A common theme I hear from students taking self-defense is whether or not they’ll really be able to fight back and protect themselves against an attacker. Even while practicing hard and being good at their techniques they wonder when the rubber hits the pavement, whether they’ll really be able to perform effectively. More specifically, they wonder whether they’ll freeze, or whether they’ll be too intimidated or too afraid to fight back well or in some cases, at all. This is the single biggest concern I hear from students and I’ve heard it from big and small and tough and seasoned. Personally, I like people who aren’t afraid to voice their concerns to their teachers or coaches and who leave the macho at the door. And as you will shortly see, they’re certainly not off the mark in their feelings.
Famous American army general, George Patton, also known as “Old Blood and Guts” is considered by many as being the toughest and most fierce battle commander in World War 2. In 1944, while he was stationed in Europe he penned a letter to his son who was attending West Point. In one part of the letter, he wrote about fear and battle. He wrote, “All men are timid on entering any fight; whether it is the first fight or the last fight all of us are timid. Cowards are those who let their timidity get the better of their manhood.” He went on and talked about a famous soldier who fought in the French military. He wrote, “I think I have told you the story of Marshall Touraine who fought under Louis XIV. On the morning of one of his last battles—he had been fighting for forty years—he was mounting his horse when a young ADC [aide-de-camp] who had just come from the court and had never missed a meal or heard a hostile shot said: “M. de Touraine it amazes me that a man of your supposed courage should permit his knees to tremble as he walks out to mount.” Touraine replied, ‘My lord duke I admit that my knees do tremble but should they know where I shall this day take them, they would shake even more.’ That is it. Your knees may shake but they will always take you towards the enemy. ”
To further illustrate what General Patton meant by the example of knees shaking yet going into fierce battle, let me give you a quote from the famous former undisputed heavyweight boxing champion of the world, Mike Tyson. He said, “I’m scared every time I step into the ring. But it’s how you handle it. What you do is plant your feet, bite down on your mouthpiece and say, let’s go!”
What we learn in these examples from literally two of the toughest warriors in American history is that everyone is scared in battle. Some people shake, some people sweat, some people vomit. Some people feel as if they might freeze, or fear that they will run away. Many simply wonder if they’re going to be able to fightback with any degree of effectiveness.
He was one of the three American heroes who tackled a gunman aboard a train from Amsterdam to Paris in August of 2015. Their action surely thwarted a shooting massacre. Skarlatos said that he had always been concerned whether he’d freeze and not be able to do something in such a situation that he found himself in that fateful August day. But right after he heard a gunshot and then saw a heavily armed man enter his train, he explained precisely what he did, “I saw a guy entering the train with an AK-47 and a handgun, and I just looked over to Spencer (his traveling companion and close friend) and said, ‘Let’s go, go!’” And go they did. They beat on the assailant and choked him unconscious after a fierce battle.
Skarlatos always wondered if he could do it. Tyson was scared every time he stepped into the ring and George Patton explains that everyone is timid or fearful in times of battle. Granted, all three of these men were trained in how to fight (Skarlatos was in the military) and training, practice and preparedness for combat is crucial for optimum performance, but regarding fear, all three men basically said the same thing on how to thwart fear.
Patton says to not let timidity get in the way of doing battle. You may wonder just how one stops timidity or fear from hampering us. First, it is important that you know that the best of the best feel that fear. The next step is to be the opposite of timidity, which is to be bold! Go for it! Mike Tyson said the same thing when he explained that after feeling fear to buckle up for action and say, “Let’s go!” And last but certainly not the least, that average human being just like you and me, Alek Skarlatos, who always wondered if he too would freeze up from fear in times of great personal peril said the words that we too should say to ourselves in times of fear, uncertainty and battle—Let’s Go, Go!
Steve's a three-time survivor of violence in his youth and was an award winning police officer.
For several years, Steve also did radio political and current event commentary and taught college Criminal Justice. He is the former host of the long running 'The Kovacs Perspective' Internet radio talk show.
Presently, Steve is the owner and Managing Director of one of the oldest martial art schools in Ohio, 'The Mayfield Academy of Self-Defense'.
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