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Street Fighting Concepts:


The Three Important Stages of Street Violence. By Morn'Swanepoel

Street violence which can be directly related to the unlawful exercise of physical force is a reality which all of us live with on a daily basis. Training to protect oneself for street confrontations is very intense and quite different from training for competitions, even the No holds barred competitions that are very popular today. The Pavement arena is where there are no rules, where anything goes and where you can expect the unexpected.

The latest buzz word in the martial arts community is 'reality-based'' It is a police term, though never widely used in the law enforcement community, which refers to realistic Conflict Rehearsal training. The term 'reality-based' was brought to light thanks to one of the world's leading reality based instructors, Sergeant Jim Wagner. He defines reality-based as follows:

'Training and survival skills based on modern conflict situations that the practitioner is likely to encounter in their environment (their "reality"), in an accordance with the use-of-force continuum of that jurisdiction.' - Jim Wagner

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word reality/realism/realistic can be defined as: "Actually existing or occurring. Practise of things in their true nature and dealing with them as they are. Based on facts rather than ideals etc."

Your duty as a Street Self Defence Coach/instructor is to expose your students to what is real in today's world of street violence and to ensure that their training methods and techniques is on par with what is actually happening out there today i.e reality based.

In the reality-based world there are 3 main conflict stages that one is exposed to. Any violent or self defence situation can be divided into these important stages.

1 - Pre Conflict (before the fight)
Most situations can be avoided by ensuring one exposes oneself to pre conflict training. Pre conflict training consists of various factors such as: Threat assessment, situational awareness, hostile awareness, legal issues, verbal judo etc. Learning how to avoid confrontations physically, mentally and socially is imperative to any reality based self defence training. Besides the physical techniques and training methods one can incorporate to achieve these results it is just as important to expose oneself to case studies of various violent crimes to identify the pre conflict stage and methods of avoidance or minimal damage/injury.

2 - Conflict (the actual confrontation)
This is the part that most Self Defence and Martial Art schools focus on. The problem is that most of them are based on theory, rituals, tradition and set sequences or forms. Not one confrontation is the same and trying to memorize complex techniques for certain situations or attacks is going to get you killed or seriously injured. The conflict stage has social and asocial violence components which need specific attention such as gang attacks, the way criminals fight with weapons, carjacking, robberies, muggings etc. It is also important one is able to establish the difference between social and asocial violence and the amount of force you will be using to successfully defend yourself and your loved ones. The importance of getting the most effective results is directly related to the tools that are brought into action focussing on the most vulnerable targets that are available.

3 - Post Conflict (after the fight)
These are the actions you will take after the confrontation/fight. Again there are many factors involved here which needs to be addressed in ones reality based training such as first aid training, escaping methods, citizen's arrest methods, communication with the authorities, courtroom survival, attacker description and incident detail etc.

The focus is on reality based training methods and techniques which specifically focuses on modern conflict situations, and eliminating outdated techniques and training methods. No time is wasted on rituals, memorisation of complex techniques or forms but rather on resisting opponents and scenario training which will give the practitioner immediate results and feedback. Constant evolution and updating of ones potential enemies and the way you are preparing yourself to deal with them is essential if you want to survive the streets of today.


The Fence. By Geoff Thompson


Priming ' putting a fence around your factory
'Attack is the secret of defence: defence is the planning of an attack.'
Sun Tzu

In this chapter we are working on the premise that you have already exhausted all other options, i.e. avoidance, escape and verbal dissuasion. Most self-defence situations and attack scenarios, as mentioned in the previous chapters, issue rays of prior warning if you are perceptive enough to spot the attacker's ritual. If you are foolhardy enough to heighten your vulnerability by placing yourself in a dangerous situation (like walking down a dark alley at night) you cannot expect any prior warning and will have to make the best of a bad situation. You then fall into the ambush attack. Most people in society are so switched off, both mentally and environmentally, that many attack scenarios fall into the ambush variety. If this is so, and it so often is, you will be fighting tooth and nail for your very existence. The majority do not survive the ambush attack.

Previously I talked about the verbal communication (four 'D's) that nearly always precedes an attack upon the person and the victim who is quite often disarmed or shocked rigid by it. The time lapse between the disarming or scarifying verbal (which can be very short) and the attack itself is your time. During these seconds the victim may seize the moment, as it were, and be pre-emptive, effecting attack/escape, or elongate the verbal by replying to the aforementioned dialogue with aggressive counter-verbal, unbalancing the attacker's psyche.

These seconds before battle are absolutely pivotal and must be managed quickly and without demur; remember, hesitancy begets defeat. This arena is that of the three second fighter.

When the police talk about self-protection the key is target hardening ' we mentioned this earlier in the book ' that is, making yourself a hard target by means of placement and awareness of environment and the enemy. When I talk about the physical aspect of self-protection I am always working on the premise that, for whatever reason, a situation has gone beyond this and reached dire straits and the possibility of escape is no longer an option or that option has been lost.

As I have just said, pre-fight management is vital if you want to survive intact. Who wins and who loses in most situations is usually determined by what happens pre-fight as opposed to in-fight. Most situations start at conversation range, this being talking or handshake distance. If this is mismanaged it degenerates rather quickly to vertical grappling range and then ground fighting ' not a good place to be if you don't know the arena. While conversation distance is not the chosen range of the majority ' most people feel safer at about four or five feet ' it can be maintained so that it does not degenerate further into grappling range by 'putting a fence around your factory'.

If you had a factory that you wanted to protect from robbers the most sensible thing to do would be to place a fence around it to make it a hard target so that a potential robber has got to get past that fence before he can even think about attacking the factory. While the fence might not keep him out indefinitely it will make his job decidedly harder. Rather like a boxer who constantly flicks a jab into his opponent's face, even if that jab does not hurt his opponent it still keeps him at bay, and if his opponent wants to employ his knock out blow he first has to find a way past his opponent's jab. To the boxer the jab is the fence around his factory.

In self-protection the fence around your factory is your lead hand, placed in that all-important space between you and your antagonist to maintain a safe gap.

Like the factory fence the lead hand will not keep an aggressor at bay forever ' just long enough for you to initiate an escape or a pre-emptive attack ' but it will place you in charge, even though your aggressor may not know it. Placed correctly the lead hand will not only maintain a safe gap but it will also disable the attacker's armoury of right- and left-hand techniques/ head-butts etc. Though he may not know it on a conscious level he will instinctively realise that, until that fence has been removed or by-passed, his techniques have no clear way through.

The lead hand should be held in a non-aggressive way (see illustrations) and should not touch the aggressor unless he makes a forward movement and tries to bridge the gap between you and him. It acts as a sensory guide to your aggressor's intentions; if he moves forward he will touch the fence and set your alarm bells ringing ' this forward movement should be checked so as to maintain the safe range by using the palm of the lead hand on the aggressor's chest. Don't hold the touch as this may be seen by your assailant, on a conscious level, as a controlling movement (while of course it is a controlling action, it's better at this stage that the aggressor does not feel that you are in control). This will force him to knock your hand away or grab your wrist and possibly cause him to attack you prematurely, so as soon as you have checked him return the lead hand to its standby position.

One of the final subliminal precursors to an aggressor's attack is distance close down. If he tries to bridge the gap that you are maintaining it is usually because he is making his final preparations for assault, so if he does move forward and touch the fence you should, as well as checking range, be getting ready to make a pre-emptive attack or suffer the consequences should he break down the fence. In my opinion the maximum amount of times that a potential attacker should be allowed to touch the fence is twice ' after that you've got big problems and will probably end up in a match fight situation or on the floor with a crowd around you, depending upon the calibre of fighter you are facing. Every time the attacker touches the fence the danger doubles.

The fence should look and feel natural; this will come with practice. If it doesn't and the attacker notices it on a conscious level he will try to knock it away and bridge the gap. Ideally the fence should be fluid, always moving, like you are using your hands to talk.

A professional may notice the fence no matter how well you disguise it and try using deceptive dialogue or body language to bring the fence down. Once down he will act. This often entails telling you that he does not want trouble, or that he just wants to talk; he may ask directions, the time, your name, anything to disarm you enough to lower the fence. An experienced fighter will offer to shake hands to get rid of the fence or try to close the gap by putting his arm around your shoulder in a pally kind of way. Don't have any of it ' if there is the slightest chance of threat then don't let anyone touch you; a good fighter will only need one shot once the fence is down, so keep it up. If he still persists in coming forward and you don't feel ready to strike, or indeed are not even sure that a strike is called for, don't hesitate to back-up the check with a firm verbal fence: 'Just stay where you are'.

With the modern enemy the rule of thumb is 'if his lips are moving he's lying' so don't believe a word that he says. If he still persists in coming forward then he has given you the 'go'. Having said all that, if the potential attacker has already made his intentions obvious by demanding your wallet or threatening you then there is nothing to contemplate: you should go the first time he touches the fence.

The fence also acts as a range finder. Many trained fighters misjudge the distance of their attacks in a real situation because the range is foreign to them. By touching the opponent with the lead hand before initiating your attack you can judge the exact distance, giving you a more accurate and solid shot.

If and when you have decided to initiate an attack the lead hand also acts as a physical action trigger. You touch the opponent with the lead hand, finding the range, and bounce off the touch using it to trigger your attack. This should be coupled with the verbal brain engaging action trigger detailed earlier.

The fence can also be used to maintain the range and even position of multiple attackers, but this is tantamount to fighting on more than one front. It is very difficult to maintain the range of more than one attacker and a speedy decision to attack or escape should always be sought.

The fence can be constructed in any way you choose as long as it blocks the gap and looks inoffensive. You can use a stop fence by placing the palm of the lead hand in front of the opponent, but this will bring the control to a conscious level and may catalyse alarm in the opponent. Where possible it is best to control him without him knowing it.


The pleading fence (PF)
This is a nice fence because it is submissive and inoffensive but it blocks range beautifully. It also leaves the fingers ideally placed for an eye attack should it be needed. It is often best to underline the fence with firm dissuasive dialogue: 'look, just keep away from me, I don't want trouble' or a more assertive 'stay where you are ' don't come any closer.'

Being submissive is ideal if you have decided that you are going to employ a pre-emptive attack or you are using the deception to escape. It will mentally disarm your opponent, making him an easy target. It has a bad point, however. Many attackers will see submissiveness as a meal ticket to an easy victim and spur on their assault, which is OK if you are setting the trap but not so good if you are not expecting it. Personally I use the submissive approach quite a lot because it really does disarm the opponent and give you a clear line for the sniper attack option, whereas other times I will use an assertive, even aggressive fence, to psyche out the opponent.

Assertiveness can be a good thing and a bad thing. If the attacker thinks that you are confident it may cause him to abort his intended attack, but if he is committed to attacking you no matter what, your assertiveness may trigger his aggression and you may lose the element of surprise and give him added adrenal turbo.

Having spent a lot of time working with and controlling violent people, I have learned to judge the right time for assertiveness and the right time for submissiveness. Not every one will be able to do this, so if you have to choose and there is no other way, use submissiveness to disarm and then attack and run, or use firm (but not aggressive) or submissive verbal dissuasion.

Both hands are placed in front of you, palms facing the attacker and several inches away from him but not touching.

The staggered fence (SF)
Similar to the PF with palms facing forward but with the hands staggered by about one foot, the hand at the back would be the ideal one used to attack though with practice the lead hand would be ideally placed for a finger strike to the eyes.

