Monday, September 17, 2012

Self Defense and Stress Management: 6 Ways to Prepare You for Real Life Assaults

All self-defense instructors, including us humble folk at Krav Maga Toronto, must constantly strive to prepare students for real life situations.  Often overlooked is the fact that one of the greatest challenges of defending yourself is managing your stress.  Assaults, verbal or physical, are scary and evoke various responses including:

  • Reduced motor skills
  • Tunnel vision
  • Nausea
  • Muddled thinking
  • Impaired hearing

Such symptoms seriously hinder your ability to defend yourself.  Many are the reports of trained martial artists freezing during a crisis or using techniques that simply are not appropriate to the situation (think spinning kicks in an elevator).

The problem is not necessarily faulty technique but that students (and instructors) are not trained to perform under stress. 

Here are 6 training tips to help you to manage your stress and to act more effectively:

  1. Train with various partners:  Besides various heights, weights etc… people move differently, grab, punch, kick…differently.  Don’t train with the same person every class. 
  2. Close quarters/close eyes: Real life assaults often come unexpectedly. Learn to defend the unexpected.  
  3. Noise: Toronto is not a quiet place and your attacker(s) might not be silent. Our federation has offered workshops in night clubs, airports....
  4. Different settings:  If you train exclusively in a studio/dojo you won’t learn how to defend yourself on different surfaces (pavement, grass, gravel…) various size spaces (open parking lots, stairs, elevators,,,)…..
  5. Surprise games:  Assaults are unpredictable.  You need to learn to quickly identify and react. Choreography is great for movies not for real life.
  6. Contact Drills: You have to get used to contact because a real situation often involves grabs, strikes, shoves etc.. You don’t want to panic.  Safety is paramount but contact is necessary.

All of these exercises take you out of your comfort zone and all of these require your instructor to be creative and responsible.   If your instructor is not inducing stress they are overlooking a vital aspect of preparing you for real life. 

P.S. All of this being said please reduce the stress in your everyday life - e.g. driving the Don Valley Parkway (virtually anytime these days), holiday shopping at the 11th hour, cramming a semester in your brain the night before an exam......... you get the idea. 

Stay safe and stress free (outside of class)

Christopher Gagne
Lead Instructor and Owner
International Krav Maga Federation(IKMF), Toronto


  1. I am agreeing with your blog. Thanks for the useful information about self defense and stress management .I have been reading a lot of stuff about it. But the way in it is presented is nice...
    Stress Management

    1. Thank you I am glad you enjoyed it. Please feel free to suggest other topics you would like us to discuss.

      Stay safe,


  2. I am sure you have a zealous fan stalking out there..