My poor little brain has been working overtime lately and the same problem keeps taunting me, I think I know the answers but the proof is difficult to find. Let me explain, I have referred in a number of these blogs to training the mind as well as the body, better people than me have written extensively on the theory and practice and I have poured over their works. Siddle, Grossman, MacYoung, Thompson and Miller are the first five I think of but there are many others contributing to the body of knowledge that is out there. I am really looking forward the forthcoming ‘Conflict Communications’, a MacYoung and Miller collaboration. Whether we class ourselves as teaching a martial art, self defence or combatives I think that teaching the practical skills and techniques is the easy bit, personal achievement of what is being taught, good coaching skills and a sound theoretical underpinning are the three main elements that need to be in place plus bags of confidence and excellent communication skills and away you go. With all these things together you can teach the techniques but how effectively can we train the mind.

Prior to teaching a scout troop the other night I had a conversation with a couple of mums. Two ordinary nice women who were inquisitive and wanted to know what I did, they had a lot of questions, I had two potential customers. They understood that I could teach simple but effective techniques that they could learn, drill and repeat under pressure but they questioned whether they could actually bring them to ‘do it’ to somebody even if it was someone attacking them. Well learning the techniques and drilling them over and over creates the neural networks that make future use possible so actually training is the keystone in the process, without it we cannot build further. Our students are not empty vessels, they have their own fully developed values and beliefs, inculcated over many years and these include, for the normal person, beliefs related to harming and damaging other human beings, beliefs that tell us it is wrong, a taboo. Our students are not signing up to have their values and beliefs reprogrammed, they want to be able to hurt to prevent being hurt. well it is a long job to help them achieve this and whether we know it or not we will be using operant conditioning. For a small example just watch the following video.

So here I will create a new acronym, EAR, this stands for Encourage, Assist and Reward. In the clip Jack receives two instructions, being told to roll over plus the motion made with the reward, over a period of time he is persistently encouraged with an even tone, exactly the same stimulus each time, he is assisted then rewarded, he desires the reward, he realises that if he rolls over when asked he gets the reward, clever Jack. Our students are more sophisticated animals but the process is the same, within our training we need to introduce stimuli that represent a threat, the student is encouraged to respond with power and aggression to repel or downgrade the threat quickly, this done they receive praise, the reward they desire, EAR. We are encouraging them to develop their controlled aggression, take a look at the following.

I have heard many anecdotes of the effect of just hearing the command ‘fix bayonets’ has had in diminishing an enemies will to fight on, it is the cold steel, they don’t like it up em Mr Mainwaring. Killing someone with a bayonet is not neat and never very pretty and incredibly hard to do, from a psychological perspective, but replace the dummies for our focus or Thai pads and the training process is the same, we use operant conditioning, (I notice it is a war face and not a killing face, on camera?) Militaries the world over have invested money beyond imagination into working out how to make normal people into killers, not irreversibly but as and when needed, in battle. Much of that research is underpinned by psychological and sociological factors and we can take it and use the same underlying principles.Of course we are not going to scream and use profanities at our students, of course not, we are going to scream and use profanities with them as the use force, use violence to defeat or repel the attacker. If we are to empower them to quickly turn a state of normality to one completely abnormal to them, like training the young soldiers to kill manually up close, we need to build on the new neural networks created by learning and drilling technique, now the hardware and create yet more neural networks to support them, we need to install the supporting software and drill that until it is hardwired into the brain, we make the actions that make up our responses to attack habits. Predators have habits, attackers have habits, we have habits, lets look at the psychological training of the military.

The example used explains the need for close analysis of the situation and identification of  component factors and the relationships between them. So removing the food vendors, left field if ever you saw it, removed the threat. So maybe we need to analyse our students and our training, identify the component parts and the relationships that exist between them. Maybe we need to analyse the drills, the equipment and environment in which we train. Is the threat quietly menacing or threatening verbally, is the threat approaching in interview style or is it an ambush, are you on lovely mats with well-lit and dry surroundings or are you in a burnt out, dim shell of a building or a deserted car park. Think about it, we all train mostly in safe, well-lit dojo and gyms, it is not where our students will be attacked. Maybe we need to not only think outside the box but train outside it too. Maybe we need to experiment, to play around with how and where we do things, I have seen many great experiments with people doing just this and now I want to start pulling the good practice together, please let me know how you work to train the mind as well as the body not just to learn the drills and techniques but to apply them with controlled aggression, I look forward to hearing from you and until then, fix bayonets and remember…….