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Psychological Considerations

By Phill Zdybel

Psychological Considerations

Adrenaline Fear

After 30 years of training in the martials arts as well as self-defence, now at this stage based on what I have seen in the gym, dojang (training Hall) and on the street.

Now understand that I am not ridiculing that which is of traditional value, but in fact I am a strong believer in the benefits and merits of this as I still teach it. It builds character and conditions the body and mind. It helps improve self-confidence and discipline. It is vital in developing realistic self-defence skills but only with knowledge of criminal psychology and behavioural attitudes

My belief is most of what is being taught in schools that are of traditional values is only 5% effective in the street. But with further psyche understanding and mental processing what we do then can be very effective. I just wish for you all to understand what is and what is not.

What it does not do for the most part and I believe that there are no exceptions is teach effective and realistic self-defence. What it does do is improve stamina, strength, flexibility, and coordination and motor control skills

The old saying that power is knowledge is true but then again incorrect knowledge is not only not power but is very dangerous. Someone who can think they can really defend themselves but cannot can get into a lot of trouble. Please I ask you all to be the best that you can on both, but please differentiate between what is the sporting element and what is realistic. This is a case of to have confidence is fantastic “knowledge that is true”, but to be over confident can be dangerous “to believe you know more than you do”.

Devastating self-defence is basic in all elements from stand up, to the ground and should be simple and effective to use. As Late though what should be added is that fear can be one of greatest allies that you have, if used correctly. As we are all born with the ability to protect ourselves and the ones that we love? It is in all of us. Even though we all have different natures, some soft some hard.

When confronted with a situation that scares or worries us our fear takes over and if used in the right way can be our greatest asset. But on the other side if it causes us to freeze up or panics us it can be the greatest enemies.

Therefore if you can control and enhance your fear in the right way. You’re Martial Art with strike for you at the right moment and time, in the right way, with full control. Just let nature takes it course.

Fear induced adrenaline can be a great ally if used in the right manner, yet at the same time it can be our worst enemy. A natural effect of adrenaline on the mind and body is the natural result of fear induced aggression. It cannot be stopped, but it can be focused and used if you remain centred and balanced.

Without taking this adrenaline rush into account, effective street self-defence cannot be accomplished. To be effective each technique must be simple direct and not require fine motor coordination.

Additionally the techniques should build one upon another so that the minimum numbers of total techniques “regardless of the type of attack” need to be learned and practiced.

Unfortunately only a very small number of martial arts Instructors have ever really felt the tremendous effect of a full adrenaline dump while trying to execute techniques. Now this can happen slightly to in a competitive/sports environment to where other thoughts and phobias enter the mind, even to the slightest e.g. If I fail to win what will everyone else think.

What I have come to realise is this fear is very powerful and adrenaline as server effects on us both mentally and physically.

It is doubtful if most could remember more than a handful of techniques under duress due to the loss of cognitive thinking. Hence our fine motor coordination is minimised and only cross motor skills are left.

Many of the techniques taught require pinpoint target and joint manipulation and this is probably not going to happen under a strong adrenaline rush. We lose peripheral vision, sometime feel weak in the knees or develop body shakes. Breathing becomes short and rapid. Then if the heart beat becomes rapid enough we can become totally frozen in fear.

Response time is then shortened and most people will not be able to recall more than 4 or 5 effective self-defence techniques. So you may say then that it is only practical to become proficient in a couple of techniques. In hindsight, not if you wish to become a black belt and a true martial artist. Continued and ongoing practice is the only solution for highly developed skills, physically and mentally.

Most Instructors have not experienced this as they have never had to practice their techniques under duress. I have no shame in saying that I have and that I am always learning and then fine tuning the verbal and physical defences. Best bet always try to remain relaxed and calm. That means stay centred.

Facts to Consider When Threatened.

Celebrations, Christmas, New Year and Easter and the like.