The exclamation fence (EF)
The hands, palms upward, are held as though in exclamation, the lead left hand pushed forward as fence and the right hand, cocked to strike, to your own right hand side (left if reversed).

The verbal fence
The verbal fence is an excellent tool if you can see menace on its way in and works well pre-fight, in-fight and post-fight. I have used it successfully many times. An extract from my book Watch My Back exemplifies a post-fight fence rather well:

'The fight with 'The Karate Kid' had been on the cards for several months, I'd tried to avoid it but was unable. I pick up the situation as it reached its conclusion ' the post-fight fence comes in at the end of the fight when one of his friends becomes involved [this was a match fight by the way].

'I'd spent two months trying to avoid this situation and was fed up with trying, I had no more chances left in my 'chance bag'.

'As The Karate Kid got closer his face began to grimace and I sensed he was going to strike at any moment.


Almost in slow motion, I hooked my right fist onto his advancing jaw, pushing it backwards, shaking his grey matter into the realms of unconsciousness. As he fell I volleyed his face and he spiralled, like movie strobe. I kicked him so hard that it hurt my foot. I felt hate leaving my body; he landed face down and forlorn on the cruel, black tarmac of defeat. Many people were watching, so I thought I'd give them a display, not for exhibitionism, nor fun, nor ego, I just wanted to take out a little insurance. Making the onlookers [mostly his mates] think that I was an animal would, in the future, insure that they did not tangle with me. It's what the Chinese call 'killing a chicken to train a monkey'.

''Kiaaa!' I screamed as I brought an axe kick onto the body of my sleeping quarry. To the onlooker, it probably looked barbaric [which is how I wanted it to look], but in reality the kick was empty, I pulled it on impact, just as I had a thousand times in training.

'The man with the weasel face [The Karate Kid's mate] ran at me, from the crowd of onlookers, with ill intent and I stopped him in his tracks with a lash of my tongue [the verbal fence].


'I pointed at him to underline my resolve. He stopped like an insect on fly paper.'

Unlike the varying genres of physical fence the verbal fence is best aggressive ' the more so the better ' it has to pierce the opponent's subconscious and register danger with the brain, causing an adrenal reaction in him that, hopefully, he will mistake for fear.

In America they have a saying in the prisons: 'give me five feet'. This means 'keep at least five feet away from me', five feet being the distance they feel they are relatively safe at. This only works if you're aware enough to spot menace at a very early stage. More often than not a fight will come through an argument or some kind of aggressive verbal so the five feet rule is already lost and the physical fence comes into play.

If you are using the verbal fence you must, as I have said, be very firm, even aggressive.

'Stay where you are, don't come any closer, stay!'

This would be underlined by placing your lead hand in front of you in a stop sign.

This can even work in-fight if someone tries to attack you whilst you are fighting or defending yourself. I have been grappling on the floor with one opponent when his mate has tried to join in against me. Noticing this I used an in-fight fence by telling the guy that if he joined in I was going to batter him afterwards. He quickly changed his mind.

Pre-fight verbal fence
I'm trying to find a way to write this now so that it does not sound over-complicated. Here goes. If you use the verbal fence pre-fight it is important to create a gap ' about five feet would be good ' between you and him with a sharp shove, using the lead hand fence. It's very hard to control an opponent with a verbal fence when they are already in your face. So if the situation has reached an impasse and you think it is going to become physical, but you do not want to make a preemptive attack for whatever reason, then shove him hard on the chest so that it knocks him backwards and out of immediate attacking range (this may take some practice in the gym with training partners). This minimal physical contact will also cause an adrenal release in the opponent. Then back the shove up with a very aggressive verbal fence, even using expletives to add aggression. The reason for the gap is many fold but not least that it takes the opponent out of his striking range. What it also does is take the opponent from a state of reaction to a state of response. Let me explain. If you shove the opponent but not out of range he may automatically react to the shove with an attack of his own. He'll do this without even thinking; it will be very easy for him because it'll be an automatic response. In effect, by staying within strike range you are forcing the opponent into a fight response. His instincts will inform him that he is cornered and that he should fight his way out. That is not a good thing for obvious reasons. If however you shove him out of attack range you will trigger his flight response and give him the instinct to run or freeze. Even if he does not run away, the fact that he feels like running away will cause confusion, which triggers more adrenalin, and then you have the downward spiral to capitulation.

Once you have created the gap and the confusion, the opponent is forced out of a reactional mode and into a response mode, which means that now, if he wants to attack, he has to be able to consciously override all natural instincts and move forward. This very often leads to the sticky feet syndrome. He may really want to move forward but his feet appear stuck to the floor, his body lurches forward as though trying to move but his feet stay stuck firmly to the ground. To add to this effect and to make yourself a hard target you can add ballooning or stalking. This is done by pacing left to right without taking your eyes off the opponent, at the same time shouting out verbal commands, 'stay there, don't move!' and pointing to the opponent, this acting as a back-up fence to the verbal.

Interestingly, the ballooning triggers innate fears within the opponent that go right back to the dawn of man when we were not at the top of the food chain and were the prey of bigger animals. This will only add to the opponent's woe if he thinks that he is being stalked like a wild beast. If you watch the cheetah when he hunts the antelope he balloons or stalks before he attacks; in fact most animals do it, we are no exception. It can be used by us as an attacking tool to trick the opponent into a flight response, or against us ' often inadvertently ' to effect the same freeze tendencies.

The psychological fence
The psychological fence is a fighter's reputation or confident/aggressive gait ' this places an invisible fence around you that only the very brave will try to pass.

The negative psychological fence
Deliberately dropping the physical or psychological fence by pretending to be scared or unthreatening can draw the opponent forward onto your intended attack. He walks into a trap.

The invisible fence
An experienced player will use what I call the invisible fence. That is, he will have the confidence and experience to face an opponent or opponents without employing a physical fence. He knows his range and his enemy so well that he can sense when there will be movement and he can feel bad intent. If his opponent moves forward he will move back or use a stop hit attack instinctively.

On the one hand the physical fence will control range and prime your attack. On the other hand, if you are not sure whether to strike or not, the fence allows you time to maintain a relatively safe range whilst you plan a course of action ' bearing in mind that decision-making this late in the game is not a good thing, though sometimes it is unavoidable.

Sir Winston Churchill once said that occasionally people stumble upon the truth ' and then get back up and wander off as though nothing happened. The truth is that in the three second fight, the fence is one of the best, if not the best, little techniques available for controlling the early stages of an altercation, but it is so simple that many people often fail to see its importance. It is too easy and they are looking for something more advanced or fantastic. To be honest the advanced stuff, the fantastic stuff, only works in the James Bond films. The fence should therefore become the bedrock of all your physical self-protection work. Ignore it at your own peril.

As formerly mentioned, if you find it necessary to initiate a pre-emptive strike, then attack off the fence. What you use as an attacking tool is your personal choice; out of necessity it is best to employ your strongest, most comfortable attack. There is nothing to gain and everything to lose if you throw anything less.

The attack is your chosen main artillery technique and whilst many techniques should be practised and perfected, one or two, the ones that work best for you, should be taken to one side and isolated. These will be the techniques used in your sniper option.

There is no sense in beating about the bush and saying that main artillery can be taken from any range because they can't. If punching range is the one most often given in a real situation then that is where the main artillery should be drawn from. Having said that I always think it is wise to have one or two very strong techniques at every range; after all a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

So hand techniques are the order of the day, and there is little point in manufacturing another range when the one you are in is the most clinical anyway. Kicking and grappling range are far from clinical: they are, at best, elongated ranges where it usually takes several blows or seconds to finish an adversary as opposed to the split second it can take to finish a fight with a good hand technique. Punching range is also a very mobile range and a good puncher can move through several opponents in as many seconds. If you beg to differ then I respect your opinion but please don't try and convince me, have an animal day (a training session where the participants fight all out with very few rules and any range is allowed) at your own club and see for yourself. When you watch someone like the brilliant Rick Young teach trapping it makes you realise what a valid part of your armoury it can be, but even Rick will probably tell you that it is an incidental range used to back up main artillery technique. Basic trapping therefore is a valid (though very small) part of the support system. A fight goes from talking distance to in-your-face in the blink of an eye.

People often ask me what is the best means of physical defence and I always reply 'learn to hit fucking hard', and that's the bottom line. Learn how to hit very very hard and you'll come out of most situations on top, but please learn to do it from the right range. It's one thing being able to hit hard from a comfortable range and from a guard position or perhaps even using combination to build momentum and power, but how well will you fare when the distance you are used to is halved and you have to punch from a no-guard position' It's a completely different ball game so it is important to train your techniques as close to reality as possible. Then the step from dojo to street is not such a big one. If you are used to compliance in training you've got a very big shock coming to you when the shit hits the fan.

In the vast majority of situations I have been involved in I have used a left lead fence to set up a right-handed punch ' sometimes a cross, sometimes a hook. My base was, and is, almost always a very small left lead forty-five degree stance and I always ask a question before I strike to trigger my action and to engage the opponent's brain. Other people I have worked with preferred a left-lead stance and a right-hand fence, punching with a left hook off the lead leg; others still favoured a left-lead fence from a left-lead stance and attacked with a pummelling head-butt. The lead hand or reverse hand finger strike is also a good stopping technique.

It's worth remembering that your opponent will be experiencing tunnel vision as a by-product of adrenal reaction. In real terms this means that by placing your attacking hand, left or right, slightly outside of his tunnel vision you can strike him without him seeing the blow.

The following illustrations are some of the favoured off-fence attacks.

Here are a few of the more common 'line-up' techniques taken from a fence:

Right Cross / Hook
Thrown from the rear of a left-leading stance: can be tremendously powerful and effective. Its only real infirmity is that, because it is thrown from the rear leg, it can be slightly telegraphed.

From a right-lead stance this technique may be executed using the left-hand.

Left Hook
Thrown from the front leg of a left-lead stance. If employed by a 'practised' pugilist, this punch can be very destructive. Because it is thrown from the front leg it is less telegraphed than other techniques and it has less distance to travel to the target. Because of the high skill factor involved it is not a recommended punch for the novice.

Head Butt
An attack method that inflicts a huge amount of pain, usually directed at the opponent's nose. If executed correctly utilising the body weight it can cause enormous damage to an adversary, though it is not known as a knockout technique.

As a final point on attack, don't ever pull your technique. If a situation has got so bad that you are forced to hit someone to protect yourself then they deserve everything they get. Pulling your technique is the quickest way to the graveyard, so either attack all out or do not attack at all. The only exception to this rule is if you are very experienced and feel you can judge the potency of your attacker. I was often faced with people that were not enough of a threat to demand a good hiding so I would use an adrenalin switch to psyche them out and thus beat them without coming to arms. This takes a lot of experience and unless you are very experienced, don't take the chance.

It is also my recommendation that, once you have hit your opponent, you make good your escape. The only time you need to finish off an opponent is when he is still a threat; if he is not then there is no need. I know this contradicts some of the things I have said in
Watch My Back but that (bouncing) is a different arena where many rules have to be broken to keep the peace long term. I have seen many people go for a finish when a finish was not necessary, and lose as a consequence. Use the distraction of your attack to make good an escape. That's my advice if the situation is a selfdefence one; if it is a fight situation you may need to stay and finish off. but that (bouncing) is a different arena where many rules have to be broken to keep the peace long term. I have seen many people go for a finish when a finish was not necessary, and lose as a consequence. Use the distraction of your attack to make good an escape. That's my advice if the situation is a selfdefence one; if it is a fight situation you may need to stay and finish off.

