Monday, February 20, 2006

Fight, Flight, or Freeze

The three main reactions to any stressful situation; fight, flight, or freeze.

Tonight I fell victim to the "flight/freeze" reaction not once, but twice. And guess what, I think this trap is a pretty common thing to white belts in two basic situations. The side effect is not so bad in the short term, but if "flight/freeze" becomes a habit, the result could be a devastating loss of growth potential in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

In a controlled and safe environment, although stressful, I will define the "flight/freeze" reaction in rolling as "going into a defensive shell". There can be movement, shifting of positions, and appearance of going for submissions. But it is basically a full on defensive mindset.

The two specific situations that caused my "flight/freeze" reaction tonight were a) Fear of Getting Tapped, and b) Lack of Energy.

A) Fear of Getting Tapped

No one likes getting tapped. And there are many reasons for this, but mine tonight seemed pretty stupid in hind sight. Here is why. When I roll with senior belts, I sometimes feel pretty good when I do not get submitted in a match. In my mind I think; "Hey! Look at me! I am a bad ass BJJ tough guy white belt that did not get tapped!" Well, those are not my exact thoughts, but you get the point.

If I do not get tapped in one class, I want to keep the trend going and avoid getting tapped at all costs. In an earlier article, I wrote that 80% to 90% of my "game" when fighting senior belts is focused on defense. That is alright because, guess what; 80% to 90% of the senior belts game is devoted to offense. But here is the flaw in my fight logic. If I spend too much of my time focused on defense, I assume the roll of "victim" even before the match begins. I have lost even before I have started.

Even greater than falling into the "victim" mentality is the loss of learning opportunity. A good senior belt will work with you and help your game. And Professor Schilling has helped shape an awesome team with great senior belts who "check their egos at the door". So to avoid the white belt "flight/freeze" mentality when rolling with senior belts and get the true benefits of fighting; take more offensive risks, ignore the belt color, and deal with the situations in the fight as they come.

B) Lack of Energy

The second time I had the "flight/freeze" reaction was when I ran out of gas. This "defensive posture" was less a mental choice and more physical. My arms would not do what I wanted them to. My hip movement felt sluggish. My legs were slow. My reaction was to just hold on. I was able to get in some sweeps and hold dominant positions, but I could not get the finish... I did not want the finish... ?

The reason I could not get the finishes was because my focus was not there. At least if my focus was there, my body memory would have at least made the attempt in its exhausted state. But my defensive habit from my earlier "do not get tapped" mindset kicked my ass. The two "flight/freeze" reactions were connected. My loss; mentally and physically.

To fix this "Lack of Energy" "flight/freeze" situation I will do more cardiovascular exercise, increase my offensive mind set, and just keep training.

Fight, Flight, or Freeze. We get to develop our specific reactions to this stressful stuff before these reactions are thrust upon us in a tournament or even in a real situation. Why sabotage this great opportunity because of a chip on our shoulder?


P.S. Thanks Tommy.