Should be with all intent that of, A merry Christmas and happy New Year. That of festive occasions, birthdays, weddings, anniversary's etc. But sometimes all the joy and goodwill through the over consumption of alcohol, drugs and the like takes charge, changes people and brings out the worse. Often then the darker nature that exists within all of us changes our behavior. Or those that are already of this nature and criminally minded use this time of year as excuses for their behavior, no matter how unacceptable.

So let’s all have a merry Christmas and a happy new year, but let’s consider our own behavior and be aware of that of those that are around us.

Facts to consider when in a threatening situation that is mild to severe

Pre emptive preparation and Situation Analysis.

Levels of alertness (pre emptive awareness)

1) Level 1 (Green)

That you are aware of the state of your surroundings and are relaxed. All is OK.

This is a relaxed state of mind, hence the appearance may be that of not being aware of surroundings and occurrences, but that of the mind is placed elsewhere. Although appearance may appear as such, consciously or subconsciously we are always quite aware and able to shift up to the next level.

2) Level 2 (Amber)

That something is wrong and your awareness levels are heightened.

In this state senses are aroused and an upright posture should be formed. Posture should be non-threatening and relaxed. Verbal communication should be affirmative with a tone of full confidence.

3) Level 3 (Red)

Full alert and ready for possible conflict

Posture should be upright, hands in front lowered or folded across the front of the chest and in both cases ready to be raised in front of oneself in a defensive action. On foot should be place slightly behind the other, but in a non-aggressive posture. Verbal communication again should be affirmative with a tone of full confidence. Your, No or Yes in response should be firm and clear and sarcasm, sarcastic and derogative remarks should not be made has they may only escalate the situation further. Our object is to diffuse and negate the situation.

Situation analysis

1) Adrenaline Fear

(Freezing up)

This is something that occurs in us all when fronted with a situation that sends us into a state of panic and other phobias enter our mind. I have no shame in saying that this has occurred within me at competition level and in real situations. Looking at a competitive level the phobias may be something like the ‘what if I lose, what will everyone else think?’ enters into the mind, this combined with the adrenaline and excitement of competing stimulates the adrenaline fear.

The levels and degrees of adrenaline fear that occur will vary from situation to situation. The various time frames, from momentary pauses to extended noticeable periods of freezing all depending on numerous factors such as the pre state of mind at the time or the state of mind that was induced by the situation that is confronting us. Generally speaking we all have an adrenaline rush through the body and when combined with the fear factor can causes momentary freezing. As hard as it may be it is always best to try and remain calm and relaxed and by doing so this adrenaline fear can be harnessed as well as used to ones advantage as an ally and asset rather than a disadvantage and an enemy.

2) Motor control

(Practical skills verse realism)

More often than not in any given situation mild to severe we will lose some loss of our motor skills, again the degree and level of loss will vary depending on numerous factors independently or combined which may include our heath, mental as well as physical state, current skill level, training or non training and as such all practical skills learned may be of no advantage.

As such is the case, all means that are ready available to us may be used, from eye gouging, scratching clawing, hand bags, car keys and groin strikes all depending on the severity of the situation at hand. Remember that the law is going to require substantiation of being in fear of one’s own self-preservation and that you only used what would be deemed the necessary proportionate and appropriate amount of force used to protect oneself against harm. This is known as the force continuum.

3) Physiological analysis

a) Power Control Factor

What could be referred to as a power control factor or as I would term them power trippers (bully's), those whom are criminally minded whom get high on the feeling that they have power over others by means of fear and intimidation. In this case to fight back may only enhance the assailant’s intent, which is to say to scratch or gouge at the assailant may only increase the desire and the amount of force they use. I am not saying not to do anything as this may only place you in more danger. The analysis is on you to weigh up the consequences of not fighting back, but if you do fight back you must be prepared that you may get injured in the process. The decision is yours, but do you just stand there and let someone hit you over the head with a baseball bat and do nothing, get knocked unconscious and have your skull broken or do you raise your arm in defence and block it which may result in a broken arm, but which is worse.

