It’s an impressive display or athleticism and skill, but could you do it if the boards hit you first? (source)
The Nervous System, Reflexes and Krav Maga – Part 4: Moving Towards Stimulus Audio by Jonathan Fader

This is the fourth part in a series about connecting the system of Krav Maga to your nervous system and day-to-day life; specifically your nervous system and your reactions. (See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) (previous series Awareness Colour Code, The Nervous System & Mental Health)

Welcome to the end! That is, the end of this series, even though, if you are experiencing the later stages of your nervous system getting you to reflexively react, you may in fact be in a state of sheer terror as you face that knife wielding maniac, the velociraptor, or, worse, that ex who, for some reason, is a re-occurring, nightmarish theme in this series. But, hey, I have to be dramatic if I want to illustrate the various color code stages while you sit and read/listen.

As I referenced in the previous post, Mike Tyson once said “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

This means that you can train as much and as hard as you like, refine your skill, toughen your body, and sharpen your mind, but when you run into a situation you were not expecting, be it a metaphorical monster of a human or your ex, that will still have your heart pounding, your blood pumping, and your nervous system bouncing between Red and Black.

At this point you have been exposed to several models used to explain various nervous system reactions and states, and how you can better understand them so that you may increase your chances of positive outcomes; the Awareness Colour Code, the PAFA and ODDA loop, and the Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS). Some of you (as often happens) might be saying “but, Jon, I just want to learn to punch people in the face so I am able to defend myself!” To which I reply, “Patience, young Padawan, there is much of the force you do not understand.” Also, punching that ex may very well land you in Jail, and that velociraptor will just smirk and eat you anyway. Thus, the more you understand yourself and the complexities of self-defence, the better you can handle more situations. Because sometimes something or someone is just so overwhelming that your body and its systems revert to their primal responses, and you’ll be wishing you had listened so that you were able to learn to control it better through more understanding.

Now I’ll take a look at what happens when you are overwhelmed and are in Red (perhaps moving to Black), but first, just a reminder from the previous post the Glasgow coma Scale is as follows:

The Motor Response Scale is established by testing the patient as follows:

  1. Obeys commands for two part movement – 6 points
  2. Purposeful movement in response to painful stimulus above clavicle – 5 points
  3. Withdraws and bends arm at elbow rapidly in response to pain – 4 points
  4. Abnormal elbow flexion in response to pain (decorticate posturing) – 3 points
  5. Elbow extension in response to pain (decerebrate posturing) – 2 points
  6. No response – 1 point

In the last post, I covered the 1-3 and now we move into 4. This is basically a panic response to cover up your vitals (head, neck, core) as a last-ditch effort before keeping the important bits intact (apparent your body doesn’t think your junk is worth protecting, and neither does your ex). This can be witnessed in individuals who are not experienced in violence, as they cover up and turn away in an attempt not to die as a punch comes at them. Of course, if the attacker knows what they are doing this response can be less than ideal.

That being said, with training, professional fighters often use a the cover-up instinct to take a hit so that they can give a hit, or to take a break as they change position, or to bait their opponent to do something. If you are using it on purpose, then it is training built on top of your natural panic instincts; which has moved it from a reflex to an effective tool. But, you must understand that if your immediate response is always to cover and turn away, your best self-defence is to avoid and run, because, clearly, you have not put in the time to train your reflexes… a shame… I guess you like being raptor food.

Okay, but remember that Tyson quote? This is where Krav Maga comes in. Your plan and training can be amazing, but if you are not expecting something, and you are in White and you are startled you may actually find yourself jumping to 5 on the GCS with a Reflexive Extension. The more trained you are the more effective it will be the less trained then your spastic flailing will simply be a source of amusement as you would be a threat ends you literally or figuratively.

It is one thing to cover with a 3 or 4 response if it’s an empty hand, but it’s another if it’s a knife because now you have a serious wound since you failed to understand that things can go sideways fast and sometimes the most primal tool is the best. This is actually where professional fighters often get it wrong, whether it’s boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, or BJJ if you use the wrong reflex due to training it may just get you killed.

For this example, let’s be a little bit more on point and finally talk about that knife-wielding maniac. Krav Maga recognized that you cannot always run, and you cannot always fight (in a traditional sense; squaring off for a back and forth exchange), but that if you find yourself at the bottom of the reaction scale then you must attack forward and with absolute aggression to make the attacker stop long enough to get to safety or to stop them as a threat overall.

The Krav Maga 360 defence, or “outside defence” as some call it, is a perfect example of this panic response. Unless you are some kind of crazy person or someone who can slow down time and move with the speed of the Flash, if a knife comes towards you there is a very good chance your body will naturally know to throw your hands out in an attempt to keep that blade away from your vitals, while sacrificing the clearly not so important limbs. Once you understand this natural response you can now hone it from a reflex into a useful technique. Keeping good structure in your arms and, through training, getting your nervous system used to operating under stress and panic and then adding in some good old focused aggression as you think of that ex who drove you mad.

While we hope you never end up in this situation people often forget that training for professional fighting is different than many self-defence situations. While professional fighters most likely have an advantage in many self-defence situations they train for a very different situation; both practically and from a nervous system perspective. How you train will result in how you perform against various stimuli. If you are a Taekwondo (TKD) world champion for example, and you always turn sideways to face opponents, you may find yourself on your ass when a wrestler shoots low and takes you down because you had a bad base for that kind of attack. The same is true for weapons or self-defence situations. Unless you have achieved true combat mastery, even if you have trained a long time in a style, if your nervous system is indeed panicked you may still find yourself throwing your arms out extending towards that weapon, as our nervous systems are designed to do when totally overwhelmed.

Though it is likely the design and approach of Krav Maga was more one of observation and trial and error, it often found solutions that were in fact heavily based on naturally occurring reactions. By building techniques and strategies around this, from a technical perspective and training one, it resulted in what it is today one of the best self-defence systems in the world.

So if you happen to be confronted by a knife-wielding maniac, the velociraptor, or your ex, and are applying your 4 stages of self-defence, while running through the various colour code stages, and trying to remember your techniques and how to apply them. Remember this; all humans have a head, and usually two arms and two legs, and the basics of how we operate are all the same regardless of style. The more you understand how we as humans work, including yourself, the more you will be able to defend yourself and learn to walk in peace in all ways; physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Written by Jonathan Fader.

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