The building blocks of successful mental strength training are:
- Reality-based training – training must reflect real-life scenarios and must be integrated to train mind and body together.
- Stress inoculation training – training must create highly stressful situations so that the body and mind can adapt to dealing effectively with this level of stress. Often created through reality-based training.
- A winning mindset – creating a self-belief in your ability to succeed. Ensuring training focusses on winning and not losing.
- A strong belief in what you are doing is just.
- A refusal to give in no matter how difficult the situation. Often linked to the belief in what you’re doing is just.
- Confidence in your abilities – attained through repeated training and skills acquisition. External recognition of ability through grading system and peer recognition.
I’m going to show why Krav Maga is a highly effective defensive system by design at preparing its exponents to manage the psychological and physiological stress of combat and try to explain why, despite often years of training, some martial artists fail in a violent confrontation because they are not mentally prepared.
John Giduck, anti-terrorism expert and author of Terror at Beslan: A Russian Tragedy with Lessons for America’s Schools (2005), has written (2008) the following about close-quarters combat which emphasises this point:
Everything else is just technique. If someone has great technique, but lacks these essential mental weapons, he will be defeated by an unskilled fighter who has them. This is why many black belts get wiped out by street punks in alleyways.
This quote was taken from Dr Asken’s Warrior Mindset: Mental Toughness Skills for a Nation’s Peacekeepers.
Imi Sde Or, the founder of Krav Maga, understood the importance of mental strength in combat and the negative effects stress can have on performance.
This is why he designed Krav as a simple to learn and simple to execute self-defence system, based on an understanding of principles rather than complicated techniques requiring years of practice to perfect.
A review of the Krav Maga principles demonstrates that Imi had a fundamental understanding of the debilitating effects of stress in conflict situations and how to overcome it through realistic scenario-based training that involved stress inoculation at its core.
The principles are taken from Daniel Levine and John Whitman’s Book: Complete Krav Maga:
- Techniques should be movements based on natural instincts – so that under stress they are easier and more natural to execute and therefore more likely to succeed.
- Techniques must address the immediate danger – neutralise the immediate threat as quickly as possible before the debilitating effects of stress take over.
- Techniques must defend and counterattack simultaneously – to overwhelm your opponent’s ability to react and create a negative stress response in them as well as to neutralise the threat as quickly as possible.
- One defence must work against a variety of attacks – to simplify the system, speed up training proficiency times and to reduce the Kravist’s choices so that they are less likely to hesitate or freeze during an assault.
- The system should be integrated so that movements learned in one area of the system complement, rather than contradict, movements in another area – again to simplify the system, speed up training proficiency times and to reduce the Kravist’s choices so that they are less likely to hesitate or freeze during an assault.
- Techniques must be accessible to the average person, not just athletes – recognising that to be truly effective the system must be accessible to all, but also that with a winning mindset, even the most proficient of fighters may be defeated by the less physically able.
- Techniques must work from a position of disadvantage – recognising the fact that to be truly effective, a self-defence system must work when you are unprepared. This training forces an immediate and effective response to an unexpected threat which is the essence of stress testing.
- Training must include the stress involved in real attacks – this is stress inoculation training. Through creating highly stressful situations the body and mind can adapt to dealing effectively with this level of stress.
The above review of Krav principles clearly shows that as a defensive system, it is designed to manage the psychological and physiological stresses of combat. This is what I meant when I said Krav Maga is a highly effective defensive system by design.
In Part 3 we will conclude the article