So to fight back makes sense. What often should be remembered, is more often than not those on a power trip are the first to run to authorities Whatever form of abuse they use to intimidate, be it verbal mental or physical. If you retaliate in kind they will be the first to run to authoritarian figures and turn the tide on you. This is part of their continuing power trip. The control factor that they get a high from. Making them feel superior and having control over you. By doing this again and again they make you appear to be the aggressor.

b) Erratic state of mind and drug dependency

This is a major problem that may ascertain a quick evaluation. Believe me when I say that someone whom is on a drug induced high is very hard to stop. We can never totally be sure but in some instances we can psychologically evaluate a person’s behavior and underlying cause. As at level 3 (red), verbal communication should be affirmative with a tone of full confidence. Your, No or Yes in response should be firm and clear and sarcasm, sarcastic and derogative remarks should not be made has they may only escalate the situation further.

c) Criminally minded

Just remember a criminal is not going to fight fair and clean, but use all means available to them and any arsenal that may be available to achieve their desired result. Remember that these same assets are available to you, but also remember the law and the force continuum

Self Defence Course

Are they good or bad, good question personally yes and no. That is to say, knowledge is power, but also that false knowledge is dangerous installing a false sense of confidence. Now there is nothing wrong with installing confidence in people and I am sure a correctly run course can do that, but an exercise must be performed on knowing the limitations of these courses. To do one and come away from it exhilarant and blustering with confidence is all good, but when the knowledge learnt is put to the test and fails. Do we cram back into our shells and hide, or ridicule the instructor and art that was taught to you?

Question is you could win a world championship today, but four weeks into the future if you were to compete in that event without proper training would you win again. I think not.

So realistically are they of any benefit other than to the instructor to make money? “No”. What is important to note if we take into account the fear in adrenaline factor, motor control, practical skills verse realism and a situation analysis what we would find here statically is that 95% of practicing instructor have never put their skills to the test in a real situation and have absolutely no idea if there techniques are effective and would work or not. I assure you that I have no wish for them to find out as most of us would train so we don’t have to fight. But on the same mine, have been tested, I like to say I wish they had not, but the fact is they have. So I assure you that motor control and fear in adrenaline along with all other factors listed play vitally in the defence and preservation of oneself.

What is beneficial though is continuous ongoing training; now this does not have to be to world championship level but continuous to obtain a level and maintain that level and there are many different

Levels of training and participation within the martial arts from recreation and social, through to regional state national and international level. The level that you aspire to is up to you, but your training and practice of what you do must be continuous and consistent to maintain your ability to your desired level of capabilities that you wish to achieve.


It’s all up to you the individual on what form of training you wish to undertake “if any” to achieve your desired defencive level. Just being aware, having levels of alertness and knowledge of situations can be sufficient.

But please within this knowledge do not be overzealous with that gained and paranoid about each individual, suspect or their intent. Sometimes it’s just our communication channels that are crossed. That is to say “We all speak English, but not all of us the same language. As in, are we on AM or FM modulation.”

My advice on all this is unless there is actually a case of physical harm, then you do not get physical, if they are verbal then be verbal accordingly. Sledge back.

Sledging is a term mainly used in cricket but here we use it to describe the practice whereby being by insulting or verbally intimidating someone seeks to gain an advantage over you. The purpose is to try to weaken your concentration; thereby causing you make mistakes or under perform, become nervous, anxious and to feel fear. Thus giving the power tripper (bully) a feeling of superiority and making them feel that they are better than you. Enhancing their power trip. The insults may be direct or indirect in conversations designed to be overheard.

It’s up to you to decide whether it is a power trip or good-humoured banter. Sledging is often mistaken for abuse, and whilst comments aimed as sledges do sometimes cross the line into personal abuse, this is not usually the case. Sledging is usually simply an often humorous, sometimes insulting attempt at distraction.  You must decide. So sledge back. It’s a practice of mental disintegration and if it is a mental process then by being verbal about how that is affecting you know what action you will have to take by behaviour. If it is becoming more aggressive and violent in nature, then take action accordingly.


Please examine the follow diagram and think about the following.

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Web Site Published, Edited & Graphically Designed ; Phill Zdybel
Last updated ; Sunday, 24 November 2019
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