By Eyal Yanilov and Ole Boe
It’s easy to be happy when you are healthy and successful, but what about when you are in trouble? How would you behave? How would you deal with disappointment, failure, and defeat?
Every confrontation has mental components and we all experience these small and stressful non-physical conflicts every day and probably multiple times throughout the day—like the mother-in-law who invites the family to dinner, the neighbor blocking in our car, or the boss who sticks us with last-minute assignments. This, plus the hundreds of small tasks that inundate us, like emails, text messages, Facebook, and phone calls.
To withstand any kind of conflict, you need mental resources, and handling those hundreds of small missions requires constant decision making, focus, and division of attention. We all know that to win a street fight, overcome a criminal invader in our home, be victorious on the battlefield, or just finish a strenuous training session, we need to recruit specific mental capabilities such as perseverance, controlled-aggression, determination, courage, and focus. Those capabilities are in addition to, or even the foundation of, the physical and technical components that should be used to prevail in each of these ordeals.
So, in the daily life of a modern homo sapiens, it is important for you to train your mind so you’ll be able to function at your best during a meeting with your employees, a family gathering with critical relatives, or an appointment with your doctor when he is trying to instruct you on how to overcome injury or illness.
Have you ever asked yourself: “Am I controlling my mind or does it control me?” This question probably arises when your palms are sweating and your heart is pumping before a competition or at an important business meeting. Like most of us, you feel your mind is like a wild bull in a Texas rodeo, jumping around and dragging you all over. What can you do about this wild mind/bull?
Simply, and analogous to physical training, you need to acquire the tools and knowledge to not only tame this wild one, but harness it. Then, through a specific mental training regimen, you’ll be able to perform much better during all missions, jobs, and duties you have in life, as well as is in confrontation. Eventually, you’ll reach a point where you will be able to apply the needed mental resources effortlessly, with the best possible self-control and maximum attention with minimal stress and exertion.
Train in All Directions
In KMG (Krav Maga Global) we talk about the four pillars we continually work on improving in ourselves and our trainees:
If one of these pillars is not sufficiently developed, then the whole platform they support will crash down. In each of the four pillars there is vast amount of knowledge and material. For comparison, think about the many techniques, principles, and training methods you have in a fighting sport or martial art. How many drills, exercises, and programs do you have in a fitness method like StrongFirst?
When we are talking about mental training, it is no different. There is a lot for us to learn in order to reach higher levels in our lives. This blog post will give some answers and direct you toward resources for learning more.
When we talk about developing mental skills, we usually address six training strategies:
- Goal setting
- Positive self-talk (and changing of internal monologue)
- Combat mindset (courage, determination, perseverance, controlled aggression)
By integrating and utilizing these six main strategies, we aim to develop confidence, control of physical arousal, attention control (focusing and spreading attention), arousal control, imagery use or visualization, commitment, self-talk use, and the commitment to stay in good physical condition.
Working on determination and decision-making skills, along with training Krav Maga or competitive sports definitely helps to develop your combat mindset. However, there is so much more to mental training—especially if we wish to be successful in life, business, and personal relations.
At Krav Maga Global, we designated a framework to teach both our instructors and students the “tools of the (mental) trade.” About twenty years ago, we also started to train managers in the corporate and governmental sectors using Krav Maga as a vehicle to understand and deal with stress. We took another big step several years ago when we developed an Instructor Course for KMG instructors and a Specialist Course for high-level individuals who have no Krav Maga experience, but are in relevant fields. People who teach fitness or martial arts, are corporate coaches, or are commanders and instructors of military and law enforcement units can benefit immensely from mental preparation and training.
We call the courses we created the Combat Mindset and Mental Conditioning Instructor and Specialist Courses (since we love abbreviations, it’s the MCIC for short). Some of our fellow KMG instructors refer to the CMIC as “slaying giants,” while others call it the “staring into the wall” course, like in the movie The Men Who Stare at Goats.
Okay, so we do stare into a wall, but only for a short period of time. It’s one of the focusing drills in our curriculum, and the purpose of such a technique is to quiet the self-talk, the internal monologue going on inside your head, and to help you take control of yourself with a better ability to focus.
Training Combat Mindset
Working on your concentration skills is extremely valuable. You will understand what stress is and get an overview of different stress reactions. It is useful to get to know how your body and mind react to different problems and situations. Having a clear overview of the common mental and physical reactions a person experiences in a self-defense/fighting situation and the normal sequence (process) that people go through as a response to a threatening situation will help you a lot.
Then, of course, you need to learn practical methods and drills for igniting and controlling high levels of aggression, determination and persistence, concentration, focusing, neutralization of destructive emotions, minimizing stress and self-talk, and channeling attention.
It boils down to this: if you are not able to be here and now, and keep your focus on the events at hand, then you will probably experience problems in your later mental training, as well as in your decisions and performances. Once you master being here and now, you can continue with other types of mental training.
Focus and Concentration
Each of us has certain mental resources and capacities. To perform a mission, you need to recruit as much of these resources as possible. When you have to perform serial or parallel missions, the demands are even higher. When you don’t have enough resources, when life’s loads are more than you can easily handle, then stress rises.
Training the mind is no different than training the body. The body changes due to fitness training—muscles grow, bones strengthen, coordination improves, and so on. Focus and concentration exercises for the mind are like Turkish get-ups and chin-ups for the body. Recent studies show that certain parts of the brain can actually grow and thicken with the practice of mental training, and more importantly, your capacities and capabilities become stronger.
Why do we do physical training, like what StrongFirst so professionally offers? Is the purpose of the techniques in which we move or swing the kettlebells or the barbell just so we can move more weights in our training sessions? Definitely not.
