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Old 05-05-2004, 05:30 PM   #1
drDalek
 
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How to get past the stress response?

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?
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Old 05-05-2004, 05:57 PM   #2
shihonage
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Re: How to get past the stress response?

I think there's 2 approaches to this.

Self-defense schools usually take the most pragmatic, accessible and reliable approach - by using heavily padded "attackers" which badmouth you and get your andrenaline going, etc.
Peyton Quinn has a lot of innovative methods toward simulating a variety of situations and accustoming people to reacting properly under andrenal stress.
This approach says "ah, screw it, you ARE going to have andrenaline response and lets embrace that and make the best of it".

Aikido seems to take the other approach, where the person does NOT have an andrenaline response at all, but remains calm and capable of fine motor movement in such situation.
Although a valid approach, it is not something a person can learn in a short period of time, and it is also impossible to learn this without having prior experiences where you have in fact been under andrenal stress.
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Old 05-05-2004, 08:31 PM   #3
PeaceHeather
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Re: How to get past the stress response?

I've been learning lately about responses that lead to trauma in human beings -- there being, in the wild, plenty of life-or-death situations but remarkably few examples of animals being traumatized by them -- and so I offer this information. I'm paraphrasing from a book titled "Waking the Tiger" by a Dr. Levine.

First.... humans have, in effect, three "brains", or three levels of consciousness. There is the instinctive "lizard brain"; the emotional and memory-based "mammalian brain"; and the cognitive, analytical brain, which is uniquely "human" (as far as we know). Our lizard brain carries our instincts; our mammalian brain will associate emotions and memories with various events, so that we can learn; and our human brain will try to analyze, catgorize, and judge the overall experience.

Moving on... There are three instinctive responses to a threat: "fight" or aggression; "flight" or escape; and "freeze". It's important to remember that these things are genuine *instincts*, which is to say, we don't think about how to respond, we just do. The path our instinctive reptilian brain will choose depends on a number of factors, and one of those factors does include an awareness of the tools (or lack of tools) at one's disposal with which to face the threat.

What a lot of people tend to not realize is that all three responses have good, valid biological reasons to exist. Fighting is pretty obvious; running away is also pretty smart when fighting doesn't work. Freezing is often a last-ditch effort when escape is impossible. There are animals who are famous for just dropping and playing dead until the threat goes away -- that's not something that they do consciously. Their bodies literally shut down in response to a threat, and gradually "reboot" after a certain period of time. Usually, by then the threat is gone. If not, well, a side benefit of shutting down is that the body feels no fear or pain.

I'm generalizing, but it seems to be that we tend to get in trouble -- in other words, start to set up conditions where we can become traumatized -- when we start to place judgments on our natural instincts. Someone who fights is brave, someone who runs is regarded less highly, and someone who freezes is often labeled a coward.

Now, we have that upper-level brain so that it can judge and analyze things. There's nothing wrong with trying to learn from an experience, *except* that we often apply judgments to things that are just plain wrong We set ourselves up for dysfunction and trauma when we do this, because we're basically using our brain to tell our brain that our brain is wrong. (Think anorexia - people starve themselves because they've managed to completely screw up the instinctive response to hunger!) It's like a feedback loop. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is caused in the same way.

Now... to take this back to the topic of martial arts... the more tools you have at your disposal, the less likely your instincts will lead you to freeze; those tools include the physical, like martial arts technique, and the emotional. A five-year-old can be traumatized by being left along in a dark room; an adult is more likely to hit the light switch, or to wonder where the fusebox is.

So I'd suggest, based on the above, that the more martial arts awareness you have, and the more confident and natural that practice feels to you, the more likely you will be to respond with martial arts in a threatening situation. I'm not saying it's a magical protection -- even seasoned police officers have been caught off guard and assaulted -- but it's one tool to add to your box.

Heather
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Old 05-06-2004, 04:52 PM   #4
drDalek
 
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Re: How to get past the stress response?

Just had an interesting thought, I dont have access to self-defence classes that simulate this kind of reality situations so what is the opinion of certain 3rd party activities like say, skydiving, bungee jumping, shark-cage diving etc...

After I get to the point where these activities evoke only the mildest sense of physical excitement, would I be able to relay this back to self defence situations? Afterall, staring a great white in the mouth is much scarier than some drunk idiot looking for a fight.
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Old 05-07-2004, 09:11 AM   #5
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Re: How to get past the stress response?

