Adrenaline Training

Discussion in 'Self Defence' started by Mike-KSW, Jul 7, 2004.

  1. Mike-KSW

    Mike-KSW New Member

    The other day I was in a semi-hostile situation that reminded me of the effect of adrenaline pumping through my system. A possible fight is in it's verbal stage is the best time to diffuse the fight before it even gets started. I've had good results with just talking people back down to a calm state, but the adrenaline really makes it hard sometimes.

    When adrenaline kicks in for me, the main things that bother me is the shaking legs and the dullness of wit. In my personal experience, humbling yourself and talking to the attacker as if he were a friend can usually calm the situation. Showing fear can ruin this tactic, so having my entire body trembling because of the adrenaline can be a problem. Not to mention that saying the right things can become hard in the fight-or-flight process.

    My main point here is how can you train yourself to handle the adrenaline to remain calm in the situation. I have read that the U.S. Navy Seals try to simulate the feeling of adrenaline by using sleep deprevation and extreme cold temperatures together while training in an attempt to get the trainee de-sensitized to the feeling. I, of course, have no intention of doing any training like that.

    I was just wondering if anybody had any ideas as to other ways to stimulate the adrenaline rush feeling (aside from going out and starting fights) in order to become more used to it. Thanks!
  2. shaolintiger

    shaolintiger New Member

    re adrenaline training

    hi , im a wing chun stylist and am very interested in rbsd (reality based self defence).

    from what i have learned from a whole bunch of people with a vast amount of real street experience, martial arts training WITHOUT adrenal stress training is woefully inadequate to prepare you for the street.

    that shaking of the legs/dulling of thoughts/sweating/tunnel vision/auditory exclusion is caused by the dumping of adrenaline and noradrenaline into the bloodstream when your brain anticipates a dangerous situation (ie a fight).

    heres the really bad news, your bpm (heartrate) can go from 80 - 200 in an instant when the adrenal dump hits you.

    what does this mean to the martial artist ?

    at around 140 bpm you lose fine motor skills, anything over that and all you are left with is "gross" motor skills.

    what are fine motor skills?
    anything that requires precise movements really, locks, complex striking combinations/kicking combinations, fancy footwork etc.

    what are gross motor skills?
    basic punches/palms, low kicks, knees and headbutts.

    another thing that you will notice when the sh*t hits the fan is that cognitive thought is lost, this is due to the fact that the body draws blood into all the major muscle groups to prepare for fight or flight, the major muscle (the brain) tends to be a little left out at this point and because not as much blood is getting there as normal, things like thinking what to do/making a strategy are very unlikely.

    ok, the good news is that you can experience all of the above stuff and fight realistically through it and then analyse how you did by going on a f.a.s.t defence bulletman course. is the place to look, they have instructors all over the world,
    i did my course in the uk last year and it really tested my courage and wing chun skills : it is a VERY profound experience and shows that it is very possible to fight through the adrenal dump, just dont go expecting to pull off any flashy techniques as they wont be there!

    all the best buddy,

  3. cybermonk

    cybermonk New Member

    What I am about to say may sound very very stupid to some of you...but I will say it anyway just for the sake of knowledge. When I was younger the adrenaline rush would hit me quite a lot when I had to fight other people but after a while I began believing that other people were no danger at all and the feeling just went away, it still used to hit me when people had knifes though, so that would be something to work on. Many would argue that understimating people like that is stupid, and I agree but I rather understimate someone and be at my best fighting capacity than calculate the danger they may pose and be unable to respond effectively to the threat. There...I said it.
  4. Matt_Bernius

    Matt_Bernius a student and a teacher

    It's very possible to simulate adrenal dumps. Perhaps the best way is scenario role playing. My experience with this comes from exposure to Blauer Personal Defense Readiness (

    These roleplaying situations are un scripted and played out where you have a defender and atleast on aggressor. The defender is given little to know information about the scenario. The aggressor makes up a scenario begining with the emotional attack. They could play out a street encounter (someone asking a question leading to a mugging), a bar encounter (You just spilled your beer on me), or any number of other situations. The results will be unscripted. Sometimes you can talk yourself out of the situation. Other times the attack is unavoidable.

    However if both people are committed to playing the roles and acting in a realistic fashion you are able to begin to simulate an Adrenal dump. Will it be as bad as reality? No. But speaking from experience, you can go pretty far in the drill. I've gotten the chance to play with this a few times and each time, provided the aggressor was working well, I could feel the dump taking place.