This is a word or sentence that you can use to trigger action. When facing potential menace it is very often difficult to initiate a physical response, never quite knowing the right time to attack. A key word or sentence will take away decision making. Your chosen word/sentence will automatically initiate your attack. The trigger word/sentence can be any of your choosing. Preferably it should be a submissive question as opposed to a flat statement, as this will serve the triple purpose of switching off the opponent's adrenalin, brain engagement and action trigger. The submissive question is also a subliminal intimation that you wish to prolong the conversation, whereas shorter sentences, certainly single syllables, send the message that conversation is coming to an end.

While the flat statement, 'I don't want trouble', is submissive and can act as an action trigger, it does not adequately engage the brain because it does not demand an answer. Neither does it suggest that you wish to prolong the conversation. Even an abstract question has that triple purpose because of the confusion factor, for example 'how did the City get on today'' What has the City result got to do with the situation in hand'

Of course this all works nicely in the context of the four 'D's, your multi-faceted question being deception and distraction before a decision to fight (destruction) or flight. If the antagonist proffers a question, you may wish your pre-emptive blurb to be in the guise of an answer to it, or you may wish to feign deafness by saying, 'Sorry mate, I didn't hear you. What did you say''

Once you have put up the fence and lined up the antagonist with your chosen technique (this should be done within the first seconds of any confrontation) and you are sure that an attack upon your person is imminent, utilise the response sequence previously detailed. If you have to attack, distract and engage your opponent's brain with your chosen trigger then, if no other option is open to you, make a pre-emptive strike from your pre-cocked 'line-up' position. Your engaging verbal should veil your attack.

I also try not to ask a question that can be answered 'yes' or 'no', e.g. 'can we talk about this'' It does not engage the brain as well as a question that demands a longer answer, such as, 'what are you trying to say''

One thing is certain: the longer you take to act, the graver the situation becomes, especially when faced with more than one antagonist. Time is of the essence, so don't waste even a second.


Three - Second Fighting: The Five Responses Strategy and Fence Tactic For Real-World self-defence Against the Gratuitous AggressorBy Lito Angeles

"The saddest truth you will ever hear is that violence can only be stopped by greater violence, whether it is on a school playground where the bully dishes out misery on those weaker than himself or on the bloodied battlefields of war.... Violence is very wrong, but sometimes it is necessary in the interests of peace." So says Geoff Thompson, the renowned self-defence instructor and legendary ex-bouncer from Great Britain who was undefeated in over 300 fights during a nine plus year period "on the door" at some of England's most notorious night clubs. Through those experiences, he learned that controlling fear along with attacking first, when all other options have failed, are the keys to victory in real-world street fights.

In my previous article on Thompson (Black Belt, August 1998), I wrote about his fear adrenal map which detailed the various disguises of fear in combat. In this one, I will cover the five responses strategy and fence tactic that Thompson advocates for self defence against a gratuitous aggressor. A gratuitous aggressor in this case is someone who instigates an ego-based confrontation stemming from accidental or incidental situations such as looking at him the "wrong" way, bumping into him, being involved in a traffic collision with him, inadvertently cutting him off in traffic, swiping a parking space from him, etc. As I delineate the five responses, I am going to detail Thompson's fence tactic and the appropriate counter ensures in dealing with this type of adversary.

Before a person can establish effective strategies and tactics for self defence, he must first examine and understand the "battlefield" involved. With this in mind, Thompson has identified three kinds of fights: match fighting, ambush fighting, and three-second fighting. A match fight is any kind of fight, be it street or sport, with or without rules, where there is tacit or mutual consent or knowledge between the combatants. In this kind of fight the six S' - skill, size, strength, speed, stamina and py(s)che decide the outcome. On the other hand, an ambush fight is a blind-sided surprise attack in which the person (victim) is caught completely unaware and off-guard. A three-second fight is a real world street fight involving the 3 Cs - confrontation, conflict, and combat. The use of deception and surprise are the cornerstones of this kind of fight. With the volatile situation unresolved, deceptive dialogue is employed as a distraction followed shortly by a pre-emptive attack which often decides the outcome immediately. Thompson coined this kind of fight as three-second fighting because it is usually over within that time frame.

Now that the real-world "battlefield" has been clearly established, let's proceed to the five responses strategy. Thompson says that if you are dealing with a gratuitous aggressor due to an inadvertent or accidental situation, your first response should be to avoid him anyway you can. You do this through awareness and assessment of your adversary, environment, and surroundings. However, if you cannot avoid him and are confronted, Thompson says your second response should be to escape in whatever manner possible. This can usually be accomplished by quickly assessing the situation and utilising diversionary tactics to create an opening for a getaway. If for some reason escaping is impossible, Thompson says your third response should be verbal dissuasion, which means using submissive dialogue to de-escalate the aggressor's hostility. Thompson considers this stage the pivotal period in a confrontation. When it gets to this point against a gratuitous aggressor, it is time to utilise the 'fence" tactic.

The fence is the term Thompson came up with to describe his pre-fight physical tactic. It consists of utilising the hands (usually the lead hand, but can be the rear one or both) in a non-aggressive manner as a physical barrier between you and your adversary. Since most ego-based confrontations start at what Thompson calls conversation range (i.e. talking distance - approximately 18 inches), the fence, your lead hand, serves to maintain a safe gap just long enough for you to escape, talk down the situation, or pre-emptively attack the aggressor. Placed correctly, the lead hand will not only maintain a safe gap, but will also nullify your aggressor's weapons (e.g. punches, elbows, headbutts, and knees). Though he may not realise it on a conscious level, your adversary will instinctively know that until the fence has been removed or bypassed, his techniques have no clear way of getting through.

Besides serving as a physical barrier, the fence has three other functions. The first is what Thompson calls the sensory tentacle. The lead hand acts as a sensor to your aggressor's intentions. He should not touch the fence unless he makes a forward movement to bridge the gap. Any forward movement should be checked by the lead hand to maintain a safe gap because it is a subliminal precursor to an attack. In Thompson's opinion, the maximum number of times an aggressor should touch your fence is twice. If you don't pre-emptively attack him at that point, he will soon be attacking you or it might end up turning into a matchfighting situation. The next function of the fence is as a range finder. The lead hand allows you to judge the exact distance for an accurate pre-emptive strike. The last function of the fence is to act as a physical action trigger. The touching of the lead hand by the aggressor can serve to mentally initiate (i.e. solidifying your decision to attack) then physically initiate (i.e. using the touch as a "springboard" to launch your strike) your pre-emptive attack.

Returning to Thompson's third response - verbal dissuasion, he specifically recommends subtly controlling the aggressor with the fence and using dissuasive dialogue for "loopholing." "Loopholing" is giving your adversary an honourable way out of the situation so that he doesn't lose "face". If your dissuasive dialogue doesn't de-escalate the volatile situation then Thompson says the fourth response - posturing can be employed. This is psyching out the aggressor with extremely aggressive physical gestures and verbal reprimands. Thompson says you can bypass this response and employ the fifth response, pre-emptive attack if you so desire. However, he strongly advocates the use of posturing because he believes that physical violence should be the absolute last option you have to resort to. Furthermore, he feels that it's a good tactic for people who cannot bring themselves to pre-emptively attack their adversary. This is his preferred tactic in handling a gratuitous aggressor. Since Thompson places a great deal of importance on this response, let's examine it in more detail.

Posturing should be employed when the situation has reached an impasse and you think it is going to become physical. So when the aggressor is trying to bridge the gap and take down your fence, you must take the fence to a conscious level by shoving your adversary with your lead hand and simultaneously stepping back (if you have the space to do so) to create a big gap, approximately five feet would be good, between you and him. The purpose of this shove is to trigger an adrenaline release in your adversary making him feel the urge to run away (i.e. the "flight" response. Reinforce your shove with a very aggressive verbal lashing like, "stay there, don't ****ing move!" The use of expletives adds intent and induces more fear in your adversary. Once you have created the gap follow it up with "ballooning." This is done by aggressively pacing side to side, back and forth without taking your eyes off the aggressor, again reinforcing this with verbal reprimands. You should also support your ballooning with finger pointing. This adds more force and credibility to your 'posturing." This tactic very often causes what Thompson likes to call the "sticky feet syndrome." This occurs when on one hand, your adversary wants to move forward because of peer pressure to fight, then on the other hand, his body lurches forward but his feet stay stuck firmly on the ground because his natural fear instinct is telling him to run away. Even if he doesn't run away, the fact that he feels like doing so will create more confusion and self-doubt, triggering more adrenaline, which causes a downward spiral to capitulation. Thompson recommends that you take advantage of your adversary's confusion and make your getaway as soon as possible.

There are two problems associated with posturing that Thompson says you should be aware of. One, you give up the element of deception and two, the element of surprise, should you decide to attack or if your adversary isn't psyched out by this tactic. The confrontation then becomes a match fighting situation which will most likely be decided by the six S' - skill, size, strength, speed, stamina and py(s)che.

Thompson says the winner and loser in most street confrontations is usually determined during the verbal dissuasion/posturing period (i.e. the pre-fight stage). He says that if this period is mismanaged, it will quickly become a match fight, which goes into a clinching struggle then to ground fighting. This is not a good place to be unless you are highly skilled and fighting with one unskilled or not-so-skilled adversary who is on the ground with you, hopefully without a knife on him or friends in the vicinity. So if verbal dissuasion is failing and you decide to bypass posturing, Thompson says that your fifth and final response against a gratuitous aggressor is a pre-emptive attack. Before I get into the details of this response, I would first like to cover what Thompson calls the "rituals of violence." These rituals are the precursors to an attack and if you can identify them, you can stop your adversary's imminent attack with a pre-emptive attack of your own. Thompson says that it is crucial to thoroughly understand these rituals in order to properly employ a pre-emptive attack response.

The "rituals of violence" are the bodily signs and verbal cues that a gratuitous aggressor will telegraph preceding an attack. These rituals are embodied in what Thompson calls the "four D's" of entrapment: dialogue, deception, distraction, and destruction. Thompson says that prior to his attack, your adversary's dialogue will probably be aggressive. If you happen to be dealing with a seasoned street fighter, the dialogue will be used to deceive and distract you before he destroys you. In terms of bodily signs, Thompson says the gratuitous aggressor will be displaying some or all of the following characteristics: aggressive staring with the eyes bulging, chest and lats expanding, arms splaying, fingers beckoning, head nodding, neck pecking, eyebrows dropping, standing up in a fighting position, and distance close-down. In regards to verbal cues, Thompson says that words like "yeah", "and", or "so" are often said just before an attack. He says the use of single syllable words are a sure bet that the dialogue is ending and the attack is coming soon.

Going back to the final response, if you have exhausted all other options and decide that a pre-emptive attack is necessary, then Thompson suggests doing so off the fence with your most powerful strike. Unless you are very experienced, he says anything less is the quickest way to the graveyard; so either attack all out or do not attack at all.

Looking at the specifics of attacking off the fence starting with stances, Thompson has three fence positions he likes to utilise: the pleading fence, the staggered fence, and the exclamation fence. All three positions have the same feet placement: a compact 45degree angled stance with the dominant-side back. The difference between them lies in the placement of the hands.

In the pleading fence, both hands are placed in front of you, palms facing the aggressor several inches away from him. Thompson likes this fence because it looks submissive but presents a solid physical barrier that keeps a safe gap between you and your adversary. It also positions the fingers nicely for an eye attack should it be needed.

