Friday, March 9, 2012

Don't Make a Move! Nah.

I was about 17 years old.  My grandfather had moved out to the country, so far out that boondocks would be the polite term.  People in these areas often keep lots of animals, and most of the folks near him had a bajillion dogs, cats, chickens, fighting cocks, goats, etc. 

But one family had a taste for exotics.  They periodically had various creatures, but the permanent residents I remember were the golden eagle and the tiger.  I was always trying to get a peek at that tiger.

One day the whole family was away, and because I am a genius I decided to trespass on their property & see him close up.  He was pacing around his large covered cage, which was bound only in the kind of typical chain link fence that I could have easily escaped with moderate effort.  In fact, a couple of years later he did just that - but today was not that day.

Seeing me, he stopped pacing.  I crept slowly closer until I was touching the fence.  At that point he started rubbing himself against the cage, walking back and forth, so I did what he obviously wanted & stuck all my fingers through the fence & petted him, scratching and rubbing as he made each pass.  It was interesting to note that his fur wasn't soft, but firm with the waxy/oily feel of a dog that needs a bath.

After a few minutes he stopped & looked at me again, then he walked back behind a platform built for him to climb & lay on.  He peered at me from behind the barrier and like lightning jumped out & leaped straight toward me, slamming against the fence.  

I suddenly realized I was made of meat.

Did I run?  Did I get out of there as soon as my now-shaky legs would carry me?  Hell no!

I froze.  Because that's what people do when they're startled. 

Then I backed slowly away, apologizing to the tiger for bothering him, because in that moment the tiger was absolutely the boss of me.  

So often I've had students confess to me that during sparring, or practicing a stressful technique, or during an actual attack they simply froze and did nothing they were "supposed to do".  They are usually ashamed, and the higher the stakes were at the time, the harder they are on themselves.

The most heartbreaking instances of this are the assault victims who tell me they "let him" assault them.  They believe, mistakenly, that they should have instantly turned into Jason Bourne.  They believe, mistakenly, that because they responded by freezing, they are weak.

Hell, I have no idea if they're weak or not, but what I do know is that freezing is not a sign of weakness.  Freezing is a completely normal reaction to a new stimulus, particularly when the stimulus (attacker) is providing shock, pain, or the threat of either.

The goal in your Krav Maga classes is not to get to the point where you don't ever freeze, because the chances of that happening are slim indeed.  By that, I mean it's not going to happen.

So the goal becomes shortening the freeze more and more each time you experience it - and we're shaving it off by milliseconds at a time.  It's the reason the drills I make up often have a chaotic quality - I want you to become accustomed to assessing chaos & figuring out the best course of action as quickly as possible.

We'll talk about practical strategies for shortening your freeze another time.  For now, I just would like for you to accept that no matter how much training you have (and sometimes because you have training) an immediate freeze is a natural and normal response to a new threat.  There is nothing wrong with you.  

I know I've talked about this before, but it's still bugging me.

I can feel a new drill percolating in me for the morning class.  Start to think about how to escape a room full of people when someone is trying to prevent you from leaving.