    As to Cybermonk's comments, the big issue with the dump is that it takes place when your unexpectedly thrown into a situation. I know a lot of martial artists who feel like they can avoid it because they no longer feel adrenal rushes while sparring. The problem is that they are in an environment were the violence is agreed to. Once your removed from that context often people have a far more difficult time reacting to unexpect stimulus. Most psychologists argue that the flinch reaction is ultimately unavoidable for 99.9% of the population once they are suprised and their mental model is temporarily broken.

    Your right that if your expecting the attack you can reduce the effect of the dump. However, most social preditors prey on those who are clearly not expecting an attack to happen.

    - Matt
  5. cybermonk

    cybermonk New Member

    Good points there, the roleplaying idea sounds interesting, I think I may give it a try to see what its like sometime. What I said on the previous post wasnt about sparring, I was talking about my experience when I lived in Cuba, but now that I think about it, where I used to live violence was pretty much the norm so I guess we could say it was "agreed on" all the time, I dont know if that makes sense but its something you have to live to understand.
  6. Matt_Bernius

    Matt_Bernius a student and a teacher

    It definitely does. If you live in a war zone you expect certain behavior.

    My point is once you move out of the war zone, and aclimate to a new environment, you may experience adrenal dumps in situations that it the past wouldn't effect you.

    Redgardless of the form we like stability. Once taken out of our element we become far more vulernable to fight or flight instincts.

    - Matt
  7. Kwan Jang

    Kwan Jang Valued Member

    -I've worked with Peyton Quinn, Bill Kipp and Meredith Gold of RMCAT and there methods are good. However, many students and even instructors can be uncomfortable with the aggressor role and it may not be appropriate and overly practical in many class settings. Though some use of these role play activities can be very good.
    -What I use a lot more of in our classes is an adrenal circle drill. The defender is surrounded closely (within their comfort zone which by itself can raise adrenal levels) by the group of attackers. The attackers "pass the attack" so the defender (whose eyes are closed) has no idea whcih direction the attack is coming from. The group pulls back two steps and begins yelling and clapping while the attacker comes at them (BTW-the defender may now open their eyes). This can be very effective for learning how to compensate for adrenal stress w/o some of the drawbacks of the hostile roleplays, especially with children.
    -Another overlooked traditional drill can be effective for this: one-step attacks. Used for beginners, one steps may only be of value for teaching integration of weapons along with distancing and accuracy, but for advanced students the instructor can be more creative and work adrenal stress into the drill. Also making the initial attack random and having the defender have to react to any and every type of attack can go a long ways. BTW-Any combo that has been trained well enough into your muscle memory will be retained during adrenal stress, so one-steps can be excellent for drilling your "bread and butter" self defense and sparring combos. This way they are there when needed in the pinch.
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2004
  8. Matt_Bernius

    Matt_Bernius a student and a teacher


    Great points. In PDR a lot of time is spent working to understand the attacker mindset and break down a lot of the insecurity issues that prevent people from being good attackers. I agree that you can't just drop roleplaying onto a group. There needs to be a lot of hand holding and coaching. However, I really like this method because it addresses all the phases of a confrontation rather than beginning with the physical that tends to come last.

    Agreed that one steps are a great tool. I need to meditate on how to increase the "dump" factor in them. I tend to find that people aclimate to these types of drills pretty quickly.

    I like your circle idea. I'm having a bit of a time envisioning some of the details of it. I'll have to try that and come back with questions.

    I also think that you bring up a great point. Hostile roleplay is not a tool that I would use wth a child. I think some role play is ok (i.e. a light verbal confrontation), however, I don't think it's a good idea to engage in hostile or attack behavior with them. There are enough studies that show that they have a hard time resolving this type of mixed signal (well meaning as it might be) from people that they know.

    - Matt
  9. pug32

    pug32 Valued Member

    In my jkd class we do this about once a month, while its difficult to create the fear of a real situation, you can certainly affect moods with posturing, background music verbal attacks and also mass attack e.g. 2+ onto you. This is always a great leveller when you think you can throw a good solid shot.
    also turning off lights, train in socks so base is tricky, close one eye to mess up your distance judgement good night club simulation ;)
    I like my instructors viewpoint that we all get used to throwing shots at focus mitts under "ideal" conditions, so its important to scramble things every now and again
  10. Capt Ann

    Capt Ann Valued Member

    One Comment, and One Question:

    The adrenal rush is caused by the sympathetic nervous system, an automatic response that you have practically no control over (it turns on all by itself). It is the "fight-or-flight" response that dumps adrenaline into your system, raises your heart rate, increases blood pressure, constricts your blood vessels, dilates your pupils, increases your perspiration, shifts your respiration to rapid, shallow breaths, and cuts or reduces bloodflow to your stomach and head to get it to the major muscles. After the emergency, your parasympathetic nervous system is supposed to switch you, automatically, back to 'normal' everything. The parasympathetic system slows your respiration to deeper, slower breathing, reduces your blood pressure and heart rate, reduces your perspiration, etc. etc.

