Posts Tagged ‘Instruction’

sleep is for the weak.jpgEditors Note: This entry is part of our ongoing Assitant instructor course. We have gotten half way through this years course and its time for a post midterm update. Karis is one of our most talented and committed students. What words of wisdom might her young should deem worthy of you!

First of all, if you’re reading this, go away, please. I’m positive you can find better things to do than listen to me complain. If you’re still here, why? It feels like I just wrote a post but here I am AGAIN. I hope you are all ready for more sarcasm! I’m not 100% sure what exactly I’m writing about, probably my experience with the AIC (Assitant Instructor course) so far? Sure, I’ll go with that. If not, well, I’m not rewriting. So first of all, it may not have been the smartest idea to add on another course to school and training. I think I spend more time on the bus than anywhere else. Oh well. Haven’t had a breakdown yet.

Sleep is for the weak!

So I have made it through four units and their corresponding tests and a midterm, and I’ve passed three of the units tests, to my surprise. Still waiting on the results from the unit four test and the midterm. Actually, the midterm was not as hard as I thought it would be (shocking, I know), at least for the written part. Just four essay questions and I actually felt like I could answer them. Now, whether I was actually correct remains to be seen. Unfortunately, I also had to teach a mock class which did terrify me. I actually forgot to talk about a principle relating to the technique until I was already halfway through. Leading up to the test Jon had been saying stuff like “everyone struggles with time management” and “people always run out of time”. Whenever I heard that, I’d think to myself, “Pffffft no. Screw that. I refuse to have a problem with that. I will watch that clock and keep everything on time.” Well surprisingly that actually worked. I finished the ‘class’ right before the timer went off. Honestly, I’m very proud of that. Nothing else matters now, I can die happy.

So, I THINK the midterm went okay, but what have I learned? Teaching is extremely difficult and scary. And I’m only halfway through. Still haven’t been forced to teach a real class, yet. But the PowerPoint on problem students is nightmare material, despite the fact that most of the students I’ve trained with are very nice and eager to learn. But there are so many other things to be worried about. You have to keep the class on time, keep everyone safe, teach the principles when appropriate, and not lose the timer thingy (another thing I have decided not to do). There’s a lot to remember. Fingers crossed I don’t kill anyone. OKAY! I have nothing else to say, so please leave now.

Image result for leave peasant

Editors note: Of course sleep is not for the weak, according to science it’s actually one of one of the most important things you can do for yourself. We have told Karis many times she needs to sleep more but well you know the kids these days…

Advertisements

This is part of a series on our instructor training program. To understand this series and how our Assistant Instructor Course and Full Instructor Course work, please start with Part 1. This post is a self-introduction from one of our current Assistant Instructor candidates.

IMG_0926

When I first started Krav Maga about 2 years ago, it quickly became a passion of mine. Krav Maga has since then developed into a way of life for me. My name is Vick and I am a current Orange Belt at Urban Tactics Krav Maga. I grew up in Surrey, BC and have spent most of my life there. Even though Surrey may have a pretty rough reputation, I must say that I love it. That’s my hometown and it always will be.

 

Alongside Krav Maga, another passion of mine is health and fitness. I love hitting the gym and being in the “zone”. Something about lifting heavy weights, having good music blasting in your ears, and getting an intense cardio session gives me a feeling like no other. I believe everyone should experience this feeling. Just getting in some sort of exercise for the day is a great mood booster and gives you that positive outlook on life to solve all of life’s hurdles.

I have had no other martial arts training prior to joining Urban Tactics. I have been built from the ground up and can definitely say that Krav Maga has made me into a better overall person in all aspects of life. Krav Maga interested me as seemed to be more of a tactical self-defense system as opposed to a sport fighting martial art. I love the tactical aspect that Krav Maga brings. It combines the hand to hand combat with firearms training and brings that real-world training that I wanted.

IMG_2055a.jpg

I have had a great experience training Krav Maga at Urban Tactics. All the instructors have provided me with the best knowledge and their teaching methods are very easy to understand. The ranking tests are my favourite part of our gym. It truly tests you as an individual as you must bring out the most physical, mental, and technical toughness you have. This is something I really enjoy. The most important thing that I have learned while training at Urban Tactics is applying principles and critical thinking. Being in a situation that is unfamiliar and not knowing what to do is scary. That’s why learning and applying the principles is so important and is definitely the most important thing I have learned alongside critical thinking. Critical thinking can be used in all areas of life, not just self-defense. It has taught me to look at situations on a deeper level and get a better understanding. This is helpful no matter what you do in your life. This is how Krav Maga has developed into a way of life for me.

