Friday, November 13, 2015

Stress Inoculation Training

Stress training of varying names is increasingly being used by law enforcement and the military to better prepare their personnel for operational deployment.

Stress training is different than training. The way I describe the difference is that training is learning to shoot a gun while stress training is learning to shoot a gun when someone is shooting at you.

Stress training is designed to counter the deleterious effects that stress effects have on survival and combat performance.

What is stress? I'll save you the embarrassment of answering by referring to the father of the stress concept, Hans Selye, who famously said that everybody knows what stress is, but nobody really knows. Thus, stress training used by law enforcement and the military to better prepare their personnel for operational deployment is based on a concept that nobody really knows.

Did you know that if Selye had a better grasp of English, he was Slovakian, that you would not feel stressed, you'd feel strained? Later in life he complained that if his English had been better that he would be the father of the strain concept and not the stress concept.

Everybody knows what stress is, but nobody really knows. I know. I know that stress is an ambiguous, abstract concept that is an umbrella concept for a whole host of responses to an external or internal stimulus.

In a book that focuses on soldier stress and soldier performance, Driskel et al explain that among the potentially deleterious stress effects on combat performance are the feelings of fear and anxiety. They also mention confusion when referring to deleterious feeling stress effects, however, confusion is a mental state not an emotion. Bruce Siddle, who many of you would be more familiar with, also refers to anxiety and fear as being survival stress reactions.

I've conducted stress training seminars for corporations. I explain that X is under pressure at work. He/she takes that pressure home thus disrupting their relationship with their significant other, which he/she then takes back to work which further increases the pressure they are placed under. Their colleagues are self involved and their bosses are only interested in results, the person snaps and shouts, 'Just leave me the f**k alone.' I then explain that the good news is that the person is not stressed because fear and anxiety are symptoms of stress, not anger. I cannot help that person because I am conducting a stress training seminar. What they need is anger management training, which I'll be conducting the next day and which looks exactly like the stress training seminar I am conducting that day.

Stress training is actually emotion training, however, by referring to the root issue you focus on the heart of the problem - emotion.

Emotion is more than a feeling. It involves an appraisal which elicits a subjective feeling that motivates an instinctive impulse to action which an automatic physiological reaction prepares the body to enact.

Emotions were selected for in nature because they conferred a survival advantage on an individual. However, emotions are now seen by most activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter as providing a survival disadvantage for an individual engaged in survival efforts.

Emotions are centred in the amygdala in the brain. They are separate to intellect which is centred in the neocortex. Stress training involves using the neocortex/intellect to manage the amygdala/emotion and to train the latter.

If we wish to counter the deleterious effects of stress on survival and combat performance, we should be focusing on the actual problem - emotion. That is what we should study, not 'stress' which only exists in theory. Stress and emotion guru, Richard Lazarus, said that stress should be considered a part of a larger discipline, emotion. It should be considered a part of the larger discipline of emotion because stress is referring to emotion but in a limited and skewed way.

You're in the martial arts and therefore you don't engage in stress training, or so you think. What is your free fighting, sparring, etc designed to do. In part it's designed to simulate the operation environment and thereby better prepare the trainee to use their tactics and techniques in the 'real-world.' That is stress training, or a part thereof.

Learn more about emotions. Learn more about the strategic use of emotions to counter fear in combat. Your tactics and techniques are worthless unless they are supported by emotion training.

I am writing a book on this subject that uniquely integrates the theories of fight-or-flight, stress, and emotion to explain our evolved survival mechanism and the survival process. An understanding of this process provides a greater understanding of all methods taught by all activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter because all of those methods are interventions in the survival process.

More to follow.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Not Giving Into Fear

Jan de Jong Martial Arts Fitness, the school that arose out of the Jan de Jong Self Defence School after Shihan Jan de Jong OAM 9th Dan passed away, recently advertised a Young Women's and Young Men's Self Defence Course. Within the advertisement was:

What makes this course different from our normal classes? We get really specific about your need to adapt to the charging world. In particular not going into fear, but recognizing that that is where you might feel like you are being drawn, and be better equipped to deal with it.

