Q&A With the Experts: ‘Fear’ or ‘Automatic Response’ Training?

Q&A With the Experts: ‘Fear’ or ‘Automatic Response’ Training?

This week, we take a question from SOS Subscriber Lyle McCollough (Carmichael, CA) who asked the following question:

Q: Is it more important to train from the standpoint of tension and duress (l.e. Krav Maga focuses on reactions that can be performed while experiencing “fear” type body reactions such as shoulder tension etc.), or to seek a more “natural ” automatic response through acclamation to fear-based emotions (l.e. Systema)?


imageedit_1_5770309619Name: Alan Condon

Bio: Alan Condon has been owner of Empire Self Defense & Fitness since 2004. He teaches Self Defense and Fitness to Capital District (New York) residents and their families. His gym offers classes in Krav Maga, Muay Thai Kickboxing, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, mixed martial arts, as well as functional fitness programs.





 I would respond with *both are valid methodologies and useful vehicles for Reality Based training. But most importantly, attacks are sudden ambush-type scenarios, so you need train under duress as TECHNIQUES wont save you, but the principles retained by your subconscious brain will take over and then respond to the situation. VIOLENCE of ACTION is the master key in my opinion and training with a variety of scenario-based situations will help prepare you for an attack. The situations need to varied, i.e.:

  • In your face
  • Ambushed from behind etc
  • Verbal assault from a distance to hands on

Also, the defender should not always KNOW the scenario ahead of time.. Now I know proponents of each will disagree and  vehemently argue that their system is best, yada yada. But the system is only as good as the scenarios, as static TECHNIQUES with a cooperative attacker is not REAL.

I have trained with high-level Combat Veterans and consulted with them as mentors to vet best training practices, as they have been at the tip of the spear and not in a safe DOJO environment. I know many claim lineage to SPECIAL FORCES, but the reality is that most is grapevine knowledge and lacks modern science to take it to the next level.

Additional resources:

*We would agree that training in both methodologies –  building fear-based response (mental and physical) and automatic physical response i.e. muscle memory skills – generally makes for a stronger and better prepared fighter. Which methodology you lean into will also depend on the context of your training, either for competitive or reality-based fighting.

Below are a few more resources for reading up on the role of fear and automatic response in training:


Image credit: www.kravmaga.com

Bosko Jenkins
Bosko Jenkins

A post from the founder and head publisher at Science of Skill, LLC. A martial arts black belt and self defense instructor, Dan has spent years training with and interviewing some of the world's best self protection experts. His passion lies in encouraging others to train smart and to improve the skills that make them safer and stronger.

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