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Man Skills: How To Make Fear Your Friend

I’ve been gone for a couple of weeks (happily frolicking through the hellscape of riots, pandemic, and economic derailment)… but today I finally bring you the long-anticipated second half of my two-part “Live Without Fear” Man Skills.

This is good stuff because, as my friend Joe Teti, (Special Forces dude and general survivalist badass) points out, there are THREE things that happen during a high-intensity confrontation.

Here they are:

  1. Fight.
  2. Flight.
  3. And the third f-word that few people ever talk about is:

  4. Freeze.

Most so-called experts only get around to talking about the first two — “fight or flight”, (which I guess makes Joe Teti 33% smarter than those bozos).

Freezing-up in fear may be the least talked about, but it is by far the most common reaction to a high-intensity confrontation.

  • Human Popsicle: Freezing only works for bunnies.
  • External Focus: Shut-up the voices in your head.
  • Target Focus: The wrong way to fight.

The Human Popsickle:

“Freezing” only works for bunnies.

At the risk of beating a dead horse, (I’ve never been exactly sure what that means), I’m going to say (again) that once the fight is on… you only have about 3-8 seconds to act.

That’s it. That’s how long a typical street fight lasts.

So you don’t have the luxury of time. As Joe points out, the average guy takes about 1.5 seconds just to “observe” that there’s a clear threat coming his way.

Which means that freezing or hesitating in any way will almost certainly end badly for you, (unless you’re okay with being beaten to a bloody pulp).

Now… let’s be clear about something. Choosing to “take a beating” rather than choosing to fight back is not a good idea.

The naive often believe that “fighting back” will only further piss off your adversary and make things worse. That’s a dangerous way to approach a confrontation because it relies on your opponent’s sense of mercy.

Fact is, your adversary may have none and may be perfectly willing to beat you dead and then keep on beating you (like that dead horse).

Also, you should never assume that other “good people” will jump in to stop the beating and save your life. Research shows that bystanders — even so-called friends — often do nothing, (with the exception of laughing, or joining in the fun, or shooting video and posting it on social media).

Point is, you should be willing to take the fight to your adversary. Commit now to protecting yourself and it’ll save you the trouble of struggling with that decision later on during a real confrontation when seconds count. (Did I mention that you don’t have a lot of time?)

Means that when it hits the fan, you’ll be able to act fast, decisively, and with a clear head.

So simply committing yourself ahead of time is one way to avoid “freezing” during crunch time.

Another very effective method is… (and this is BIG, so drumroll please)…

…to direct your thoughts to an “external focus” of potential targets.

External Focus:

Shut-up the voices.

At the beginning of a confrontation, most guys start hearing “voices”. I’m not talking about schizophrenia here, but rather a kind of rambling “internal dialog” that sounds something like this:

“Oh my God, what is going here?… Who is this guy?… What the hell did I do?… Did he just shove me?… Oh man, was that really his girlfriend I just groped?”

And on and on it goes. Meanwhile, you’re frozen in place and making zero plans to defend yourself.

One way to overcome this is by harnessing “target awareness”.

Target awareness gives you something constructive to do in the seconds leading up to a knock-down-drag-out brawl, (which is a lot better than just standing there wetting yourself).

Essentially target awareness is the gathering of vital intel on which “soft targets” are open and available for you to strike.

This seeking out of targets almost instantly begins to focus and channel your internal dialogue – suddenly forcing the little chatterbox inside your head to quiet down while you consider a strategy. (And if that doesn’t work, there’s always Lithium).

A target acquisition mindset should sound something like this in your head:

  • “He’s approaching me — is he in range?”…
  • “Is there anything in his hands?”…
  • “What targets are open?”…
  • “Does he have any buddies around?”…
  • “Now… what targets are open?”…
  • “Is anyone behind me?”…
  • “What targets are open now?”…
  • “Do I have an escape route”…
  • “What targets are open now?”

It’s a continual situational awareness combined with evaluating open targets on your opponent. The most vulnerable targets you should be eyeballing include:

  • The ears (a solid ear slap can be devastating)…
  • The eyes (nobody can tough-out an eye jab)…
  • The throat (one strike here can even be lethal)…
  • Side of the neck (hammer blow can mean instant knockout)…
  • Solar Plexus/Diaphram (can take the wind out of him)…
  • Groin (the ever-popular sack-attack)…
  • Inside knee (can severely damage his knee)…
  • Outside thigh (a sciatic nerve shot can buckle his leg)…
  • Foot stomp (especially effective on open-toed sandals).

