“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of fight in the dog.” Mark Twain
When I look back and try to remember how I felt as a child growing up, it amazes me how thoughts and attitude grow with the physical body.
I’ve seen many street fights. It’s something that can have a lasting effect on the mind when experienced at a young age. As a child, I would always find myself in some sort of confrontation. I was quite a loud kid growing up.
I found that people around me always seemed to want to start a fight or an argument with me (looking back I can see the reason was probably because of my attitude and the way I carried myself). At one point in time, this left me feeling insecure. As soon as I got confronted, my voice would stutter and I would just simply freeze.
I thought it was just me that this happened to, but as I grew older I started to notice this in many others when they were confronted. I’m sure pretty sure you may have experienced this before also.
The thing with me is I found myself always backing down. I lacked the confidence to stand up for myself. I would kick myself when I got home and felt even worse because of the fact that I ‘chickened out’ from the confrontation.
I was pretty hard on myself when I look back. Sometimes I wouldn’t even be able to sleep because I would be kicking myself for hours for letting it happen.
I’ve always had a deep interest in fear. What is it? How is it able to physically affect the body? These are the types of questions I wanted to know so I started to read about it, in an attempt to figure this ‘fear’ thing out.
I’ve written this article today in the hope that it will reach someone in need of this information as I believe it is very valuable to understand for everyday life and not just in confrontational situations. As you’ll see in this article, fear, can empower you and make you faster, stronger and more alert or it can do the opposite and make you freeze.
The first fundamental step in defending yourself in a street fight is understanding the concept of fear and how to use it to your advantage. Fear can greatly impact your decisions and outcomes in a street fight and your life in general.
So what is fear?
Let’s break it down and take a look at it. Fear is not about what has happened. It’s always about what ‘may’ happen. Understanding this we can see that we are fearful of things that are in the future (that ‘may’ happen) and not in existence, which is the present.
In other words, we are scared about things that are not in existence. We cannot know what the future holds (unless you are a psychic reading this!) so does it seem logical to worry about things that we do not know?
If we thought like this all the time, we would never cross a road for the ‘fear’ of getting run over or drive in a car for the fear of crashing. We don’t do this generally in life so we should never do it in a combat situation.
Sometimes our minds take bits from the past (maybe an old experience from real life or a movie), exaggerate it, twist its reality and then project it as the future. So in this fearful state of mind, we are living in the future and we are not rooted in the present.
We have the power to control our thoughts. We shouldn’t let fear control them and taint them with false information. Fear has also been mentioned in the post- Bruce Lee’s 8 top tips for better results in training and life.
What effect does fear have on the body?
From what I’ve learned, when fear is present, our bodies naturally release chemicals such as adrenaline, cortisol and noradrenalin into our blood stream. Our respiratory rate increases and blood is pushed away from our digestive track into our muscles.
Our pupils dilate. Our awareness intensifies. Our sight sharpens. Our impulses quicken. Our perception of pain diminishes. Our immune system mobilizes with increased activation.
We become prepared—physically and psychologically—for ‘fight or flight’. The fight or flight system bypasses our rational mind—where our more well thought out beliefs exists.
Some key points from the above;
- Our pupils dilate
- Our perception of pain diminishes
- Our awareness intensifies
- Our impulses quicken
- Our sight sharpens
- Our impulses quicken
- Blood is pushed from our digestive track to muscles
Now when we look at the key points fear does not look like a disadvantage at all. To me, they look more like a flippin Incredible Hulk transformation. The more I looked at them the more I realized that fear is in fact advantage not disadvantage.
I remember watching the Rocky movies growing up (I loved them movies! I still do) and something I heard made my mind click. It was this;
”You see, fear is a fighter’s best friend. You know, it ain’t nothing to be ashamed of. See, fear keeps you sharp, it keeps you awake, it makes you want to survive. You know what I mean? But the thing is, you gotta learn how to control it. Cause fear is like this fire, all right? And it’s burning deep inside. Now, if you control it, Tommy, it’s gonna make you hot. But, you see, if this thing here (fear), it controls you, it’s gonna burn you and everything else around you up. That’s right, you know?” – Rocky Balboa (Rocky 5)
That evening I started to grasp the true concept of fear. I learned that the heightened senses I was experiencing could be used to my advantage if only I knew how to apply it. To make fear a useful tool we need only ONE key ingredient.
CONFIDENCE. This the major factor in the flight or fight response. Confidence will be the starting point on how to use fear for advantage rather than a disadvantage. With the ability to properly use fear you will be a HECK of a lot more efficient at defending yourself in a fight; because of the benefits mentioned in the key points above.
How to Raise Confidence;
There are many ways to raise confidence. The fist main thing to do is;
- Self-reflect and find out what you are actually afraid of. What is the cause of fear in the mind? Maybe it’s getting hurt, losing or being embarrassed. Be brutally honest and dig deep to find the truth.
When you have found the cause you need to change the perception of it. The good thing is the mind doesn’t know what is imagined or what is real. For example, some of us have experienced fear when watching horror movies and have experienced real physical reactions to the fear like the heart racing, sweats etc.
We know that it’s only actors getting paid to act, and were only watching a TV screen, but the mind does not know the difference between what is imagined and what is real; So we experience a very real fear.
- One excellent way to raise confidence is through visualization. Whatever the fear is, you can simply start to imagine the complete opposite outcome. You should do this regularly at least twice a day for 5-10mins. Imagine as vivid as possible, add senses into your ‘imaginary movie’ like smells and sounds.
