Kojutsukan blog made a comment on my post on Part VII of my knife survival series discussing the flinch response.
"A lot of these concepts are used these days to lend credibility to a way of doing things or to develop a way of doing things."
I felt this comment was worthy of a bit more discussion on my part. I have to agree with the comment that these concepts are used to lend credibility to a way of doing things.
For the most part, I think this is born of ignorance or inexperience, not out of malice. (John didn't suggest it was malicious, by the way).
The problem is that some of the concepts or techniques are being taught because they make sense to the person who is teaching them. It seems logical and rational to them, so it must be true. In reality, it's more of a 'best guess' approach from people who have rarely been in any form or combat or violent encounters.
Even for those who have actually experienced real violence once or twice, it is often a result of the natural mental process of having to make a volatile, confusing situation and/or reaction make sense.
After periods of high stress and traumatic circumstances, it is a natural part of the healing process (mentally) to break down a volatile, unpredictable, confusing situation into manageable, somewhat orderly 'chunks'. The situation will replay over and over again and the mind needs to find solutions to the parts that did not go well, or could have gone better. That way, eventually fear and emotion can fade away, often with the help of similar situation scenario training.
The potential shortcoming with any such training is that in extreme situations, it is often impossible to recall exactly what happened, and in what order. The brain, as a defensive mechanism, fills in the blanks. This has the potential for people to draw inaccurate conclusions about what they did, what they should have done, or what would have worked better. It is here that (often well meaning) teachers authoritatively teach students about how they will respond when taken by surprise. They teach a comprehensive course of study on potentially flawed data. The students, many of who have not experienced true violence, can't weigh the material against real world experience, so they believe it to be accurate. After all, it makes sense rationally.
To illustrate the mental gaps that occur under extreme stress, you just have to look at the example of police involved shootings. Over and over again, it has been shown that the officer discharging their firearm rarely remembers how many rounds they fired. You would think this would be an easy enough thing to do, but it's not. And shooting a gun is a practiced skill that's drilled over and over again throughout an entire career. If this can occur for something like this, how can you accurately judge how you reacted or would react to a surprise attack? There are other factors such as time distortion, auditory exclusion, or selective hearing, tunnel vision, feelings of detachment and time slowing down, or speeding up. I've barely scratched the surface on these issues but plan on writing about them in the future.
Some systems out there are researched fairly well, but as with everything, buyer beware. To truly paint a picture of what goes on when attacked, you need to find someone who has experienced it, has viewed footage, has read studies and most importantly, in my opinion, has had the opportunity to speak to people who have experienced it (if they trust you enough to give a honest recount of upsetting events).
There's no easy way to collect enough data to make concrete conclusions. In addition to my personal experiences, I'm lucky in the sense that I'm privy to a variety of sources or research, and a lot of people. Another point to take away is that while there are things that are common to us all, there are also differences. People react differently to a variety of stimuli. This makes it important for any form of training to be fluid and flexible.
Many of the systems out there teaching flinch response training are pretty good. Just make sure you have a critical eye when any definitive statements are made about how you are guaranteed to react in any situation.
I think I've rambled enough for now. I encourage everyone to research the flinch response and stress response. It's fascinating and applicable to serious martial arts training.