What does it mean when an East Texas Krav Maga instructor tells students to act with more aggression, more violence? If as a student those instructions have caused you to feel confusion, you’re not alone. You’re punching the pad as hard as you can or sending endless knee strikes, and that seems violent enough. What exactly are they asking you to do, and why do they stress it so often?
Krav Maga isn’t just about training the body in self-defense techniques. It is powerful in real-life situations because it also trains the mind. Doing one without the other is useless. No tactic, no weapon, no training will be enough to protect you if you’re mentally unprepared and facing people who are more aggressive, more violent, more committed to causing you physical pain.
Mind Training 101
This article is written with the intent of helping you begin that mental training. How greatly it benefits you depends on the time you take to walk through each portion in your own mind and how often you apply its principles. The process is highly individual, because only you know what you most fear and what you treasure.
If you’re training at East Texas Krav Maga, you want to learn to protect yourself. Sure, you might also be there because it’s great for weight loss and we have a fantastic group of people, but you could pursue fitness and personal interaction in a variety of ways.
You’re primarily there because you realize we live in a violent world where bad things happen. You want to have the best possible chance of going home safe if they happen to you. Here’s what you need to know about turning your mind, not just your body into a weapon.
Define Your Threat
You may not have thought it all the way through, but there are scenarios running around in the back of your mind you want to defend against. We’re not talking about a time when you could hand over your car keys and walk away, but a time you know you might not survive.
At Krav Maga, we always counsel students if there’s an option of giving the attacker what he or she wants or using reason, do that and avoid violence. But right now we’re talking about when that’s not a possibility.
For the rest of this article, assume your life is at risk and logic no longer applies. Take a minute to look inward and identify what those scenarios are, what you most fear.
Let it form in your mind like a hologram. Fill in the blank.
- The attacker or attackers look like ____.
- They say _____ (be specific).
- I am at a disadvantage because _____ (they have a weapon, they’re bigger etc).
- They threaten to ______ if I don’t ______.
Allow that scenario to fully load in your mind not to be morbid or to cause yourself stress, but to truly understand what it is you fear. What are your surroundings like? What shoes are you wearing and what does the ground sound like beneath your feet? What’s the temperature? How well can you see? Hang on to that scenario; we’ll come back to it in a moment.
Understand the Body’s Response to Threat
Everyone feels fear at one time or another. Fear causes an automatic reaction in the body. You’ve heard about the fight or flight response, which is when your brain’s reacts to fear by sending signals to your nervous system.
Your heart rate spikes, your blood pressure rises and your breathing speeds up. Adrenaline and cortisol flood your system. Blood flows to your arms and legs.
In cave man days, that response was helpful. Cave man didn’t need to think things through. He wasn’t going to stand and fight the sabre tooth, or reason with it. There was no need for complex mental processing.
The bad part is, sometimes the body’s response to fear or stress can actually be detrimental in a violent confrontation. Some people experience tunnel vision and their thoughts become jumbled. Processing slows down. You may feel you’re having trouble getting enough air and that in itself causes panic. Violence often causes people to freeze. If you freeze, you lose.
Ask yourself how you felt when you pictured your attack scenario? If you truly allowed yourself to visualize it, you probably already have a hint of the stress you might experience if violence actually occurred.
Compare Rage with Aggression
Sometimes students think being more aggressive means getting angry, but that’s not what we mean at all. Here’s the difference.
Rage is white hot anger that floods your senses and takes over. You’re ready to smash, annihilate and demolish everything in your path. Rage goes off like an explosion in all directions, consuming everything. Your brain isn’t in control, your emotions are. It’s a powerful emotion, but it impairs decision making. It also burns out quickly, leaving you exhausted and vulnerable.
Aggression in Krav Maga is the commitment to do whatever it takes to keep your attacker from being successful so you are able to go home safe. It’s like a focused weapon you’re trained to use with precision and directionality. It is determination paired with violence. Aggression doesn’t quit until the battle is over, but it never involves the loss of mental control. Even when you’re tired, aggression helps you re-focus again and again.
