Whatever you do, don’t freeze!

Paraphrased from Jonathon Chambers, Patriot Vigilante

Mentally training yourself how to react in a survival situation takes practice, and that takes a commitment and some time.

According to the FBI, a home invasion happens every 20 seconds in the United States. Just one well placed kick around the door handle will break in 75% of front doors. Or a couple of hard yanks on your sliding glass door might be enough to lift the entire thing right out of its frame.

A surprise attack can cause a person to freeze, as a fast, overwhelming attack can be too much information for the mind to orient to. Fear can also cause the freeze. And the combination of fear and an overwhelming attack, even worse.

In Facing Violence, Rory Miller devotes a chapter to different types of freezes and how to break them. I don’t have enough experience with freezing or breaking freezes to go into specific examples and details for each type, but two strategies that have worked for me follow the solutions Rory offers.

The nature of a freeze is that you’re “frozen”, or not doing anything. And it’s triggered by someone or something else that is doing something. The key to preventing the freeze (and breaking a freeze) is to actively do something. This may seem obvious, but there’s more to it, as described below, and it should be a fundamental part of your self defense strategy.

Most predators will attempt to take their victims by surprise. And when you get nailed by an assault you didn’t see coming, you will at least momentarily freeze. Everyone will. First, your body and mind will be shocked by the physical nature of the assault. Second, you’ll either be completely paralysed on a primal level, stuck trying to figure out what’s going on, or you’ll pause for a moment while you switch from your everyday mind to a more aggressive state. During this period, you may very well be getting mauled by your attacker. One way to prevent this from happening is to use what’s called pre-positioning.

Pre-positioning requires you to be aware of the threat before the situation goes physical. Ideally, you’ll position yourself far, far away, and there won’t be a physical attack at all. But when you can’t avoid the threat, (and he’s closing in on you) pre-positioning involves becoming the predator yourself, mentally and physically. You pre-position yourself to attack the threat. Mentally switching from being a victim to being a predator, makes all the difference in the world. Pre-positioning is active. It involves doing something. And doing something is the opposite of freezing.

Anyone who has sparred just a bit, standing and with strikes, knows that standing flat footed, chest to chest, with your hands down, and directly in front of your opponent is a very bad idea. But circling to the outside of your opponent, for example, minimizing his options while maximizing your own, works well. Pre-positioning involves setting up your position relative to your opponent, and seeing your opponent as your prey rather than as your attacker. If he moves to attack, he’s giving you something.

He’s creating an opening that you will use to your advantage.

You’ll need to practice pre-positioning in order to understand and use it, but it should be part of your physical martial arts and self defense training. Sparring will help with your ability to pre-position.

The second strategy, conditioning effective default responses to various types of attacks, is a last ditch option when you are attacked by surprise. If you’ve conditioned yourself to unconsciously respond to a physical assault, even if you are surprised by the attack, your body will execute the conditioned response. Immediately after the response, you may freeze as you try to figure out what just happened. Hopefully, your training will kick in and you’ll continue to act as quickly as possible.

 

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