Being in a situation that is unfamiliar and not knowing what to do is scary. That’s why learning and applying the principles is so important and is definitely the most important thing I have learned alongside critical thinking.

IMG_2098Once I was given the opportunity to be a Krav Maga instructor at Urban Tactics, I quickly jumped on it. I really enjoy teaching as a general interest, however being able to teach a field that I am highly passionate about, makes me very happy. I love being able to share my knowledge that I have learned with current and future students, developing them in every way that I can to make them better. My experience with the instructor course has been awesome. Jon is an incredible instructor and highly knowledgeable. It’s easy to keep engaged in the material when it is interesting and the instructor keeps it a fun learning environment.

Over the 2 years, I have trained Krav Maga at Urban Tactics, I have had the best experience. It has developed my physical, mental, and technical abilities and has created an overall better way of life for me. Being an instructor is the best way to share all of this with students and develop them further and create better people each and every day.

-Vick

This is part of a series on our instructor training program. To understand this series and how our Assistant Instructor Course and Full Instructor Course work, please start with Part 1. This post is a self-introduction from one of our current Assistant Instructor candidates.

Petra-My name is Petra and I’m the cat lady on the team. I moved from Germany to Vancouver in December 2012 (my hometown is Seifhennersdorf.) Yes, I’m a German doing Krav Maga.

In 1986, I entered school and my parents decided that I need a balance for all the studying and educating my mind was doing and because the Judo Dojo was the closest sports facility where I lived, I ended up doing Judo. And because we don’t quit, I didn’t quit doing Judo till 2002 when I graduated from university and life kicked in. My knees and other joints are still thankful for that break.

I heard about Krav Maga before but kind of ignored it, only later I read more about it and found it quite interesting. One day my roomie (in Vancouver) was searching the Groupon site and because I was sitting next to her I saw a Groupon for Krav Maga at a gym in downtown Vancouver. I went there and did a free trial class, couldn’t move for a week and came back. This was in December 2015. I knew so little then. In September 2016, the classes got discontinued and I needed a new gym. I asked around and a friend of mine told me about two gyms that offer Krav Maga – one downtown but he said if I wanted to train real Krav Maga I should go to UTKM. And so I did. Now I’m here.

My experience with Krav Maga

I find Krav Maga very applicable for real life situations. It is not only the techniques but also the mental aspect, e.g. assessing situations, recognizing the threat, etc. The big difference in comparison to classic martial arts like Judo is that you don’t have to train for years to apply the techniques. The system is simple and works with natural instincts.

I personally don’t think that most martial arts, as they are usually taught, are that great for self-defense. First of all, there are rules and there is a code of honour that both sides respect, usually you only deal with one opponent at a time and there are no weapons involved. Rules and codes of honour don’t work in a street fight. You always have to expect the attacker to have weapons and/or friends who are going to help them if they are having trouble mugging you. When I was taught self-defense as part of the Judo schedule, it didn’t cover the four stages of a violent situation (avoidance, diffusion, pre-emptive, reactive) or to avoid the ground.

These are just a couple of things right off the top of my head. Don’t get me wrong – I love Judo! And I’m still benefitting a lot from the training that I have received, but as somebody who started out as a more traditional martial artist, I learned that Bushido (武士道) – the way of the warrior – is different from self-defense. But it is great because I can be both – a Judoka and a Kravist. I know I’m getting here a little bit into the philosophical aspect of martial arts and I hope that you can follow my thoughts.

Quotefancy-819622-3840x2160

Moving here from Germany by myself means that I don’t have too many friends or a social network at all. UTKM has a great community and I feel comfortable training here. Yes, I like most of my fellow students.

One day, still with my white belt, our Lead Instructor Jon asked me if I wanted to become an Assistant Instructor. It was definitely something I had in mind, but I didn’t think of myself being ready. There are still so many things I have to learn. But apparently, we will cover many of these things during the course.

