I know what’s holding you back

I’ve been teaching Systema for decades and see it over and over, a reaction that goes virtually un-noticed and un-acknowledged.

It’s an innate reflex that does you in every time, and it’s completely overlooked in the conventional view of response to threat –“fight or flight.”

Every martial art tradition, save one, starts training with techniques, specific tactics to respond to an attack.

You may have learned tens or hundreds of techniques, good, solid techniques that most definitely would work, given the right circumstances.

The truth is most martial arts teach viable techniques, and the nit-picky, fine distinctions practitioners quibble over make very little difference in the outcome of a fight.

If you have a handful of technique tactics you can use, then you are probably skilled enough already and need to look elsewhere in your training to improve because technique is not what’s holding you back.

Josephe LeDoux, noted neuroscientist and eminent researcher into the subject of fear, recently wrote in an article for the New York Times that our traditional conception of “run, hide or fight” is inadequate and biologically inaccurate.

So much martial arts training begins with the assumption that you have already decided to fight back, and then goes on to teach you what tactics to use.

Training fails more often than not because technique-based methods fail to align with our basic wiring (and this includes Systema “movements”).

According to LeDoux, freezing, or tonic immobility as researchers call it, is our first, hard-wired, innate response to imminent danger, .

Your muscles tense to prevent you from moving and your breathing stops because, well, your diaphragm is a muscle.

You freeze in hopes that a predator doesn’t notice you as you try to blend into the background because predatory eyes evolved to detect and lock on to motion.

Remember the T-Rex scene in Jurassic Park, “don’t move and he won’t see you.”  Not quite accurate (the poor kids still would have been eaten, being right in front of the T-rex), but you get the idea.

Freezing works best before you are spotted, but the same instinct kicks in at close-range, where it’s deadly.

I regularly see students momentarily freeze unconsciously smack dab in the midst of an attack, then wonder why they fail.

They don’t even know they are doing it, but I can see it clear as a Colorado sky at noon.

Being surprised sets off the freeze response. It could be a gunshot or an unexpected hand in your face, the reaction is the same because that’s the only response we are born with.

At close range we call this momentary freezing the Flinch Response.

Your Flinch Response takes neurological precedence over any of your techniques, no matter how cool they are.

Movement is life in close combat but your body is set up to work against you, and will do so unless you do something about it.

To err is human, to flinch is fatal.

Brad Scornavacco, Head of School

P.S. Our next Systema Saturday Seminar is Feb. 6th, 2016.  The topic is “2 for Flinching.” Use the code 24FLINCHING and save $50, before Jan. 31, 2016.

Click below to register:

2 For Flinching Systema Seminar February 6th, 2016

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