Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Here, bite this bullet...

Sometimes the stuff we do in Krav is painful so I don't want to do it. During an exercise I might find myself backing away when instead I should be driving forward. I see this all the time in others, as well, so I will share a little trick I was taught by my friend and former Chayon-ryu instructor Glenn G.

So says Glenn:

Pain is usually your body telling you that something's wrong, so it's natural to try to avoid it or be frightened by it. When an exercise hurts, first decide if you're in any real danger. If you're not, tell yourself, "It's only pain. I'm not in any danger, I'm not going to die, and the pain will go away. It's temporary, and it's only pain."

At first I thought he was messing with me. Then I was annoyed with him for giving me terrible advice.

But sure enough, the next time I found myself in that situation I told myself, "It's only pain..." and it worked! I stopped being afraid of it, gritted my teeth & just accepted that it was part of the deal. I accepted what it was and what it wasn't, and it became a lot easier to live with.

Why not give it a shot?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Austin's Murder Rate Hits 13 Year High

But that's not the real news. The real news, for Kravists, is that of the 37 people murdered in 2010, 22 were killed by someone they knew. 11 people were murdered by a person with whom they were intimate (roommate, family member, etc.) In fact, the sharp rise in the murder rate is primarily due to increased domestic violence.

We often train with the sudden attack from a stranger in mind - the faceless, nameless "bad guy". But the reality is, most attacks come from someone we know.

Nobody wants to think about this, because it's extremely disturbing, but the numbers don't lie. Assuming you survive, the psychological damage caused by being assaulted by someone you know - maybe even someone you love - can be devastating.

Most often, there are warning signs that a person in our lives is a potential attacker, but we ignore them, because the thought is too painful to entertain. Nevertheless, if your partner, friend or co-worker exhibits some of the following traits you have reason to be concerned:

**If you feel you are or might be in danger - trust your gut! This might seem obvious, but many people have come to regret telling themselves, "I'm just being silly..."

**The person has used violence to control others in the past - especially if they blame the victim because "they deserved it".
**The person has used violence against animals.
**The person has a fascination with weapons, especially their use as a source of power.
**The person insists on knowing where you are at all times.
**The person destroys material things - particularly objects owned by the subject of their anger or defaces photographs of the person they're angry at.

This is just a brief list, the first ones that come to mind when I think back to the book Gift of Fear. I will say one thing: if a person has used violence against others in the past, but you think they'd never do that to you... I'm about to say something offensive: You're not special. A person who uses or has used violence to control or punish others feels justified in doing so, regardless of who they are hurting.

If you'd like to read the Statesman article, click here:

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Struggling vs. Fighting

When a person has been assaulted, they often say about the incident, “I tried to fight”, and indeed they did try. But often they were not fighting, they were struggling. There is a great difference, and that difference is primarily mental. Sadly, it is often also the difference between victory and defeat - in a situation where victory means only survival and defeat means death, rape, or permanent injury, the stakes are very high.

To struggle is to resist. To struggle is to actively respond to the actions of the attacker - but you are only responding. We can see this most readily in class in bear hugs from behind with the arms caught. The defender bases out, wiggles fiercely, grunts, exhausts himself and wonders why the technique “doesn’t work”. His frustration mounts.

What must change is the defender’s mental attitude. He must go from “The attack is on, I must respond and defend myself” to “HOW DARE YOU TOUCH ME I WILL DESTROY YOU”. For many new students this mental switch can be a tremendous challenge.

To fight is to attack. We do not respond to the actions of the attacker, we make him respond to ours. We strike relentlessly until the threat is neutralized, which means not only that they are no longer attacking, but that they are no longer willing to and/or capable of attack. This could be something as simple as delivering a quick groin strike and running away, if there is a safe place to run to. It could also mean something more.

We can see this again in bear hug from behind with the arms caught: the fighting student bases and spaces aggressively and starts shooting elbows back and fists forward like an enraged beast, stomping and kicking back with his feet as much as maintaining his base will allow, and as soon as the arms around him have loosened, he whirls around and furiously attacks the attacker.

This is the nature of self defense: taking control of the situation and keeping that control. As I say in class, it’s not over ‘til I say its over.

How can you start to train yourself mentally to move from one who struggles to one who fights against an attacker? Try these tactics:

  1. Learn to set boundaries in your daily life. Practicing saying “no” and sticking to it, without excuses or apologies, will give you more confidence on the mat. Become accustomed to standing your ground in small matters, and the big ones will be conquered more easily.

2. In class, choose a partner who likes to go just a little bit harder than you do. Just a little bit. This will give you a higher standard to strive for, and give you the freedom to strike a little harder than you’re accustomed to.

3. If necessary, tell your partner that you have a hard time hitting aggressively and you’re trying to overcome that roadblock. Most people want to be helpful, and will happily encourage you and guide you.

4. If you still find yourself holding back, find someone much larger than you to hold the pad for combatives or attack you during self defense. Then hit!

5. Learn to objectively assess a situation for the level of danger it presents. This will be the subject of another blog entry, but until then I strongly recommend you read the book The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker.

Understand that being aggressive with your combatives doesn't mean you will become an aggressive or offensive person off the mat, unless you make the choice to do so. Working on expanding the limits of your capabilities in class, however, will affect the rest of your life in a very positive way. Learn when to exhibit control and when to go all out, and you will be surprised at what you can accomplish!