I was thinking about why I want to become an instructor. Self-defense is definitely one aspect of it, but I also want to help people to become more confident. Especially, women tend to be very hard on themselves and I want them to know that regardless of age or size – you can learn to defend yourself. Just be patient and take your time. Nothing happens over night and it is better to move forward with baby steps than not moving at all. I consider myself lucky because my parents never told me that there is anything I cannot do because I’m a girl, and my dad (I’m very proud of my dad because although he was born 1930 he always had a very modern point of view) would have kicked my butt if I ever caved before one of those idiots who believed that they are better only because they have the XY chromosome pair. I understand that physically the average women is not as strong as the average man, but that doesn’t mean you cannot put up a fight when getting attacked. And also ladies – get used to the fact that there is no knight in shining armour coming to rescue you. Get your butt up and learn to take care of yourself!

So far, the Assistant Instructor Course has been interesting.

We’ve learned about the history of Krav Maga, different schools, etc. – very confusing BTW. We have also learned a lot of things that happen in the background of a Krav Maga school, e.g. admin work. And of course, we’ve learned about teaching. But most importantly for me, it’s that Krav Maga is a sophisticated system and covers more than physical training.

Once I’m ready to teach (of course supervised at first), I already have some “fun” games in mind and I’m really looking forward to that. But first comes the orange belt test which scares me, but I’m also excited – if that makes sense.

Hope to see you in class!

Petra

I have trained with many of the top Krav Maga practitioners in the world, those who have trained under the masters, and under many of the major Krav Maga organizations.One way or another, I have come into contact with high-level Kravists and it’s clear that there is a wide array of philosophies when it comes to Krav Maga. Some organizations, in my opinion, have stayed away from the basic fundamentals of Krav Maga. Some are overly aggressive, some underwhelmingly lack aggression. And of course, the politics are all over the place.

There is one thing I have heard repeatedly from my students, training with other instructors, or simply observing others practice:

“Nobody attacks like that.”

I find this attitude rather confusing…

Humans can attack however they want. Anybody who has the capacity to attack anybody can attack in any way that is possible. People say that nobody attacks like X or Y, or that all attack start off with no aggression, or that they start with all out aggression, and so on. That’s not realistic at all. The reality is that you simply do not know what will happen and how it will happen when it comes to any situation involving physical conflict and/or self-defense.

Many people have this idea that training for violent conflict on the street must always be violent in the gym. However, the vast majority of people do not pick up the details of a movement under chaotic circumstances. Some elite individuals may learn quickly, but we’re trying to train the general population. For example, if I am teaching a wrist grab, it is only logical to start with the simplest movements and practice casually. As students get the hang of the fundamentals, then you ramp up the intensity and complexity of the scenario and do it again.

Always training hardcore is not helpful for the vast majority of people who are trying to learn to defend themselves. There is a military saying about combat in urban environments that goes…

“Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.”

If you practice a move fast, it will most likely be sloppy and incorrect when you use it under pressure in real life. It’s better to practice slowly but correctly, which builds good muscle memory of the proper movement.

In addition, preferred attacks vary between cultures as well as the specific attacks that are trending. Just because a particular style is not popular in one country does not mean that it should not be taught. A proper Krav Maga or self-defense program should give a person the ability to defend themselves in whatever situation they end up, whether it’s facing a different style of attack or an attack in a different country.

Just because you don’t attack like that doesn’t mean other people don’t. Yes, it is true that there are attacks and moves in our curriculum that certain people won’t do to others. For example, I find it hard to believe a man would do a basic wrist grab to another man. However, it is common in other cases, such as a man attacking a woman. Gyms that are too macho tend to forget that size matters, and it changes attack styles. Men are typically bigger than women and would attack in certain patterns that they would not use against someone their own size. The same goes with women vs women scenarios.

One of the reasons I dislike teaching women only classes is because the biggest threat to most women is men, with some exceptions. When a class consists only of women who don’t attack like men, they don’t get to experience reality. Thus, it creates a false sense of understanding about self-defense, and a misconception regarding how aggressive attacks take place.

Don’t get me wrong, it is possible to produce an aggressive, professional female fighter through women only classes. However, unless you have a Ronda Rousey, a Holly Holm, or an Amanda Nunes as your training partner, it’s unlikely you will be preparing or prepared for the kind of attacks you might face.

nobody

“Nobody attacks like that!” Back to this blanket statement. It’s false. When you learn or teach Krav Maga, you need to start from the basics. All students build up from the simple movements to more complicated and aggressive scenarios. Imagine you’re an instructor and you refuse to teach something based on the idea that “nobody attacks like that” only to have your students face it in real life and not know what to do. That’s bad instruction and a disservice to your students.

