Stress under fire.


Before I comment on the thread, let me just say it is a pleasure to see you posting. I would like to see this forum be a bit more diverse, regardless of my personal beliefs/conclusions.

As for the question, I have next to no experience with this sort of thing, so I will lurk and wait for those who do. I will say (again), however, that if anyone is really studying "real fighting" or "combat" or whatever, they should be dealing with edged weapons and firearms.



Hi Joe. I totally agree that this subject deserves its own thread. Stress under fire is one of the key components that I feel is severely lacking in mcdojos that claim to teach self-defense (one of many lacking components). Performing under pressure from a live action fight changes everything, as compared to drilling with a non-resisting partner.

I remember the first time I was mounted by a skilled opponent who was raining punches down on me. Against a skilled opponent, my reliable trap and roll mount defense no longer worked as smoothly as it did in training. I couldn't buck him off, I couldn't trap any limbs, and even covering up wasn't enough. The punches I blocked still jarred my brain and some punches still got through. I suddenly found myself instinctively rolling onto my stomach, which was funny in retrospect because I would always yell at fighters in the UFC for doing exactly the same thing when getting punched from the mount.

Once on my stomach, my opponent flattened me out and continued punching. I felt my training fly out the window as panic started to set in. I wasn't accustomed to getting dominated like this before and I was seriously outside of my "comfort" zone. In my mind I just wanted the punishment to end. I would have gladly accepted a choke just to have the punches stop. Even tapping out (which I practically never did) seemed like a lifesaver. I was at the point of desperation and I'd never felt this way before. It was an incredible initiation into the reality of stress under fire.

One of the interesting things that I discovered about putting someone in that type of situation is how they react under the pressure. Some people crack under the pressure and thrash around like a wild banshee, screaming and kicking, some break down and cry, some become like a timid little child, and the very rare few actually thrive and perform well. The good news is that with the proper training you can acclimate yourself to eventually deal with that situation and not let it overwhelm you.

I think that anyone serious about self-defense MUST include this type of training. As a matter of fact, this is useful in many different facets of life. I don't just mean being shot at or being pummeled by a gang, but rather having to multi-task in an office environment under a strict deadline or completing a challenging exam in 3 hours, or brokering a tough business negotiation worth millions of dollars or managing an extremely busy restaurant (with Chef Ramsey screaming at you, hahaha).

There are some great resources available for dealing with this subject. I personally found Tony Blauer's material very useful from a mental approach to self-defense. I would love to hear more about it from you, Joe!


Hey Joe!
Awesome to see you around. I only pop on here once in a while but we missed you.

I had a piece I wrote about a year ago that ran in Blackwater's newsletter and some LE department's magazines.

More about maintaining "will to fight" in the midst of the stress.

drop me an email when you get a chance;


Great article, Armando!


Armando, how are you my brother. I hope all is well with your family and the academy.
That was a very good article and I think everyone should take that advice. I am glad to see you with that gun in your hand. Sig, or Glock? I will decently give you an e-mail I have something I think you will like. should I just go to your site or do you have a direct e-mail.?

And this is for you guys it adds a little to what Armando wrote.

I will try to explain things in layman’s terms because I am not a Dr . k ?

“I remember the first time I was mounted by a skilled opponent who was raining punches down on me.”

Although this sucks big time, this is not exactly what I mean.

First let me give you a situation that I think almost everyone can relate to, then, I will try to explain what happened.

ya drive in your car, out of the corner of your eye ya see a little kid dash out in the street, ya just miss him. ya heart’s pounding, maybe a little trebly, maybe sweating, could be sick to your stomach, maybe angered because someone was not watching that kid. Your mind is racing. This is the stress I mean

Now to try to explain what happened.. Your brain is divided in three sections. The rear portion of the brain, which controls your body’s system, heart, lungs etc. the mid brain or the unconscious mind which stores vital information and is always on alert in survival mode, and it is what really runs your life. And the front portion of the brain, the conscious mind, which allows you to reason and understand what I am saying.

In a life or death situation like with the little kid stated above, it happened so fast that your conscious mind had no time to think, and your unconscious mind kicked in which in turn fired off chemicals alerting your body, hence causing the shakes, sweating etc. you heard the saying, “he shit his pants” that’s involuntary reactions induced by the unconscious mind.

When you are under the mount, you are not really in a life threatening situation and your unconscious mind knows that, hence not alerting your body to convulsions.

A fighter can have 500 bloody MMA fights and still not react correctly under stress in the real world. Why? Because a fighter is conditioned to respond according to how he is trained. And that data through repetition has been stored in the unconscious mind. That is why a high level MMA fighter can performs so great in his own arena. Take him out of that arena and subject his kids or a loved one to violence in his view and you may get an unusual response. Why? because when the conscious mind searches through the unconscious for data for that situation, there’s nothing to be retrieved perhaps causing brain freeze, like the deer in the headlights or improper involuntary response.

