The Calm in the Storm


Training needs to stimulate the physiological and psychological effects that will be felt in real Low Tech Combat. Over and over. With exposure, those effects will lessen. Inoculation occurs. 

Without exposure, we will be overwhelmed when confronted with real Low Tech Combat. Only with hard and realistic training, can we be the Calm in the Storm, in the real thing.

I have been advocating hard and intense realistic training for some time here on Low Tech Combat. I have explained that training needs to stimulate the 'fight or flight' response. We need to train under stress. We need to be aware of the Alpha Male and the Predator and face realistic violent attacks (safely) in our training.

Stressed: In Training YES, in the Real Thing NO

This does NOT mean we should be pumped up on adrenaline, suffer from tunnel vision, auditory exclusion, difficulties engaging in conscious thought and otherwise be acting only on instinct during a real encounter. This is a misunderstanding of my position on what modern training methods are all about.

In training, yes, we must train hard and we must feel the physiological and psychological effects of combat. Training is where this experience should be felt. NOT at the time of a real attack. We should be calm and be able to think in the real thing. The only way this can occur is to become familiar with the feeling or become inoculated against it.

Modern Training Methods

Best practise is to feel all of these effects in training, and become inoculated against it somewhat so that we can be calm in the real thing. That is what hard realistic training aims to achieve.

Through hard and realistic training which I have advocated in the posts Real Combat is RawWalking the PathThe Full Spectrum and 11 Key Differences Between Training and the Real Thing, we experience the effects of combat in training so we don't experience it in a real violent encounter. We train hard so that in the real thing, we can be the Calm in the Storm. We have felt those emotions and those hormones. It is no longer new to us.

It is these odd and rare emotions, hormones and other physiological and psychological effects that will hinder a defender severely if the very first time they experience these things is during a real encounter. This is very dangerous territory.

Calm and Relaxed No Good in Training

In my mind, this is a very real danger to people who study many (not all), traditional martial arts (TMA). Many TMA classes are conducted in a very friendly and calm environment. This environment helps make people feel comfortable when they first turn up to observe a class so that they sign up. The problem is, this artificial environment is very far removed from the environment a real attack is likely to occur in. This is a big problem.


Many classes never involve facing an attacker who is swearing at the top of their voice and calling the defender the most crude names under the sun, all the while pointing and advancing aggressively towards the defender. This is very confronting. If the first time it is experienced is during the early stages of a real attack, it is unlikely that the defender will be able to apply their usually skilful repertoire of techniques do to the physiological effects induced.


Another common scenario which rarely occurs in TMA classes is the surprise attack. This immediately dumps more than enough adrenaline into the system and kills all fine motor control along with a whole suite of 'nice to have' attributes.

Easy to Implement

These are just two simple scenarios which can be implemented into ANY self defence or martial arts class. TMA can provide their students with realistic and uncomfortable experiences which can place them under immense stress, in a safe environment, prior to being forced to experience them for the first time in the real thing.

I am in no way picking on TMA. It is just that I am sure most readers will understand the type of calm and relaxed training environment I am talking about. It is this calm and relaxed training environment that is my concern, not TMA.

Let the Inoculation Begin!

After experiencing real stress in training over and over with different scenarios and at different timings and intensity, students can begin to become inoculated against the normal effects. The physiological and psychological effects will become less and less acute.

After a while, these effects will be so low that many functions will be available to them such as simply remembering to look around 360 degrees for further attackers or controlling that knife bearing limb at all costs while considering the amount of force to use.

Its in the Application

And the other bonus? Techniques can be 'learnt' much much quicker. The ability to apply techniques under stress in training is a readily transferable skill. Applying the same techniques under stress in the real thing is very similar.This is perhaps the 'holy grail' in training this way. Faster and more effective learning. This is just another reason why modern training methods are so effective. To go into this area here in any more detail is beyond the scope of this post.

Stressed in Training, Calm in the Real Thing

The aim is not to be under this stress in the real thing, but to become so experienced with it, that the 'fight or flight' response no longer has such a dramatic effect. We want to be able to function as normal as possible, to be able to think clearly and make conscious decisions rather than be forced to react instinctively. This is the goal. To be the Calm in the Storm. Without experiencing the stressors in training, they will certainly be felt in a real encounter.

And that is why realistic and stressful training is so important and ALL people who teach self defence should provide such training. Not providing this type of training is negligent as it is widely understood today. This cannot be ignored. Modern training methods are here to stay.

There are MANY more ways to provide stressful and realistic scenarios in martial arts and self defence classes. It is beyond the scope of this post to provide them here now. But it is simple and should be done. Imagination and a little research is all it takes.

Leave your comments or questions below or fill in the form on the 'Contact' link in the header at the top of the page. I'd love to hear peoples thoughts on the matter.

Image by LiebeDich