Training the Brain!

“…under sudden life-threatening stress, individuals will likely exhibit behaviour based on past experiences that they will automatically produce without conscious thought. This means [that there is a necessity to] not only [train] officers in appropriate tactics but also [to provide] sufficient repetition under stress so that new behaviours will automatically take precedent over any previously learned, potentially inappropriate behaviours that they possessed before becoming an officer”. Ken Murray

I recently watched a cool documentary on the brain. It was shot at the Navy Seals Special Warfare Command. It talked about how those in Seal training are introduced to chaos from day one because historically mistakes on the battlefield are almost always associated with fear and panic. At this training they are trying to find mentally tough soldiers more so than athletic studs. Each class has 140 men and only an average of 36 pass. They have had Olympic athletes fail while they once had a one hundred and forty pound farm boy from Nebraska who had never seen the ocean until training pass. Needless to say, they take neuroscience seriously.

Researchers have found that a part of the brain no larger than a finger nail called the Amygdala controls emotions, especially fear. The Amygdala instinctly pushes the panic button because this part of the brain gets impulses two times faster than the frontal lobes, which is where our rational thoughts and synchronized activity comes from. When something such as a loud noise startles us the Amygdala has our pulse rising, gets sweat started and has us moving before the Frontal lobes figure out whether it is something that we should be afraid of or not. If we relied only on the frontal lobes we would freeze until we figured out what was going on. The Amygdala gets us ducking, moving and orienting ourselves towards the danger immediately.

The Seal training exposes the soldiers to many scary situations. This helps them to get used to the danger and gives them a been there, done that feeling. This training helps to minimize delay by generating fast and accurate reactions to situations that they will face in combat. For example they fail more candidates in the pool competency training than anywhere else. In the pool competency training the candidates have on their tanks and breathing apparatus. While underwater on air the instructors mess with the candidates for up to twenty minutes by taking their tubes out of their masks and tying them into knots, shutting off their tanks, throwing their masks off of them, etc. They are without air as much as they are on air and must control the fear of drowning as they do the proper procedures to get back on air. When this happens in battle it won’t be nearly so scary as they have been in this position before, many times.

The Seals have a four step mental toughness program that include 1) goal setting, 2) mental rehearsal (mind setting), 3) self talk (they have found that we talk to ourselves by using between 300 and 1,000 words per minute. Those with positive self talk, the “you can do this” succeeded at a much higher rate than those who told themselves “this is impossible”) and 4) arousal control. This is the use of deliberate and slow breathing, especially long exhales. Since they started teaching this the Pool competency training pass rate has gone from ¼ to 1/3.

Watching this documentary had me standing in awe of Krav Maga’s founder, Imi Lichtenfeld. Imi was figuring this stuff out back in the 40’s and 50’s! The drills we do, the way we test and the general thoughts behind Krav training are in line with what the Seals are doing today. We train real, mind set and put students through rough times so that if they are ever attacked on the street they have that “been there, done that” feeling. How cool! BE SAFE!

GET 2 FREE DVD’s FOR CHRISTMAS!

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Order any book, dvd or t-shirt (including our new t shirt design via VIP TEEs…”Violence of motion trumps technique”) and get our new Handgun Disarms Seminar DVD and Order the new Knife Defenses Seminar DVD!

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Run…like Forrest!

When there was trouble Forrest ran! This was a brilliant tactic as it kept him safe (even kept him from being fried in ‘Nam). When I give lectures on self defense the first thing I tell people is “don’t be there…don’t go to stupid places with stupid people to do stupid things”. The second major bit of advice I give is “run”. Run away, run to help, run to pick something up to use as a weapon but just RUN! When I teach knife defense seminars, for example, the first thing we do is practice sprinting away from someone who is going to their pocket. The second thing we practice is punching the dude going for his pocket…and then running. These are the best two knife defenses I have. Running is generally the best thing to do for your safety! If the local paper has me on the front page with the headline KRAV MAGA EXPERT RUNS FROM KNIFE I wouldn’t be offended. I would see that headline and think “a still living, very smart krav maga expert runs from knife”!

But let’s think about this advice. Can you run? When is the last time you did any sprint work? The average violent criminal is a male ages 18-25. Can you outrun a young dude who is still in his athletic prime? I doubt I can anymore. Are we fit enough to not keel over dead after attempting to run thirty yards? Do we just hope that we are attacked only by overweight, slow and lazy people? Hope isn’t a strategy. So, first point of running for safety is to get yourself into shape. This is why we are so physical in our Krav classes. This is why we recommend to our affiliate gyms that they add CardioMMA and Crossfit. Techniques won’t save anyone. Being in better shape than the attacker, going off with rage, going forward and going hard is what will save us.

Next thougt; what are you wearing? Most guys I know, when they go out, are in athletic shoes. Most women, however are in things I couldn’t even stand in, yet alone walk or run in! During self defense for women seminars I talk a lot about this. Those “cute shoes” could be your downfall. How can you outrun anyone in those stiletto heels? Statistically violence tends to happen more often where young men gather and where minds are altered. This sounds like most bars, doesn’t it? If you are going to the bar those cute shoes may not be the thing to wear. How quick can you get them off and run barefoot? The second point is to plan and mind set. Wear things you can fight and run in…have a plan!

