Neural patterns folks, they will get you every time.
In a recent class of mine, I described an event from 1993 when I was down at NAVSPECWARCOM in Coronado to talk about High Gear. After the scenario demo, one of the instructors from the cadre asked me if I taught gun disarms.
“Why yes, we do…”
I set up the scenario and went to do the disarm, and the SEAL acting as the bad guy reacted very effectively to my movement. He dropped elevation and attempted to strike the family jewels. It didn’t look like he was going to pull the shot, and things got frisky quickly.
I hollowed out and pivoted fast, twisting his wrist and driving pressure towards his elbow which made him recoil and roll to his back. My hand was on his hand, which was still on the gun, and I quickly rolled him into an armbar. Once I hyper-extended his elbow, I followed up with a slick, improvised disarm and kept him in the armbar.
The movement impressed the training cadre enough for them to initiate discussions to book an official course with me. As we were talking, I felt like shit. What I did bothered me so much, and I immediately regretted the entire sequence. I apologized to the team and explained in detail why. That explanation further secured the training relationship.
But I only realized this after arm-barring the SEAL. And that’s the point of this article and message…
Had this been a real violent encounter, that armbar, though effective as it assisted me in defeating the first guy, would’ve also been the reason I got my ass beaten by his teammates.
You’ve heard it before: Our unconscious bias can create more danger for us because it affects our functional situational awareness. It interferes with monitoring the scenario and choosing the safest, smartest course of action.
This is neuroscience and psychology, folks.
I describe part of this process in the short video below that I filmed on my way to LA right after teaching the class linked below – I was still energized and fired up from the class.
Watch it and pay attention to the neural patterns talk.
Remember our slogan:
“Be careful what you practice, you might get really good at the wrong thing.”
Many misunderstand that message.
It’s not about you or your martial art, it’s about our brains – how we learn and how neuromuscular communication works. This can happen to anyone, including me, and that’s exactly why I went for the armbar in that session instead of something safer, smarter, and more tactical.
Here’s the video, watch and PLEASE comment and share this important article!
The big lesson and a deep question:
- Can our love of our martial art affect our personal safety?
- Can our love of our martial art actually make us less safe??
When you begin studying and integrating principles like brain-based learning, signal speed, stimulus-response, and gap-time into your scenario training, you realize that an unconscious bias can force us to look at a scenario differently. We see it through a martial lens looking for solutions from within the system instead of assessing the scenario and determining the safest course of action.
And this is the exact filter I design training through.
When we fixate on one thing, by default, we can’t focus on other things.
- If our goal is to learn how to kick, we would not study boxing.
- If we wanted to learn how to grapple, we would not study Tae Kwon Do.
- If we wanted to learn how to shoot a gun, we would not study kali.
I bet if we ran a poll, all martial artists would agree with the 3 examples above.
But change the question to: “What is best for self-defense?” and the internet breaks.
Why do so many people lose their objectivity and critical thinking when it comes to true safety?
As corny as this sounds, I believe the answer is “love.” We romanticize our martial art and fantasize about its effectiveness and that generates an unconscious bias. This bias is not malicious, it’s simply a byproduct of passion and an intense singular focus to excel at the art.
The danger, of course, is real danger.
Stay with me on this…
A singular focus is a type of specialization which is also a type of fixation.
Fixation narrows focus. And if you don’t find balance, you create imbalance.
And this is what happened to me that day 29 years ago in Coronado.
I had been so focused on grappling proficiency because I had just witnessed the first ever UFC in Denver, and that’s all I was doing: Submission – submission – submission.
My grappling bug, my fixation, overrode my sense of situational awareness, and I went right into the armbar. I didn’t see any other options. The scenario didn’t even occur to me. I saw a move and committed to it.
This was the moment of regret.
As a combatives consultant, I immediately realized that had this been a real attack in a warehouse with 6 opponents, lying on my back arm barring one guy was not the safest play.
(I encourage you to watch the video below. It’s the entire class where I break this down. It’s a gift for you and an example of what we do in the SPEAR Garage Gym. Two ways to watch; details are below.)
Back to our maxim:
“Be careful what you practice. You might get really good at the wrong thing.”
Again, it was never meant to be a judgment of anyone’s love of their martial art. It was a caution to inspire introspection. I really want all good humans to be safer.
Grapple, shoot, kick, strike, work your mind, and practice courage.
But during your scenario-based training, always “Choose Safety.”
The reality is ‘reality is real’ and like our beloved slogan “Violence doesn’t care what martial art you study,” well, guess what? Reality doesn’t care either!
If you would like to watch the entire class for FREE, where I explain the scenario and demo the movement, all you need to do is follow the @speargaragegym Instagram page then click this link. Your access code will be emailed to you! Simple.
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