Again, people must realize that they cannot possibly know all the possible outcomes in a conflict. To say “nobody attacks like that” is limiting in nature. In the end, you cannot prepare for everything, and thus you should train to anticipate anything. Krav Maga teaches you to expect the unexpected, keep it simple, be aggressive, and think critically in the moment. Students must enough to be able to fill in the blanks. That is what makes the difference between life and death.

There is a famous line in George Bernard Shaw’s play, Man and Superman (1903) that says “He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.” This was also made popular by the film Annie Hall (1977), in which one of the characters says, “Those who can’t do, teach. And those who can’t teach, teach gym.”

Although hilarious in a drama or movie, these one-liners form the negative stereotypes about certain groups of people. Imagine if someone said, those who can do Krav Maga, do Krav Maga, and those who can’t do Krav Maga, teach Krav Maga.

Say what?

If those who can’t do teach, and those who can’t teach, teach gym… Then, who will teach Krav Maga?!

It’s not about what you can do, but what you can teach your students to do.

In this modern world of fast pace marketing and short attention spans, this concept can be difficult to swallow for many people. I have often discussed why someone should be an instructor in Krav Maga (or any martial art for that matter), but today I want to share some more profound thoughts on what I believe a great instructor should look like.

The quality of my teaching is not dependent on my personal skill, how tough I am, or how well I do Krav Maga. How well I teach is reflected in how well my students are understanding and retaining information, and how well they practice Krav Maga. I started thinking this way after watching a video clip by Tony Blauer about teaching self-defense. Although I have never had the opportunity to meet or train with him, his ideas have truly resonated with me, and I’m thankful. What and how I teach is more important because, at the end of the day, people learn Krav Maga so that they can be better prepared to defend themselves if needed. This means that how well I defend myself is meaningless if my students cannot defend themselves. For some, this may also be a hard thing to wrap their head around.

Many people expect that instructors should be phenomenal athletes, powerful, explosive, and fast. For many top level instructors around the world who I’ve met and trained with, this is the main point of their businesses: selling the image of top fighters.

Yes, it is important to stay in shape and be skilled as an instructor in order to set an example.

But fitness and skill alone does not a great instructor make.

Those who can teach, teach. What does it mean to be able to teach?

An instructor who dedicates him or herself to be amazing at Krav Maga, but doesn’t take the time and effort to ensure all their students receive proper guidance and also become amazing, are basically not doing their job properly. At this point of UTKM’s development, we have had numerous students with various backgrounds. Many have trained at other Krav Maga organizations or schools, or have practiced other martial arts, and we have been told that some instructors at their previous gyms do not pay much attention to them. Sometimes, students who come to learn martial arts or self-defense do not look tough, hardcore, strong, or move athletically, but I can see that they have great potential. It is sad for me to hear many students making statements that they were glossed over in the past, because that means their previous instructors have failed to maximize the potential of ALL of their students.

Don’t get me wrong, great instructors should be proficient at what they teach and should be constantly improving their skills. However, the fact is that not everyone wins the genetic lottery (myself included) that gives them freak athletic capabilities, like the kind you would only see in special forces. People need to stop creating and perpetuating this false image that great instructors have godlike physiques and abilities. It’s a terrible lie. When it comes to self-defense in the real world, it doesn’t matter how physically gifted you are because anything that can happen will happen, as Murphy would say.

An instructor’s quality of teaching is measured in his or her ability to pass knowledge and skill onto others. The goal should be to provide students with the physical and mental abilities to be able to properly defend themselves, and to adapt (within reason) to your students’ needs and wants.

those-who-cant-do-teach2

Ultimately, a truly great instructor should want and hope that all their students surpass them in both skill and knowledge. This is an absolute because as an instructor, you cannot escape death, no matter how hard you try. Thus, if a legacy is what you really want, use your students to demonstrate it. If you can replicate yourself in your students, only 1000 times better, then you just might be a great instructor.