    Comment: You can trigger this response yourself, by purposefully controlling your breathing and forcing yourself to take slower, deeper breaths from the diaphragm. In a very stressful situation, this will have the effect of bringing back that fine motor skill, clearer thinking ability, and a sense of calm, because it lowers the blood pressure, heartrate, adrenaline levels, etc. etc. This works GREAT between rounds in a sparring match.

    Question: I'd like some thoughts on this from people who have a little more experience than I do, with actually being in a situation where someone is trying to knock your head off. Would you actually have time to force the parasympathetic response through controlling your breathing, in the middle of the build-up to a fight? (Might not help when a mugger jumps out on top of you, but it might help with calming the bar patron whose beer you just spilled.)

    Your thoughts?
  11. hunter_kaval

    hunter_kaval The Ronin

    Two things if you increase your heart rate through excersise weather it be martial arts training or another form of aerobic fitness (i.e. swimming, cycling etc). Would this then allow a person who is suddenly jumped and put in a violent situation to coupe better with the "fight or flight" adrenaline situation seeing as i have a high heart rate and my heart rate cant go much higher does this give more controll.

    Secondly to cybermonk perharps you were comfortable with the sitation and thats why the strain wasnt so much perhaps you had some controll over your adreaniline.
  12. Matt_Bernius

    Matt_Bernius a student and a teacher

    It's possible to minimize the dump. The basic school of thought is once one is in control of the situation they can begin to minimize it's effects. This is one of the reasons that many reality based self defense situations encourage not waiting for a physical attack to confront the aggressor. The longer you stay in a victim position the worse the dump becomes. So yes, controlling your breathing, accepting the situation and looking for a way to take control of it are all methods to keep control of your sympathetic/parasympathetic systems.

    No. Apples and oranges from my experience. There's a lot more going on that simply your heart rate increasing. Adrenaline has specific psychological effects on a person. You may be used to a high heart rate, but your not necessarily used to or prepared for all of the other chemical changes that are occurring throughout your body when it releases that adrenal coctail.

    - MAtt
  13. Judderman

    Judderman 'Ello darlin'

    Some excellent advice above. Role playing is an excellent way to desensatise the mind to verbal confrontation. This doesn't necassarily have to be done in a class, you could just ask some friends to "get in your face".

    As for the adrenal activity, I have found reaserch worked well for me. If you understand what is happening to you then it easier to use the will power to diffuse it.

    I've had loads of occassions where some one is ranting and raving at me and as Matt said knowing that you can control the situation, or indeed having a game plan help to keep you calm. A trick I have found if you start to feel aggressive yourself is to raise your eyebrows. Try it. Imagine that you are really angry about something, notice how almost imeadiately your eyebrows furrow. Now raise them.
  14. Kwan Jang

    Kwan Jang Valued Member

    -Some good points have been raised. Our schools have been trying out different methods for several years now. We found that while roleplay was valuable with certain students, part of the problem lies more with how to use it without damaging certain aspects of the teacher/student relationship. Also, in role play you want to use realistic language of the aggressors. You have to be careful what you expose your studnts to, and ask yourself is this compatible with the enviroment you want to create within your school. This is not only true in regards to the children. If, for example, you have a woman who has been the victim of sexual assault in the past, the the aggressor in the role play uses the language that an actual attacker may use, you could do far more harm than good. Unfortunately, even if you ask ahead of time, odds are that many women will not share that information with you.