With the staggered fence, the palms are again facing forward but with the hands staggered by about one foot. Thompson says the hand in back would be the ideal one to use for attack, though the lead hand is also perfectly placed for an eye attack.

Finally, in the exclamation fence, the palms are facing upward expressing exclamation with the lead hand pushed forward as a fence and the rear hand cocked to strike.

The next component for effectively attacking off the fence deals with the verbal action trigger. Thompson says a verbal action trigger is a word or sentence that you can use to initiate your attack. He says that when you are facing an intimidating aggressor it is very difficult to know exactly when to initiate your attack. A verbal action trigger will take away your indecisiveness and automatically trigger your attack. Thompson says that you should use an out-of-context question such as, "Is your mom's name, Elsie'" as opposed to a flat statement, because along with triggering action, it will serve to switch off your adversary's adrenaline and engage his brain in thought. This question also serves as a subliminal intimation to your adversary that you wish to extend the conversation thereby deceiving him even more. The final element for this response is the attack itself Thompson says that the attack is your chosen main artillery technique. He recommends that you perfect one or two powerful hand techniques from punching range (i.e. conversation range) because that is the distance most often gravitated to in real street confrontations. Thompson says that there is little point in manufacturing another range when the one you are already in, or most likely to be in, is the most clinical one anyway. From this range, he says it takes just a split second to finish a fight with one good hand technique. Many inexperienced martial artists will probably dispute this; however, Thompson had over 50 one-punch . knockouts in his career as a bouncer. He says that with the right information and loads of courage, the one-punch knockout is very attainable.

In the vast majority of confrontations that Thompson has been involved in, his main artillery technique was either a right cross or a right hook executed off the rear side and in a few situations, a forward head butt. These three along with the left hook are the techniques he recommends to choose from and develop. As a reminder, Thompson suggests picking one or two of these techniques and practising them to perfection. You should have supreme confidence with your main artillery.

As you may have noticed, Thompson's personal main artillery techniques (the right cross and right hook) come off the rear-side. He prefers this because it allows him to put total body torque behind a punch for maximum power (the exception is the lead hook). Now some of you may think that punching from the rear-side is slower and more telegraphic than punching from the lead-side. Thompson says that the time difference between the two is negligible; it is a matter of a millisecond difference. He adds that speed is not the major factor to knocking an adversary out anyway; accuracy is. A speedy attack that is not accurate is unlikely to knockout an adversary. In regards to being more telegraphic, Thompson says that is nullified with the other main factor - deception. He mentioned that many of his former colleagues were slow, rear-side punchers, but got knockouts all the time because they were so good at engaging an adversary's mind before attacking and were very accurate to boot. When the mind is engaged, time stands still, and for however long it is still, your attack needs only to be as quick as that. Furthermore, your adversary will be experiencing tunnel vision as a by-product of adrenaline. This means that you can strike without him seeing it.

Now that we have examined each component of attacking off the fence separately, let's put it all together into a cohesive tactic. Thompson refers to this fifth and final response as the "sniper option." Before I go on, Thompson wants to make it clearly understood that this response should only be utilised after all the others have been exhausted. He emphasises that this should be the last option possible. With that said, let's imagine you're in a volatile situation with a gratuitous aggressor. You have attempted to avoid, escape, dissuade to no avail and you're not comfortable or confident enough to use posturing. You have repeatedly apologised, back-pedalled, and offered to make amends, but the aggressor is still hostile with bad intentions. At this point, Thompson says you have established the moral and legal justification to neutralise the threat at hand. This means it is time to switch on your "killer instinct" and utilise the sniper option.

Thompson says, first of all, you should not allow the aggressor to touch your fence more than two times. Each time he does, the situation worsens because at some point in the immediate future he will pre-emptively attack you. So you must beat him to it or else suffer the consequences - defeat, possibly with serious bodily injury or death.

Once the situation has gotten to the point where the sniper option is your last option, Thompson says that you may only have one chance to utilise it. Once the opportunity is gone, it will never present itself again. In that case, you will be attacked first and most likely be beaten to a pulp. So he says it's imperative that your pre-emptive attack be a destroying technique that hits your opponent like a cannonball. Anything less and you'll be in a match fight. Having said that, here's how to employ Thompson's sniper option. First, line up your adversary using the fence to control the range and physically trigger your attack. Second, look at the designated target. For Thompson, that would be the jaw, which he considers the ultimate target. Third, mentally disarm him and engage his mind by using your verbal action trigger. Fourth, strike accurately through the target with your main artillery technique. For Thompson, that would be a right cross or a right hook. For maximum effect, launch your pre-emptive attack with total commitment immediately after your trigger question. Fifth, it is Thompson's recommendation that you immediately escape. This might not be how you see fighting, but it is a good self-defence strategy: hit and run. He says the only time you need to finish off an adversary is when he is still an immediate threat; if he is not, then there is no need to follow up. Thompson says that he has seen too many people go for a finish when it was not necessary and as a consequence, lose because their adversaries grabbed them. So use the distraction of your attack to get away safely.

If by some chance your pre-emptive attack fails (perhaps due to an inaccurate strike or an opponent with a granite jaw) and you cannot escape safely, Thompson says it's time to automatically employ your "support system." The support system, as he refers to it, consists of every concept and technique you've ever 1eatned and realistically applied in training. It serves as the back-up arsenal when the main artillery fails or is not an option. It is utilised immediately as a follow-up in which you spontaneously attack your adversary with a barrage of techniques that flow with the moment until he is incapacitated enough for you to get away safely.

Many of you may be concerned about the legal implications of pre-emptively attacking a gratuitous aggressor for self-defence; so let's address this issue with some general legal guidelines to ensure your general compliance with the law. First, as a rule of thumb, the right to self-defence by pre-emptive attack is permissible only when the defender reasonably believes that he is in apparent danger and an attack by the aggressor is imminent. It is essential that the defender be without fault himself in the situation. Understand that the relative size, strength, weight, age, and demeanour of the combatants are some of the factors considered in determining the reasonableness of this belief .

Second, the degree of force a defender may use in self-defence must be roughly equivalent to the perceived danger he is in. In other words, the defender should only use enough force which he honestly and reasonably believes to be necessary to ensure his own safety. Note that the presence of a weapon, multiple aggressors, and a disparity in size, strength, weight, and age are a few of the factors taken into consideration when gauging what degree of force is reasonable. Finally, the right to self-defence generally ends once the immediate threat no longer exists.

Ethically and legally, Thompson's strategy and tactics tie in nicely with these three points. He believes in avoiding, escaping, and verbally dissuading a gratuitous aggressor before resorting to a physical response to resolve a hostile conflict. He also advocates the use of non-lethal force in subduing an adversary unless the situation is life threatening. Furthermore, he strongly discourages finishing off an opponent who is no longer an immediate threat. In fact, he highly recommends escaping to a safe location immediately after the first strike connects to ensure personal safety and prevent the situation from getting worse.

The three points I outlined are by no means a thorough discourse on the laws pertaining to self-defence; far from it. Once again, they are just general legal guidelines intended to make you more aware of the legal implications of self-defence and to keep you in general compliance with the law.

Since laws vary from state to state, I recommend that you consult a competent attorney in your area. He/she can give you a more thorough understanding of the law, specific advice, and clarify statutes and decisions relating to self-defence issues. If necessary, you will also have someone to call on to defend you in court.

Specifically addressing, Thompson's recommendation to ' hit and run", he says or once you have struck your adversary, you should immediately escape from the danger zone and run to a safe area for a number of reasons. One, if your adversary is not sufficiently stunned, he will recover in a few seconds and the situation will turn into a match fight with the possibility of serious bodily injury or worse inflicted on one or both of you. Two, your adversary might have a weapon on him or near him to use against you. Even if he doesn't, if you hang around too long, he may obtain one and use it against you. Three, he may have friends at the location who might come to his aid and gang up on you. If necessary, once you are at a safe location, you can call the paramedics if you are concerned about the welfare of your adversary and notify the police to report the incident.

As you have just read, Thompson has a game plan based on a pre-determined strategy executed with economical tactics. He says that it is essential to have a proactive plan of action because it allow you to respond decisively rather than react involuntarily to a hostile threat. Accordingly, Thompson states that the methods of action utilised in this strategy should be basic and small in number for it to be effective. He believes that one technique mastered is better than one hundred sampled. His point here is that when a pressure-filled confrontation becomes "live", if you have too many techniques to choose from, you will get a mental logjam and be defeated while in the process of selecting the right technique to employ.

"Attack is the secret to defence. Defence is the planning of an attack." Sun Tzu wrote these words more than 25 centuries ago and they still hold true today. If you were perceptive, you probably noticed the absence of defensive techniques in Thompson's game plan. Undefeated in over 300 street fights, he has never blocked, jammed, parried, evaded, or intercepted an attack. When dissuasive or posturing tactics were failing and he was sure that his adversary was about to attack, Thompson always attacked first and continued attacking until his adversary was neutralised. This is how he defeated many opponents that were bigger and/or more skilled than him. Otherwise, if these were match fights, Thompson says many of them may have beaten him. Interestingly enough, none of his opponents ever came back for a rematch.

Thompson is often told by inexperienced and idealistic martial artists that when facing a gratuitous aggressor, the defender should wait until the aggressor initiates an attack before spontaneously defending himself and countering back. Thompson says that this is too late. In real-world street fights, defensive and counterattacking tactics just don't work. Action is faster than reaction especially when you're standing just one to two feet away from each other and can't predict how, when, or where your adversary is going to attack. Pairing that fact with the elements of deception and surprise, if your adversary attacks you first, your chances of blocking, jamming, parrying, evading, or intercepting his attack are slim to none. Thompson says that unless you are extremely skilled and pressure-tested, your reaction to a pre-emptive attack will most likely be a negative one with pain, confusion, and defeat ensuing.

Now if you are ambushed and the first you know of the situation is the attack itself, Thompson says that spontaneous reaction is not only a sound concept but the only concept you have. However, by being constantly aware of your surroundings, getting ambushed should be difficult. That means most likely your adversary's attack will come from the front usually preceded by deceptive dialogue. Thompson says this allows you to take the initiative and control the situation with the fence. He states that this is where knowledge of a gratuitous aggressor's rituals of violence and physical/verbal precursors to attack are imperative. By understanding these signs and cues, you will be able to see exactly when your adversary intends to initiate his attack, which allows you to escape and if not possible, pre-emptively attack him first. Thompson says the aggressor's precursory movements will almost give you a countdown to his physical attack.

Sir Winston Churchill once said, "many people stumble upon the truth and then get back up and wander off as though nothing happened." In this article, I've delineated Thompson's innovative strategy and tactics as thoroughly but concisely as possible with the hopes that it stimulates and educates fellow martial artists on the realities of real world self-defence. However, I'm concerned that Thompson's message and methods may be too hard to accept because it will force many people to see how far astray they've become and it might mean too many changes for them to make. A sad fact is that the truth is often too simple to appreciate and at face value, this is why many people fail to recognise the potency in Thompson's methods. Nevertheless, Thompson's methods have been successfully street-proven countless number of times. His strategy and tactics unquestionably give the average person the functional ability to realistically defend himself against a gratuitous aggressor who may be bigger, faster, stronger, and more skilled. I've specifically applied Thompson's strategy and tactics against this type of opponent because he is the most common adversary that a man might encounter on the "street." However, with slight modifications, Thompson's methods can be adapted for either sex against any other type of adversary (e.g. robber, rapist, murderer).

