by Ari Kandel, 3rd degree GC

Fear, The Ultimate Enemy

So what can we do about it?

With the explanation out of the way, I'll present some suggestions on how to mindset effectively for self-protection. We'll assume we're starting from the very beginning, with a person who completely lacks any semblance of a self-defense mindset.

1. Overcoming Erroneous Beliefs

The first step is to overcome the two most limiting erroneous beliefs: "It won't happen to me," and "I wouldn't be able to protect myself (because I'm not strong enough/I'm not tough enough/I'm not a violent person)." Harboring the first belief almost guarantees that denial ("This can't be happening to me!") will hinder the believer's reaction in the first critical moments of any violent situation, while the second belief will likely become a self-fulfilling prophesy, undermining any defensive capability the believer may naturally have.

One way to "cure" an individual of the first belief is to present the individual with examples of serious violence being visited upon people just like him/her. Unfortunately, examples are usually easy to find by simply flipping through newspapers. One good single source of examples is the book Strong On Defense mentioned previously. It's usually no stretch to demonstrate to the believer that s/he often finds him/herself in circumstances similar to those of victims of violent attacks. If such logical and personalized reasoning, combined perhaps with the latest crime statistics from the Department of Justice (along with the caveat that many violent crimes go unreported) fails to convince an individual of the fallacy of the "It won't happen to me" belief . . . well, perhaps this individual is simply a member of the demographic that violent criminals call, "Lunch."

Correcting the second belief, the "I can't" attitude, may require more work. First, examples can be cited of weak, frail, physically ungifted and formerly absolutely nonviolent people overcoming huge odds to survive in self-defense situations. Unfortunately, these examples are not as common as the examples cited to destroy the "can't happen to me" belief.  Again, Strong On Defense is a good starting point. In the end, however, the believer will have to demonstrate to him/herself that s/he is indeed capable. This is best accomplished through the dynamic striking, contact flow and surprise situation drills frequently conducted in Guided Chaos classes that enable an individual to realize the ferocious, violent power s/he can transfer to a target (especially a man-shaped dummy), the ease with which s/he can quickly and ruthlessly get to an untrained attacker's vulnerable areas, and the speed and efficiency with which s/he can adapt in an emergency (after some good training, at least), even under the influence of the mini fight or flight response that the surprise drills elicit. (If you have never experienced a mini-fight-or-flight during these exercises, make sure that you get to do them during a class where you are left to wonder while your eyes are closed whether you will be facing a tag team of "Meat" Ray, Big Frank and MMA Tony when you open your eyes!)

2. Proper Mindsetting: The Three Pillars of Survival Fighting

Proper mindsetting includes having important, difficult decisions made and conditioned into your mind ahead of time. This is required to produce instant action in dangerous situations, because cognitive performance decreases dramatically under severe stress.

Memorize, drill into your mind and constantly remind yourself of these Three Pillars of Survival Fighting:

              I.      Attack the attackers ASAP! (A term coined by professor Brad Steiner)

Crime statistics show that attacking with all you've got is vastly preferable to letting a violent criminal have his way with you. The more time you take to react to an attack, the more time you give the attackers to bring you under control, both physically and mentally. Realistic training will allow you to identify those situations where a few seconds of playing possum will present you with a better opportunity to initiate your attack-but no longer than that. If a violent criminal is able to move you from the place of initial contact to a second location, your odds of survival fall dramatically.

           II.      Escape NOW!!!

Get out of the situation as quickly as you can. Do not stand and fight or wait for the police, or hang around for any other reason. Subsequently contact the authorities from a safe location. If questioned about fleeing the scene, your fear for your very life compelled you to leave.

         III.      Never, Ever Give Up!!!

People have escaped and survived dangerous situations after being riddled with bullets, after falling several stories, after being burned, blinded, etc. No matter what happens, so long as you don't give up, YOU CAN SURVIVE.