While your attacker may feel like you’ve turned into the Hulk, there’s no mindlessness to the type of aggression we’re training for. Rage happens when someone flips your switch. Aggression is a mindset you choose, cultivate and focus.
Find Your Motivation
Go back to the scenario you pictured earlier. Find some time and space to look inward again and ask yourself the following:
What do you want to live for?
What would you be prepared to die for?
Don’t accept the quick, obvious answer, look deeper and again allow the answers to those questions time to develop. In answer to the first question, most people say they want to live for their families. Your answer might have involved your spouse, your parents, your children or that person you’ve fallen in love with.
The first question establishes what brings you joy and gets you out of bed every morning. The second touches what’s closest to your heart. Most of the time the answer involves people, but it might also involve your beliefs.
You have years you want to spend with the ones who matter most. You have a responsibility to them, and they rely on you. If you were gone, they would suffer emotionally and possibly physically. You would die to protect them.
Recognize the Cost of Failure
At this point you have mentally defined a threat and uncovered why failure isn’t an option. If your attackers win, you might lose your life or your ability to enjoy it as you currently do. This may be the most difficult part of mentally preparing yourself, but it’s a necessary step.
Imagine you fail. There’s pain involved for you. Everything you fear becomes reality. Your body becomes broken one piece at a time. You experience crippling violence like you’ve never experienced before. Your attacker gets what they want. They win at your expense.
Now take time to think what comes after. You’re gone, but your family isn’t. Envision your loved ones’ reaction when law enforcement tells them what happened to you. If you have children, picture your spouse having to tell them their parent is gone.
It’s difficult, but don’t change the channel. Allow to unfold a future without you. Your loved ones face financial challenges. They are devastated by grief and loss for a very long time. You leave a hole that will never completely heal. Their grief is compounded by the thought you died in pain and were taken by evil people.
In time, they move on. You are a memory. There is a stone with your name on it that stands under the elements year after year until the letters wear away. Failure cost you everything.
Again, don’t just read the words. Close your eyes and allow those emotions to build inside you. Feel it build in your gut. Recognize if you’re facing a violent attacker, they are trying to take from you unless you stop them.
Determine not to let that happen and allow that determination to build like a battery charging. We’re about to tell you how to turn them into something useful.
Go to the Dark Side
We’re raised to avoid physical violence, but in this one situation, it’s okay to find the part of yourself willing to do whatever it takes. When you fight you do it not out of hatred or the desire to harm others, but because someone dared threaten you and those you love.
Find that part of you willing to stop them. You’ll hurt them until they don’t get up. You’ll kill if necessary. Make peace with that.
Develop Your Power Base
Three beliefs will make you strong. Study them, you’ll practice during class.
- I am too important to lose, I must prevail.
- I have trained for this. I have confidence I will stand.
- My indignation is a tool I can use as a weapon.
Worth. Confidence. Indignation. Drill those three into your mind so that you default to them when you feel stress. While you’re still inside your mind, fuse the emotions you’ve been cultivating with your worth, your confidence and your indignation. Wherever you feel those emotions, whether it’s in your chest or your stomach, picture them forming a powerful sphere.
That is your mental aggression, your starting point. When you come to class you’ll learn specific techniques, but every time you must train from that perspective. You are too important for your loved ones to lose, you have training that gives you confidence, and no one has the right to try and take that away.
Inoculate Against Stress
At Krav Maga, we do stress drills because it’s the best way to train your body not to freeze. No one looks forward to them. The more you train, the tougher we make them, because our goal is not to make you comfortable, but to make sure you go home safe.
When you come to class, devote the hour you’re there to training your mind alongside your body. Analyze where you’re afraid and use that to get better.
When you participate in drills, do this. Gather worth, confidence and indignation inside of you like a ball. Allow everything else to fall away and draw power from that sphere. You can still practice safety in training because your mind will be clear. Go there again and again to train your mind.
At East Texas Krav Maga, we hope none of our students never face this type of threat, but we know people do every day. We’ve never been about fancy fighting techniques, rules or rituals. We give students the tools they need to face real life threats. Start training your body and mind when you try a class today.