Posts Tagged ‘Krav Maga Principles’

Fight, Flight or Freeze

Posted: January 16, 2018 by urbantacticskravmaga in Krav Maga Principles
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When Encountering a threat, humans typically have one of two instinctual behavioural reactions, with an occasional third.

Fight, Flight, or Freeze

 

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For many, especially untrained individuals or for those exposed to a threat they are simply overwhelmed by, this can be a subconscious automatic decision. For more trained individuals this response can be honed and controlled at a more conscious level. Whether the decision is a conscious one or not, your brain will do a quick calculation based on your past experience, your skill level and conditioning and determine which option is best. The most important part is often not which decision is made, but the speed at which the final decision is reached and whether or not you can commit to it.

“Strike fast, but run faster” – Unknown

The below is an excerpt from a previous article found here.

“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.

autonomic-nervous-system.jpgPsychologically, 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.”

In Krav Maga, we accept these natural reactions and work with them. Generally, we have a decision to make. If we are following the proper stages of Self defense, then we will choose Flight, as (A) Avoidance is the first choice when we have it and it is appropriate (For civilians it usually is, for those whose jobs required them to stay then it will not be appropriate). Of if we cannot run and avoid the fight, and we cannot (D) diffuse the situation, then we fight. Depending on the scenario and how quickly you realized the fight is unavoidable you will either Strike first (PE) or react to their attack defensively (RE).

The Freeze reaction is a double edge sword. It is either a correct tactical response to stop moving.

Example 1: you are walking in the plains of Africa, you spot something. That something you think is a pair of eyes peering at you from the tall grass. You FREEZE! This is both to ensure that you identify the threat correctly, before making a decision. And not to activate the predator’s response to running.

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The ability to recognize eyes and a face is so ingrained in our biology our brains have a part of the brain dedicated to this task. This is a very primal predator response. I see Face, I decided, Fight, flight or freeze. Remember, these responses are engrained into our biology as part of our survival instinct. So dont, fight them but instead train them.

Example 2: You are a special operations group moving silently through the night. You are still 1km from your designated target. a group of teens is up late night passed the local curfew, you freeze so as not to be identified by remaining motionless and silent. The threat of detection passes and you continue.

OR the freeze response can become code black and turn into a catastrophic mental failure preventing you from acting at all in a Non-Functional Freeze. This is the kind of freeze we hope to avoid. Some individuals are fortunate enough not to have a code black or NFF trigger. Others will only know when it happens. If it happens for the first time hopefully you have made correct life decisions and avoid dangerous or life-threatening situations. If not, you may be in for a world of hurt.

One of the most effective ways to avoid a code black situation especially under the threat of violence is to train. Training is a form of exposure therapy, especially Krav Maga. Krav Maga cannot be called Krav Maga if the training never forces you to push your physical and mental limits through stress testing. This regular and relatively safe training exposes you to higher levels of mental and physical stress in slow doses which allows your body to adapt and get used to it. The more you are used to it the easier you can turn a freeze response from an NFF to a tactical freeze to action thus making the correct decisions and avoiding being overwhelmed by a real-world threat.

So under threat of life and death, do you know which response you are most likely to have? The right one, could save your life, but the wrong one…

 

 

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In 1989, Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Cooper, a former US Marine and creator of “the modern technique” of gun fighting, wrote a booked called Principles of Personal Defense and he devised a colour code to indicate the level of awareness a person has. Black was added later by the USMC after realizing what extreme stress can cause. The awareness colour code is a simplified view of a person’s stress and awareness under stressful potentially dangerous situations. It is important to know both in Krav Maga and in life at what level you are to avoid reaching code Black. A keyword often heard in Krav Maga is ” Situational Awareness” this as taught in class is usually referring to environmental awareness. Here you must ask yourself things like, are there multiple attackers? are their weapons? Do I have viable escape routes? etc… However, a big part of situational awareness is also your personal mental state and your ability to act or react appropriately. Enter, the Awareness Colour code. An easy guide to understanding your mental state at any given time.Principles of self defense.jpg

White – Unaware and Unprepared

This is you sitting relaxed on the couch after a large meal. Often students like to test an instructor, however even if a black belt is teaching but is at this level, any person could easily sucker punch even the most accomplished martial artist. This is a relaxed and unassuming state, you are not anticipating an attack and are relaxed both mentally and physically. This is a state you should be in only in safe environments.

Yellow – Relaxed Alert (A)

Most animals such as cats or dogs spend most of the time in this state. To quote his book;

“Observe your cat. It is difficult to surprise him. Why? Naturally, his superior hearing is part of the answer, but not all of it. He moves well using his senses. He is not preoccupied with irrelevancies. He’s not thinking about his job, his image or his income taxes. He’s putting first things first, principally his physical security.”