Having these principles echoing in your brain during a violent situation will go a long way toward eliminating hesitation-inducing indecisiveness under stress.

Here are some other decisions you should make in advance:

a)      Decide conclusively and adamantly, and reinforce periodically, that you are more afraid of the attackers' getting control over you than you are of getting injured while resisting. Crime statistics overwhelmingly show that this outlook is more than reasonable. You can accomplish this by reading about and occasionally dwelling on the horror of what violent criminals do to controllable victims. Realize that you likely WILL get injured in some way while resisting a violent attack, but that this is always preferable to the alternative.

b)      Decide and remind yourself periodically that you will NEVER believe a criminal's promises of mercy. Most violent criminals "suffer" from antisocial personality disorder. Common symptoms of this disorder are compulsive lying and manipulative behavior. Promises such as, "Do as I say and I won't hurt you," and "I'll let you go if you stop fighting," don't carry much weight when they are said by a violent criminal. If a criminal demands property, give it to him and immediately escape. Don't hang around to find out what else he has in store for you. Remember that if a criminal attempts to kill you as you run away, he almost certainly would have eventually executed you point-blank had you stayed put. You have a better chance running-FAST.

c)      Decide and remind yourself often that the SURVIVAL of your loved ones and yourself are your only important considerations in an emergency situation. These are your two overwhelming priorities, in contrast to the health (freedom from injury) of yourself or loved ones, the well-being of bystanders or the attackers, or considerations of property, morality, legality, or aftermath. This will prevent less important considerations from causing confusion and hesitation under stress. Remember that any other considerations can be dealt with later (going to the hospital, getting a lawyer, therapy, etc.). The survival of you and your loved ones cannot.

d)      Condition yourself to have no qualms about utilizing ruthless brutality against attackers. Realize and remind yourself that the horror of what an attacker will do to you far surpasses the gravity of any squeamishness you may feel about e.g. gouging his eyes out, ripping his throat out, crushing his gonads, or biting off his fingers. A supplementary trick is to repeatedly watch the most gruesome parts of the movie Saving Private Ryan (or any other movie containing graphic, realistic violence) until the brutality does not affect you.

e)      An extension of item "d" is to condition yourself to have no irrational fear of weapons. Certainly, respect weapons and their capabilities, and do not take lightly the danger of having a gun pointed at you or a knife pressed to your throat. On the other hand, ensure that you are familiar and comfortable enough with all purpose-built and improvised weapons that you will not hesitate to pull a trigger, bury and pump a blade, smash a skull with a hammer, run someone over with a car, press a cigarette into an eyeball, or push someone out a window, if necessary. Some basic striking/stabbing/shooting training with a variety of weapons and objects against realistic (humanoid) targets is a good way to begin this conditioning.

3. Visualization

Mentally rehearse correct responses to a variety of dangerous situations, imagining them as vividly as possible. Under the stress of a dangerous situation, people are usually unable to formulate plans of action from scratch. Most subconsciously resort to a decision heuristic of similarity. In other words, the subconscious mind automatically references a similar situation from past experience and applies the general course of action that worked in that situation to the current situation. If no remotely similar situation is available in memory, the mind is at a loss to decide what to do and cognitive freezing may occur. While vivid mental rehearsals of emergency situations may be poor substitutes for realistic simulations or especially the real thing, they are certainly better than nothing and are often the best references available to the average citizen. Mentally rehearse a few likely types of scenarios repeatedly, applying the proper principles to your imaginary reactions. Imagine yourself applying the Three Pillars of Survival Fighting (specific techniques or movements are unimportant-just be as explosive and decisive as possible) to real situations reported in the news. Transfer the real scenarios to settings you are familiar with. After all, you are most likely to be attacked in those places where you spend the most time, unless perhaps you occasionally wander into places you obviously should not be. (Easy solution: don't do that!) Imagine all kinds of scenarios, and all kinds of contingency plans in case Plan A doesn't go smoothly. See, hear, feel, smell and taste yourself being cut, shot, slammed, etc.-yet fighting on to escape the situation and survive! This is an essential aspect of your visualization training: NEVER give up, and NEVER DIE!!!

