Wynand van Dyk wrote:
We have all heard about things like tunnel vision, freezing up, losing small muscle control due to adrenaline and our bodies natural response to stress, all factors that work against applying the principles of Aikido to a situation. What do you do to minimize or eradicate this natural biological response?
Does your dojo feature reality simulations, simulated muggings or assaults? If not, what aspect of training do you feel helps you overcome these things the most?
First of all, on the subject of recovery from the adrenaline
dump and minimizing the effects read Peyton Quinn's book,
REAL FIGHTING: Adrenal Stress Conditioning Through Scenario Based Training
This book is a must for anyone doing or teaching practical self defense.
Second, one of the most important issues in not having the adrenaline dump is not being surprised. That's why teacher's like O-Sensei and Takeda sensei put such an emphasis on total awareness, all the time. O-Sensei encouraged the students to test him by sneaking up on him any time they thought he wasn't paying attention. No one could. From all acounts both he and Takeda Sensei developed this sensitivity to the point which we would describe as psychic, in the sense that they could read someone's intent when they met them. There are numerous stories about this as well. For the Bushi, the mental aspect of the training was of paramount importance because the people they were likely to fight were also professionals. So everybody knew technique. This made it safer to take ones enemy out by surprise either by ambush or by assasination in a circumstance in which his guard was down.
In the Koryu training I did for a while, the first set of empty hand forms I learned was how to take out someone while serving him tea as an honored guest in your home. As the technique itself was simple the whole emphasis in the form was on how to disgiuse one's deadly intent. In an atmosphere like that, being hypersensitive to the intentions of those around one would be a survival skill.
Anyway, through training one learns to minimize what will trigger the adrenaline dump, through awareness one learns not to get surprised by ab attack. The final piece would be the various exercises which were contained in most of the old ryu which we might consider meditation or breathing exercises. Through training the student would learn to use his breathing to calm his spirit and develop what we know of as fudoshin, or immoveable mind. Often this would take the form of what we today would call a macro on the computer. The student would be taught a set of postures or gestures (mudra in sanskrit) which would through training would be associated with this calm mental state. When a combat situation would arise the warrior could run through these gestures and the breathing exercises that went with them and quickly shift into this other mental state. To my knowledge there is no one in Aikido who teaches this.
Whereas good training will minimize the effects of the adrenaline dump and also promote a quick recovery fro having the dump, the emphasis in classical arts was to avoid having the dump at all by avoidning any situation in which one could be surprised by an attack and by developing the exercises which allowed him to be in a life and death encounter without getting the dump at all.