Monday, April 26, 2010

Getting in Touch with Our Own Knife Psychology

(*This is a continuation of my last post Fear of Knives: Exploring the Roots.)

There really is no definitive answer as to whether humanity fears knives more than other deadly weapons or why this might be the case. Moreover, the fear (or lack of fear) that is experienced when faced with any weapon will vary quite widely from person to person simply based on their own individual psychology, making it impossible to predict how anyone would react when the moment comes.

In Jim Wagner’s Reality-Based Personal Protection, he asks the following:

"How will you perform at the moment of truth in a conflict situation? What’s going to happen to you emotionally when you’re facing the real possibilities of injury or even death? Will you have the will to survive, or will you be so paralyzed with fear that you will not be able to move at all? The answer is: You won’t know until you can say, 'Been there, done that.'"

What is generally agreed upon, however, is that knives, being a deadly weapon are likely to cause an increase in combat stress. And combat stress, no matter what kind of attack situation one is facing, has the potential to greatly harm one’s ability to mount an effective defense.

When one is scared, adrenaline levels are high, which cause perception, coordination and thinking to be impaired. People can have impaired sensory experiences including tunnel vision, auditory exclusion and time distortion. When one has gone beyond the levels of being scared to being terrified, a person can freeze up, unable to react or even move.

To prepare yourself for combat stress, you have to learn to handle yourself both physically and mentally with equal emphasis. You need to experience the physical and mental effects of combat stress in your training so you can better equip yourself for what you would experience in a real attack. As Professor Sylvain puts it: “Without both, you can only remain combat illiterate, no matter how well you perform your techniques or how fit you may be.”

A further contributor to the effects of combat stress when faced with a knife is the fear of death and mutilation. While it is impractical to practice death so to speak, a person can visualize their death regularly as a way of combating this fear. The Samurai were well aware of this fact, encouraging warriors to “practice death”:

"The way of the Samurai is, morning after morning, the practice of death, considering whether it will be here, or be there, imagining the most slightly way of dying, and putting one’s mind firmly in death. Although this may be a most difficult thing, if one will do it, it can be done." (From Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai)

While this may considered a bit morbid for the average person who is unlikely to face lethal violence in the entirety of their lives, a soldier or other type of military or law enforcement officer might see the benefits from this type of psychological training. Of course, many strains of philosophy also contend that there is much spiritual benefit to be had from this kind of mental visualization because a complete acceptance of our inevitable deaths allows us to more fully experience life, or so they say.

(**A quick note of thanks to all blog commenters who contributed to my formulation of this aspect of my thesis, particularly ones who contributed without lowering themselves to personal attacks.)

1 comment:

Jon Law said...

Two great posts JJS. A quick point, which is often overlooked. The stress response IS undoubtedly a result of evolution and IS part of our built in protection!

A lot of self-defence literature almost portrays this response as the 'enemy' but the point is that the response is meant to prepare us to run or fight, or stay stock still.

These are all valid, appropriate and adaptive responses to danger, depending on the context of course.

If we train to operate under stress we can overcome any emotional problems that create a 'fear' state derived from any number of the possibilities you mention. In theory at least. The quoted imagery idea would be a start.