have this bad luck it will have been a long time, you have not trained anymore and therefore you have forgotten what you had learned not thinking that maybe it is not your fault, but of that absurd and useless training method based on a mix of techniques taken here and there, decontextualized and without a direct “contact” with reality.
Learning self-defense techniques is basically useless if it is not supported by adequate psychological training.
It is not enough to train in a self-defense course to be able to face an aggressor on the street.
The Rocky Mountain Combat Application Training experiment
The martial experiment of the Rocky Mountain Combat Application Training (RMCAT), based in Colorado despite the limitation of the test was one of the first scientific approaches to support this thesis.
Now I want to make absolutely a premise, it does not mean that this experiment provides an absolute truth, it is not so but it still offers useful food for thought that are important in a conflict against an aggressor and even if it presents many critical issues it is still a job that I recommend practicing even in gyms with the necessary protections to understand exactly what it means and not write stupid comments without having tried tests of this type.
Now to return to the experiment, the dynamics of the test consisted in recreating some situations in which some volunteers expert in different martial arts are put in turn in front of a “street beater”.
The latter wore a mask so as not to be recognized and his task was to proceed with insults and threats and the martial artists could not do anything until the bastard tried to attack them.
Now already from this you can understand that we start from a condition of disadvantage because you can not anticipate the aggressor, but .. It is not quite as they tell it because it is you who must do “your job”.
The results of the test were disconcerting: most of the volunteers could not manage the psychological tension caused by the anger, first verbal and then physical, of the masked subject.
Almost all of them were overwhelmed by the street brawler, failing at all to put into practice the principles and techniques of their martial art.
As if that were not enough, the volunteers were not novice pigeons: they were black belts, instructors and teachers.
The conclusion of the Rocky Mountain Combat Application Training (RMCAT):
Martial arts are not effective in self-defense.
Now consider that behind this test there is also a lot of marketing but also many points of inspiration and reflection.
The conclusion is exaggerated in the sense that it is not the martial art itself but the non-habit of operating in a certain context and on different dynamics and therefore if you practice martial arts you should test a “critical” situation.
The “masked beater of the experiment”, in addition to the mask, was harnessed with protections all over the body because the martial artists had to be left free to be as effective as possible without limiting themselves.
So the guys in the test knew what they were up against, but they all had a big limitation, they didn’t know when they would be attacked during the verbal argument and they couldn’t attack until the attacker left.
This disadvantage is not little, but if you do not adopt a correct defensive position it becomes difficult to be able to resist a furious and aggressive assault because you are suffering it since you can not start first.
Other criticisms about the experiment such as the weight of the aggressor, his abilities, etc. do not make sense because they are variables that you have to take into account on the street, He is a stranger who can be a jerk like an expert, but anyway the experiment consisted also in this and if it is a self-defense experiment albeit with limitations The rules are zero.
Ps. In my training and in my method there are periodic qualification protocols where very trying simulations are made such as on punching and kicking discharges because they serve both for you and suffer it so as not to be frightened and know how to react that when you are the aggressor to carry out a merciless attack (attention helmet and complete protections).
- Test01 – Verbal discussion against one but you have to wait for it to attack
- Test02 – Verbal argument against one but you can leave whenever you want
- Test03 – Verbal argument against two but you have to wait for it to attack
- Test04 – Verbal argument against two but you can leave whenever you want
- Test05 – 30Kg difference
- Test06 – 3 vs 1
- Test07 – Stick against bare hand
- Test08 – Knife or bottle against bare hand
- Test09 – Firearm Threat
- Test10 – Variable context (place, light, climate, clothing, etc.)
Ps. These are just a few aspects of testing that are needed to begin to understand certain mechanisms. At first you will make mistakes but every mistake is an important lesson and in a controlled environment you can make mistakes and learn from these mistakes.
From this experiment we deduce a few things:
- Those who start first have a big advantage.
- The psychological variable where martial arts are not ready to handle the insults and real and aggressive threats of a “man in the street” that distracts them from the real danger.
- Although martial arts pass off some actions as simple, for example it is not easy to use “incorrect” blows to the genitals, eyes and throat, to be effective they require important precision.
It is not enough to go around armed, learn a martial art, have attended a self-defense course to be able to say “I know how to defend myself“.
Those who say so, simply, have never really been in trouble and are cultivating dangerous and false securities.
It is not enough to train hard, perhaps for years, to punch and kick a bag, or sparring with teammates in the gym.
It is not even enough to have various weapons (legal or not) to be able to defend yourself.
Because when you face reality, perhaps represented by a real street beater or an armed bandit, the scenario for which we thought we were prepared, changes completely.
