People often have many questions, queries, statements or points of view to make about scenario based adrenal stress training systems like F.A.S.T. Defence. In this article I will pose some of the commonly asked questions and then try to answer them. I use the F.A.S.T. Defence courses as the basis of my answers but they should cross over into other types of adrenal stress training.
My martial art is a complete system – why do I need this type of training?
Very few, if any, martial arts are a truly complete system. If that were the case, that art would probably be the one true art and we would all be training in it. The truth is that, like all things, humans have been involved along the way. People have put particular slants on things depending upon a million different variables such as politics, sporting aspects, body shapes, culture, target market etc.
However, there is a universal truth applicable to all of them.
Adrenal stress makes it very difficult to perform anything other than gross motor functions. Much of what we practice in our training halls will be difficult to perform under realistic conditions when the rules are taken away. The world’s best high sidekick will be difficult in tight trousers when someone is trying to punch your head off. Your best arm bar will get you nowhere if, while you’re on the ground, someone cuts your throat from behind. Your best block and counter will be of no use when some distracts you with some believable dialogue and then sucker punches you.
If you want to be effective in self-protection, you must place yourself in an adrenal stress state when training. If your system includes this, you are doing well and you should give yourself a pat on the back. If not, you need to look for ways to introduce it.
Think of it as conditioning. You work your body with hard exercise to make it strong and fit. You overcome negative thoughts and surround yourself with positive, empowering information to condition your mind. Then you ignore the one massive factor that is prevalent in all confrontation because it’s difficult to achieve and not very pleasant to train in. If you don’t condition yourself to expect and operate in the adrenal response state, you are ignoring something that will save your life
Also don’t forget in a streetfight or mugging you are playing someone else’s game, at their ground and they’ve got the home advantage.
Can you actually replicate a street encounter in training?
I would contend that you could replicate it well enough for the purpose of training. When you are faced with someone who is acting exactly the same as an attacker, giving your body the same visual and aural stimulation and clues, your body cannot tell the difference.
The response that we get from ‘woofing’ is the same reality level pretty much regardless of background. If someone has no adrenal stress conditioning, they get a big dump of adrenaline, just the same as they would on the street. A doorman, security operative or policeman will have some adrenal conditioning through their experience. They will experience a response similar to the level they would expect in a real encounter. People with greater experience are more desensitised and less likely to freeze.
Human response is fairly simple in this area because it needs to be. An experience woofer knows how to act and react to elicit the response in most people. The woofer will try to seek out your buttons and press them.
Aren’t your techniques too simple? I would just do my spinning, jumping, back heel of instant death and dismemberment.
This is a very common question. On F.A.S.T. courses we initially try to ensure that people stick to the simple techniques that we teach such as eye strikes, palm strikes and knee strikes.
This is because these techniques can be taught as gross motor movements and they can be taught with big motion to avoid ineffectual flailing with no power. Many people faced with a real situation rush to get the striking tool to the target and forget that they need to get bodyweight and power in too.
We’ve occasionally seen really good techniques thrown instinctively by someone who has obviously trained them over thousands of repetitions. However, once the pressure in the scenarios is increased such as multiple attackers on the ground, it soon gets back to basic techniques that look really scrappy.
The only restrictions on F.A.S.T. courses are things that will seriously injure the bulletman (such as limb destruction). However, those things don’t often work against a serious (or drugged) attacker anyway.
Isn’t fighting someone in the armour unrealistic?
Again, your body won’t feel like it. Most people agree that they don’t really notice that they are fighting someone in armour. Striking the bulletman isn’t like hitting the heavy bag. The bulletmen will react to a good shot. This reaction will include groaning and swearing as you hit them saying things like ‘arrgh, you f@@@er’. If you don’t produce an effective shot, the bulletman will not go down. They may grab you and take you to the ground (but hey – that’s what happens for real). They may even goad you along saying ‘Is that all you’ve got, you pussy’. It all seems real when you are doing it.
If there is no personal risk, how can you get the full benefit?
Even though your personal risk of getting kicked to bits is limited, your body will not realise this when the attacker ‘woofs’ you. You are striking pre-emptively so you aren’t waiting until you receive a full power strike before reacting (something that most people agree would be a very silly thing to do anyway).
The bulletman fights in F.A.S.T. Defence training will feel completely real. You will come out feeling completely exhausted. The bulletmen are trained to ensure that you are pushed hard enough. Oh, and they will give you a little tap if it’s necessary. If you want them to fight you harder, you only have to ask!!
Exercises like Geoff Thompson’s Animal Day are unparalleled for getting adrenal rush. However, most of the population will be ill-prepared and/or unwilling to do such a high intensity activity. Also, it is important that you train yourself to win under adrenal stress.
I train for pre-emptive strike. Some of the video clips I’ve seen of scenarios don’t seem like you teach this. Do you pre-empt?
The F.A.S.T. course certainly includes pre-emptives, as I’m sure all properly designed adrenal stress courses will. However there are two things to bear in mind.
Firstly, training on the bag or pads in pre-emptives is an excellent start. However, in our scenarios the attacker will be mobile. They will walk up and down. They may rush in and grab you after using some distracting dialogue. The students on a F.A.S.T. course will always try to hit pre-emptively but sometimes it goes wrong (just like real life in fact). The student has to play out the scenario as it unfolds.
Some of the scenarios used on F.A.S.T. courses, especially the more advanced ones, place the student in really bad starting positions. You could find yourself starting a scenario face down on the floor or standing with your back to the attacker. This is to simulate ambush attacks or to put the student in positions where they have to fight really hard to get back onto their feet. Again, this is the reality of life. There are no rules to attacks and encounters. They all play out differently and you must be prepared to improvise and adapt.
Can’t I just start training like this in my own class?
Theoretically yes, but it’s important that you train yourself (and other people) properly.
We often liken it to training protection dogs. You have to build their exposure and tolerance bit by bit. If a trainer just started hitting them with sticks, all you would get is dogs that are afraid of sticks.
It would be better to get some formal training from qualified instructors. Seek out a reality instructor or attend a course like F.A.S.T. Defence.