Let’s face it! Fear can cause you to freeze in a street fight or at least not fight at your best abilities. So how can you overcome it?
Stop beating yourself up because you felt scared in your last fight
I have received many questions from the blog readers, and I could not help but notice that the common trait between all these questions was the remorse of not acting properly during the moment of confrontation.
The men who asked about the subject were mentally beating themselves up.
Most of them blamed themselves “Why did I feel scared?” “Am I a coward for feeling so?” “Why did my hands go shaky?” “Why did my knees went jelly?”, etc.
My answer is always: “Stop beating yourself up mentally! This is a natural phenomenon, You are not the only one”
Important note: most of our fighting tips are for a one-on-one situation, if you are looking for tips on how to fight multiple opponents check this link here
Why you are not the only one?
Fear in a fight is like when you get high. If you freak out from the weird feeling of your neurotransmitters getting affected by THC you are likely going to have a bad trip.
But if you understand that the feeling is completely natural and you don’t freak out from it you are more likely going to enjoy your trip or even have a great artistic performance.
Same thing with fear. You have to understand the phenomenon first.
In a fight or flight situation the skin turns pale because the blood vessels to the skin contract and the blood flow goes rather to the muscles.
This evolutionary biological reaction prevents the skin from bleeding and wasting the so much needed blood in a fight or flight situation.
Butterflies in the stomach
Adrenaline stops temporarily digestion, which is why you can feel nauseous. Blood leaves the stomach and goes where it is required.
Our ancestors needed all the blood they could in their legs and skeletal muscles to run from that prehistoric saber-toothed tiger.
So in a fight situation, your body decides that dodging a powerhouse punch coming to the chin has more priority than digesting that burrito you ate in lunch.
Your body can’t afford being overheated in a survival situation, so sweat glands open up to cool down the body.
Knees going jelly
This trembling is a direct response to our fight or flight system. The sympathetic nervous system (Which activates/deactivates the fight or flight mode) releases adrenaline to the skeletal muscles which turns your body into a McLaren P1.
Now your body is in full mode to throw down. In case of no action, the adrenaline released in your blood stays circulating in muscles and causes your limbs to tremble.
So once you throw down and action takes place you will be well served with that adrenaline in your blood and you will not feel the trembling anymore.
Ask any of your friends, you will have the same answer that once you start action the jitters go away with all its symptoms.
Those were the symptoms of fear. Totally natural symptoms that appear on the body once the flight or flight mode gets activated.
This knowledge is the tool that will make you understand that you are in a completely natural state once you feel all these symptoms happening in your body.
So next time you feel your heart racing like a Lamborghini’s engine and you are sick to your stomach and you are sweating like a nun in a cucumber farm just remember that you are supposed to feel this way, there is nothing wrong with you.
That is just your body gearing itself up to throw down. Go with the flow and defend yourself aggressively!
Your body is turning into The Hulk, the adrenaline running in your system will make you super fast, super strong and your pain tolerance will be super high.
Now that your body is operating under Hulk mode, don’t waste your hulk power on futilities.
If you fail to diffuse the fight and the aggressor decides to penetrate your arms reach, then this is a good sign that the aggressor means business. Hulk smash!
Professional fighters feel scared too
Feeling scared is not exclusive to your regular Joe. Even the best professional fighters feel scared before a fight.
Listen to the legendary 7 year reigning UFC champion Georges St-Pierre talk about fear
There is a great article we wrote about how do professional MMA fighters control their jitters
What if you freeze?
We talked excessively on “fight or flight”. But in reality, in a dangerous situation our response is not binary, there is a third response that some people feel in a street fight, freezing.
Some people might feel reactionless and static in a fight, feeling nothing and not knowing what to do. This freezing behavior is common in animals too as their last line of defense.
When an animal is overwhelmed by the situation it might have a freezing response like a deer when it gets overwhelmed by headlights, it is an attempt to slide under the radar and not attract attention to it.
Or sometimes when an animal is being preyed on and is overcome by the predator, it might fake its death so the predator stops its attack and the prey can seize the opportunity to flee.
Take a look at this snake
What to do if you feel frozen?
Before telling you what to do, you have to understand first what to activate and what to deactivate. The human body works under two modes and they work proportionally:
1-Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS): Responsible for our fight or flight mode
2-Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS): Responsible for our relaxed mode
If you freeze in a street fight then your sympathetic nervous system has taken over your parasympathetic system, so what you have to do is to reactivate your parasympathetic system (Responsible for relaxation).
How to activate your Parasympathetic nervous system?
Breathe from your diaphragm. Take deep breaths, not from your lungs only but extend it to your abdomen.
If you put your hand on your belly you must feel it going up and down.
This abdomen breathing or diaphragm breathing slows down the breathing process and sends signals to the brain that the situation is not that alarming and that the body is not in great danger.
As a result, the body stops producing all those neurotransmitters and hormones responsible for extreme high speed and agility.
Remember, controlling fear is a just a fraction of the game. Now go and get yourself desensitized by exposing yourself to the same stimulus of a fight by doing a lot of sparring in martial arts.
If you have never been to a martial arts school then start now no matter what age you are. Martial arts will teach you how to fight, and therefore it will build your self-confidence.
Getting into a fight knowing that you have zero skills on how to fight will always make you feel terribly scared.
Do lots of sparrings on the ground (Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, wrestling, sambo,etc.), have sparrings in boxing, Muay Thai, Kyokushin karate, etc.
Sparrings have to be full-contact from time to time. Light and semi-contact sparring is good for establishing technique, but it does not simulate a real fight.
If you want to take things up a notch get involved in competition, the type of martial art does not matter, competition, in general, has a great stimulus of fear.
If you expose yourself to all these stimuli repeatedly your emotional responsiveness to street fights will diminish significantly.
And remember, fight only in defense and bullies suck!