If you are a student, which instructor would you rather choose? (1) An instructor who is a world champion, but has never produced a single champion themselves, or (2) an instructor who is mediocre in practice with no grand titles, but has produced many champions?

The answer should be easy…

If you are an instructor, do you want to show off what you can do, or do you want to make others great?

Only you know.

Now, get out there, better yourself every day, and more importantly better your students.

I have been serving with the army for about 14 years now and recently experienced something interesting that I want to share. While participating in one of the biggest NATO exercises with a very serious group of military professionals, I was able to observe examples of leadership in the group. There were both fine leaders as well as some pretty questionable leaders.

One lesson I learned in particular through this experience was the consequence of forming cliques within a large organization. I witnessed people creating their own sub-groups, taking all the resources from other teams, becoming overly protective of their own teammates or subordinates, and unwilling to participate in or contribute to group work or the success of the team as a whole.

As Krav Maga instructors, we can learn from this…

For example, at UTKM, we have different instructors teaching each day. Greg teaches on Monday, Dave on Tuesdays, Josh on another day, and so on. Some students only attend certain instructor’s classes due to their personal schedule and/or preference.

Four points come to my mind as guidelines for Krav Maga instructors (and other instructors as well) to maintain unity and solidarity as a school. Keep these four things in mind to help you and your team ensure that you are a cohesive unit!

SCHOOL CULTURE, NOT PERSONAL CULT

Oftentimes, we have to be aware of creating a cult under individual instructors or classes. We must take steps to avoid doing our own thing in class and straying from the curriculum. To do this, we must acknowledge above all things that our students are people who choose to train under our school. Maybe they enjoy your personality or style as well, but ultimately they are students of the school.

As the school grows, we run the risk of allowing personal preferences to change the curriculum in a way that does not reflect the school anymore. It could create a different culture, or subculture within various instructor-led classes. Some students who are sensitive to a cult of personality could consider themselves more elite than other students or classes.

GO BY THE BOOK, THEN ADD YOUR STYLE

When implementing techniques, everyone has their own personal flair, but there is always the textbook reference. In classes, always follow the textbook first, then show your personal preference later. Students need to have a common foundation to understand the moves, and they also need to be able to attend different instructor’s classes and receive the same training.

Every instructor has different strengths and weaknesses, style and preferences. While training new instructors for UTKM, I have seen that some of them are great at being aggressive, some are very technical, some are very patient, some are very lively. I am constantly amazed by how different instructors bring something unique to class, and each provide something similar but original to students. For example, Jon is someone who pays incredible attention to detail, and the depth of knowledge he teaches to students is not something I can do myself.

Think of the textbook reference as your bone structure, and personal style as muscle. We all have the same bone structure, but our muscles are different. The point is that it is good for us to have variation in teaching styles and methodology, but it is more important for the curriculum and materials to be the same.

COMMITMENT

Know your reason for being here, know your mission, and do what you promise. This is what I learned during my NATO experience. On the contrary, at UTKM, we always give instructors the right to say no to things due to schedule conflicts, or other reasons. However, there is a difference between prioritizing personal affairs, and neglecting responsibility.

We all have to commit to doing what we say because it has an impact on everyone else in the group. The success of one person’s job is important for the success of one team’s mission, which is vital to the success of the other teams, which is crucial for the success of the organization as a whole. The key to ensuring the individual and the team does their jobs well, is to let them know how important their tasks are and how their piece of the puzzle informs the bigger picture.

vimy_ridge_-_canadian_machine_gun_crewsFor example, one of Canada’s great triumphs was Vimy Ridge in WWI. At Vimy Ridge, Canadians inflicted a significant defeat on the Germans, causing the German commander-in-chief, General Erich Ludendorff, to admit that their campaign was “the black day of the German army.” The key to the Canadian military success was that every soldier, from Private to General knew exactly what their job was and, even in the absence of leadership (happens a lot in war and business), everyone could still finish their task. Therefore, the overall mission was successfully completed. It was a daring attack that marked a turning point in the war, and as Sir General Arthur Currie said, it was “the grandest day the Canadian Corps ever had.”

Believe it or not, we are fighting a war

In this world. Right now. Every one of our students has the potential to use what we teach them in a life or death situation (many have done so already). If we fail as instructors, our students suffer, get hurt, or die. The leadership we need to take in class is not just about how good you are or how nice your personal style is.

