My buddy Ray, who is studying Systema, gave me a link to a great article here on neurological training.

Another thing that self defense “experts” (the one who pay thousands to advertise in Black Belt Magazine) have been touting like mad over the past few years goes something like this:

  • Under stress only gross motor movements will work
  • Conscious reaction time to an attack is .1 to .25 seconds, too slow to react so you need to strike preemtively
  • You cannot retrain reflexes – the flinch response is all you get

I’m here to tell you that most of that is crap mixed with a little truth.

Think about this for a second: If you couldn’t train yourself to react to things faster than conscious processing, professional baseball, boxing, and driving a car would all be impossible. If the flinch response were absolute and in-alterable, the same things would be impossible.

What holds a bit of truth here is that fine and complex motor skills do tend to break down under extreme stress. What is true, is that you can train reflexive actions.

In his book, On Killing, Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman talks about soldiers being unwilling to kill other human beings and primarily shooting over the heads of enemies. The army figured this out after a couple hundred years of dismal hit ratios, and started training soldiers with targets that looked like people and popped up. They literally trained a soldier with a rifle to reflexively squeeze the trigger when the stimulus was a human shaped target that popped up downrange.

So, it can be done, it is done, it works.

Here’s the thing – it requires training. Let me go on record saying that everything worth doing well requires training. How much training depends on the person.

The problem comes from the “commando in a box” salesmen who promise to turn you into a lethal fighting machine in 5 minutes a day.

It sounds great until you consider that human beings have been naturally lethal towards each-other since the beginning of time. It takes very little training to learn how to kill another human being. Here’s the first and last lesson: Grab something heavy and hit the person with it, repeat.

My problem with these systems is that they do not teach the control and skill of long term training. Chances are, if you kill another human being, even in self defense, you’re going to be well acquainted with your legal system. If you can’t prove that lethal force was justified – you’re going to use your new-found skills to fend off rape in the prison shower for the rest of your life.

Not all self-defense situations require lethal force responses. Imagine trying to stand in front of a jury and justify shooting a guy because he tried to throw a punch at you.

Control takes time, skill, and proper training. And yes, sometimes lethal force is justified and necessary.

Sometimes I’m called on to teach very short self defense seminars. In those seminars I use a few gross motor skills which are highly effective, but I encourage the students to practice and seek further training. Never do I promise to turn them into Rambo in an hour. Most of the training is awareness, avoidance, and psychological.

Be a critical thinker and examine “truths” that are given to you, even if they sound like the truth.

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