Combat Psychology For BJJ Practitioners

Have you ever wondered how you would handle yourself being consumed in a life threatening situation? To quote my favorite combat psychologist and renowned author Lt. Col. David Grossman, “Human on human aggression is the ultimate phobia”. This should help the modern warrior understand why they feel the way they do during a confrontation with another person. Assuming you are not a complete psychopath, we should have an inherent reluctance to engage in combat with another human being. This can not be trained completely out of your psyche, but I would tell you that you may not want to have that omnipresent uncertainty and fear go away completely. Fear is your mechanism of action/reaction. I’ll explain why:

I am a Law Enforcement Officer. I have encountered numerous dangerous persons. I have been assaulted multiple times. When I review video of officer altercations or street situations, I often notice a difference in mentality between the two parties. A normal person who does not want to harm another (the reluctant fighter) is at a disadvantage from the beginning. Why? Because someone with a criminal mentality has far less regard for you, if any at all. This makes their “combat mentality” far more in line, more useful, and far more dangerous to you and I. So what can we do to mitigate this?

I once had a Police academy instructor and Lifelong FBI agent tell me “I can forgive you for losing. I will never forgive you for being surprised”.

What does this mean? What this statement is really saying, is that combat is uncertain. We can lose in any situation, but being caught off guard is a combat sin of the highest degree. We must always be prepared and aware of our environment. Remember, a criminal attacker is likely going to give you no cues revealing possible violence. They are a predator. They must stalk you first. They must understand you, and decide if you are “the one”. Creepy? Absolutely, but that is the real world. There are many remedies in the world of combat for creepy behavior. Another principle important to us is our response to violence is we have been taught that it’s “fight or flight”. This is incorrect. In fact we have three responses: Fight, flight, or freeze.

There are a couple of things I’d like to share with you that I hope will help you god forbid you should ever have to defend yourself or others:

  1. OODA loopThe OODA Loop: Designed by combat fighter pilots who have to make instant decisions with immense consequences, the “OODA loop” means OBSERVE, ORIENT, DECIDE, ACT. These are the steps the average person goes through in a stressful situation ideally. But what does it take to complete the loop? Time. Time is not on your side as the non-aggressor.
  2. Mental Rehearsal: I cannot stress enough how important this principle is. Not only is this a way for you to train anytime anywhere, this is a proven method used by Law Enforcement and Military alike. Mental rehearsal will relieve some of the possibility of being caught off guard. Imagine scenarios of all kinds and consider how you would react. Just like when you “flow roll” in BJJ, do the same with mental rehearsal of scenarios. The possibilities are endless.

For the sake of clarity, being caught off guard does not simply mean someone sneaking up on you. What it truly means, is do not EVER get in to the mentality “I can’t believe this is happening to me”. Also, never be surprised when an attacker is prepared to use a level of force to harm you that you have yet to encounter, and be very prepared to meet that same level of force and above, within the confines of law and morality.

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