In conclusion, avoiding a physical conflict should be your number one priority for self-defence. Thompson strongly believes that a person should sincerely employ all non violent ways and means to resolve a conflict before resorting to a physical response. However, when all these options fail, the fence tactic is a highly functional way of controlling a hostile adversary. When no other recourse is possible, it is the perfect platform to "strike first, strike fast, strike hard, strike last" to neutralise the threat and end the conflict.









Fear Control. By Geoff Thompson

This, from my book Watch My Back, talks about the fear of a real confrontation and the negative effects of the same. If I, as a veteran of hundreds of fights, struggle with adrenalin, it goes without saying that people with less experience and knowledge of conflict will also struggle. As formerly stated, you cope with fear through the knowledge that it can be a help rather than a hindrance. Mental strength is also a pivotal element of fear control.

Many people practice technique after technique in their bid for physical competence. They become bag punchers and mirror watchers, convinced in their own minds that they can handle themselves. Whilst developing power on the bag and building a sinewy, beach physique in the gym, they ignore the most important factor: the mental physique. This is, of course, not to detract from the physical training formerly mentioned. It is very important, though not nearly as important though as the old grey matter. A strong mind can and will take you, if properly trained, safely through the adrenalin build-up, stress and pain of a physical encounter and the ever-present aftermath that can crush you flatter than a shadow.

Understanding the mechanics of adrenalin greatly lessens its impetus. The shock factor of adrenalin can be scarifying if you do not understand or expect it, rendering many frozen in the face of an ensuing attack.

This unpleasant, strong emotion often causes terror immobilization, or the freeze syndrome, in the recipient. The key with adrenalin is don't panic. Easy to say, I hear you cry, and you are right; it's not easy, it's very hard. That's why so many people, trained and untrained, baulk at the obstacle of a real fight. The adrenal syndrome needs to be understood and addressed so that it can be harnessed.

Adrenalin is a little like fuel injection in a sports car: action, fight/flight, the metaphoric accelerator.

The car: by engaging the clutch and pressing the accelerator you will utilize the turbo, and the car will move at speed. However, if you sit at the traffic lights pressing your foot on the accelerator without engaging the clutch, there will be no movement and fuel will be wasted.

The human: by engaging action (fight/flight) you will utilize the turbo drive of adrenalin and trigger spontaneous response.

However, if action is not engaged and panic sets in, energy will be utilized negatively.

Body Accelerators

Your positive body accelerator is action. When you act, adrenalin is utilized positively, adding power, speed and anesthesia to your response.

Your negative body accelerator is panic, caused when the reasoning process mistakes adrenalin for fear. Adrenalin is utilized negatively, leaving the recipient drained of energy and often frozen in the face of ensuing danger.

If you find yourself in a confrontational situation and do not or cannot act, the adrenalin may be gobbled up by increasing panic, this dissipating your turbo blast needlessly and fruitlessly. Like the car, you will be pressing the accelerator without engaging the clutch. Nothing is gained and all is lost.

In the gap between confrontation and action, adrenalin can be controlled with deep breathing and knowledge, and the look of fear hidden from your assailant with the duck syndrome (detailed later).

In primeval days when man (and woman) had to fight to live and eat, the feeling of fear was an everyday occurrence that would have felt as natural and as common as eating or drinking. In today's society, which is very tame by comparison, adrenalin is no longer needed in our everyday lives. In fact some people go through a whole lifetime without ever experiencing it fully. So when a situation arises that causes the adrenalin to flow, we are so unfamiliar with it that we naturally neither welcome, use nor like it. We panic. Psychologists call it the fight or flight syndrome. In moments of danger the body injects chemicals (adrenalin being the best known of these) into the blood stream, preparing the body for violent action, making it stronger, faster and sometimes anaesthetized to pain. The more dangerous the situation the bigger the build-up and adrenalin release. The bigger the release the better you perform (run, fight), but by the same count, the bigger the build-up and release, the harder it is to control.

However, fear has many disguises that also need to be understood. I have formulated what I call the Adrenal Map to help people better understand the disguises of fear.

It is my belief that we as human beings are far better designed for flight than we are for fight, this is why we feel the innate urge to run away from confrontations rather than meet them. Against many of our early enemies who only attacked prey that moved, the freeze syndrome would also have been a good thing. Unfortunately with today's enemy it is not such a good thing because if we do not move we get attacked more readily. The instinct however is still there and has to be overridden if survival is our aim.

In self-defense terms the innate urge to run is a good instinct. I always recommend flight above fight but the grey areas in this syndrome seem to be in abundance and confusion is compounded by a multifaceted society where confrontation, more often than not, demands neither fight nor flight. A run in with the boss, an exam or arguments with the neighbors all bring on the adrenal response but none demand a fight or a flight so, understandably, instinct has become a redundant commodity. We also have a moral dilemma in a paradoxical society where both fight and flight can be simultaneously unacceptable. You fight too often and you are seen by your peers as a thug; you run away from confrontation and you are seen as a coward: a man (or woman) who does not face up to his problems is looked upon as weak. In a way the adrenal syndrome has become antiquated and as a consequence instinct cup boarded; the natural bodily reactions associated with fight or flight, are so misunderstood that they are now seen as signs of cowardice.

The brain, it would seem, cannot distinguish between differing forms of confrontation and so releases adrenalin, carte blanche, for most forms of confrontation, even where life is not threatened. Actors freeze (stage fright) on stage because of adrenalin and over anticipation, kids go blank on exam day because blood is drawn away from non-vital areas of the body (those seen as non vital in fight or flight), one of these being the brain. What we have to do is learn to recognize when instinct is right and when it is wrong. It is right to run away from a violent encounter - that's survival - it might not be right to run away from intangible confrontation because problems have to be met and overcome.

In a long-winded way, what I am trying to say is, don't feel like a coward because your instinct tells you to run away from a violent encounter. That is good instinct, but, if it is impossible to run and you are forced to fight then use the adrenalin to aid you in fight. It takes a strong will to overcome the natural instinct to run away; that can be developed by correct training in self-protection.

If you misread the signs and allow confusion to enter the equation you may well find yourself frozen with fear. Knowledge dispels fear - read on.

Some of the following may seem a little peripheral for self-protection, but there is of course a natural overflow into things in our everyday life so either way the knowledge should help.

The Adrenal Map

The fear of fear itself
Often you may not know why you feel fear, so you look for the reason or the logic behind your anticipation. Basically if you know why you are scared it can help you to deal with the problem. For instance, if your fear was of consequence (prepost-fight fear) you could, in theory, look at the worst case scenario of confronting your fear (whatever it might be) and accept that you will handle it. 'If I stand up to the bully and he beats me up, I will handle it.' 'If I fight Joe Bloggs and he brings his three bruiser brothers down to get me, I'll handle it,' etc. If however you cannot pinpoint why you are feeling scared then there probably isn't a reason other than natural anticipation. We all feel it in confrontation, so don't bother trying to look for logic in something where there is no logic, because all it will do is add confusion to discomfort. Confusion causes indecision and indecision in the face of ensuing attack can cause capitulation and/or defeat.

My wife would spend two months building up to a karate grading; she hated them and always experienced think-fight fear that caused her a lot of discomfort. She got so bad that she often felt like giving up karate and never grading again. She'd spend hours trying to analyze why she felt so scared but could never find a reason. The concentration made her very tired and mentally weak because although the brain only weighs 2 % of the bodyweight it can, in times of worry and concentration, use up to 50 % of your oxygen. That's why a champion chess player may lose 7lb in weight over one week of a tournament.

There was no tangible reason for her fear other than natural anticipation, which should be expected in martial arts grading, so I instructed her to analyze no more and, instead, channel her energies into perfecting her grading technique. This she did and she now holds a fourth dan.

If there is no reason for fear, don't try and look for one, because if you do you'll be wasting valuable energy that could be better employed in fight or flight.

Anticipation of confrontation
When you anticipate confrontation you may experience slow releases of adrenalin, often even months before a planned confrontation, and often over a long period before. The slow release is not so intense as the fast release but, due to its longevity, it can wear and corrode the recipient. This is not just in combat; things like the anticipation of having to talk in public, an exam, a big sales meeting, a forthcoming karate competition, a planned confrontation with the husband/wife/neighbor/boss etc. will cause slow release.

If my confrontation is not for another week, then although the adrenal release acts as a warning signal that anticipation is imminent, we do not really need that adrenalin until nearer the time. If I am having a fight next Saturday and today is Monday then I do not need fight or flight for another four days. So for four days I am getting adrenalin that I do not want or need. In a week of anticipation that adrenal release is going to take away my appetite, my sleep, in fact, my life is going to go on hold until the confrontation is gone. During that week of anticipation I am going to be like a bear with a sore head and hell to live with, because the adrenalin that has been released but not utilized (don't forget the fight is not until next Saturday) has got to come out somewhere. It will and does find its own way out in the guise of temper tantrums, irrational behavior, road rage etc. This is why so many doormen and policemen end up in the divorce courts because their spouses just could not live with their irrational behavior, the mood swings, the impatience.

Adrenalin is a physical syndrome that needs a physical release. If you have a week to confrontation but are getting daily releases of adrenalin, then release the adrenalin on a daily basis. Go through a kind of psychological de-sludge, with a long hard run, hit the bag or swing a golf club. Get it out of your system. Once utilized you will feel the appetite returning and sleep easier. Over a long period anticipatory adrenalin is a metaphoric monkey on your back and monkeys have a habit of getting fatter and heavier by the day. Think-fight fear is responsible for more 'bottle drops' than you would believe. Understand it and deal with it.

Anticipation of consequence
When you anticipate consequence (aftermath), before a confrontation even begins, there will be fear of that consequence whether it is being killed, raped, beaten up, come-backs, police involvement, etc. and this often forces the recipient to abort. Many women capitulate in rape situations because they are afraid of the consequences of fighting back. 'I was afraid to fight back just in case it angered my attacker more and caused him to really hurt me,' is a common statement from women who have been raped. I once watched the Midlands boxing champion get beaten up outside a nightclub by a criminal who would not have come to scratch with him in the ring. He got a terrible beating off this guy and didn't even try and fight back. Why' Because he was frightened of what might happen after the fight if he fought back and won, as the criminal was renowned for revenge attacks on anyone that angered him.

What the boxing champ failed to understand was, that by not fighting back he got battered anyway, which was all he was worried about if he had beaten the guy, who then decided to come back on him. I was faced with many name fighters in my time and most of them got their reputations by initiating revenge attacks. In the end they rarely had to fight, as people were so scared of the consequences of fighting them that they simply didn't fight, and got battered or intimidated because of it.

The best way to deal with pre-post-fight fear is, and this is what I always did, accept the consequences before you fight. Look at the worst case scenario and say to yourself 'yeah, I can handle that.'

In many cases, the consequences of not entering the arena and bottling out are the same as entering the arena and losing, except when you do enter the arena at least you have a chance of fighting back. If you bottle out you are just a punch bag, another victim. I'm not trying to tell you what you should do in a self-defense situation, I'm just trying to make it clear that supplication is not a guarantee of a painless encounter - you may and usually will end up getting battered anyway.

