Tuesday, 14 April 2015

How The Flinch Stole Combat

How The Flinch Stole Combat
(Alternative ways of dealing with anxiety or fear)

By Lance Manley- P4

I love Krav Maga. I’ve been a member of Krav Maga Midlands since March 2012 and I find the system to be exactly what I need to both keep fit and to increase my confidence.

The technical side of Krav, I think is brilliant. Love the knife and gun techniques, the different kicks, the tactics and the innovation. I also get a buzz out of the pressure drills and scenarios such as the Tunnel of Fun (8+ guys standing either side of a narrow corridor, you try and walk to the other end) or Zombies or Multiple Attackers or Slow Fighting. The list goes on.

However, something that I always had an issue with is the combat side of Krav Maga.

At a grading I have no problem with fighting and will get stuck in. A pleasant memory is during the sparring at the end of my P3 test, an unknown instructor was stood by the side of the mats cheering me on with “Yes, hit him. Don’t forget your feet! Good, keep going!”

Turned out to be Jon Bullock, head of KMG UK.

But…something that always proved to be a “Marmite” moment was coldly padding up and sparring with someone at a class designed solely for combat. It was like a switch was thrown in my head from Like to Dislike.

There are many tried and tested methods to deal with this type of thing. I tried most of them.

I’d make myself go. I’d be determined to enjoy myself. I’d partner the biggest guy in the room. I’d partner a higher grade. I’d meditate. I’d talk to other students or instructors. I’d try and rationalise and analyse why this was happening. I’d “man up” and “grow a pair”.

Nothing worked long term.

At most I’d get a couple of sessions before the Dislike switch was thrown again. This situation was irritating to say the least. I really WANTED to like it, but something within me wasn’t having any of it. Like anchovies on pizza or Marmite on toast…it was a black and white situation with absolutely no grey. Love it or hate it.  I hated it.

Bottom line was that I was getting frustrated and feeling like a pansy. The sensation was the same as the first time I went cliff jumping. Standing at the edge, looking down at the water…and for 15 minutes unable to jump off. Even though I knew there was virtually no danger in it, every instinct was screaming at me to back away. I finally did it and never looked back. But with sparring…things didn’t improve no matter what I tried in order to overcome the issue. My reluctance was like one gigantic flinch.

I eventually realised that the issues were probably emotional and/ or psychological. When we fought I’d perceive my partner and the other fighters in the room as malicious and out to hurt me, even though I knew they weren’t. Before my P4 grading I was genuinely uncertain as to whether or not I’d pass it.

I was effectively “winging it” and I realised that I’d never make G level if I couldn’t get my head fixed. It was then that I decided that I had to overcome this.

A friend of mine recommended hypnotherapy as her son had taken a few sessions years ago, to deal with unresolved issues from his childhood. I contacted a woman named Rebecca Bedford who gave me a free initial meeting to lay the groundwork for what I wanted resolved. When I came back I was genuinely surprised that you are not actually “hypnotised” like in movies. Instead the process could best be described as “guided meditation”. I closed my eyes while relaxing music was playing and Rebecca talked me through some mental imagery and told me to imagine that I was in a safe location such as a beach that was my private place of solitude. She then got me to remember certain events and said to “link it on” to whatever thought came up next, regardless of how silly, unusual, or out of place that thought might appear.

I had about 5 or 6 sessions in total where we slowly moved through the knots and creases in my psyche. It turned out that I had deep rooted fears of humiliation and rejection. I also had felt frustrated as a child through being forced to pretend everything was OK when it wasn’t and believing I didn’t have the right to express my opinions. Most crucially, I had made a decision as a very young boy that I would never be able to compete with “bigger boys” as they were stronger, faster and better than me. All of this had gone into the blender of my subconscious and affected my ability to relax and enjoy training.

After the final session I attended both a sparring session and contact combat in the same week. For the first time ever I actually enjoyed myself and thought it was fun. I held off writing this article for a week just in case there was some kind of emotional relapse and there wasn’t. The answers to what was holding me back were locked away inside my head, and finally I had found the key.

There was no epiphanous moment. No sudden revelation or jolt of clarity. It was simply that I looked on the same situations with a different set of feelings than I had before.

Hypnotherapy is one method that I’m very glad to have invested in for help with this. I had decided at the end of April that if I couldn’t cure my phobia of fighting by the end of the hypno course, then I’d reduce my membership with KMM to one lesson per week and stop grading.

Now…well, the sky’s the limit.

Rebecca Bedford runs Leamington Hypnotherapy
and can be contacted on 07863 156 392
or rebecca@rebeccabedford.com.

Illustration by Paul Rose.

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