Author: Manny OG
Dealing with Fear
Fear of fighting is more common than you’d think – even among experienced fighters. Only a stone-cold sociopath has no fear in a confrontation. We’ve interviewed many hardcore combat soldiers and seasoned street fighters and found that nearly every one of them admitted to being fearful in every single fight. Some are on our team.
Surprised? Well, don’t be, because these guys understood that they could easily be killed. So, they felt fear – sometimes extreme fear — in every confrontation. The fear never goes away, it just reduces.
The actual physiology of fear is a simple “sympathetic system” prompting from the brain — more commonly referred to as “fight or flight”.
If you learn anything, remember this: fear is part of the “autonomic” response system. You have NO direct control over it. It’s like trying to control your digestive system with “willpower”. You can’t. As the saying goes, xyz@#!! happens — and it happens automatically.
And so it is with fear.
The heart rate immediately increases, mental focus on the adversary increases, peripheral vision narrows, and a whole bunch of other physical “alarms” go off.
Combat soldiers or police officers involved in a fire-fight laughingly refer to one physical response as the “300cc check” – which is simply a nice way of saying “pissing your pants”. Really…it’s your body’s way of dumping excess baggage to help in the “fight or flight”.
At 220 bpm you enter into “hypervigilance” or the classic deer in the headlights syndrome. It’s where the internal dialogue has complete dominance over your brain. It’s kind of like that movie “Invasion Of The Body Snatchers” as once this “hypervigilance” takes hold of your brain, it’s tough to overcome it. The trick is to act soon than later — at around the 115-145 bpm stage — before the aliens melt your brain. Here are two big mistakes that can cause us to freeze:
Having no plan of action (such as “what’s my target”) and thus becoming stuck in indecision…
Attempting to manage emotions instead of dealing with the cause. Because trying to get rid of an emotion (fear for example), only amplifies it. Using the internal dialog to fix internal dialog, (“don’t be afraid… don’t be afraid… don’t be afraid”), is kind of like “bleeding” a person who’s sick from blood loss. Fear can give us vital information; it prepares us for flight or fight and motivates us to take action. Instead of wrestling with our fear, simply acknowledge it, and then do what needs to be done. We don’t have to give in to fear, or try to squash it, simply feel it, and move on. This is how to overcome fear. You’re taking action in spite of your fear… and this is as good as it gets.
Another voice you should listen to is your “intuition”. This is not the same voice telling you to bet your house on the lottery. No. Ignore that one.
Intuition is your subconscious performing “rapid cognition” – the processing of mountains of external information to form a quick conclusion. The study of this is relatively new but researchers are already discovering the subconscious incredible ability to quickly “thin slice” a lot of information and form an often accurate and subtle conclusion that “something’s wrong”.
Cops often experience this when “acting on a hunch”. We’re sure you yourself have had the feeling that “something’s not quite
right” about a situation. Well, this is your brain “thin slicing” everything that’s going on around you. If it detects trouble, you may get a “gut feeling” as well as some other subtle “signs” like sweaty palms… jittery stomach… and the feeling that something’s not “quite right”. The 3 L’s… Look, Listen and Live.
Now you shouldn’t ignore these signs. It may be your subconscious trying to tell you there’s trouble.
using external focus to manage fear.
Breathing – concentrate on calming deep breaths to keep your heart rate down and out of the “hypervigilance” stage. This is highly effective in “de-escalation” situations where for instance, a badger is venting. It’ll help you keep your cool, keep you in the game, and it’s a sure way to keep your head clear and avoid a panicking internal dialogue. On the other hand, if a guy shoves you, well, that’s a bad time to be doing breathing exercises.
Look for targets of opportunity. Like we said, this is a HUGE piece of advice.
Always, always, maintain target awareness during a fight.
Here’s a specific target hint for you. Your opponent – even if he’s NEVER been in a fight — will likely be on guard for a right punch to the face – so it’s wise to do something he’s not expecting. Also…
1. Do not pay attention to the yelling and verbal threats. It’s easy to allow the verbal side of your brain, (which is where the “little guy” lives), to get caught up listening to (and preparing a response to) insults and verbal abuse. Ignore this. We know that’s often easier said than done – but if you maintain your thoughts and energy on external targets, it will automatically “phase out” this interference and avoid activating your internal dialogue.
2. Do not look into his eyes. It’s the same principle at work here. Staring him down triggers all kinds of internal mumbling that only distracts you from your target awareness. Don’t do it. Sure, it looks tough when a couple of boxers stare each other down face-to-face a couple weeks before the bout, but that’s a bad idea in a street fight. A good street fighter wants you to “buy into” his distractions. Mad-dog staring… insults… yelling… the whole works. It’s doubtful he knows the science of internal dialogue, but he does understand that it’s easier to win after he “gets into your head”.
Learn to develop your fight mentality here.