Think team and think big – bigger than just your class, bigger than just our school. Think of our society as a whole, and think of the world.

This is part 1 of a series on our instructor training program.

UTKM  Instructor Course

Urban_Tactics_logo smallOur aim at Urban Tactics Krav Maga has always been to design a structured Krav Maga school allied with international Krav Maga organizations to provide traditional Israeli style training. Vancouver is a city with relatively low crime rate and a low population density. It is a very small market compared to European countries with a high population density, high GDP, and high movement between borders. In an environment which faces more chaos and turmoil, lots of enthusiastic people are willing to learn self-defense skills, whereas Vancouver is not known for its warrior culture.

Despite the geographical differences, we have managed to build a solid student body who believe in our practical Krav Maga training. As student numbers grow, we have started to nurture additional teaching staff for the school.

The Instructor Course is designed by both chief instructors at UTKM, Borhan Jiang and Jonathan Fader. We have both acquired various Krav Maga instructor certifications from IKI, IKMF, CT707, KMG, and CKMI. We are also trained in other martial arts including BJJ, Muay Thai, MMA, and Western style knife fighting. In addition, we draw real life experience from serving in both the Israeli and Canadian military, as well as private security. By combining everything we learned, we have created a dynamic training program for our assistant instructors.

The course consists of two portions: Assistant Instructor course (AIC) and Full Instructor Course (FIC). The AIC has a focus on instructional techniques and delivering our Krav Maga curriculum. The FIC focuses on leadership and management.

Once certified as an Assistant Instructor, you may teach at our school or privately under the UTKM credentials. In order to operate your own school under UTKM, you must also complete the FIC.

For a list of currently certified instructors and their ranks, please visit our UTKM team page here.

Our training program is a mentorship

The UTKM Assistance Instructor Course is the first stage of becoming a Full Instructor under the UTKM brand. It is a post-secondary style apprenticeship program rather than just a short course like other organizations. Oftentimes, other schools host week-long courses to produce lots of “instructors” over time and also procure maximum profits. They also often end the courses with a couple handshakes, and then you are out in the teaching world alone with little support other than possible email exchanges. Some places even offer weekend instructor courses or online certification. It is an insult to serious Krav Maga practitioners around the world. Our instructor course can take between 3 months to a year to complete depending on the commitment level of each candidate.

Our instructor program is a long-term mentorship which allows us to invest in a few students per year, really cultivate their teaching skills, and provide immediate support whenever necessary (like Jedi training). It is similar to MMA or boxing, in which you get a professional coaching team with a striking coach, grappling coach, conditioning coach, head coach, and more…..to support just one fighter. We implement similar support to our assistant instructors.

young padawan

How do I become an instructor candidate?

Candidate Requirements:

  • Minimum yellow belt ranking under UTKM (completed 70 hours of training)
  • A strong, competent warrior able to succefully demonstrate the ability to spar with contact
  • Mature and calm individuas, able to maintain control among chaos
  • Effective communication and public speaking skills
  • Can represent UTKM as an instructor
  • Able to acquire Canadian Federal Firearm License (PAL) or local equivalent (Alternative options available)
  • Achieve orange belt by end of AIC

Currently, we hand pick the candidates within our school. We get to know our students in and outside of classes (for at least 70 hours of training) before even offering them candidacy. The AIC program is a long-term commitment and we’ll be working together for many years to come, thus we are very careful who we accept.

What does the program involve?

AIC Curriculum:

  1. 50 hours of in-class instruction (history of Krav Maga, instructional techniques, etc.)
  2. 25 hours of instructor-focused physical training
  3. 25 hours of supervised teaching
  4. Must achieve Orange Belt (additional 70 hours of training) by the end of training

FIC Curriculum:

  1. Additional 50 hours of in-class instruction (leadership, management, etc.)
  2. Additional 15 hours supervised teaching
  3. Conduct a yellow belt and orange belt test under supervision
  4. Must achieve Green Belt (additional 140 hours of training after orange belt) by the end of training

At the time of this being published, becoming a UTKM instructor is by invite only. In addition, the FIC is still under development in order to offer the best possible education for our instructors. We will be opening it up in the future to a few applicants per year. If you are thinking about doing this in the future, please inquire by  emailing Josh Hensman at info@urbantacticscanada.com.