 – Jeff Cooper (2006). “Principles of Personal Defense: Revised Edition”, p.14, Paladin Press

In this stage, you are relaxed but still paying attention.  It would be harder to surprise a person at this stage but they are still not at a level of any stress, just simple awareness. It must be understood that being at Yellow, or relaxed alert, is not paranoia. If one were to mentally be at orange (below) or above on the scale on a regular basis, identifying everything as a threat whether real or imaginary then this would then be moving into paranoia. Remember, relaxed alert is just that, relaxed. Here you can stay indefinitely with out any issues other than being more prepared to perceive, Analyze, Formulate and Act (See Action Vs. Reaction: Stages of Mental Processing for more) against identified threats.

Orange – Specific Alert (A) (D) (PE)

This is when you have identified a specific area or person of concern and your attention is focused. A nefarious looking person walking towards you. A soldier on patrol assessing windows and doors. While Yellow is a stage that you can maintain indefinitely, Orange requires mental concentration. Consider working an 8 hour job. Statistically most work is done before noon as people still have the mental focus to be productive. The same goes for Orange; stay here for too long and you will begin to read the situation incorrectly.

Red – Condition Red is Fight (PE) (RA)

Either the situation was unavoidable or you misread it but you are now actively engaged in a fight or conflict. Imagine a car tachometer.  How long can it stay red lined until the engine blows. The same goes for a fight. How long can you maintain this level both mentally and physically? This is why for us, as Krav Maga practitioners, we try to limit time spent here and end it as soon as possible.

Black – Catastrophic Breakdown (Non-Functional Freeze (NFF))

You have now experienced a complete catastrophic breakdown mentally, physically or both. The longer you spend at condition Red the more likely you are to experience this. An example of this would be shell shock. However, sometimes, some people go straight from White or Yellow to Black. This would be the “freeze” reaction, which is when your nervous system is overwhelmed and instead of entering “fight or flight,” simply shuts down. You can avoid this by training properly so that your brain and body know how to react appropriately. However, it is impossible to know who will experience this. Some people are prone to it and some people are not. It is also important to have proper mental decompression if you spend too much of your time at Orange or Red. If you experience this or anything like it and have survived a violent confrontation we advise that you seek professional counselling to ensure that you do not suffer from Depression or Post-traumatic stress syndrome as a result and can get a proper debriefing both practically and emotionally.

* See The Stages of Self Defense post for more details on the below information

  • (A) – Avoidence
  • (D)- Diffusion
  • (PE) – Pre-Emptive
  • (RE) – Re-Active

**Topics under any principle category (EX. Krav Maga Principles) may be updated from time to time so always check in every few months to see if the posts have been updated.


 

Action (Pre-Emptive) vs Re-action (Re-Active)

When it comes to a human vs human situation action is always faster than reaction. Humans brains are all made up of the same stuff and operate in relatively similar fashion. We all have neurons, and our brains generally operate with the same brain chemistry and processes. Generally, most people will approximately have the same action-reaction potential with regards to response times. While there are of course exceptions like extreme athletes most people will fall within similar parameters. Below, the action vs. reaction concept is broken down into the 4 basic steps to processing information for the purposes of self-defense. The names given may be similar to standard process models but are simplified for the purposes of the self-defense model.

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  1. Perceive

This is the initial identification of an attack or action, or the “Oh-Shit” moment has identified an imminent threat.

2. Analyze

At this point, your brain examines the threat and situation to determine what to do, considering the speed and trajectory of the threat, his or her size and shape, the direction of any escapes, and numerous other identifiers

3. Formulate

Now, you are consciously thinking about what to do and searching your memory for the appropriate response. Do you run? Do you fight? Do you freeze?

4. Action

Finally, based on your perception and analysis, you now act based on your plan.

Both an attacker and defender are going through these same stages, which can take approximately 0.25 seconds to go through all 4. However, in a life or death situation, this can seem like an eternity. If you failed to recognize and attack and find your self re-active action over a pre-emptive action you are now playing a game of catch up. Your attacker may be at stage 4 with for example a punch while you are at stage 2 or 3. If you fail to give your self enough space, or can not counter react fast enough that punch will now hit you.

Your goal is to always engage in an aggressive fashion should you find your self in mental colour code red, so that you are constantly resetting your attacker’s mental process to 1 or 2. This can be done by Off balancing, causing pain or resetting their mental process through distraction. (See Off Balance, Cause Pain or Reset)

Because of this model, and how the brain processes information action is always faster than reaction.The 4 stages of Self Defense as taught by UTKM must keep this processing in mind and approach violence in the appropriate order so that a defender always has to option to engage with a pre-emptive action rather than a reactive action.

*Topics under any principle category (EX. Krav Maga Principles) may be updated from time to time so always check in every few months to see if the posts have been updated.

**A similar model is the OODA Model of Observe, Orient, Decide, Act.