IMHO, the best way to "get past the stress response" is to relax, breath, and enjoy yourself.

Lynn Seiser PhD
Yondan Aikido & FMA/JKD
We do not rise to the level of our expectations, but fall to the level of our training. Train well. KWATZ!
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Old 05-07-2004, 09:29 AM   #6
PeaceHeather
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Re: How to get past the stress response?

Quote:
drDalek wrote:
...what is the opinion of certain 3rd party activities like say, skydiving, bungee jumping, shark-cage diving etc...

After I get to the point where these activities evoke only the mildest sense of physical excitement, would I be able to relay this back to self defence situations?
Danger: adrenaline is addictive. This is a medical fact. The body's own endorphins behave just like morphine and other narcotics. You can build up a tolerance to its effects, but then, just like any other addiction, you'll start to crave more of it. When you stop getting a rush from one activity, you'll go looking for it elsewhere, which means you'll never reach a point where you get only a "mild sense of physical excitement" without deciding that the activity is now "boring".

And besides, learning how to handle yourself in a bungee-jump does not necessarily give you the tools to handle yourself in a fight. If anything, you might enter the fight looking for ways to get the adrenaline rush, and putting yourself in very dangerous situations.

Just my warning bell; I'm sure others can offer an alternative point of view on this, and I hope they do. I could be wrong.

Heather
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Old 05-07-2004, 12:39 PM   #7
GLWeeks
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Re: How to get past the stress response?

Well, I have Bungee jumped and such... Yes it's a rush.... BUT it was NOTHING compared to the surge I got when a man walked into our apartment late one night while my wife and I were sitting on the sofa.

We were sitting there and then I thought I heard something, I wasn't sure until I saw our cat looking in the direction of the door. I thought it was no big deal and made my way around the coffee table to the front door. That's when I noticed a guy standing like 3 feet inside our doorway.

At that point I felt a surge like I've never known before. I screamed 'No! Get the hell out of our house!" and started making my way towards him. At this point my wife stood up and started yelling, I took my left arm and put her behind me. The man seemed shocked that I was coming at him and put his hands out in front of him and started backing up. With me still coming at him he backed himself out of the door, at this point I locked the door and called the police. And that was it.

I got the 'tunnel vision' and in my mind (when I was yelling at him) I found myself thinking "Is that my voice?" It sounded like I was Barry white yelling into a tunnel.... Also, I felt as if I was moving in slow motion while I was moving towards him, even though my wife said it all happened very quickly.

I've wondered ever since, how the heck can you train for that surge?

I don't know if this helped, but I just thought I would share...

Guy
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Old 05-07-2004, 01:47 PM   #8
shihonage
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Re: How to get past the stress response?

Quote:
GLWeeks wrote:
At that point I felt a surge like I've never known before. I screamed 'No! Get the hell out of our house!" and started making my way towards him. At this point my wife stood up and started yelling, I took my left arm and put her behind me. The man seemed shocked that I was coming at him and put his hands out in front of him and started backing up. With me still coming at him he backed himself out of the door, at this point I locked the door and called the police. And that was it.

I got the 'tunnel vision' and in my mind (when I was yelling at him) I found myself thinking "Is that my voice?" It sounded like I was Barry white yelling into a tunnel.... Also, I felt as if I was moving in slow motion while I was moving towards him, even though my wife said it all happened very quickly.

I've wondered ever since, how the heck can you train for that surge?
This book (click) describes various methods they use at Peyton Quinn's self-defense school to get people who've never been able to hurt a fly before to go full out during andrenaline stress training.

It's not just about that though; it's a very well-written, down-to-earth and informative book.

Last edited by shihonage : 05-07-2004 at 01:49 PM.
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Old 05-07-2004, 02:03 PM   #9
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Re: How to get past the stress response?

Great example Guy. Tunnel vision is often the result in an extremely stressful situation. The military attempts to train soldiers to not have this affect because it affects combat effectiveness. I have found that how an individual reacts under stress is a combination of several factors:

1. Training-the individual must have been trained in techniques that are effective in that situation. When I say trained, I mean practiced to the point that techniques are second nature (which should be the goal of all training).

2. Mind Set-an individual must have menal preparation for the situation. One of the best bits of advice I ever received dealing with knife fighting is "expect to get cut." Too many schools teach that you won't get cut if you respond X to technique Y. It's crap! Prepare to get cut and when it happens you will be able to function through it. When I teach knife fighting, we use large red markers and white t-shirts. You know when you've been hit by the bright red mark!