The first thing to note is the poor grammer, spelling, editing, and use of the so-called American English. However, of particular note is the reference to giving (not going) into fear. How do they teach someone not to give into fear? In fact, why would you want to teach someone not to 'give into' fear when fear is an emotion that was selected for in nature because it conferred a survival advantage on an individual?

What do most, if not all, martial arts schools know about fear? Why do they demonise (Blogger is trying to get me to use American English but I will resist their attempt at American cultural imperialism) fear when fear is the reason the human race exists today? And then, what do they do to train their trainees not to 'give into' fear? Anything specific that targets fear?

'Giving into fear' ... the action tendency most associated with fear is flight. To run away when scared. If more people had have given into fear in the trenches during WWI, there would not have been millions of soldiers on both sides of the conflict killed. Giving into fear would appear to have been a pretty good thing to do for the individual soldiers at that time.

You see, here's the thing. Martial arts and other combative activities are not primarily interested in an individual's survival. They are interested in fight behaviour. They teach fight behaviour and they develop ways and means to support fight behaviour. Fight behaviour, for whatever reason, is the priority, not survival per se.

The soldiers on the Western Front, Gallipoli, and elsewhere where 'encouraged' not to give into fear through such abstract notions as patriotism, loyalty, duty, honour, cowardice, comradeship, etc. These are all abstract notions developed by man so that the intellect can rule over the survival-based amygdala.

You see, the amygdala, the home of emotion, truly cares about you. Survival is its only priority. When's the last time you saw a lion ashamed about running away from a fight it could not win?

How do you teach someone not to give into fear? Ah, there are countless ways to do so, but do the martial arts (a) actually train someone not to give into fear, and (b) if so, do they know that that is what they are doing?

Stress training is one specific way to train to not give into fear. Stress training is different from training. The way I describe it is that training is learning to fire a gun while stress training is learning to fire a gun when someone is firing at you.

What is stress? I'll save you from embarrassing yourself - you think you know but you don't. As Hans Selye, the father of the stress concept, famously said: Everybody knows what stress is, but nobody really knows. I know what stress is, when stress is referred to in stress training. Stress is anxiety-fear. Stress training is actually designed to counter the effects of anxiety-fear on performance.

Do martial arts, is Jan de Jong Martial Arts Fitness, teach stress training? Yes and no, although they don't know it and only indirectly and incompletely.

It's a fascinating subject and the subject of yet another book I'm writing.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Hors de Combat

I'm writing the chapter on kansetsu waza (joint-locking techniques) in my book on the science behind fighting techniques (still haven't come up with a title). I quote the following from 'the original Japanophile', Lafcadio Hearn:

Jujutsu .. is an art of self-defence in the most exact sense of the term; it is an art of war. The master of that art is able, in one moment, to put an untrained antagonist completely hors de combat. By some legerdemain he suddenly dislocates a shoulder, unhinges a joint, bursts a tendon, or snaps a bone, - without any apparent effort.

Hors de combat, what a wonderful old-world expression.

Hors de combat is a French term that is literally translated as 'outside the fight.' It is also a term that is used in international law where attack is prohibited on a person who is hors de combat. The Geneva Convention provides this description of someone who is hors de combat:

A person is 'hors de combat' if:
(a) he is in the power of an adverse Party;
(b) he clearly expresses an intention to surrender; or
(c) he has been rendered unconscious or is otherwise incapacitated by wounds or sickness, and therefore is incapable of defending himself;
provided that in any of these cases he abstains from any hostile act and does not attempt to escape.

 Isn't that the intent of most fighting arts, including martial arts, for the techniques to put the opponent hors de combat? To render the opponent incapable of continuing their attack or to motivate them to withdraw from their attack?

What a wonderful term - hors de combat.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Human Hands Evolved to Fight

It's interesting. The following article was published on the ABC news website today: Scientists study arms of dead men, suggest hands evolved so males could fistfight over females.

What's interesting is that I reported on that study in 2012-13.

It's good to see that I am ahead of the game :).