We train to be stronger in our daily missions. We don’t want to fail in our “mission” of moving the sofa to another corner in the living room or collapse when we try to take the box of groceries from the car to the refrigerator. Each of us has our own goals and priorities in physical training.
Mental training is no different. You practice different drills in order to better yourself for the missions in life, such as:
- Dealing with conflicts, confrontations, and fights
- Overcoming common daily stress
- To better fulfill your missions and work whether you are a manager in a company, a member of a SWAT team, or a stay-at-home mom (most moms deal with more daily missions than us all!)
Relaxation and Defusing of Destructive Emotions
Fear, anxiety, anger, frustration, resentment, and rage are just some of emotions we commonly experience. When dealing with other people, we expect certain kinds of behavior toward us. When our ego is hurt, when someone insults us, or when someone damages or even touches our belongings, our emotions burst out from within. At that point, we turn from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde.
Many times we can’t control ourselves. We behave outrageously to others, especially to our loved ones, and when we cool down, we regret our actions. In reflecting on our behavior at those moments, we may recognize a kind of animal and not human behavior. Yes, sometimes we need to be aggressive, fight, and maybe even destroy our enemies. We know if we discharge a bullet from our gun, hitting an enemy during war times or while fighting a terrorist, we’ll get a medal. If we discharge the same gun in a local club or school, we’ll find ourselves in front of a bullet or a judge and jury.
You must make the correct decision under stressful conditions. How do you reach this level? The only magic components are: gain the knowledge from the best teacher in your area and practice the drills by yourself or with the best partner you can find.
One of the drills we do with managers in the corporate world, sport competitors, and military commandos is changing their internal monologues—their self-talk. Usually people are inclined to destructive sentences and descriptions of future failures like, “I will die,” “I will get hurt,” “I can’t do it,” “The boss is going to fire me,” and so on. That self-talk is distressing you and commonly leads to defeat and setbacks. Our simple drill is first to change this internal monologue and then minimize it entirely. Initially, you need to substitute the negative self-talk by speaking to yourself with encouraging sentences, compliments, and inspirational phrases. Then, using the focusing and breathing drills, you are able to totally minimize the self-talk.
Here is a drill for calming the mind integrated with relaxation of the body. You should focus on each part of the body, usually starting from the feet and working toward the head. Contract and then relax each area—an area can be the foot, the face, palm and forearm, the whole leg, or even the whole upper body and neck. Inhale, stop breathing, contract the muscles of that area for couple of seconds and the relax that area and exhale. Progress from the feet toward the head, initially by small parts, then by larger parts as you gain experience. Eventually, with training, you will be able to quickly contract and relax only your fists and palms to reach a fully relaxed state of mind.
Do You Want to Learn and Experience More?
You have an option to join us in the upcoming MCIC Course for Instructors of StrongFirst and KMG.
As a participant in the MCIC, you will gain deep knowledge and understanding, originating from both ancient and recent times, from modern psychology and training methods of Special Forces, police, military, and undercover agents, as well as from the corporate sector, in Israel and around the world.
You will acquire the knowledge, tools, and know-how to:
- Develop an appropriate mental state such as courage and determination, combat mindset and fighting spirit, controlling aggression, andchanneled anger.
- Use techniques and training methods to control destructive emotionsand defuse stress.
- Focus, relax, and overcome fear and anxiety, frustration, and anger.
- Create mental conditioning to better the intuitive fighting response.
- Improve self-control and decision-making processes under stressful conditions.
- Conduct relevant mental preparation sessions with hard physical training alongside still sessions to focus the mind, body, and internal monologue (self-talk).
- Progress yourself or improve others, including your fitness clients, martial art trainees, active governmental officers, or corporate employeeswith the utmost advantageous abilities.
The Upcoming MCIC
The next course we have in the USA will be held in cooperation with StrongFirst. We are sure that both sides, the StrongFirst and KMG communities will benefit from this event.
In the course, you should expect still and dynamic drills, as well as lectures and active components, all suitable for the level of the participants and their background.
Click to Register for the
Combat Mindset and Mental Conditioning Instructor and Specialist Course
Eyal Yanilov has been teaching and training Krav Maga for over forty years, Eyal served as the closest assistant and right hand for Krav Maga founder Imi Sde-Or (Lichtenfeld) for about twenty years. He is the only person in the world who holds both the highest grade given by Imi and the “Founder Diploma of Excellence.” Since 1984, Eyal has developed and turned Krav Maga into an integrated technical and tactical system, and prepared the modern curriculum of Krav Maga. Eyal has been the driving force behind the dissemination of Krav Maga in the world and the Head Instructor and President of KMG (Krav Maga Global), the leading KM organization, active in over sixty countries. Eyal has been teaching civilians since 1975 and preparing instructors since 1980. Since 1985, he has been educating military, law enforcement, anti-terror, undercover and Special Forces officers, fighters, and instructors in Israel and around the world. Eyal has a degree in Electrical Engineering.
Ole Boe, Ph.D., is responsible for the Norwegian Military Academy concept of stress management, preparing officers both physically and mentally. Ole holds a Ph.D. in cognitive psychology. He became a Krav Maga instructor under Eyal Yanilov in 1998. Currently an Expert Level 3 and a member of KMG´s International Team, Ole has served as an operational officer for many years in a military special unit conducting VIP protection, hostage rescue, and close combat training. Ole served as an instructor in close combat for police and military special units in several countries and has served on several international operations all over the world ranging from Congo to Cambodia. Since 2003, he has been working at the Norwegian Military Academy where he teaches leadership and leadership development to army officers. His military rank is major.
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