The problem is not your technical skills but your psychological abilities!
And so we read the cases of martial arts instructors, or at least of advanced practitioners, such as black belts or similar, who in the moment of truth, perhaps in the underpass of the station, experienced a humiliating inability to react effectively and suffered aggression.
Repeat! The problem was not their technical knowledge but their psychological preparation.
In the history of aggression, the performance of some armed security operators or victims of aggression with defense tools has been useless:
- Someone managed to shoot himself in the foot in a frantic attempt to pull out the weapon.
- Some knife carriers, or blinding sprays, did not even manage to extract the contraption from their pockets, disoriented and in shock as they were.
- Some under the influence of panic, have even forgotten to have it with them, only to remember it when things are over…
What happened then?, because people technically prepared to defend themselves (at least on paper) gave such a disappointing test?.
The answer is complex and lies both in the “cognitive” aspect and in the psychophysical and character aspect of the victim.
An example of a few weeks ago, during a Muay Thai match one of the two fighters hit the opponent from behind in a lawful but unsportsmanlike way.
A spectator went up and attacked the fighter who had a disjointed reaction, surprised, frightened and yet it was a fighter still full of adrenaline and who knows how to fight, yet his reaction was surprised, submissive.
He suffered the aggressor and only the intervention of the corner and security stopped the action of the spectator.
Yet he was a prepared fighter, but he does not have a sudden, unusual, unregulated context.
Surely if it happened again now it would be different, but .. It will not recur or very difficult.
As for the cognitive problem, most of the time there was a lack of knowledge of the attack rituals of the street fighter, and the surprise factor played against the victim.
In the gym, these topics are hardly addressed where before a fight you greet each other, sometimes you shake hands, then a fair duel begins, complete with rules and a referee who guarantees their respect.
On the street it is not so.
The first rule is that there are no rules and then the ritual that leads to the clash most of the time is hidden, sneaky, sudden, rapid.
If you don’t know this ritual, you find yourself wondering if it really intends to attack you, and as you ask yourself you get a punch in the face that stretches you.
In gyms, as well as in self-defense courses, too often people are trained to react to the “physical” aspect of aggression.
The instructor will say “Here, he grabs you like this, you turn around and hit with your elbow … etc.”, for example.
Technically it is information that you need and that must be trained, even if in my training methods I do not use pre-packaged packages because what you need are skills that must adapt to the situation and that is why there is no single technique of response to a certain type of aggression, it cannot be so because even here you have to learn to adapt to the context.
The problem is to act before having to react and this is only possible by playing in advance, understanding on the fly what kind of opponent you are facing and how he will act.
When you find yourself in an aggression maybe it’s already too late and I’ll explain why.
Unfortunately, no thug will attack you trying to give you the advantage of time to react or understand what is going to happen.
His attack will always be devious, masked, cowardly, just to surprise you.
To do this will resort to surprise and to have the surprise on his side, he will resort to deception.
For this reason, a very important role is given by the reading and interpretation of body language, the only one able to give us reliable clues about the true intentions of the other.
The inability to recognize the warning signs of an attack, will ensure that the victim, perhaps back from months of training in the gym, is KO even before realizing that the aggression is in progress.
Another fundamental aspect is the substantial unpreparedness of most people in dealing with psychophysical reactions related to fear.
Living in the shelter of civil society, or at least in the presumption that it is so, has in fact reduced your habit of dealing with this primary emotion.
The result is that, when we encounter dangerous situations, we no longer have adequate schemes to cope with them.
Then it is normal to experience paralysis and indecision that can be disastrous when, instead, immediate and decisive reactions would be required, with an incredible level of violence or an immediate escape if possible, as animals do.
People who fall victim to events easily become disoriented and blocked because of the physiological symptoms that accompany intense fear:
- dryness of mucous membranes,
- limitations of the visual head (the so-called “tunnel effect”),
- rigidity of movements,
- up to paralysis,
Training a person to fight fear is something complicated because each of us reacts differently to different dangerous situations and because each of us has a different threshold of tolerance with respect to stressful events.
There are people who panic in the face of moderate stress, such as public speaking, or asking a girl for her number and then seem to react coldly to situations of extreme risk.
Whether it is recklessness or underestimation of danger, what matters is the correct response that allows you to save your life.
The biggest complication is given by the fact that to learn to overcome fear the only really valid means is… Feeling fear over and over again, so as to decrease your sensitivity to this primary emotion.
A kind of “vaccination”, therefore, that passes through the awareness of our reactions in the face of danger.
It goes without saying that it is practically impossible to reproduce in a self-defense course the situation of emotional stress that is generated during an aggression, without making the student run serious risks.