What will you hear? Where will you be? What can you smell? How will you feel emotionally from winning or overcoming your fear? Do this regularly and this will re-program your mind and eradicate the fearful thoughts for good.
This is a proven and very powerful technique used by a heap of professional athletes for all sorts of reasons, from boxing to football. Boxers have used this for visualisation techniques for years in training; when they ‘shadow box’.
Shadow boxing is basically imagining your opponent and boxing with them. You are basically moving around, slipping and boxing the air, but because the mind cannot tell what is real or imagined, your reactions and reflexes actually sharpen. This is so effective that it is one of the oldest forms of boxing training that is still used a great deal by boxers today.
Even Mike Tyson would imagine and play out his upcoming fights in his mind. He would imagine crushing his opponents, this was for confidence because he used to be afraid to box.
- Another way is by the use of affirmations. Affirmations are statements that you repeat to yourself in your mind or out loud if you wish, on a regular basis. You should repeat a statement that is the ‘positive opposite’ version to that of your negative fear. This will cause your mind to re-write the fear belief you had previously to a more desired one. This technique is also very popular and used by many people from all professions.
So if you have fear, something, like I fear no one or I am always very confident, are perfect affirmations to expel fear from the mind. If repeated often, they will cause the mind to take on a new belief system. do this at least twice a day morning and night for 5-10 mins. Also, hold these thoughts in your mind as much as possible throughout the day.
- Another way to raise confidence is by the use of physical training. When you practice a form of physical exercise like boxing or weight training you automatically start to gain a new confidence in yourself.
Physical exercise in a form of martial arts should always be the number one aspect when thinking about defending yourself. Not only will it make you more confident but it will also give you the knowledge of how to effectively defend yourself.
When out in the world we can hold our self in a certain manner, but we can’t control how other people act. You may come across some people who will have no problem attacking you for whatever the reason.
Usually, they are young and naive, although I did say ‘usually’. Most of the time the person or persons will be intoxicated with drugs or alcohol. Getting into a street fight or getting straight up attacked can be a very scary experience that can cause one to be cautious of going out; leading them to be unable to enjoy themselves.
When in a bad situation there are a couple of very important things you must remember to protect yourself (whilst also using the advantage of fear to your benefit).
1) Never Let Anybody Get Behind You
This is critical and should always be remembered in a confrontation. This is even more important when confronted by multiple people. If you let anyone behind you, you will not see any of the shots coming and may get seriously hurt because of it. It will make it MUCH harder to defend yourself. There are a few ways you can stop people from getting behind you;
- Keep moving and circling as you’re fighting. You have to use your added benefits of quicker impulses that fear can give you; by staying light on your toes and always moving. Do not stand idly in front of your attacker(s), this makes it easy for them to strike you or get behind you and cause damage.
- Put your back against a wall. By doing this you can see the attacker(s) coming at you. Although the above option is best, but if that is not an option for you then this option will do. Putting your back against a wall will also help you stay up, which is the next point.
2) Always Try to Stand Up
If you ever fall to the floor, you should muster all your energy and willpower to stand back up. This is very important. This is not for pride but for your own safety. When you are down, this allows an attacker to assert more damage with stomps and kicks. They can use their whole body weight and gravitational force in the kicks which will make the strikes a lot more powerful and painful. It also gives them an easy ‘sitting target’. They will be able to strike you in multiple areas and ‘soccer kick’ you.
3) Make Your Way to a Public Area
If you are confronted in an isolated area away from the public (like a back alley) ALWAYS try to make your way to an open public area first before anything. This way the attack can be stopped if a fight ensues. When in an isolated enclosed space there will be no one to intervene. Even if you fight in a public area it does not matter. You are only defending yourself and if things turn out for the worse you will take a lot less damage before the attack is stopped by members of the public.
What do you mean hoods? I hear you say… this is my favorite technique! If you ever get into a combat situation with a hooded attacker, well they may have just screwed themselves. What you do is, by a sudden surprise, quickly pull the hood over their head.
So their hoody is sort of half on half off! (I’m chuckling whilst writing this right now). This is VERY effective. The attacker won’t be able to see anything for a few seconds which is more than enough time to land effective strikes.
Better still, if you hold the hood over their head they have to take their arms out to get it off. This gives you a HECK of a lot of time to unload on them. This is best done with a knee(s) to the head which will most likely end the attack right there and then, if done properly. If you want to learn more about knees, check out- how to protect yourself in a night club – muay thai knees for beginners.
This technique can also be done with jumpers and hats too. But you will need to be a bit more accurate when grabbing the back of a jumper collar. If done suddenly, the jumper will be over their head before they know what’s happening.
As Muhammad Ali said, ‘float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, the hands can’t hit what the eyes can’t see!’
To be efficient at defending yourself you should practice a form of martial arts. Practicing a form of combat will make you much better at dealing with these situations and also increase your confidence and reaction times. The reason some martial artists still don’t do very well in real combat situations is because they have not mastered the use of fear.
The mastery of fear with a specific set of skills is needed for effective self-defense. There’re many types of combat skills you can learn from jiujitsu to muay thai. Once you learn to master the use of fear correctly you will have a great advantage on your side.
You should practice combat forms along with your workout/fitness routines. You can check out the post ‘6 devastating knockout combo’s- learn from the old school’ to get some good boxing combinations to practice.
Any thoughts on this subject? Do you have any other techniques you use to defend yourself? Drop a comment in the section below and let me know; it would be good to hear. If you want any further advice or tips feel free to email me anytime.