One of the strongest reactions a person has is the flinch reaction. Blinking when something comes near your eyes is helpful to keep dirt and debris out, but in a fight it can actually lead to more harm than good. When people are under stress, they often get the instinct to flee, turn, or curl up presenting their back to whatever the source of danger is. All of these reactions can leave you in danger so today we’re going to look at a series of drills that help train away flinching, and develop habits to be ready for attacking, even when defending. Make sure you do these in order!
This drill can be done in very little room, in fact, the less room the better! Have one participant stand with their back to a wall. Their goal is to look at their opponent (either in a natural stance or fighting stance) and remain perfectly still and unflinching. The attacker may throw any legal techniques at the approved level of contact at the defender while the defender simply stands there, unflinching and not blocking.
The defender should try tucking their chin down to the point where they’re almost look out the top of their eyes at the attacker. If you imagine hitting a soccer (football) ball with your head, that’s the part of your head that should be sticking out the most. Sticking out your chin will actually increase the flinch response. Try it both ways and see if you notice a difference!
If the defender is still struggling, tell them to use the time to look for where the attacker is open while they strike. Having a task to focus on will help keep the defender’s eyes open.
Back to the Wall
Just like the above drill, have one participant stand with their back to a wall. The other person is always attacking just like before, however this time the defender may block. Even though the defender is now blocking, it’s important that they keep looking for openings. Not only does this help with the flinch response, but it will also allow the defender to be better prepared for the next drill in this series.
This drill begins the same as Back to the Wall, but with a twist. The attacker begins attacking nonstop while the defender blocks, but after a certain amount of time the instructor yells “go!” Upon hearing this, the defender is now allowed to fight back. Allow the participants to spar using normal rules after giving the command.
If the defender was looking for openings already (like we discussed above), they should be ready to hit back right away. The defender’s success with this drill (and really the whole series of drills) can be determined by how quickly they can score a point after the “go” command is given. If they hesitate, regroup, find a target, and then strike, they need to practice this drill more. If they score a point the second the command was given, they were ready and succeeded.
Can’t Block What you Can’t See
These drills help break the flinch habit, which is crucial in fighting and self-defense. If you blink involuntarily, you can miss a crucial strike. Remember, have beginners spend a lot of time on the first drill in this series. Start slow, and progress with success. It’s hard to overemphasize the importance of being able to keep your eyes on the target when being attacked.