    -As far as tactics like changinng your state by changing your physiology, such as breathing patterns, scanning the surroundings left to right (the way we are taught to read), ect., these are all helpful tools to help you gain control of the situation and act, rather than react. The key to dealing with adrenal stress is learning to use it to help enhance your abilities. That is why the mechanism exists in the first place. Unfortunately, too many people in the martial arts are ignorant of it and don't incorperate this vital factor into their training. Learn to control and use it by being aware of it and adapting. We do the adrenal circle at least once a week with every class from intermediate levels on up against the five most basic attacks the student will encounter on the street. This is really the only way that they can become and remain effective in an adrenal state.
  15. Mike-KSW

    Mike-KSW New Member

    Thanks for all the info guys. I'll show this to my training buddies and see how we do from there.
  16. shaolintiger

    shaolintiger New Member

    hi , very interesting comments from everyone on this.

    i put my students through roleplay situations on a regular basis BUT and it is a very big BUT, ONLY the people who want to do it.

    as has been pointed out before, you could have students who have spent years maybe even in therapy getting over a particular hang up and to elicit an adrenal reaction i might have to perhaps use that hang up : result could be very damaging so i think it has to be a two way street.

    i say to my students before embarking on adrenal stress drills that whatever i do or say is NOT personal its meant for the drill BUT if they feel that its not for them well thats fine.

    another very good way to put someone under a stressfull/adrenal state is to firstly get them into an anaerobic state, say 2 mins of flat out shuttle running followed by 1 min of all out punching on the pads THEN attack them where they have to put up some kind of defence, very difficult when there is no gas left in the tank and you feel like peuking, excellent drill to promote an indomitable spirit.

    as regards deep breathing to control the effects of adrenaline, i have a friend who has worked on the doors for many years and he told me that whenever he was told that a situation was developing somewhere in the club he would immediately start deep breathing as he approached the situation and he says it helped.

    remember though, he had the luxury of knowing in ADVANCE that it was going to kick off, when you have some thug who suddenly is in your face threatening to rip your head off because he thinks you were looking at him the wrong way, then all bets are off.

  17. Matt_Bernius

    Matt_Bernius a student and a teacher

    Here's my take on the deep breathing thing. Your ability to spot access it depends on which of the three fight/self defense scenarios you are in:

    1. Dual concent to fight (ie. sparring). Both parties square of and are prepared.
    - Deep breathing and adrenal control - very possible.

    2. Escalation to one party attack (you have words with someone, you don't want to fight, they do)
    - Adrenal control - possible but more difficult

    3. Ambush (no warning for the attack)
    - Initial adrenal control EXTREMELY difficult. Basically you're in dump mode. And you are most likely not going to get out of it until you have established a point of control or domination.

    Very true about the realistic langauge. We've had to stagger the RBSD classes in order to have the role playing ones occur when other classes are not in progress due to language issues.

    The issues you've raised are extremely valid and show you're wealth of experience in this issue. Much of the role playing done in our programs happens in small group environments. To my knowledge we have not had any victims of abuse in the program. However I can quickly see how this could be an issue.

    I'm a little less concerned about the damage to the student to student or the teacher to student relationship due to role playing (abuse victims and children excluded). I think as long as its a controlled activity, well monitored, and everyone understand and agrees to what it entails, it shouldn't cause that type of damage.

    Kwan, I know I've said it before, but I really think you're one hell of a teacher. Your posts are always of the highest quality and if I'm ever in your neck of the woods, I'd love to observe or participate in one of your classes. You have a lot of great insight to share.

    - Matt
  18. JKogas

    JKogas Valued Member

    Doesn't any attempt at "creating" an adrenal stress situation end up being merely CONTRIVED, if it's not based on hard, full contact, vale tudo sparring?
  19. Matt_Bernius

    Matt_Bernius a student and a teacher

    Anything that happens in the classroom is ultimately contrived. The issue with even hard, full contact, vale tudo is that it's dealing with a situation where there is a concent to fight. So you're already in a "fight mental model." You'll get a dump, but it's a different type of dump than one might experience in a self defense situation. And the fighting that you will work off of the dump will be fundimentally different.

    Role playing and other simulations are just that. Simulations. From a self defense perspective however that type of simulation work is very important. And it is possible, if you're working the drill correctly to simulate a good dump. Especially if you are going to work a high degree of contact off of the simulation. The human mind is a very powerful thing. And it can be used in training to replicate a lot of the feelings of dread and fear that occur in a real situation.

    Is it the only type of drilling we engage in? No. You can't build a one dimensional triaining methodology for a three dimensional world. And sparring needs to be involved in that overall methodology as well.

    - Matt
  20. JKogas

    JKogas Valued Member

    I agree. Good points. I would say that it's impossible to deal with the pre-fight adrenal dump unless you're in a pre-fight situation. After the fight begins though, you're already in the water and swimming, so to speak. Then that adrenal conditioning that you become accustomed to through the vale-tudo, etc., comes into play.

    So, how does the dump come about by simulations? I mean, how do we replicate these feelings through simulated combat? Why don't we just DO combat?

    Last edited: Jul 10, 2004

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