Many often neglect or acknowledge potential internal inhibitors within themselves or their students that prevent the ability to utilize violence when and if needed.

These, even after many many years of training, can have a dramatic effect on one’s ability to implement needed physical skillsets under duress. Most of the time these are innate or time-conditioned and need to be addressed. Too many times I’ve seen martial artists who “failed” or froze in a self-defense scenario and blame their training on this calamity instead of looking at the real cause. Even instructors are forever telling their students such bullshit as “You need to put more hours in” or “This is a matter of training harder” or regurgitating statistics on Hick’s Law and the number of times repetitions need be made to condition something to reflexive use. If these inhibitors aren’t addressed, NONE of that matters as it will be overridden and manifest itself in the worst times of duress.

Some of these inhibitors we’ll address below. Granted, this is a glossing-over  and a general overview as in-depth issues are not within the scope of a short article.

  1. Morals/value of human life (nurture-nature). Pre-disposition to violence. Exposure. View on the need for violence and its stigma. Home environment and views of both parents, siblings, extended family. Morals, ethics and values as pertaining to other areas of social constructs.
  2. Lack of experiential/3-dimensional training. It needs to replicate as close as possible to the real thing. If your training looks nothing at all like what can be seen regularly in real life, social media or statistics readily-available, there’s a gap. This also goes back to the 3-headed monster of fallible traditional training: single committed attack, static opponent post-initial contact, non-dynamic follow-up. Other elements are stamina, pressure,  broken rhythm/pace-changes, hard surface, environmental factors and a host of others.
  3. Self-control including emotional triggers, breathing & heartrate management, physiological responses to adrenal stress-response. If you have no trained response to the effects of adrenaline, you have no switch to turn on the light bulb, regardless of how innately powerful the rays of that light may be.
  4. Martial arts/ego. Branching off from #2, if your training is based on elements from a far-away culture, from a time long since dead, from a system irrevocably lost in time, to practices within these constructs that are outdated and don’t match modern research on physiology, sociology, legal and ethical entities, historical clothing and type of battle….they will not transfer to modern violence. I get the response regularly that “violence/crime hasn’t changed for thousands of years! Violence is violence!” Simply not true. The modern criminal tactics, knowledge base, mindset and strategies have evolved. Modern technology (weapons, computers, vehicles, communication) has come a long ways from 15th Century Japan. The myth of the universally-stupid criminal or single-type general criminal should be long dead. Unfortunately, they’re not.
  5. Religion/spirituality. Restrictions on using violence, pacifism, guilt, shame, social perception, place within that religion/church, post-life concerns, judgment from above. I made a personal mistake years ago with a student. I had taught him knife and other weapons for over a year before he finally admitted he’d really never be able to use these skills “for real” as he was a Christian and  it went against his belief structure. We had a to have ongoing discussions on context to overcome this for a long time, which brings me to the next point.
  6. Context. Context is king, quite simply. Without context, a universality or generalized training will run smack dab into often multiple of these inhibitors. Context gives clarity, specifics and appropriate response for given stimuli. Martial arts is filled with generalizations and, with this being statistically the most peaceful time of human existence, the need to truly find out workability is low so often one can go through one’s life without having need to delve into these. However, this element coupled with the most over-saturated time of misinformation known to humankind, and added to that lack of need for empirical proof of functionality due the period of history with which we live, we have a perfect cocktail of functional questionability. To put it succinctly? If ever needed, even 25 years of training can come crashing down in a heartbeat.
  7. Visualization and mission clarity. If you haven’t gone over what your mission is and what lengths you’re willing to go to maintain that mission, your training is vague and cryptic. Why are you training? Do you know? Do you understand what constitutes a justifiable response? What’s worth conflict and what’s not? Who will be affected long-term by your actions? Who’s present with you when making these decisions and does that factor in? If your goal is to stay safe, protect your family and live a relatively-comfortable life, does training lethal knife factor into this mission or is the mission flawed? Is it of necessity due to other intangibles – culture, location, employment? All questions that need be asked before, not during or after. Visualization is a tool that often clarifies many of these and puts them into clear perspective.
  8. Poor self-talk/will to survive. If you go through life in fear, with self-doubt, low self-esteem and a negative perception of self, it will affect your ability to achieve your mission. Self-mindfuck is the ultimate enemy, far greater than any physical threat you’re likely to run into as your ability to deal with said threat will already have been decided by you prior.

Now, these are not always so easy to discover in students, moreso in one’s self with self-reflection and an honest assessment of where your own personality factors in here. To help with this, I often use the logical levels template to uncover certain internal restrictions. If there’s resistance, either seen or sensed, it will always fall on one of these platforms. The higher the resistance, the likely the higher on the pyramid and more work needed with which to overcome it.

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*There may be other inhibitors, admittedly, but these are the most frequent I tend to come across.