4. Motivation: Love

Finally, we have saved perhaps the most important aspect of mindsetting for last. As physical balance is to Guided Chaos the foundational principle without which all else is for naught, this one psychological attribute is to mindsetting. Average, untrained individuals have survived against amazing odds, riding on nothing but this one attribute (and a bit of luck).

This attribute is MOTIVATION.

Believe it or not, simply saying, "You're saving your LIFE!" is often not enough to motivate people to fight through pain and despair to beat the odds. It seems that many people would just as soon roll over and let the misery end as dig in and fight past their last ounce of energy to live another day. Without the right motivation conditioned into the core of your being ahead of time, you may not be able to apply that third Pillar of Survival Fighting, NEVER, EVER GIVE UP!

Some instructors suggest that hate and rage should be your prime motivators. They tell you to channel all your fear and anxiety into pure rage against your assailants, such that you absolutely refuse to die without taking them with you. This model for motivation may be based on a military background, or simply on the personalities and experiences of those suggesting it.

Motivation is obviously a very personal thing, and I'm sure different strategies will work for different people. However, I'm going to suggest that for the average, basically decent modern American citizen, one prime motivator, first explained to me by Carl Cestari and elaborated on by John Perkins, is the best place to start.

That motivator is LOVE.

Before anyone accuses me of being a hippie, please refer to the drill entitled "Run and Scream," also known as the Fear Meditation, on page 27 of the book Attackproof. This drill invokes love as the primary motivator to action in directing you to "imagine that the most depraved criminal you can think of is about to attack and psychotically torture the person who depends on you most, the person you're closest to in the world. But first, he's going to torture and kill you. Not if you can help it."

Many people cannot at first imagine themselves brutalizing another human being or fighting through severe injury to survive. However, ask a mother, for example, what she would not do to protect her children. Is there any line she would not cross to prevent them from being permanently separated from her? Is there any bullet big enough to kill her will to keep them safe?

Whatever monster of a person attacks you, this monster is trying to permanently separate you from those you love and who love you most. You are the only one who can prevent this. You will have no ability to protect those you love or to comfort them if you allow this monster to succeed. . . .

Hopefully, now you can see how some introspection and visualization can make love your unconquerable motivation in the face of the direst odds. In fact, love as a primary motivator can even make hate and rage accessible as motivation to the nicest person in the world. After all, whom better to hate with lethal rage than the person or persons seeking to destroy your love?

In summary:

Mindset is perhaps the most important determinant of your success in a life-or-death violent situation.

In order to build for yourself a strong mindset, you should:

1)       Eliminate erroneous beliefs, and learn and accept the realities of violence

2)       Condition into your mind the solutions to critical decisions that must be made in the first split-second of a violent assault

3)       Mentally rehearse likely self-defense situations, visualizing yourself applying the correct principles to survive and escape

4)       Identify and cultivate your motivation, so that it may push you to survive against all odds

I believe this is at least part of what Lt. Col. Al Ridenhour USMC (and Guided Chaos master) means when he implores us to "get our minds right."


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Comments on Part 1 of this article:

"Dear Sir,
Thank you for the above news letter, brilliant, too may so called self defense experts neglect to mention the effect of adrenaline on the body and mind pre/during and post encounter and the loss of fine motor skills and concentrate instead on unworkable  physical responses. I was bullied as a child and always thought that my physiological/psychological response to my antagonists was a sign of weakness and hence was a self fulfilling prophecy in marking me out as easy prey. I'm older and wiser now but wish I could have access to such valuable information as contained in this newsletter as a youngster, it could have saved a lot of self doubt and tears. Looking forward to the next one.
Thank You, Steven"