There are more, meaning that you have plenty of potential targets to consider — giving you a productive way to spend the precious few seconds before a fight rather than panicking.

The trick is to seek out open targets. That’s where you start.

Tactics and Target Focus:

Most guys get this wrong.
(Not you. Not anymore.)

A common rookie mistake is to think that fancy-schmancy fighting moves will win the fight.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love fancy-schmancy fighting moves. But the first and most important thing is to have a target on which to use those moves.

So seeking out a target — or “target acquisition” — is where you need to start. You’re not forced to remember anything. No. You’re simply analyzing the situation in front of you and when it’s time, attack the open targets with any means at your disposal.

This is much more effective than trying to recall clever techniques first, and then throwing them away on well-defended targets.

You simply don’t have time to make those kinds of mistakes, (did I already mention that?).

The best fighters in the world are those who can quickly spot open targets and then attack them using appropriate techniques.

It’s all about seeking open targets — or strategies and tactics to make them open — and then delivering strikes and blows that can inflict the most damage possible.

A perfect roundhouse kick that misses can’t beat a sloppy hammer-fist that snaps the collarbone, (although that kick looks pretty cool in the movies).

More Tips:

Another mistake is to wait around for a favorite target to open up — aka “Target Focus”.

This may be a great way to meet girls (“saw her from across the room and said, ‘oh yes, she will be mine’), but it’s a risky way to fight because again (according to that dead horse I’ve been beating) you don’t have the time to wait around for that girl to notice you… er, I mean, for that target to open up.

Instead, your target acquisition should be fluid and in a state of constant flux — because that is what’s happening in real life.

You shouldn’t bet everything on one particular target somehow opening up for you or remaining open long enough for you to launch your attack.

Instead, be keenly aware of your opponent’s multiple “high value” targets — the side of the neck, throat, eyes, inside thigh, outside thigh, groin, and the angle of the chin — and which ones are available to you at any particular moment, (because he can’t protect them all).

Always, always, maintain target awareness during a fight.

And even more tips:

Here’s a specific target hint for you. Your opponent – even if he’s
NEVER been in a fight — will likely be on guard for a right punch
to the face – so do something else.

Something he’s not expecting.

Okay, let me wrap this up with some amazing words or wisdom: Human beings are emotional creatures. It’s simply impossible to control your emotions, (if we could everyone would just choose “complete bliss” and put the drug and alcohol trade out of business).

So don’t waste your time trying to control your fear, but instead, use it as a sort of “tripwire” to automatically trigger action.

There are two big mistakes that can cause you to freeze:

1. Having no plan of action and thus becoming trapped in indecision, runaway internal dialog, and panic…

2. Attempting to suppress fear (which actually only amplifies it) instead of using it as a kind of forward trigger to prompt action.

Using internal dialog to fix internal dialog, (“don’t be afraid… don’t be afraid… don’t be afraid”), is kinda like “bleeding” a person who’s sick from blood loss, (which I hear is coming back into fashion in Chinese prisons).

Fear is vital feedback. It let’s you know something is seriously wrong and (if you let it) can be used to trigger action. So instead of wrestling with our fear, simply acknowledge it, then use it to act decisively.

This is how fear can become your friend, (and isn’t it nice to have friends?).

Keep your eyes peeled… more “Man-Skills” to come.

Stay Manly,

Jimbo, Editor
Man Skills

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One thought on “Man Skills: How To Make Fear Your Friend”

  1. Hey Jimbo. Good stuff here once again. I believe it is best to react before getting what I call adrenaline flush, or over saturation.

    I remember as a 15 year old kid standing on top a 32 foot cliff, looking down at the lake below, into which I was trying to get enough nerve to dive into. I had worked my way up from dives into the same piece of water, at lower heights on the cliff, over the season. My brother, who was then and still remains the most fearless person I know, came up alongside me and reminded me what I was doing wrong. “You’re way over thinking it, Jack. If you wait too long, you’ll never do it;” he said. – then took a breath, focused, and made a great spring out over the lake below, into a perfect water entry. But it was too late for me since I was too flush with adrenaline. 30 minutes later after working out the flush swimming, I went back up the 32 feet, focused, sprung, and hit my target clean.

    I learned the same thing in fighting, and you reinforced it here. I guess it applies to many things involving fear. We simply have to know our limitations … and train for higher places!