The flinch. Latosa Concepts Terminology.
I hope ya’ll are doing well. I was listening to a Robb Wolf / paleo podcast and the inspiration to write a little about the links between our (humans) flinch reflex and the benefits of working with it it as well as variation that we can train into our system.
To start with the link to the book download is here. It’s free, so jump on it if you are kindle ebook capable. The idea of the flinch / startle reflex transcends many aspects of our life not only combative or self-defense aspects of it. You can hear the podcast at the Robb Wolf website. Go to podcast 111 with Julien Smith. They talk about mind set as well as other aspects of our lives. One of the subjects is how we can live life by pushing our everyday limits a little and how we can adjust to harder and more demanding situations as a response.
I remember my first conscious experience with the startle reflex was as a kid when I watched a hunting dog get ruined by being put in front of the end of gun when it went off. That was a harsh and stupid way to try to get a dog used to a gun going off. You could ruin a dog very quickly like that. You could also get a dog used to being around gun fire when done correctly. A few feet forward or back made a large difference. Just to make sure we are on the same page, we will start with some basic ideas pertaining to the startle reflex / flinch reflex. One of the first signs of the flinch and all it entails is the closing of the eyes. That’s natures way of making sure we can see to get away. Eye sight is alpha and omega in nature. The next few things that happens are our shoulders rise and our arms come up to protect the vital organs and throat/head. We hunch over and in worst case scenario we bring our legs up to protect our belly. As well as a fetus position parts of our nervous system react by putting semi-important functions on the back burner. This actually causes many people to feel weaker than they usually are. Others experience a surge of adrenalin that makes them very strong. You have heard of the fight or flight reflex.
Did you know that your ability to perform fine motor skills is greatly decreased when the adrenalin kicks in?
As well as the physical aspects of the flinch, there are the psychological aspects of it. Think of the idea of a flu injection. Don’t think about about the mercury and the fact that it poisons you, we’ll get into that another day. The reason your body is supposed to be better off after the injection is that your body has had a chance to prepare itself for the flu-season/experience. In a sense it is a type of hormesis. Small portions are supposed to strengthen you towards larger portions.
All this is why adrenalin junkies are what they are. They survived and they are hooked on the experience, the rush that comes afterwards as well as during the experience.You could argue they are strengthened by the experience. We do the same with our kids. We teach them to be able to do small tasks. They learn they can do them and they are prepared for larger tasks. We start teaching them about how they can be conscious of feelings of uncertainty and afterwards they can experience the feeling of joy because they could do a specific action / task. We are getting them ready for life! They are being built up psychologically.
Good self-defense instructors do the same with students. They build them up. The speed at which you build a students mental strength and tolerance for uncomfortable fights varies. Some can take a crash course and others have to be walked there with baby steps. The more the person is used to working with them self the easier it is. The more there is an important end goal the faster it goes. I have never treated female students with kid gloves. The speed at which they reach some combative goals may be slower, but they also travel further compared to many men. I could mention a few that could fly through the process because they felt the very real need to no longer feel like victim. The most scared students are often the bravest one! All instructors should remember that.
You might ask how all this has anything to do with FMA. That is simple. Another case in point goes back to when I started training with swords. We trained with very heavy swords that were made to help body mechanics. Looking back, it was a great way to start sword training compared to light fast swords. I went to a seminar and had to defend myself against a very strong and very good sword /escrima instructor. It was hard to do, mentally I had to make my balls grow a few sizes, but I was determined to do it. When it was my turn to do some free sparring with him I stepped forward. At the next normal escrima class on Monday some instructors talked about how I used the hickory stick like a sword and how fearless I was. The mental experience made the difference. I was affected by pushing my self and developed more of focus under pressure.
We can take this even further by teaching people to use the flinch reflex and attack quickly in the place of covering themselves. Do you see where the FMA training comes in now? I hope so. In FMA and FMA based arts we teach people to attack the attacker in order to take them out as quick as possible. This stops the attack in a quicker time span. We can look at an unarmed example, hit a man in the jaw and his right arm will fall weak very quickly. There are other combative systems that use the flinch as part of their system. Tony Blauer does very well. The spear has quite a lot in common with the teachings of GM Latosa and what I teach. With that said there are some large differences as well. The spear system is more based on a grappling and striking idea rather than a weapon concepts. It’s also about using the flinch in a more natural state. That is no surprise considering Tony Blauer works mostly with unarmed situations.
Just to round things out, we will get back to the startle reflex as seen through a HardCORE coaches eye’s. While training an EDT our body starts to experience stress and the startle reflex starts to kick in. Cortisol levels rise and the nervous system is effected in some areas and our testosterone levels falls. The resulting reaction is we become weaker and our ability to recuperate from the EDT is slower and our ability to benefit from the workout is lessened.
If we take the idea of using joint mobility, breathing exercises and other tools that activate the nervous system and stop the startle reflex, we can use them in FMA training. We can learn to develop an ability to cope with higher stress levels and therefore function better under pressure. When we did self-defense courses for women through Stonewall-Shield we were aware of not crossing the line. The objective was to teach the women that they could could function under pressure and slowly move that level of pressure up to a realistic level. That is one difference in a karate style self-defense class for women and the adrenaline based type course that we like to promote.
The same type of tools can be used when working with FMA and helmet training. We learn that we can control our reactions to head strikes and body strikes. They learn to function under pressure. That’s a lot of hat self-defense training is all about.
That’s it for now, we’ll see what I feel like writing about next time.
Stay Proactive in Life and Training