3. Physical fitness-I'm not saying you need to be an Olympic athlete, but you need to be able to physically endure the encounter.

This applies to any stressful event-whether it is the loss of control of a vehicle, a stranger in our home, or what not...

Now how to prepare: First, the easiest of the three is physical fitness. I suggest walking, running, biking, or anything-just get moving. It is important to improve or maintain your physical fitness. Try different exercises, but try something. Just a note, make sure you check with a doctor before you get started.

The other two are somewhat harder. Aikido begins training us mentally to deal with confrontation. Successful mental training involves clearing one's mind to allow the body to react to events without excessive thought, just instinct. I feel randori is excellent at this. At some point, you become overwhelmed and techniques are not thought out, you just react. Great mental preparation for actual stressful encounters.

Finally, techniques. I believe in training as you fight. I like techniques to be progressive, but should be done to the point of actual success. What I mean is, ensure uke provides nage with a committed attack and nage does the technique to actually take uke's balance or energy. If the nikkyo doesn't hurt, don't drop! Make nage apply the technique correctly, we owe to each other. Finally, ensure to increase resistance as well as speed as proficiency increases. Samurai practiced with bokken at full speed, yet remain controlled enough to stop prior to contact. This allowed them to learn to react during combat. Baseball players don't practice hitting with a nice slow underhand pitch. They practice with a pitch thrown as hard as in an actual game. You cannot learn to hit in a game if you never see a ball pitched that fast. This applies to martial arts as well. You can't learn to defend against a punch if no one ever throws one at you. Don't be afraid to get hit, it helps you techniques. You'll learn where you left vulnerable, as well as where you weren't paying attention.

Greg Makuch
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Old 05-07-2004, 03:54 PM   #10
gasman
 
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Re: How to get past the stress response?

Quote:
drDalek 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?
In my experience, adrenaline gives complete opposite effects. The pupils open up, the mind slows down and breathing comes to a more natural state. Not unlike the effect of certain prohibited stimuli...

What you describe is more of a fear reaction. By training a martial art, not necessarily aikido, you eventually get a foundation, or a reservoair, that you can use to support yourself in a stressful situation. Still, the only way to work on this natural instinctive reaction is to experience stressful situations and learn from them.

A personal observation: the breathing part is extremely important. I've been a doorman for a couple of years now and I noticed that if I had been smoking or using chewing tobacco just before a situation, this affected my circulation and oxygene levels in such a way that I was less ready for the situation. In other words, not being able to transport the necessary oxygene around my system hindered the natural body response of alertness and confidence...
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Old 05-07-2004, 07:34 PM   #11
kenkid
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Re: How to get past the stress response?

Has anyone had success using meditation to 'control' or deal with the stress respone?

Is it possible to train which centers of the brain respond to extreme stress through meditation or can it only be doing with training?
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Old 05-08-2004, 04:48 AM   #12
ian
 
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Re: How to get past the stress response?

When I was younger I used to use breath control to relax myself on rides in amusement parks - eventually I found it made the whole thing pretty dull.

Ian
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Old 05-13-2004, 05:58 AM   #13
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Re: How to get past the stress response?

Hi all

I found that adrenaline gave me the edge in the fights that I have had. Now I am a non vilent person I have allways been quite friendly and out going yet during my schooling and late teens I was the local punchbag because I had a reputation for not hitting back. However I was never jumped on I always had fore warning of the attack or my sixth sense kicked in. The surge in adrenalin from fear actually made my body harder and there was no pain from the punching and kicking that I would get. I still to this day walk away from violent situations but I have developed confidence and this alone seems to deter any would be attacker. But I am heading towards old age and vunerability if the world and it's violent nature continue the way it is so hopefully I will be able to use aikido to protect my self.

Regards Andrew
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Old 05-13-2004, 07:09 AM   #14
drDalek
 
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Re: How to get past the stress response?

Quote:
Ian Dodkins wrote:
When I was younger I used to use breath control to relax myself on rides in amusement parks - eventually I found it made the whole thing pretty dull.

Ian
Care to describe your breath control techniques?
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Old 05-13-2004, 10:44 AM   #15
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: How to get past the stress response?

Quote:
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.

George S. Ledyard
Aikido Eastside
Bellevue, WA
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