FIGHT OR FLIGHT…OR FREEZE

We have all heard of “fight or flight”. It’s actually “Freeze, flight or fight”…in that order. When an animal in nature sees a predator they freeze, the predator looks for motion. If seen they flee. They only fight when grabbed. We don’t magically turn into fighters when danger finds us.

The freeze is a common phenomena reported by nearly all who have faced real violence….and is totally ignored by most self defense systems. It will happen! There are a couple of reasons why we “freeze”.

1) When a horrible situation happens that puts us in extreme fear for our lives our brain will work for us. If we had not trained for the attack, or had never even thought that the situation could possibly happen, our brain will look at the violent attack and literally scan our entire life to see if this situation had ever happened before and how we got out of it. It does this faster than any computer but it takes time. In previous blogs I talked about mind setting. For facing real world violence mind setting is priceless. If we had planned for this situation the plan will surface quickly. An interesting quote from Meditations of Violence by SGT Rory Miller…“The closer the events reflect previous experience, the less time it takes to orient. If the event is completely new there is nothing in the past to orient to, which explains the effectiveness of Judo in 1888, Jujutsu in America in the 1920’s, Karate in the 1950’s and BJJ in the 1990’s.”

2) Almost as bad as no training, as far as the freeze is concerned, is the wrong training. There is something called “Hick’s Law” which states that the more options you have, the longer it takes to choose one. I remember reading an advertisement for a martial art that bragged that they had 7,000 different techniques! What kind of selling point is that? If you have more than one choice in an attack your brain has to choose one! In the martial art I took years ago we had 30 different defenses for a straight stab knife attack. I am sure that in the real world I would have taken several stabs as I tried to choose which one to use! In Krav Maga we have one philosophy for that straight knife attack…block the knife and hit the scumbag!

Another example of the wrong training is techniques that are too regimented. If we train a defense that has six steps and it derails at step number two we have a hard time orienting because the plan isn’t being followed as we practiced.

3) The attacker’s words. We expect people to be reasonable like we are. We expect people to be truthful like we are. When the predator is telling us to obey him and he won’t hurt us it causes us to not spring into action because we reason that if we do what he says he will keep his word. Most people in other bad and very dangerous situations such as a natural disaster or an accident jump into action to save family, friends or themselves much quicker than they would in a violent attack. The predator knows this, he knows what works. Always remember, if he had any humanity, would have any remorse, had any good in him at all, he wouldn’t be attacking you in the first place.

How do we break the “freeze”? It starts now, mind setting is a must. Constantly be planning. Right now think “What would I do if someone kicked in my front door right now? What would I do if I woke up tonight with someone standing over me?” etc, etc. When you read about a violent attack or see it on the news think “What would I have done in that situation?”

If you are ever attacked and feel yourself doing nothing tell yourself that you are frozen and tell yourself to do something. Then tell yourself to do a second thing! Recognize it and force yourself into action.

Train correctly! Why Krav? What makes Krav Maga such a great real world self defense system is that it isn’t technique based, it is philosophy based. One of my instructors years ago loved saying “if I learn 1,000 techniques, with my luck, I will go out on the street and be attacked by number 1,001.” We want our first reaction, our “flinch” reaction, to be GO FORWARD AND GO OFF. When the surprise violence starts, when most people are freezing, we want our reaction to be to go forward with great violence….we don’t want to even think about it. Our drills, everything we work on in class and our whole philosophy is to keep it simple, to go right now and to make it as violent as possible. This isn’t brutal, it is effective! BE SAFE!

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