No anticipation or fast escalation
Psychologists call this 'adrenal dump'. It is what Jim Brown (bodyguard trainer and security consultant) calls 'The WOW factor.' Pre-fight fear generally occurs when anticipation is not present (when the victim is in code white), or a situation escalates unexpectedly fast, or the recipient feels completely out of their depth - this causes adrenal dump. This feeling is often so intense that the recipient freezes in the face of confrontation; the reasoning process mistaking it for sheer terror. Adrenal dump is the most devastating of all adrenal releases.

It often occurs when a confrontation arises that one was not ready or prepared for, usually the same scenarios as those that cause slow release but with no prior notice.

When I interviewed some soldiers for my book on fear, they all said that they had never experienced adrenal dump and this was because they were all constantly in anticipation of confrontation (code yellow). So to avoid this devastating release, that's the place to be.

Because most people in society are switched off to the realities of real attack ('it will never happen to me'), most encounters will be unexpected and therefore cause adrenal dump. Avoidance comes from being constantly aware of both the attack ritual and bodily reaction to confrontation - if you are switched off on either count then adrenal dump is likely to occur.

The double tap
Before, during or after a confrontation, unexpected occurrences, things that you hadn't accounted for, can cause a secondary kick of adrenalin as the brain, sensing your unprepared ness, gives you a secondary release of adrenalin that is nearly always mistaken for fear. It tends to happen when you think that a situation is resolved and instead of going from code red back to code yellow, you go into a celebratory state: code white. When the situation that you thought was resolved re-emerges, you get an unexpected kick of adrenalin that forces you to freeze. If you think that a situation is over and you drop your guard you will be left wide open.

My advice is no matter how safe the situation may seem and no matter how sure you are that it is over, go straight back to code yellow and retain your awareness. It is like the story of the guy that got attacked by a mugger and beat the mugger up. He was so pleased with himself that he dropped his awareness; after all, no one gets mugged twice in one night! He did. He was so surprised by the second attack that he completely lost his bottle.

My other friend had a shotgun pulled on him at the door of a nightclub. He fought with the gunman and managed to get it off him and gave the chap a good beating. He was so pleased with himself, everyone agreed that he was a brave SOB and he went into a celebratory state, code white. Later in the night a little 'nobody' started trouble and when my friend tried to stop him the guy offered him a 'square go' (a one on one fight) and my mate dropped his bottle because he mistook adrenal dump for fear. It wasn't because of lack of courage that my friend lost his bottle, it was because of lack of awareness. So, no matter how often it 'kicks off ', stay switched on or pay the price.

When awareness is tunneled
Often people get tunneled in their awareness - that is they are so indoctrinated into expecting an attacker or an attack to fit a certain place or type, that they are completely taken by surprise when an attack/confrontation occurs outside of their expectations. Awareness needs to be 360 degrees. What also happens a lot in reality is an attacker works with an accomplice who 'pincers' you whilst your awareness is locked onto him. In simple terms, one person grabs your attention whilst the other attacks from the periphery - simple but effective, especially because once a situation becomes threatening you will be experiencing tunnel vision (a by-product of adrenal release) so are highly unlikely to see an attack that is launched from the periphery.

Tunnel vision is a natural extension of the adrenal release and cannot be controlled so should therefore be managed. The best way to manage it is to keep checking around you when being approached menacingly from the front, just in case. If you are facing multiple assailants, keep moving your eyes from one to the other - it is not always the one in front that initiates the attack, rather it is one of those at the side, so beware.

In-fight anticipation of consequence
Unusual this, but, I have seen many fall foul of it, bottling out within a confrontation because they suddenly think about (or if the assailant is a clever one, they are reminded of) the consequences of their actions. This often occurs at a crisis point within the conflict; perhaps you have been pinned in a bad position or taken a heavy blow in-fight. Thinking about the possible consequences of fighting back can cause doubt that triggers adrenalin, and this is mistaken for fear and leads to capitulation.

Many people I spoke to (I also witnessed this syndrome many times myself) said that they had initially tried to fight back against their attackers and were told (by the attacker) that if they persisted in their resistance they would be 'hurt'. This triggered 'in-post-fight fear' and immediate capitulation. A girl that initially fights back against her attacker is punched hard in the face and told 'you try that again and I'll fucking kill you'. This consequence causes adrenal dump and the girl freezes, she becomes so scared and so controlled by her assailant that even when the chance presents itself, she does not try to escape. Victims have been known to have pointed a gun at an attacker and then handed it over to him when told that they will be killed if they do not.

Why is all of this important' Because knowledge is power and if you do not understand your own body and its reactions to conflict you will lose the fight from the inside out. In-fight releases of adrenalin are there to help you, but if you misread the signs they can cause capitulation.

I worked with one chap who used pre-post-fight fear to beat nearly all of his opponents. Before the fight he would tell them that, win or lose, he was going to find out where they lived and come to their house when they were having tea with their mum and bite their nose off. In all the years I knew the guy I never knew him to throw a punch, let alone bite a nose off, but he beat over a hundred opponents by telling them that he would. He threw pre-post-fight fear at his opponents like a heavyweight boxer throws a right cross.

In-fight pain or danger
Generally, once you have made the commitment to run or fight the adrenalin is utilized and that horrible caustic feeling disappears. However, quite often during fight you may experience pain, exhaustion or panic if things are not going to plan (or even if they are). The brain, again sensing in-fight danger, offers a second (or third or fourth) kick of adrenalin as a turbo drive or anesthesia, to help you out. This offering is usually misread for fear, and panic ensues. That's why, so often, people 'bottle out' in-fight, because they do not understand their own bodily reactions to pain and panic and mistake the feeling of adrenal release for terror. An experienced attacker will quickly club down any one who tries to fight back because they know that, more often than not, it will cause intense panic in their victim, which will lead to mass compliance. As I have already said, a victim who struggles with his assailant will get a quick punch in the nose backed by very aggressive dialogue: 'try that again and I'll break your fucking neck for you!'. This is also known to be effective in causing adrenal release followed by capitulation.

Recognize that the adrenal release is there to help and, although unpleasant, it will add vigor to your response.

Aftermath - anticipation of post-fight consequence
After confrontation, whether successful or not, the body often secretes slow releases of adrenalin, this being brought on possibly by the stress of 'scenario overload', when confrontation is so traumatic that it forces the body/mind into overload, leaving the recipient mentally and physically weak, and so vulnerable.

It is also brought on by post-fight anticipation, when the brain senses/dreads another confrontation or a repeat of the earlier confrontation and it again releases adrenalin to prepare the body. Aftermath can cause many sleepless nights. Again this should be dealt with in the same way as pre-post fight. Look at the consequences and accept that you can handle them, and don't forget the long runs and bag work to get rid of the adrenalin that is released. You have to get it out of your system.

Pre-, in- and post-fight release
Those working/living in a stress related environment like the Stock Exchange, business or security may experience a combination (combo) of all the releases. Slow release because they constantly anticipate confrontation; adrenal dump when situations unexpectedly occur in their environment; pre-post fight because they constantly have to recognize the threat they face for reasons of personal security; and aftermath, in relation to situations that have already happened.

At once the recipient may experience a concoction of all adrenal releases and, if not checked, this can have a devastating effect on their health and personal life. The most important thing is to recognize what is happening to your body; explain to the people in your life what you are feeling so that they do not think you 'impossible to live with' and make sure you release the stress on a regular basis. If it all gets too much, pull away from the arena and give yourself a good rest, mentally and physically.

Fear Adrenal Map


The fear of fear itself

Anticipation of confrontation
(slow release)

Anticipation of aftermath
(slow release)

No anticipation or fast escalation
(adrenal dump)

Peripheral interactions
(adrenal dump)



(slow adrenal dump)



Overload/aftermath or anticipation of consequences
(slow adrenal dump)

In confrontational moments, when adrenalin is released, the recipient will experience physical reactions that need to be hidden from the assailant; if not hidden they allow the assailant to see that you are scared and struggling to hide your fear. Hiding the fear is a technique I like to call the duck syndrome.

If you watch a duck it will glide through the water very gracefully with very little outward movement, however under the water, where you can't see, his little webbed feet will be going like the clappers. This is how you should learn to control the adrenalin. On the outside you should show no signs of the way you feel inside; this way the opponent cannot get a measure of your emotional state, even though, on the inside, the adrenalin is going mad. Very often, if the attacker thinks that you feel no fear because you are hiding it with the duck syndrome, he will naturally feel that you are not scared. Quite often this will force him to capitulate. After all, no one wants to fight a fearless opponent. When you understand and can control the adrenal flow it is possible to hide adrenal reaction by appearing unmoved and calm.

These are the expected bodily reactions to adrenalin:

Pre-fight shakes
Your legs, and possibly other limbs, may shake uncontrollably. In fight or flight, blood is taken from the non-vital areas of the body and pumped to those that are seen as needy for a physical response (running or fighting). This makes the major limbs, especially the legs, shake. It's a little like a motor car sat at the traffic lights with its engine revving, waiting for green. Your body is revving, waiting for action.

I control leg shaking by tapping the heel of one foot, as though tapping to the beat of a song, as I engage in verbal dissuasion. This conscious leg tapping gives the effect of an unperturbed person who is so in charge he is even tapping his heel like a cool thing.

Dry mouth
Your mouth may become dry and pasty. This is not outwardly noticeable so needs no concealing.

Voice quiver
Your voice may acquire a nervous and audible tremor. This is a bad one. It is hard to sound confident when your vocal chords are doing the bossa nova. A quivery voice says to anyone, in any language, that you are scared; this needs to be controlled or it could be your downfall. Many people actually become monosyllabic; that is they cannot speak coherently or they fall into single syllables or very short sentences.

This is because blood is drawn away from certain areas of the brain, again those that are seen as non-vital in fight or flight, in order to be pumped to the major muscles. In days of old, when fighting the saber-toothed tiger, the voice was an absolutely non-vital commodity. In effect, and to make a long story short, the voice box cuts off. We have to reverse this syndrome. With today's enemy and in today's confrontational moments the voice is not just a vital commodity, it is also a valid and effective weapon that, with the right choice of words and aggression, can cause an opponent to capitulate.

The best way to learn voice control in confrontational moments is to step into any arena that brings on adrenalin, such as the boxing ring, animal day or public speaking, and practice speaking. Before you enter the boxing ring to spar, talk to your opponent and learn to control the quiver and hide the feeling of fear. It's hard, as when facing adversity instinct wants us to run, it does not want us to have a conversation. It is doubly hard because very few people are able to force themselves into an arena that brings on an adrenal release. It will take courage in bagfuls, but then so does fighting in the REAL arena, so it will be good practice all around.

Tunnel vision
On the positive side, tunnel vision enhances visual concentration. Its negative byproduct is the blinkering of peripheral vision, which is not seen as vital in fight or flight. Background and bystanders are lost to cortical perception. The potential attacker appears closer and larger due to the optical illusion caused by the effect of tunnel vision. To widen the peripheral field it is wise to step back a little, but this is not easy because the aggressor automatically makes up any distance you retreat.

If facing more than one opponent, keep glancing from one to the other sporadically. The moment you lose peripheral vision is the moment that you are likely to be hit from the side. Being aware of the fact that you will experience tunnel vision and of its dangers is the important thing.

Sweaty palms
The palms of the hands often sweat profusely. In fact you tend to sweat all over the body, which is why the arms often splay as though you are carrying rolls of carpet under your arms to allow the sweat glands to open and release sweat to cool down the body. Soldiers patrolling in volatile areas like Northern Ireland will often sweat away 7 lb in body weight in 4 or 5 hours of patrolling due to the constant release of anticipatory adrenalin.

