The so-called Flinch, Fight, Flight and Freeze responses are the common reactions to a sudden, unexpected or perceived threat to our personal safety. We have evolved these reactions to keep ourselves from harm.
However, it is possible that these responses may have a negative effect when we consider the increasing level of violence and aggression in today’s society. Let’s think about each in turn:
Alone, the Flinch response can only ever buy you a brief moment of safety. Most people will flinch away from any initial attack, losing balance and turning their head away, and thus any subsequent attacks can now utilise this loss of position. No serious assailant throws just one attack.
Freezing is probably the most dangerous response of all. Your utterly static position leaves you at the complete mercy of your attacker.
Sadly, these two reactions are extremely common in the untrained person, a fact which attackers use to their advantage. This leaves the Fight response, and the Flight response.
Flight is the safest and easiest of these two options, but in many cases this option is not always available. This could be due to the environment, multiple assailants, the tactics employed by your attacker(s), an injury which prevents you from escaping, or simply your job: Police and professional Security personnel do not have the option of running away.
So this leaves the Fight response: If you come out kicking & punching wildly, you may gain a valuable advantage against your opponent, although success will be largely down to surprise, luck, and perhaps a lack of ability in your attacker. The chances of a similar outcome against a trained attacker, or a group of attackers is not as likely. However with correct tuition you can learn to channel the fight response so as to make a positive outcome more probable, both physically and mentally.
With regular training we can utilise our natural responses as an aid to our defence. The flinch response is used positively in our training – when the hands come up to protect the head, this is our natural Pre-Fight position. We can further assist ourselves by becoming more familiar with consistent attacks from a training partner. The flinch response happens when we are either scared, or expecting pain. Becoming more comfortable with being attacked and possibly injured during a confrontation is far from normal, unless you train.
To become an effective martial artist or fighter requires a re-tuning of these natural biological responses. The more we place ourselves in the firing line (in the form of realistic delivery from our training partners) the more comfortable we get with fists, kicks and even weapons coming towards us. This enables us to defend, control or defuse the situation more positively and effectively, without having to overcome our own natural reactions.
Constant training and gradual progression allows us to experience a vast array of varying attacks, from multiple training partners of different sizes, speeds, strengths and abilities. The better our training partner is, the more competent & relaxed we become when faced with the need to defend ourselves.
There is no substitute for consistently training hard. The knowledge gained allows us to react positively with a clear mind when threatened, instead of allowing the untrained Flinch, Fight, Flight or Freeze reactions to take over. Which option would you prefer to rely on when your safety is on the line?