Note, not only does your brain react a certain way under stress, but your body too responds, moves and postures according to what the unconscious signals. And it just so happens that MMA training corresponds in harmony with that signal. The BJJ fighter already knows what the opponent’s brain will tell the body to do. So he waits or provokes a natural reaction then takes advantage of the opponent’s response. That’s why MMA/BJJ is a great starting point,. however some conditioned responses need to be erased from the unconscious mind for they are counter productive in a real world setting.

Everyone is different based on there experience and data stored. Apocalypse now, Robert Duvall, on the beach bullets whizzing by, bombs exploding and his only interest is the surf. Now of course this is only a movie but it gets the point across, it’s his day job the data was stored and his conscious had something to retrieve and process.

Can this be learned and added to your training? Yes! It can be complemented with stress inoculation training. Which I have now added to my seminars, but I think this is enough for now, I hope this helps you guys a little.

Nice posts, everybody!

Here are my thoughts and opinions (from personal studies and observations):

- As a student of Armando's, I experienced the kind of training he writes about in his great article FIRST-HAND...for many years. He had several classes in his curriculum, but only a handful of students who went through this kind of "10 seconds" training. So my perspective on this kind of training comes primarily from him.

- First and foremost, it is important to teach and drill select techniques that are, in essence, "simple" techniques. Gross-motor movements that engage one or two joint actions at the most (shield, changing levels, pummeling in, etc.) require little in terms of joint sequence (shoulder/elbow or hip/knee), thereby preventing the CNS from being unnecessarily taxed.

Most importantly, I've found that movements that stay within the midline of the body (covering up, raising the knees, straight-line punching, etc.) tend to hold up well during fight/flight, as it is a priority of our organism to protect the midline (location of vital organs and targets). In other words, midline-oriented movements are HARD-WIRED in our DNA, so it's best to take advantage of these movements.

- Secondly, I've found that teaching a student a set of movements from STAND-UP (shield/half-plam/elbow/rear knee) progresses more quickly to "fight/flight" drilling than GROUND drills (elbow/knee/replace guard/stand-up and base).

Not sure why the progression is slower on the ground, but I hypothesize that we have mechanoreceptors in our feet, but not in our backs. This may have something to do with it.

- Thirdly, I believe it's important to establish baseline neural patterns for correct movements WITHOUT triggering an adrenal response in the early stages of indoctrinating that movement. Once that baseline has been established, it is important to progress that student to energy system training, so that the aerobic/anaerobic capacity are tested and developed, yet keeping the baseline movement pristine.

- Lastly, once the student can manage that baseline movement, along with familiarity with elevated heart rate/lactic acid build-up...that's when I like to introduce "fight/flight" training.

Nothing fires the adrenaline dump more than when a student has just done 200 elbow knee escapes (baseline movement with elevated HR/lactic acid), 200 KB swings (further elevating cardio/metabolic response)...then being shocked to find out that they have to elbow knee escape for the next 6 minutes with a FRESH partner who will be punching at them while they're on the ground trying to escape (adrenal response).

In summary, my progression at BAD Factory is as follows:

- Neural Re-Patterning
- Energy System Training
- Adrenal Response Training

I think the problem with most martial artists is that they train a little bit of one, but not enough of all three.


4 ranges first you are lucky to train with Armando and your loyalty is noted. You have learned much grasshopper? No really bro, you hit it right on. A few simple motor skill technique, movement protecting the mid section (hardwired reaction recognition) that’s it.

But funny you mentioned the development on the ground being slower. How true you are and how wrong BJJ is for REAL fights. WOW!!!! Did I just say a BIG NO NO??? Did I really say BJJ is no good in real fights YUP! Come one and all, may the games begin. I’m sure I’m gonna get some resistance for this one!!! But in all fairness, what it dose offer is excellent fundamentals, balance, positioning, leverage, etc. These fundamentals form a good foundation for real fights but BJJ is incomplete, too complicated and takes to long to learn. for real world conflict the is a better way.

Hey Joe:

Yes, I consider myself very lucky. I've learned a lot from him, and continue to learn just by going over my old notes that I've gotten from him. To this day, he continues to help me in my overall development. He even sends me savate clips of his own training/coaching, to add to my students' training.

I'm also lucky to have Armando's "brotha from anotha motha" as my instructor: Roy Harris. I recently attended his last, publicly-offered, Apprentice Grappling Course...and I simply marvelled at everything he did and said.

Having these 2 men as my instructors in many things including JKD, BJJ, Savate, etc...I feel honored, blessed, and very humbled.

As for BJJ (as well as all other "styles"), I see it as a nifty tool that is essential to my overall toolbox. When I have to unscrew a screw, I take out my screwdriver. When I have to split some wood, I use an axe or chainsaw. Different tools for different jobs.

Now, when we're talking about building a house, I need all the tools I can get. Obviously, I won't be able to build a house with just a screwdriver. :)