What is also interesting is that there are studies being conducted that are useful in explaining practice but they remain hidden in academic journals. My book will introduce readers to some of those studies and hopefully encourage others to access those types of studies and share them with those who are engaged in the practice of those techniques.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

I am a fan of Law & Order SVU. Now I have confirmation that my fandom is positive for me.

A study has been published that found that exposure to Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is associated with decreased rape myth acceptance and increased intentions to adhere to expressions of sexual consent and refuse unwanted sexual activity.

I like the way that they explore different aspects associated with sexual assault. The bring them to light in a way that the general public will pay attention and inadvertently learn from the experience.

One episode of L&OSVU focused on the the 'freeze' response.

'I was raped.'
'Did you say no.'
'Why not?'
'I don't know.'
'Did you fight back.'
'Why not?'
'I don't know.'

Detective Oliver Benson explains that 'freezing' is a natural response to a threat. It is not a voluntary action and by understanding this it alleviates the post traumatic stress associated with not actively resisting an attack.

Firstly, the natural response is commonly referred to as freezing, however, when instinctive behaviours are considered it is referred to as 'fright' with 'freeze' being the initial 'stop, look, and listen' response. A response that is linked with anxiety, a response that I am all too familiar with.

The freeze/stop, look, and listen response is also referred to as 'attentive immobility.' The 'freeze'/fright response is technically known as 'tonic immobility.' TI is an involuntary catatonic-like state where the person cannot move or speak. It also features numbing of pain and anger affect.

DOB: 'Don't beat yourself up. Freezing is a natural response to a threat. You can't move, talk to say no, or scream out.'
Victim: 'But I could.'

Now you're buggered.

The writers of the L&OSVU episode was informed by a psychologist who specialises in sexual assault trauma. I want to suggest that a further episode is made where other instinctive behavioural responses to a threat are explored. Submission for example.

We are talking about instinctive, meaning without conscious thought, behaviours that have been selected for in nature because they conferred a survival advantage on an individual. The fight-or-flight model only offers two survival behaviours - fight and flight - however, in recent times that limited number of survival behaviours has been challenged.

The freeze/stop, look, and listen, fright/tonic immobility ... faint. Also, submission.

'I didn't say no. I didn't scream. I didn't fight back.' And so the judgements begin. Judgements by first responders, law enforcement, health professionals, judicial system, friends and family, and most destructively of all, by the sexual assault survivor herself leading to post traumatic stress with all its destructive consequences.

I use the term sexual assault survivor deliberately. I'm not one for this politically correct, positive thinking, reinforcing use of terms. A person is a sexual assault survivor because they survived. And how did they survive? Because their inherited survival mechanism kicked in when their survival was threatened.

Here we are talking about emotion, where emotion is thought of as appraisal, subjective feeling, physiological, impulses to action, and behavioural components. This mechanism was selected for in nature because it conferred a survival advantage on an individual. It is found in our amygdala.

But what put humans on top of the food chain was (a) the intervention of the impulse to act component between motivating subjective feelings and behaviours (not stimulus-response, you don't immediately punch your boss when he pisses you off), and (b) our intellect/neocortex.

However, it is our intellect/neocortex that judges ourselves after we've survive a sexual assault that prolongs the trauma long after the actual attack.

I sometimes wonder if Nature sits back and thinks, 'I really didn't think this whole intellect/neocortex thing through.'

I sometimes wonder if Nature would adopt a similar response as Col. Jessup in A Few Good Men:

I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man [or woman] who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it! I'd rather you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you're entitled to!

 Who are we to judge the manner of someone's survival? Nature did it's job, the person survived. Just say thank you and go on your way.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Women's Self Defence and the Vector

I've written before about Haddon's Matrix.

Haddon's Matrix is a brain storming tool developed by William Haddon to understand, prevent, and control injury.

Haddon cross-tabulated the epidemiological factors (host, vector/vehicle, environment) and the temporal phases (pre-event, event, post-event) to form a 3x3 matrix.

When teaching self-defence of any description, the host is the trainee, the person at risk of injury. Who is the vector that possesses the energy that potentially causes injury? An answer to that question is critical because it determines the strategies, tactics, and techniques that are developed, taught, and trained.