The Brain The Great Equalizer

One of the great things about being an instructor of any kind is that you will be exposed to a wide variety of people, with different backgrounds and education levels. This exposure, with an open mind, can only make you better.

Some of you may know that I am currently in the process of getting my BA in Psychology. Part of the reason I am doing this is to better understand the people I am teaching. The other part is to better understand the brain, which is the great equalizer. More or less, no matter of your skill level our experiences our brains are fundamentally the same and operate in the same manner. One of these great equalizers is the Fight or Flight response, which as it happens is a big factor in decision making in Krav Maga.

During the last shotgun course, and during the long drive out to the appropriate shooting area I had the pleasure of discovering that one of my students also shares my interest in Psychology. She has a Bsc in Psychology with a focus on the biological aspects of the brain. She obtained her degree from Lewis-Clark State College.

As we always do at UTKM we encourage our students to share their knowledge and help contribute to our blog. I asked her to discuss the Fight or Flight mechanism from a biopsych point of view. Below is what she sent me.

“The fight or flight response refers to physiological reaction that occurs when a person is placed in a threatening situation. Fight or flight simply describes the two basic decisions that are instantaneously made to resolve the dangerous situation, which is the decision to either quickly escape or to stay and fight.

The physiological effects of this response begins with one or several of the five senses, typically vision. A person will see threatening stimili, such a person or animal. The stimili is then sent as a signal via the optic nerve to be processed by the brain, generally in the amygdala, known as the ‘fear center’ which sends signals to the hypothalamus, which activates the nervous system. A signal then stimulates the sympathetic nervous system which sends impulses down the spinal column to the adrenal gland, which releases epinephrine, also known as adrenaline. This hormone will cause the heart rate to increase and is sent throughout the body as the heart beats faster. Epinephrine will signal the liver to release glucose, which will then be converted into ATP, which is used to activate muscles. This heightened level of epinephrine in the body will also activate the lungs, causing the breathing rate to increase in order for the body take in and utilize more oxygen through dilated blood vessels. The pupils in the eyes will also dilate to facilitate better lighting and vision as blood vessels in the ears dilate for increased auditory perception. In order to efficiently escape an attack or to fight, this response also subdues bodily processes which are unnecessary during a dangerous situation, such as digestion. The elevated levels of this hormone and increased activation of these bodily processes will increase body heat, which is also useful as it allows your muscles to ‘warm up’ in seconds as the mind registers the threat.

Psychologically, the combination of the increased heart rate, sweating, and the explosion of energy in the muscles, create a sense of acute awareness of the current situation and the ability to act quickly. While this illustrates a case in which the entire process runs smoothly, you must also be aware of the case in which it fails, known as condition black. Condition black is also known as ‘freezing’ during a dangerous situation, preventing the individual from fleeing or fighting. Cognitively, a sense of increased aggression will be associated with the ‘fight’ response and a combination of fear and anxiety for ‘flight’, while freezing is associated with fear and anxiety, but also a feeling of physical stiffness. During this freeze response, the parasympathetic nervous system dumps large amounts of hormones into the body, the same hormones that return the body to its relaxed state after a fight. The sudden increase of these hormones during a dangerous situation have the opposite effect of the fight or flight response, mixing panic with an inability to act quickly. Although freezing can be useful in situations in which a person must remain still in order to hide from an attacker, it can be detrimental when faced with an attacker head on.”

It is amazing to me that so much goes on in the brain in such a short amount of time, and for an untrained individual the Fight or Flight mechanism will operate in just that manner.

“I need to run, or quick throw a punch”

The great advantage of being a  properly trained individual is that this one will not be easily governed by their immediate biological responses. They will instead do their best to diffuse and continually assess the situation. Only then, will they make the decision to run (Flight) or to Fight with the purpose of escaping danger.

Of course, we are all human and there are times when we can be overwhelmed and thus enter condition black. You will never know if you are the kind of person who will enter condition black and freeze or will allow with correct decision making, the fight or flight mechanism, to work effectively. The only way to know, is during a period of extreme stress where an immediate and correct response is required, which will ultimately test your ability to react appropriately.

In the end, the only way to really reduce the chance of entering condition black is to train and become better at reacting under pressure. Which is something of course, any good Krav Maga training must include.

Written by: Annie Faulkner & Jonathan Fader