Training to overcome fear is therefore one of the most difficult challenges for those involved in training people in self-defense.
Another important aspect is related to the character and educational aspects of the person.
In this sense, the street fighter has very specific characteristics and not possessing them represents an unbridgeable disadvantage, when you have to fight for life.
It is useless to have a weapon, to have the best technical training, to know how to control fear if then, at the moment of truth, you hesitate because you do not want to hurt or you are repugnant to cripple and seriously hurt him, to see the blood splattered from the nose of your opponent, you are disgusted by the idea of sticking a finger in his eye to get away with it or breaking his arm.
Unfortunately, an effective self-defense protocol, especially when there is a strong gap in forces as in female self-defense, involves almost exclusively “dirty” techniques that require the use of violence, of doing things that go beyond the conception of most people.
Knowing how to cultivate in the student a ferocious and uninhibited aggressiveness, the so-called “killer instinct“, is the most difficult and delicate task of an instructor because it is not something physical and technical but a modification and psychological adaptation to the context that must take place in an instant once the red signal is “heard”.
Usually this type of training is given to military groups and departments.
Now it is not a question of turning meek and sociable people into ugly murderers, but it is a question of ensuring that the student knows how to unleash his violence in a targeted way, that is, in a context in which his survival is at risk.
It’s about reprogramming your reaction when it’s stimulated by certain external inputs.
As you can guess it is a task that requires a lot of responsibility, not for everyone, always poised between the risk of providing too bland, superficial training and that of transcending, going further with the risk of creating new and dangerous social and psychological misfits.
Now very few self-defense courses are able to provide convincing solutions to learn how to do all this, because they require uncommon skills.
Some instructors claim to train and not train.
The difference is obvious:
- who trains thinks about muscles and reflexes,
- The trainer thinks about situations and circumstances.
We need a mix but more unbalanced towards the second since we talk about self-defense and not sports combat.
In one case or another, almost no one thinks of the individual and his very personal way of responding to fear, his ability to make the best use of his resources or his being banned and not being able to react.
For this reason, the role of the instructor becomes fundamental because he must recognize the individual person and not a class of students, because each of them has his own psychology and reaction to fear, malice, violence, etc. and on each one it is necessary to build a personalized path.
Instructors who continue to believe they are teaching their techniques to:
- gouging out eyes,
- castrate rapists out of the shadows,
- disarming an attacker’s hands armed with a knife (help!!!)
- or pistol disarmament (aid!!!),
maybe trying and saying to make their training “realistic” (or “training” according to the most convinced) by flooding their students with pure adrenaline, obtained with frantic rhythms or blows delivered at full force, shouting in their faces as if running the risk of remaining with oxygen debt in the gym was the same as a knife threat of a stranger in front of the face inside the subway, or a beating in the street of two junkies, or a “real” rape …
No, it’s not the same and never will be.
Panic is a serious matter, and you will never get it in a “friendly” context, where everyone is ready to help you and ready to help you in case you succumb to “realistic” training (or training).
No one is able to reproduce in a “legal” way a context that is remotely realistic in a gym: it would take closed exit routes, no protection, a sadistic instructor who does not intervene, and one who is really on his balls who wants to make you pay or who wants your phone, in practice one motivated to hurt you if you do not do as he wants and in addition this must happen when you do not You wait on any day of class and anywhere (gym, bathroom, parking, etc.).
So maybe yes, if you get out alive, all in one piece and not definitively traumatized, you can say that you have more or less understood what happens, but this is something that cannot be done and it means getting hurt.
Ideally, a professional instructor should be a kind of trainer able to reinforce and train also the emotional and psychological states related to the fight and aggressions that are under the muscles of the student.
This is also part of the training in self-defense.
There are people who have a more pronounced reaction to stress than others and who therefore have more difficulty managing states of fear.
Some people have always lived in an overprotective environment and have not developed an adequate spirit of initiative.
It is natural that people like this find themselves in difficulty when the situation becomes critical, the ability to improvise and the mentality to get by from the outside can make the difference.
Finally, especially if it is female self-defense or subjects who have chronic insecurity, who feel physically unperforming, There is an aspect of fragility and insecurity that makes it more difficult for certain people to assert their right to exist and to assert themselves in relationships with others.
A “realistic” workout should be oriented to these less “muscular” but no less essential aspects, if the goal is to train you for survival.
If you are doing a self-defense course where there is no such type of training you risk wasting your time and money without really learning what you need.
If your goal is to increase the chances of learning to defend yourself in case of a street aggression that I repeat is not gym sparring with your friends and training partners, an important psychological training is essential.
Self defence is not a geme!
Street Fight Mentality & Fight Sports