Friday, September 23, 2016

Five Take-Aways from Combat Mindset Class

Fellow martial artists: do you train your mind for violence as much as you train your body for violence?

This was the question I pondered last week at the Krav Maga Global Combat Mindset and Mental Conditioning class taught by Mr Eyal Yanilov at First Defense Krav Maga in Herndon, VA.

This was a three-day class that combined mental and physical drills with lecture. We shared part of the time with the Combat Fighters Instructors Course practitioners, who somehow endured a separate, unbelievably intense eight day class. The CFIC candidates called our group the "Mentals" and we joked that we were busy staring at goats while they hammered each other into the mats.

In this post I will share five take-aways from the mindset class.

1. Three elements comprise mental training to enhance self-defense, fighting, and third party protection. These three are 1) courage (alternatively: determination, persistence, aggression, and confidence); 2)  focus (or concentration); and 3) relaxation (or escape from distracting emotions). I was not sure how I measured against these three, but the drills quickly let me know I needed work in all areas!

Mental skills require training, just like physical skills. Without exercise, both atrophy. I considered that I had developed these three components to a decent degree during my time at the Air Force Academy, but had not sufficiently and exercised them in a purposeful manner since.

2. Triggers are powerful. Do you recognize the movie scene at right? It's from one of my favorite films, Gladiator. Before he fights, general Maximus grabs dirt and rubs it into his hands. I realized that he used that as a "trigger" to switch his mindset into combat mode.

At the seminar Mr Yanilov helped us develop the feelings and mindset necessary for combat mode, and incorporate a more practical trigger. When you need to explode violently, you will not have time to bend down and pick up dirt. However, you can move your fingers in a unique manner (one example), in a move that is not related to everyday activities. I found this approach very useful to help "switch on" the burst of violence needed in a self-defense or combat situation.

3. The body influences the mind and the mind influences the body. This was a core theme of the three day class. We worked drills in both directions. The reason this works is that parts of the conscious can't tell the difference between real and imagined behavior.

Breathing is an example of using the body to affect the mind. When the mind becomes calm or agitated, it can similarly affect breathing.

I also learned that I can tell myself to not take a certain action, but in a crisis the body can react completely on its own. With training these survival instincts can be fought, but it takes work!

4. Visualize, visualize, visualize. Building on the last point, I learned I should spend more time visualizing as a mental and physical development tool. Because parts of the conscious can't tell the difference between real and imagined behavior, you can essentially practice scenarios, techniques, and tactics mentally and experience measurable improvement.

This does not mean that mental training can replace physical exercise. You can't simply imagine your way to success. However, visualization can be a powerful tool. For example, you can visualize a self-defense situation from three points of view: 1) as the first party (yourself); 2) as the second party (your opponent); or 3) as a third party (a neutral observer). Imagine how the scenario could play out from all three view points.

5. Stress kills, but it doesn't have to kill you. We are far more likely to die from stress-related conditions (high blood pressure, heart diseases, and the like) than we are from a violent confrontation, assuming we live in decent neighborhoods and avoid risky locations and behavior. While exercise is an excellent way to relieve stress, we should complement physical relief with mental approaches.

For example, we learned a few ways to better manage stressful work situations. We learned about the effects of body posture and how you can "fake it until you feel it" to make your posture work for you. We applied visualization to stressful interactions to make a hypothetical confrontation with a corporate "Mike Tyson" a less intimidating experience. We also learned ways to empty our minds through focus drills to gain relief from stressful thoughts.

This post can't due justice to the pages of notes I took on a 25 hour class, but I wanted to give you a feel for the excellent class. Thank you to Mr Yanilov for visiting the US from Israel to teach us, and to First Defense Krav Maga for organizing and hosting the event.

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