Adrenalin may cause vomiting or the feeling of vomiting. Undigested food is seen as excess baggage in fight or flight so the body will try to throw it up to make you lighter and more efficient.

Bowel loosening
The recipient may experience loss of bowel or bladder control. Again digested food and drink is also seen as non vital to fight or flight so will be discarded. Working as a doorman in the nightclub, it was not uncommon to see the toilet full of doormen, emptying the bladder when they thought that a fight was going to 'kick off '. In a karate or full contact competition the toilets will also be full of competitors getting rid off 'excess baggage.' It is common and natural. However, it is not socially acceptable in this society to urinate or defecate on the pavement before a confrontation so we have learned to control the instinct. Unfortunately all these natural feelings are now very often seen as signs of cowardice. It's not cowardice, it's natural.

Adrenal deafness (auditory exclusion)
Sometimes the threat becomes so overwhelming that concentration is greatly enhanced, so much so that peripheral noise, even as loud as a scream or gunshot, is completely cut out and not recognized by the recipient.

Fugue state
The adrenal exposure, particularly adrenal dump, can cause the recipient to become anatomic, even robotic in verbal response; sometimes these responses are not remembered after the event. This is partly due also to the memory loss or distortion associated with 'dump'. Sometimes terrifying aspects of a confrontation may be completely blocked out and yet, paradoxically, trivial things loom large in recall, also the sequence of events or words may also be altered in the memory.

The black and whites (amaurosis fugax)
Due to the amount of blood drawn from the brain in fight or flight the recipient often sees whole situations in black and white, and all color disappears as if you are watching a black-and-white TV.

Total acquiescence
If misunderstood and/or not controlled, the adrenal syndrome, and certainly adrenal dump, can evoke feelings of helplessness and abject terror. Fear of death and/or rape may bring on an extreme feeling of depression and foreboding. Tears and often hysteria may also occur. Many women submit to their attacker because of this overwhelming emotional explosion.

Astral experience (excorporation)
Often the recipient of the adrenal syndrome experiences an out of body experience, a feeling as though they are outside of themselves watching the action like a spectator.

It is very common for the recipient to experience, especially after a situation, the compulsion to verbally justify their actions with non-stop and very fast speech.

Denial response
In extreme circumstances the recipient can be temporarily psychologically unable or unwilling to accept responsibility for his actions, for example 'I didn't stab him, he ran onto the knife!' etc.

Time distortion/time loss/memory distortion/memory loss (Tachypsychia)
Many attack victims reported that their assault seemed to last an eternity, when in reality it may have only lasted a few minutes or even seconds. During physical attack time can appear to stand still, one minute often feeling like one hour. Paradoxically, in retrospect, victims of muggings and assaults often say, 'It all happened so fast.'

When interviewing James, the victim of an unsolicited assault, he initially told me that he was attacked without warning. After talking to him at some length it turned out that, in between first seeing his attackers and the attack itself, there was a time lapse of 11 seconds, these being lost to time distortion and memory loss.

After confrontation, memories of the event can become distorted ('my attacker was seven foot tall and 17 stone', whereas in fact he was only five foot eleven and 14 stone) or even lost; this is also partly due to tunnel vision. Sometimes, after a certain period of time has elapsed, the memories might gradually come back though sometimes they never return. So if you find yourself being interviewed by the police, post-fight, don't rush into your statement. If you are not sure don't make a statement at all until you have a professional at your side who can better advise you. You may not remember what happened too well and end up saying things (or having things suggested to you) to fill in the gap. The police do a great job and we all admire their work but they do, from my experience, like to get things tied up as soon after the incident as possible, and may gently push you to complete your statement ASAP. There is another reason for this: if they don't get their statement straight away you might change your mind and decide, for whatever reason, not to make a statement at all. That will leave loose ends and they don't like loose ends. What the police often say is they like to get the statement while the incident is still fresh in your mind; in reality the situation is more likely to be fresher the next day than it is directly after confrontation.

Don't forget you are convicted for what you say and not what you do. You may legitimately defend yourself and then make a statement that absolutely hangs you. I have many friends that have done just that and gone to prison for it, so don't be rushed. Understand what might be happening to you, regarding the latter, post fight.

All of the aforementioned feelings are usual, accept and recognize them; they are all part and parcel of adrenal reaction and, though unpleasant, quite natural. The feelings do lessen in intensity as you become more exposed to them. If needs be, prepare for them, especially in the aftermath when a police statement might be all that stands between you and a loss of liberty.

The ugly handmaiden of adrenalin is the omniscient Mr Negative; General Sun Tzu called him the inner opponent. That little man who perches on the shoulder of your mind's eye and tells you that you're frightened, scared or that you 'can't handle it' (the situation). The inner opponent is, basically, the voice or instinct that tries to warn you of the dangers that you face and the possible consequences of your actions. In general the inner opponent will advice you to run when danger rears its ugly head.

This is, of course, generally a good thing, and natural instinct should be followed whenever possible. However, in many situations the option of flight does not/ may not present itself or is lost and we are forced to fight. We have no option, and yet the inner opponent still keeps nagging away telling us that there is danger and that we should run and that we cannot handle the situation. In effect he takes over the run of your head, forcing you to bottle out. You lose the fight from the inside out. This is not a good thing.

So whilst we should listen to the voice and allow it to point out our options and the inherent dangers we face, we should not let him take over, which he will if you allow him to. He is, if you like, an advisor to the King and, if we are not vigilant he will take over the kingdom. Listen to his advice once, maybe even twice. After that shut him up or he will talk you into supplication. I want to know the negatives of facing adversity but I don't want it repeated again and again. This may cause the self-doubt that starts the downward spiral to my demise, which in the long turn will lose me the altercation. The inner opponent is an advisor not a conversationalist, so 'kill the conversation'. By controlling the inner opponent - in effect controlling your self - you take charge and the voice becomes an ally as opposed to an enemy.

Training in adverse conditions and learning to confront and conquer your own personal fears is a very good way to draw the inner opponent out in to the open so that he plays his best hands, and you can learn to defeat him. This stallion needs to be broken if you want to be in control of your own destiny. Left to its own devices the mind can be a self-detonating time bomb of negativity that will spiral you down into ever increasing misery. If you allow the inner opponent the run of your head he will often force you into capitulation; you will, as they say, lose the fight in Birmingham. Let me explain.

There was a wonderful old wrestler in the beginning to middle of this century called Bert Asarati. Unfortunately he is dead now, but in his day he was a monster of a wrestler with a fearsome reputation for hurting his opponents, even in a show match. He was seventeen stone at only five foot six. When he sat on a train or a bus he took up two seats; he was a big man whose reputation preceded him.

The story goes that there was another wrestler of repute who was traveling down by train from Glasgow to fight Mr Asarati in London. All the way down on the train journey this Glaswegian kept thinking about the arduous task that lay ahead of him and every time the train stopped at a station his inner opponent would advise him to get off the train and go back to Glasgow. At every station his inner opponent reminded him of the prowess of Mr Asarati, and of how Mr Asarati was going to 'hurt him' when they got in the ring. At every station the inner opponent got louder and stronger; the wrestlers' bottle going more and more until in the end he could take the pressure no longer. At Birmingham station he got off and went back to Glasgow on the next available train. He sent a note to Bert Asarati saying, 'Gone back to Glasgow, you beat me in Birmingham.' His inner opponent had beaten him 100 miles before he even got to the fight venue. This is what often happens to people in street situations. They don't lose to the guy that they're having trouble with, they lose to themselves.

One thing I always like to advise people is don't feel bad if you feel like running away. Our natural instinct is not to stand and fight; rather it is to run. The fight or flight syndrome is geared more to running than it is to fighting. As prehistoric men and women our enemies would have probably been saber-toothed tigers or grizzly bears, far more fearsome fighters than us, so instinct would indeed have had us running for our lives and only fighting if cornered. Unfortunately, as stated earlier, the adrenal syndrome has not evolved very well and confrontation today is more likely to be a boardroom meeting or an exam - neither demand fight or flight - so instinct (i.e. to run away) cannot be relied upon any more. When you feel like running away from a confrontation don't feel like a coward because that feeling is your heritage and very natural. What we do have to learn though is that, if flight is not an option, we have to override the inner opponent and actuate a physical response, even if it is only to save our skins.

If flight is not an option and fight is on the cards then the voice of reason has to be shut up or, as I said before, he will destroy you and you'll lose the fight in Birmingham. There are three ways of dealing with this tactician of corrosiveness if he gets out of control.

Thought rejection
Reject the negative thoughts by completely ignoring them. Not listening to anything that the inner opponent says, thus leaving him no mental ledge on which to perch.

Thought counter attack
Counter attack every 'negative' thought with a 'positive' thought. This is the method that I practice.
'You're scared.'
'No, I'm not scared.'
'You can't handle this situation.'
'Yes, I can handle this situation. I can handle anything.'
And so on. By doing this you can erase the negative thoughts with the positive.

This is an important factor because each negative thought that penetrates your psyche may, and usually does, erode a small part of your 'will' until eventually it, and you, are defeated. I work on the premise that 'negative begets negative', begets defeat. As a parallel, 'positive begets positive', begets victory.

Your greatest enemy in times of adversity is often your own mind.

Repetitive mantra

Block out the internal conversation with a repetitive mantra. Any will do as long as it is positive and not negative.

'I can handle it. I can handle it. I can handle it. I can handle it. I can handle it. I can handle it.'


'I'm not frightened. I'm not frightened. I'm not frightened. I'm not frightened. I'm not frightened.'

This is a very inspiring extract from James Clavell's best selling book Shogun that explains the Samurai way of dealing with inner conflict:

'To think bad thoughts is really the easiest thing in the world. If you leave your mind to itself it will spiral you down into ever increasing unhappiness. To think good thoughts, however, requires effort. This is one of the things that training and discipline are about. So teach your mind to dwell on sweet perfumes, the touch of silk, tender raindrops against the shoji, the tranquility of dawn, then at length you won't have to make such an effort and you will be of value to yourself.'

By understanding your own body, by understanding the mechanics of adrenalin / fear you can learn self-control. Panic is often catalysed by ignorance, by not understanding your own body or its workings. Most people in most situations are not defeated by their assailants; they are defeated by their own mind. Whilst adrenalin may be uncomfortable, it is natural and should be accepted without fight. There is no way around these feelings, every one feels them; they are a part and parcel of adversity.

'The feeling of fear [adrenalin] is as natural as the feelings of hunger and thirst or the feeling of wanting to use the toilet. When you feel hungry you don't panic, you eat, when you feel thirst you drink. So it is with fear. Don't panic, act.' Cus Damatio

Adrenalin exposure
The whole process of adrenal release and internal conversation, elongated here for the sake of description, usually has to be controlled in a matter of milliseconds, so practice is of the essence. It is very difficult to practice something that is not or at least doesn't appear to be present in our everyday lives.

For the practicing martial artist this task is not such a difficult one because he / she can, if he/she wishes, gain adrenalin exposure by facing the top dogs in his, or another, dojo (training hall) in sparring or partner work. This alone will spark the infamous adrenal gland, and give exposure to adrenalin.

Only through exposure can you gain desensitization. As unpleasant as this may seem it's the only way. To learn how to handle the heat you must force yourself to stay in the kitchen. As well as adrenalin exposure, this practice will also help to instill within you that all-important characteristic, self-discipline.

