On November 20th, a group of armed thieves robbed the Tyndall Market Liquor Mart in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Unfortunately, it was not an isolated incident.
One employee Randi Chase reported how one robber punched her in the head giving her a concussion and rupturing one of her eardrums. The assault was caught on camera. Chase also recalled how she “froze” during the incident.
Many people involved in violent encounters report “freezing”. Even experienced martial artists freeze during such encounters. Freezing also happens in other instances; sports events, public speaking, exams, musical performance, etc… I recall Mr. Butler, my Grade Ten English teacher, had us perform numerous public speaking exercises. During the first one, I froze – I could not think straight and blabbed nonsensically then sat down unable to finish. By year-end, however, I (along with the rest of the class) could present with relative ease.
So, what happens when we freeze and why does it happen?
As Rory Miller writes, “When you are put under extreme stress, various glands in your body release hormones into the bloodstream that have a profound effect on you physically and mentally. (57).
Generally speaking, there are three responses to a perceived threat – flight, fight, or freeze. Flight involves getting away – running, for example. Fight, of course, means fighting back. The third response to a perceived threat, freezing, involves an immobilization of sorts. A person might feel shocked, blank out, struggle to speak or act. They are like the “deer in the headlights”.
From a training perspective, how do we deal with this? Similar to Mr. Butler’s English classes you need to learn to manage the stressful experience and perform. It takes time. This is one of the reasons we finish almost all of our classes with stress drills. For more information about these stress drills, check out one of our recent blogs, Stress Training: An Essential Part of Your Krav Maga Training.
Of course, we can never mimic an actual assault but training helps you manage your stress and to better protect yourself .
Rory Miller, Meditations on Violence: A Comparison of Martial Arts Training and Real World Violence. Boston: YMAA Publishing, 2008