One of the most often overlooked aspects of a street fight is fear and the adrenaline dump. In a live self defense situation situation your body will naturally go into its primitive “fight or flight” mode.
An adrenal dump increases your heart rate and raises blood pressure. A surge of blood is sent to your muscles resulting in a short term boost of strength and speed.
In the Zone
There is an optimal state in which adrenaline is kept in check to provide additional strength and speed while retaining control of your body and cognitive abilities. This state is what athletes refer to as “being in the zone.”
Awareness / Vigilance
Time and space are your greatest assets in self defense. The more time and space you have, the less likely you are to experience an out of control adrenaline dump.
Surprise is your worst enemy. When you are attacked without any anticipation, you do not have even the slightest moment to assess the situation, the environment and a possible course of action. The adrenaline can surge out of control almost instantly. Before you’re even consciously aware of what’s going on, your body has already gone into fight or flight mode and your ability to effectively defend yourself greatly reduced.
The key to avoiding surprise (and giving yourself time and space) is vigilance, an awareness of your surroundings and potential threats.
If I may offer an analogy… On a motorcycle, vigilance can mean the difference between life and death. At any moment a car could pull out in front of you or change lanes on top of you without looking. You avoid these situations by foreseeing their potential. You look down the cross streets at intersections before you enter them and you avoid riding next to other vehicles. So, if another driver were to create a hazardous situation, you would have a moment to prepare and possibly avoid an accident.
Get to a Safe Place
“Get to a safe place” is almost like a mantra in our dojo. It seems to be one of the fundamental principles of every technique we practice. Every technique follows the pattern:
- Step One: Get to a safe place
- Step Two: Assume control of the situation
- Step Three: Immobilize the attacker
- Step Four: Back away from the attacker
So, in order to be able to take control of a situation, you first need to position yourself so that the attacker has the fewest options for attack.
One way to get to a safe place is by maintaining distance. If you see your attacker before he attacks, you may be able to increase the distance between the two of you, forcing him to project his attack and giving you time to move to another safe place.
If the attacker closes the distance between you, you can get to a safer place by moving to his side or behind him.
By first getting to a safe place, you give yourself both time and space to keep your adrenaline in check and take control of the situation.
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