If you teach Krav Maga for any length of time, you’re going to hear students tell you that they don’t always feel comfortable doing a specific drill or technique. Often this issue with comfort level or fear is confused with sensing a need to react to changing but immediate danger even if only in a drill and/or training format.
The truth is, it’s vital to clearly communicate to students what the worthy objectives of a self-defense drill are and how it’s going to make the trainee safer. Even at this point, some people will continue to have a level of fear or trepidation about the requirements of a self-defense drill. In the end, all you can do is encourage these folks to move forward with training.
Often, people are surprised to hear me say that we are not in the customer service business. While that may sound strange at first blush, the context of that statement should shed some light on the meaning. Essentially, the customer (student) does not drive his/her training curriculum.
Unlike other types of businesses, our customer relies on the expertise of the instructor staff to build effective self-defense skills through training and curriculum delivery over substantial periods of time. That’s why it’s critical to motivate students to move past their fears to shatter training barriers and reach new self-defense objectives.
The axiom, the customer is always right is rarely true in this context. The customer (student) doesn’t know enough about the training curriculum and how it builds upon itself to fully appreciate the purpose of the training in the moment.
In a sense, the instructor acts as a guide for the student, moving the student through the thick underbrush and jagged terrain that is the wilderness of self-defense training. Imagine yourself being guided through just such a wild and unforgiving place. Would you ever stop your wilderness guide, thank him/her for the assistance, and announce I’ll take it from here? Or, because you are afraid in the wilderness, decide to stop moving forward with your guide. Can you imagine telling your guide that you’d rather stop and simply sit down in the middle of the underbrush because you aren’t comfortable with the situation?
I often tell my students, we’re not here to do what you want to do, and we’re not here to cater to your comfort level. We are here to get you trained. And we can only do that if you can place your faith in the people in charge and in this battle-tested process.
This comfort level issue, however, is vastly different than another issue that, when articulated aloud, might initially sound the same. That is, students working through drills where their sense of impending danger is suddenly amplified. This sense is often triggered when a student feels that a contact point in their defense is about to fail or when a control position is sub-optimal and offers little real control. In these cases, and others, your students are sensing an imminent and sudden change in the danger they are facing.
This sense is a learned skill, as trainees mature through experience and other forms of knowledge transfer. At times, the trainee may sense these things without knowing how he/she knows. That’s OK. Encourage your students/trainees to become more aware of this process while it’s happening. Also encourage the trainee to act on this sense immediately as it’s recognized. Finally, talk through how each trainee is reacting to this process and ensure the reaction is an adequate response to the impending danger (when in doubt, send powerful combatives).
In summary, instructors need to identify and address the differences between students/trainees feelings that are (1) borne out a of sense of how comfortable something feels as a departure from the students’ standard operating reference point or norm, and/or (2) developed from a sense that danger is increasing and as such requires change in defensive tactics and responsiveness.