Psychological Composition

How A Person’s Psychological Composition Affects Performance In A Confrontational Situation

For some time I have felt that the most important aspect of teaching people to prepare and, ultimately, successfully deal with the threat (and execution) of violence is to develop their “mental strength”. When physical confrontation, or a serious threat of violence, is directed at you, all your technical skills and muscular strength will prove totally worthless, leaving you at the mercy of an adrenal induced emotional state.

Since joining the British Combat Association at it’s timely birth, I have, through the influences of it’s innovators – Peter Consterdine and Geoff Thompson – appreciated the necessity of facing adverse conditions as a means to help contain or overcome the related FEAR of being in unknown territories. With regards to self defense, ‘real’ self defense (self protection), too many instructors focus purely on the physical responses that are considered attributable to theoretical situations composed by themselves. In all honesty, the majority of these techniques are only effective in rehearsed situations and are therefore mis-placed and ill-effective in a ‘live’ environment, where there is little or no pre-warning of how your assailant is likely to act. It is unfortunate (for the student) that many people teaching self defense have had no ‘real’, first hand experience with violent situations. This detail doesn’t really leave them in a position to tell their students what to expect and how they will feel when faced with a modern day Neanderthal, a creature who is hell bent on altering their features and has a desire to construct a new orifice for them. Now I’m not saying that there aren’t good instructors, whose theories aren’t worth their salt, but as Geoff Thompson says, “you can’t learn to swim without getting wet”, and be honest, would you consider learning to ‘swim’ from a person who you know full well has never swam a single stroke themselves. The use of any traditional or sport orientated fighting systems are out of context with regards to a live street situation, due, mainly to the fact that such are practised in pre-set conditions (rehearsed engagement, presence of a referee, time limit etc.,). Attempted applications in a physical altercation can and will run a high risk of creating greater problems (these can sometimes prove fatal). The usual outcome being that the ‘defender’ receives a merciless battering. For someone who has been training in their respective system for, say, twenty years, his/her destruction at the hands of, what they may consider, an unskilled attacker will cause irreparable psychological damage. This, in turn will have a devastating effect, not only towards their confidence in the system/style they have studied and believed in for so long, but leaving their personal confidence totally destroyed. Often, as a consequence of such an incident, the person will cease training, feeling their efforts worthless. Worse still, the person may feel, that given similar circumstances, it is futile to attempt to defend themselves (again with the possibility of a fatal outcome). To summarize, the aforementioned student is unable to deal with the reality of such an alarming and disturbing discovery. The main causes of these effects are, (i) Incorrect mental attitude with respect to real situations and physical conflicts, (ii) Misplaced confidence in ability, due to incorrect (not necessarily bad) instruction, (iii) Lack of ‘moral fibre’ as a result of inappropriate psychological structure.

My comments are directed only towards persons who are involved in learning a system or techniques with a desire to develop their ability with a view to preserving their personal safety. Those of you who are involved in Martial Arts for any other reason may not fully understand or relate to my views and concepts. I feel I must mention that it is not my intention to either insult or offend anyone, instructor and student alike, merely to clarify and hopefully educate.

I will address the points individually, so as to avoid complicating and clouding matters, although each issue does have conflicting interests with each other.

(i) Incorrect mental attitude with respect to ‘real’ situations.

The main point here is that many martial artists train in their respective system or art without utilizing ’emotional content’. It’s all very well practising techniques in a repetitive fashion. But if this is not done, at least from time to time, with an expression of realism, then the vital elements necessary for survival in a real situation cannot be constructed. This oversight will ultimately result in failure. There are several contributory factors to be noted here. Firstly, due to the technical skills being practised (and to a point rehearsed) in a safe and controlled environment, the ‘pressure’ of a real scenario can not be fully experienced and appreciated (it takes a considerable amount of effort and commitment to simulate a violent altercation). Students being allowed to train with the same partner on a regular basis will eventually allow complacency through familiarity (a fatal ingredient). Regular training partners, in particular good friends, often find it difficult to exert any form of realistic pressure for fear of embarrassment, offending or upsetting their friend, injuring themselves/each other, etc. This is a critical fault in many peoples training regimes. Another factor is an inability to endure vigorous and intense training. This will seriously impair a person’s capacity for survival in a stressful or violent environment. As we should all be aware, mental discipline/strength/determination can be both built and increased with the correct type of training programme. Pushing oneself to confront and, hopefully, overcome ‘pressure’ during training will enable a better understanding of how your mind reacts under stress. This in turn will allow you the opportunity to strengthen any ‘weak’ areas. The benefits of this are many fold, all of which contribute to developing the required character. Finally, many people do not take their training seriously enough or only concentrate on certain ‘favourite’ aspects of their training. All relevant matters should be appreciated and absorbed with a focused and serious attitude. Remember, when a real situation rears its ugly head you will need to rely on a number of fighting skills if you wish to survive. You can neither expect or guarantee the fight will take place at your chosen format.