The National Research Organisation for Women's Safety (ANROWS) study shows that one in four women have experienced violence at the hands of an intimate partner.

Ms Cox said the report also examined the gendered nature of violence.

"Women are most likely to experience violence in the home and they're most likely to experience violence from a partner that they're living with," Ms Cox said.

"Men on the other hand are more likely to experience violence at a place of entertainment and from a stranger."

For women, the vector is an intimate partner. That could be broadened to include family members.

Surely different, strategies, tactics, and techniques need to be devised to address aggression and violence by a familiar rather than what is currently the basis for those tools being an unfamiliar attacker.

That is the challenge for women's self defence courses. Not only in devising effective strategies, tactics, and techniques to be employed against familiar's who are aggressive or violent, but in marketing them and teaching them.

Haddon's Matrix also gets us to think of the environment which also shapes the strategies, tactics, and techniques. Based on the report, the environment would probably be in the home rather than in an alley.

Haddon's Matrix also suggests nine cells where prevention and control interventions. Strategies, tactics, and techniques could be developed for any of those nine cells, before, during, and after an attack. Most strategies, tactics, and techniques are devised for the host-during cell when the host and vector interact. What about the pre and post cells?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Smelling Fear

Fear is a major factor in activities associated with preparing a person to survive a violent encounter (e.g. martial arts, self-defence, combat sports, law enforcement, military).

Ways and means are developed to counter the effects of fear in ourselves while instilling it in others.

Stress training, such as stress inoculation training, is increasingly being used by law enforcement and the military to better prepare their personnel for operational deployment. Stress training is designed to counter the effects of stress on performance. There are three stages to stress training with the first being an informational stage where the trainee is provided with information on stress, stress symptoms, and the effects of stress on performance. The first question is, what is stress?

Hans Selye, the father of stress theory, famously said that everybody knows what stress is, but nobody really knows. I know.

With stress training, stress is basically anxiety-fear. Anxiety and fear are related with the latter having an object whereas the former does not. Stress training is actually anxiety-fear training and would be enhanced if the focus was on anxiety-fear and not the ambiguous concept of stress.

Thus, we in the abovementioned activities should study anxiety-fear if we are to manage it in ourselves and others during a violent encounter.

That is a big part of the book that I'm writing about our survival process and how all the methods developed by the above activities are actually interventions in that process.

This article is about a study that suggests that we can smell fear. This should come as no surprise when you understand that emotion involves appraisal, feeling, physiological, impulses to action, and behavioural components.

A physiological reaction that is unique to a specific emotion is experienced which prepares the body to enact the behaviour that the subjective feeling motivates. The physiological reaction has been described as a 'hormonal cascade' so it makes sense that these fear hormones would be secreted in a person's sweat when sweating from fear.

 There was a behavioural effect of the fearful sweat. It improved the volunteers' awareness and vigilance. They became 43 per cent more accurate in judging if another person's face was neutral or threatening.

 This also comes as no surprise when you look at our fight-or-flight/stress/emotion mechanism from it's evolutionary function perspective - survival. Experiencing a negative emotion such as anxiety, fear, or anger generates a physiological reaction that prepares the body to fight or flee. The effects of this hormonal cascade is increased strength, speed, endurance, and pain tolerance.

It also increases cognitive abilities (above) which is only to be expected given its evolutionary function of promoting and individual's survival.

This leads to an interesting question for survival activities. Do you train for an emotion or not? Most martial arts would suggest they train to fight without an emotion. Cprl Ben Roberts-Smith suggested training for no emotion because emotion clouds judgement. The price you pay for no emotion is no increased, strength, speed, endurance, pain tolerance, and now awareness and vigilance.

If you train for an emotion to gain those benefits, which emotion do you train for? Do you want to eliminate fear entirely or do you want to train for anther emotion, such as anger which many women's self defence courses teach. They are not alone. The beserker tradition has been used across many cultures and continents for centuries to prepare a person for war. They train for rage not anger to promote fight behaviour and to counter fear.