The more that you experience and confront the fear syndrome the more desensitized you will become to it and the easier it will be to control and thus harness. The more that you confront and control, the stronger minded you will become. These exercises will build the mental muscle as a bar-bell and weights will build physical muscle; the same dictum 'no pain, no gain' is also evident.

This gained strength of mind will put your whole life into perspective as all of a sudden those mundane tasks at work or around the home become a simple challenge by comparison. All are relegated to simple exercises in self-discipline, everything that life throws in your way becomes a challenge that you will no longer baulk at, nothing will seem beyond your mental capacity. Also due to the high level of self-esteem that these exercises develop, one is also less likely to be chosen as a victim for attack.

For the non-training person the task of adrenalin exposure, cut out extension and instilling self-discipline is not such an easy or obvious one. Joining a good martial arts club may be a solution. Unfortunately, not everyone has the time or the inclination to do this, so we need to look a little closer to home. Confront things in your everyday life that bring on the feeling of fear, work in a pyramid and build your way up, confronting your smallest fears at the bottom of the pile and working your way up, systematically, until you reach the top. This is slightly out of the context of this book and I would ask you to refer to my books Fear - the Friend of Exceptional People and/or Animal Day - Pressure Testing the Martial Arts.


R.O.S.S. Combat Anxiety Management Plan. By Scott Sonnon

In fighting across the globe and coaching the US National Sambo Team these years, as well as training various generalized and specialized military forces, I have traveled throughout the world and uncovered insights into elite preparedness that augment specific skills and enhance performance regardless of the theater of conflict. Highest among those in organizational skills were the Russian methodologies. In my years of formal training throughout Russia with their Special Forces and Olympic Trainers, I was given the honor of learning their unique strategic program of combative preparation: the R.O.S.S. Training System. It is very important to reinforce that R.O.S.S. is a SYSTEM of combative performance enhancement, rather than a specific STYLE of fighting. The following is an example of the climate of personal combat preparation detailed by the R.O.S.S. Training System: In the "friction" of combative engagement, the individual must rely upon his innate tendencies and idiosyncratic abilities, not on the haphazard calculus of conditioned skills. To have access to fighting skill, operations must be an extension of the individual's natural capabilities, not something foreign to him.

Why is this' As any combat veteran will attest, battle is won not through superior tactic, maneuver, or attrition, but through the ubiquitous and incalculable factor of Morale. In personal combat, deploying violence -- or the credible threat of violence, which requires the apparent willingness to employ it - compels us to accept the will of the opponent, or for him to accept ours. It is always to this fact that combative reality returns: combat is a clash of wills, and he who imposes his will upon the other is victorious. Violence is the critical ingredient of personal combat, and its immediate outcome is bloodshed, suffering, and trauma. Whilst the magnitude of violence may vary with the objective of the assailant, the violent essence of personal combat remains immutable.

Any study of personal combat that neglects this characteristic is misleading and incomplete. Being that personal combat is a violent enterprise, danger is a fundamental characteristic. And since personal combat is a human phenomenon, fear - the human reaction to danger - has a significant impact on the conduct of personal combat, and should be the prime requisite in determining a program of preparation. Why' All men feel fear. Proper combative preparation must foster the courage to manage fear and forge ahead through the din of combat, for fear shall either be the excellent servant of our survival or the terrible master of our demise.

Courage, or moral force, is not the absence of fear; rather, it is the virtue of effective anxiety management. Since it is true the old saying, "Courage comes after...," all preparatory efforts must attend the climate of fear. Personal combative programs must study fear, understand it, and be prepared to effectively use it to the individual's advantage. Experience under attack generally increases courage, as can realistic training by increasing the familiarity of the individual to the effects of anxiety management upon combat performance. Effective anxiety management programs should develop internal cohesion and esprit de corps, for as said by Napoleon, "the moral are to the physical forces as three are to one."

Personal combat is characterized by the interaction of both moral and physical forces. The physical characteristics are generally easily seen, understood, and measured; the moral, less tangible. ("The term moral as used here is not restricted to ethics -- although ethics are included -- but pertains to those forces of psycho-physiological rather than tangible nature.) Moral forces are difficult to grasp and impossible to quantify. We cannot easily gauge forces like resolve, conscience, emotion, fear, courage, morale, leadership, and esprit. Yet moral forces exert a greater influence on the nature and outcome of personal combat than do physical. This is not to lessen the importance of physical forces, for the physical forces in personal combat have impact on the moral. Because moral forces are intangible and elusive, it is tempting to exclude them from personal combat preparation. However, any doctrine or theory of personal combat that neglects these factors ignores the greater part of the nature of personal combat.

The R.O.S.S. Training System focuses heavily upon this as the progenitor of all operational efficacy, for any effective preparatory contact engagement model should focus upon soliciting a breach in the morale of the opponent, whilst simultaneously fortifying personal and unit morale. "Combat is a trial of moral and physical forces, by means of the latter. One might say that the physical seems little more than the wooden hilt, while the moral factors are the precious metal, the real weapon, the finely-honed blade." (On War, Carl Von Clausewitz.)

A combative philosophy should be a doctrine of morale that produces effective tactical operations, not an operational doctrine that hopes to inadvertently manufacture 'faith in the structure.' Morale determines tactical efficacy; tactics do not generate morale. Or to keep it American, "don't let the tail wag the dog." Detailed below is the basic plan for moral fortification derived from the R.O.S.S. Training System. The following is an example of how R.O.S.S. aids in developing strategic effectiveness, in particular for the most neglected and CRITICAL aspect of ALL forms of combat: Combat Anxiety Management. R.O.S.S. Combat Anxiety Management Plan This procedure can be divided into 6 parts:

1. Pre-Contact Reconnaissance\Scouting (well before)
2. Pre-Contact Assessment (day before)
3. Pre-Contact Preparation (day of)
4. Contact Engagement (itself)
5. Post-Contact Debriefing\Review (immediately after)
6. Post-Contact Assessment (day after)

I. Pre-Contact Reconnaissance (well before)
A. This phase scouts intelligence on event conditions and regulations & potential and expected competitors and their abilities, tendencies, preferences.
B. From the above intelligence gathering aspect of this phase, a Profile is created.

II. Pre-Contact Assessment (day before)
A. The first aspect of this phase is the discussing all details that have been reconnoitered. What is predictable and unpredictable' Critical team members and coaches/trainers only. Dialectic should remain within the parameters of the Profile, but missing intelligence should be expected.
B. One major goal of this phase is RELAXATION. Relaxation must be a fun, non-mental activity, and physical, not like attending a ballet or theatre where one is sitting only mentally absorbed. But a physical activity where there is no psychological room to "worry" about the impending event. It should obviously be an event with no danger of harm to participant, no stress.
C. After this physical exertion, it shall be easier to sleep. Without it, the mind will fixate on the upcoming event (except for those professionals who have trained this phasic mechanism well), and either be unable to sleep, or will not sleep fitfully. Sleep is critical at this phase, and should be 8-10 hours.

III. Pre-Contact Preparation (day of)
A. This is the phase of Programming Success. All what-if variations are considered, in light of the Pre-Contact Assessment. It is here that each possible what-if scenario is VISUALIZED with a positive outcome.
B. Visualization is the key to this phase of training, but moving from Disassociated to Associated Visualization is "turning the key."
1. Disassociated Visualization is either Objective or Subjective. We begin visualizing objectively and move to subjectively. a. Objective Visualization is picturing your trainer or any other respected person perfectly perform the task. b. Subjective Visualization is picturing your self successfully accomplishing the task as if watching yourself in a movie.
2. Associated Visualization is "moving into the movie" and picturing what you what see out of your own eyes, hear from your own ears, feel from your own skin, etc... This is the most rewarding level of visualization, for many reasons to be discussed in actual training.
C. Critical team members should be isolated for visualization for Visualization Editing. If visualization goes awry, and a negative outcome is pictured, mentally rewind the event, go to the "frame" in the movie immediately before the negative outcome began, and insert the beginning of a positive outcome. Scroll ahead mentally, but still slowly, until the positive outcome is assured. Program Success in every visualization.
D. Identify Performance Goals. Have a key catch phrase for one encompassing performance goal, such as "Exhale through...," or "Fold don't force." Repeat this like a mantra, so as to consolidate focus into one encompassing, irradiating concentration. By irradiate, I mean a phrase that has impact on your overall activity, and is your most critical attention spot. It must be simple, direct, and activity specific.

IV. Contact Engagement (itself)
A. If the event runs smoothly, then there is no work to be done in this phase. However, it is rare that the event is unfettered by surprise. Usually, if an event experiences nothing unpredictable, it was not a sufficiently challenging event. The true Anxiety-Management test is not when the event runs smoothly, but how we deal with unpredictable variables when they manifest.
B. The unpredictable happens, what to do' We must not ask, what can be done. If we are asking this question, in this phase, our performance is being blocked. What is blocking us from our performance' Mismanaged energy, panic. Where does panic begin' It begins in the stomach as a sensation that can be detected.
C. How do we stop the panic from continuing in duration/severity' Switch to the Machine. The Machine is a very deep psychological operation that lacks emotion (though emotion may be intentionally outwardly displayed). It is purely logical and systematic, and its effectiveness is based upon preparation and experience. During operations there is a psychological division between the Machine and the Outward Appearance. Not only Verbal (language and paralanguage), but more importantly non-verbal/bodily (gestural, postural, positional, and facial calibration) communication must be deliberate, convincing, and appropriate to the event demands.
D. The only way to program the Machine is within everyday activity. If an event solicits fear, and panic begins in the stomach, using the "2nd Mind" of the Machine:
1. Ask, "Why do I panic' Is this a true threat'"
2. Separate the Machine from the Outward Appearance.
3. Deal with the task at hand so as to neutralize the immediate threat.

V. Post-Contact Debriefing\Review (immediately after)
A. Record all details of the Event, while the Machine is still present. NO discussion, only recording. All critical team members and trainers contribute their perspective to the report, again, without discussion.
B. Critical phase requires relaxation in order to allow the Machine to switch-off. Relaxation should include hot shower, food, drink, and physical companionship. No discussion of the event. Pretend as if the event did not just occur. Then, most importantly, SLEEP! (Sleep will be VERY difficult, if the Machine is still present. These relaxation suggestions will allow the Machine to "leave" or return to dormancy.)

VI. Post-Contact Assessment (after event, day after)
A. This phase is a discussion of the Event and the Team Performance. What unpredictable variables appeared and why' What performance goals need to be altered for sustained training'
B. Team members return back to everyday living.
C. Everyday Training: If surprise events in non-event daily living begins to solicit panic, prepare to switch to the Machine on a count of 25. This time-delay on the switch will allow create a governor so that the Machine/Appearance split is always within control and not sustained when not in-crisis. The Machine/Appearance split is only for crisis situations. When the Machine is switched on, begin a mini sequence of this Standard Operating Procedure. Begin with Reconnaissance and Assessment: "From what point did the Panic begin' Where' When' Why' At what event did I begin to feel unusual'" Daily performance goal when confronted with a crisis, "Cover my fear inside me." A dog can perceive emotional intent; it detects the electromagnetic field. Civilization is the cause of our separation from this sensitivity, which is not mystical, but utterly physical. If the Machine is on, despite 'feeling' panic beginning, our electromagnetic field is not altered. They cannot see the fear, although the Machine acknowledges it is present, and it uses the fear as increased energy reserves and enhanced sensory perception.


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