Last thought; Where are you running to? Again, have a plan and mind set. When you go into a restaurant, theater, etc. you should not only know where the exits are but also should have put yourself in position to get to them quickly. If outside in a city do you know where you can run to most likely get help? How about out in rural areas. Where can you run to quickly where help is available? In our self defense for women seminars I make the point that a tazer isn’t to be totally relied on. When you taze the guy it will lock him up for thirty seconds…if both barbs got him (happens less than 70% of the time). How far can you run in thirty seconds? When it lets go of him he may well sprint to wherever you are to do you harm.

So the next time you hear someone say “I’d just run (like Forrest)” ask them what shape they are in, what they are usually wearing and, in their plan, where are they running to. Thinking about these things ahead of time gives us a plan. Plans don’t get made up under stress but the plans we have do surface and our training will come out of us. BE SAFE!

The Power of Awareness!

USKMA Black Belt, Karissa Walton gave a speech this week at her school entitled The Power of Awareness

The speech is this weeks blog. Thanks, Karissa!

Are you aware that…
– …Phoenix is considered to be the kidnapping capital of America?
It is currently ranked #1 in the US and #2 in the world, next to Mexico City
370 recorded cases last year  on average, at least one victim goes missing each day
– …Phoenix is known as the “largest drug gateway into America”?
In 2013, AZ DPS reported 18,334 drug-related arrests in Maricopa County alone
1 in 4 felons serving drug sentences in US prisons are not US citizens – they are the foot soldiers for the Cartel
– …With drugs comes violence?

Overall crime rate in Phoenix is 45% higher than the national average
I’m not sharing this information to frighten or dishearten you, but rather to make you aware of the harshness of reality. I think that as naturopathic students, it is so easy for us to get caught up in exams, clinic shifts, and trying to live a healthy lifestyle that we often lose sight of what goes on beyond these walls. We become unaware of the world that surrounds us.

About 7 years ago, I began my transition to awareness through a system called Krav Maga. Some of you may be thinking “what did she just say… Kraw McGraw? That must be one of another one of those weird martial arts… That’s just not my thing.” Well, the thing I love most about Krav is that it doesn’t have to be your thing. It is a philosophy-based system that was designed for to be effective for anyone and evolve over time.

Krav Maga was first developed before WWII when the Nazis invaded Poland. The Jews were disarmed and left defenseless. At that time, Imi Lichtenfeld, an Olympic boxer and wrestler, developed a system for the Jews to defend themselves on the streets. When Israel became a country after WWII, Imi was put in charge of the combatives training for the Israeli Defense Force. He was able to refine the system and teach to students from around the world. One of his students, Darren Levine, brought Krav to the US in the early 1980s. He passed the training on to the instructor who eventually passed it down to me.

People often ask me why I practice and teach this “Krav Maga.” Why have I spent countless hours in the gym training to complete exhaustion with nothing in return but some bruises and sore muscles? However, that is not the case at all… In return, I have gained an invaluable gift that I can now share with others – a little something I like to call “awareness.”

In Krav, we train for the worst case scenarios. In doing so, we must accept that the worst can happen. The direct byproduct of this acceptance is awareness. Once you become aware of what is around you and what can happen to you, you begin to carry yourself differently. You begin to prepare. You begin to find strength inside yourself that you never knew you had. This doesn’t mean that I walk around sticking out my chest proudly as if I’m looking for a fight. This also doesn’t mean that I walk around cowering as I anxiously scan every little thing around me. It means that I walk with confidence and mindfulness of my surroundings. I am mentally prepared to defend myself or my loved ones if the need ever arises.

As a Krav Maga practitioner, you are constantly coming up with new ways to exercise techniques under stress. As all of us here are aware, when your body is in a sympathetic state, fine motor skills are one of the first things to go. Knowing this, we train to exhaustion (and beyond) in order to induce a realistic simulation of being attacked. During these “stress drills,” you become aware of the physiological changes that your body experiences. You learn to maximize the effect of your natural responses and find power you didn’t think you had left. The more aware you become, the more you can train your “fight or flight” response to fight if necessary and get away as safely as possible.

Since my journey of awareness began, I have noticed changes in the way others approach me as well. While filling up at a gas station or walking through parking lots, I used to constantly be approached by people who were looking for more than an innocent “hello.” Now, it is a very rare occurrence. If you are alert and observant, you simply don’t look like a target and people will recognize that. This has saved me from many unwanted encounters that could have escalated to a dangerous situation quickly.

Not only have I been able to see this transformation in myself, but I have witnessed it in those I teach as well. It has been so rewarding to see the confident yet humble presence of those who have become aware. I have trained women who were previously unaware and unfortunately became a victim to physical or sexual abuse. With a heightened level of awareness, these women have been released from an unspeakable past. They are now able to maintain their composure under stress, while having a much deeper appreciation for the safety of themselves and loved ones. They are empowered.

As Imi (the founder of Krav Maga) once said, “People respect power, and it comes in many forms, Krav Maga is power, and people will respect you for knowing it.” There are many forms of power, so even if you don’t decide to take up Krav Maga tomorrow… I hope that you find power in standing up for what’s right. Find power in not victimizing yourself. Find power in awareness.