Survival requires much more than irregular and brief seminar training, books, and videotapes. The only knowledge that provides instantaneous recall in an attack situation is reflexive, or muscle memory. This comes with intense, repetitive, long-term training in proper technique with proper coaching. Seminars, books, and videotapes are great to augment regular training.
“Trust your instincts” means let your reflexive response lead you. Don’t hobble yourself with thought. An interesting test of this is if you ask someone the question “what would you do if someone came up to you and [insert violent attack here]?” An answer that includes some detailed description of a counter to this attack isn’t necessarily the best answer. Someone who trusts their instincts would probably say “I have no idea.” This is because when the attack starts, so does the autonomous response. You only control this at the most basic level of your brain, far below the cognitive processes that guide those parts of your brain that make you a thinking primate. This is what I call the “twitch response.” The same level that causes you to blink when something gets flicked in your face.
Walk the Walk
Talk all you want, but until you burn the correct movements into your brain and train your moves against a determined opponent, nothing you train in will help you survive an attack. Punch a punching bag and working punching drills will certainly develop a good punch, but what happens when you get smacked or sucker punched? You never know until it happens. Just as an army or nation must be able to survive and immediately respond to a first strike by the enemy, so must you.
Adding Insult to Injury
To the uninitiated, an unexpected punch or slap landing in your face is pretty shocking and usually ends up with one or both of these responses: momentary shock and profound insult. In either case, your mind is wasting precious response time in what apparently has just become a fight (or an ass-kicking if you don’t snap out of it). The mental gap created by shock is a perfect opportunity for the attacker to unload a knockout punch on you or shove you to the ground and proceed to kick your head in. The profound insult you felt is a result of the fact that your face is the precious inner circle of your personal space. To have someone breach that space and hit you on touch your face is as bad as telling you your mama is a dog and your dog is your mama. Get over it, because an angry response will interfere with your reaction. Studies have shown that emotion interferes with athletic performance. Sure, it’s personal. But don’t let it get you emotionally. That’s not easy, unless you get hit when you train and understand that it’s really not all that insulting after all.