Freezing in a fight is one of the biggest fears I find in myself and my students. We train hard to try and eliminate the fear of freezing but when it boils down to it, we can’t eliminate freeze but we can decrease it’s power over us with proper training, understanding, and knowledge of this topic
Let’s cover the different types of freezes there are according to Rory Miller in “Facing Violence”.
Bye the way, I did not invent these ideas. This is my interpretation, research, and takeaway from Rory Miller’s Facing Violence and my own experiences.
This is when you freeze on purpose to not expose yourself (you freeze to not be noticed) or to gather more information (you feel something is wrong so you freeze to gather information to find the problem.
Also a strategic way to use this freeze is while in a situation where you freeze (or stop interacting) with the threat to let them cool down. But not if the fight has already started. This is more of a pre fight strategy.
You must be aware of this freeze and be able to snap out of it at anytime when the situation starts to progress or change. For example, if you freeze to be unnoticed (which is very instinctual, just look at animals when they are “caught” in the act of seeking up on you during play, they freeze hoping you don’t notice.), you must be able to recognise when situation has changed so that
you get out of the freeze. Sometimes we don’t know if we are in this freeze on purpose or if our body is doing it automatically.
This is the time when your body is switching form passive mode to fight mode. Some people transition faster then others, usually depends on training and previous encounters. This is why when we train we train techniques and counter simultaneously or near simultaneous to shorten time to transition to fight mode. It is important to turn into the fighter as soon as possible.
Non-Cognitave Metal Freeze.
This is the freeze where you think you know what to do or what is going on and it suddenly changes. For example, you’re walking someone you know out of a heated argument and you suddenly you find a knife in your stomach with the attacker repeatedly stabbing you. This freeze is similar to you needing to switch gears again and into the fighter. The situation is not what we were expecting. We were expecting to walk out calmly when instead we are fighting for our life. This is a tough freeze to get out of but can be done. Miller says from his studies it usually takes two actions to snap out of the freeze. Any actions that you purposely do can regain your mental function and enable you to break the freeze.
Too many attacks happening at once. Our brain is trying to analyse each swing coming at us and decide an appropriate response. But if what we are analysing is disrupted by another attack we can’t finish the analysis and continue to try to analyse what is happening. Causing us to freeze. Too many things happening at once and we can’t figure out what’s happening causing a sensory overload. It’s our thought process that is causing us to freeze. Sometimes, asking ourselves what is happening or why is it happening is another cause of this freeze. This is a critical time to try and STOP your thoughts and instead ACT. Once you are acting, then you can think, but every second spent thinking about what is happening or why it’s happening is allowing more damage to ensue on yourself. Sometimes, a problems occur with MA training. If a fight isn’t going exactly how we trained it to go, our brains automatically try to make sense of what is happening, causing us to freeze. One way we try to solve this is by having the attacker always act differently when you are defending in training, expanding the possible scenarios and not creating a habit.
Social Cognitive Freeze.
I can see this being a very common freeze among typical people. We are raised and conditioned with rules and laws of violence. We get punished when we hit a kid at school. We get penalised when we hurt someone in a sport. We are are told in school we can’t hit first. We get arrested if we hurt someone else. We are raised and condition NOT to cause harm to anyone.
So when a violent attacker that isn’t bound by these rules confronts us, we freeze because we are not used to this way of thinking. We aren’t able to “switch” as fast as we’d like to combat warrior mode because frankly, we aren’t. We are not raised or conditioned that way. In the old days kids were raised and hunters and warriors to keep the tribe alive. Now, we are raised to follow the rules and make money to provide for our family – typically with out violence.
Also, a lack of confidence is associated with this freeze. Any doubt we have in our training gets magnified. When we think it’s not going to work or that you can’t pull it off, your fate is already decided. Now confidence isn’t that same as ability. Some people may have the confidence and not have the ability, not helping the situation any better. The goal is to instil confidence in what we do allowing the ability to come with training.
Getting un Frozen.
Freezing is natural and will happen to all of us if we are caught off guard. We will mostly likely experience freezing in a sudden and expected violent enchant. Usually if people are arguing and squaring up to fight, freezing is a lot less common because it’s not sudden and altering your state of mind.
Rory Miller explains these simple steps to get out of the freeze.
Step 1: Know you are frozen
Step 2: Make yourself do something
Step 3: Repeat Step
Much easier said then done. But now that we understand the freeze better, we will be much better at lessoning the time the freeze has on us.
Good luck with your training!
Book Recommendation: FACING VIOLENCE