Panic Control For The Warrior Athlete!

I traveled the world to gain insight into the methods elite athletes use to augment their skills and enhance their performance. The result became Circular Strength Training System's core model: the Three Dimensional Performance Pyramid.
As a Sambo competitor and coach of the U.S. National Sambo Team, I traveled the world to gain insight into the methods elite athletes use to augment their skills and enhance their performance. Among some of the most impressive secrets I discovered were from the Russian teams. As a result, I invested years of training with their special-forces instructors and Olympic coaches. They allowed me to learn their unique strategies which I compiled and tested over the years implementing my own discoveries. The result became Circular Strength Training System's core model: the Three Dimensional Performance Pyramid TM.

This article will present an overview of working the top of the 3DPP for managing combative and competitive anxiety, one of the most crucial components of becoming a champion in your sport or maximizing your potential as the warrior athlete in daily life.

Natural Abilities

During an event or crisis, your Mental/Emotional Skills become more important than your actual Physical Skills. In other words, you must rely on your innate tendencies and idiosyncratic abilities, not on a haphazard set of techniques. To have access to your skills when it counts, they must be tested within the emotional climate you intend or project you shall face. As any champion will attest, matches are won not through the use of superior tactics, maneuvering or attrition, but through morale.

In combat sports, deploying violence compels you to accept the will of your opponent, or him to accept yours. It is always to this fact that reality returns: Combat is a clash of wills, and he who imposes his will on his adversary is the victor. However, the most misunderstood aspect of this regards your CHOICE to accept the will of your opponent, or his choice to accept yours.

Violence is the critical ingredient of combative engagement on the street or on the mat, and its extreme outcome is bloodshed, suffering and trauma. While the magnitude of violence varies with the objective of the particular sport, the violent essence remains immutable. Any physical discipline which neglects that is misleading and incomplete. Now, all this sounds frightening, and it should, but your only opponent is your self. If you choose to accept the will of your opponent, then fear is the currency of combative engagement.

Fear Factor

Because combative competition is a violent enterprise, danger is a fundamental characteristic. And since it is a human endeavor, fear - our warning signal to danger - can have a significant impact on your actions. Therefore, it should play a primary role in your preparation.

The reason is simple: Everyone feels fear. Proper preparation must foster the courage you need to manage fear and forge ahead through adversity, for fear will be either the servant of your survival or the master of your demise. Courage, or moral force, is not the absence of fear; rather, it is the result of effective anxiety management. Since it is true that "Courage comes after ...," as they say, all your preparatory efforts must attend to the climate of fear.

Your training must study fear, help you understand the emotional and mental implications of it and prepare you to effectively use it to your advantage. Experience will generally increase courage, as will training which closely replicates the conditions you intend or project you shall face, because it increases your familiarity with the effect anxiety management has on performance. A good program will develop internal cohesion and esprit de corps, for as Napoleon said, "The moral is to the physical as three is to one."

Two Facets

Combative sports are characterized by the interaction of moral and physical forces. In general, the physical characteristics are easily seen, understood and measured; the moral are less tangible. As used here, "moral" pertains to those forces of a psycho-physiological nature: the Mental/Emotional Skills of the 3DPP rather than a tangible nature of Physical Skills, SPP and GPP.

Moral forces are difficult to grasp and impossible to quantify. You cannot easily gauge abstracts like resolve, conscience, fear, courage, morale, leadership and spirit. Yet they exert a greater influence on the nature and outcome of a contest than do physical forces. This is not to lessen the importance of the physical facet, for it has an impact on the moral. Because the moral is intangible and elusive, it is tempting to exclude it from your preparation. However, any training regimen that neglects it ignores nature.

The 3DPP capitalizes on this fact, for any effective performance model should focus upon creating and exploiting a breach in the morale of the opponent ... and recover rapidly from a breach in ourselves. In other words, it should fortify personal and team morale, while dismantling the opponent's.

In On War, Carl Von Clausewitz wrote: "Combat is a trial of moral and physical forces, by means of the latter. One might say that the physical seems little more than the wooden hilt, while the moral factors are the precious metal, the real weapon, the finely honed blade."

He believed that a combative philosophy should be a doctrine of morale that produces effective tactical operations, not an operational doctrine that hopes to inadvertently manufacture "faith in the structure." Morale determines tactical efficacy; tactics do not generate morale. Or to keep it American, "Don't let the tail wag the dog."

Practical Plan

Detailed below is a basic six-part plan for moral fortification. It illustrates how the 3DPP aids in developing strategic effectiveness - in particular, for the most neglected and critical aspect of performance: Mental/Emotional Skills. The Practical Plan below addresses sports involving an opponent, though there are 3DPP Practical Plans for solo sports as well - since performance anxiety is just as present when alone as when facing an opponent. As Dan Millman wrote, "if you doubt yourself and face only one opponent, you're outnumbered."

Pre-contact Reconnaissance:

    This phase, which takes place well before the competition, enables you to scout intelligence on the conditions under which you will compete. It also evaluates expected opponents and their abilities, tendencies and preferences. From the intelligence gathered, you create a "profile."

Pre-contact Assessment:

    The first aspect of this phase, which occurs the day before the event, discusses the details of the reconnoitered threat to determine what is predictable and what is not. Discussion should focus on the profile, but you should expect that some details are missing.

    A major goal of pre-contact assessment is relaxation. It results from a physical activity in which there is no room to worry about the impending event. The activity, of course, should involve no danger to you. Without it, your mind can fixate on the upcoming event and prevent you from sleeping soundly.

Pre-contact Preparation:

    This is the phase in which you consider all the what-if variations of the event in light of the pre-contact assessment. You should visualize all possible scenarios with a positive outcome for each.

    Visualization is the key, but moving from disassociated to associated visualization amounts to "turning the key." Disassociated visualization can be objective or subjective. You begin visualizing objectively, then move to subjectively. Objective visualization involves picturing your trainer or any other respected person performing your task perfectly.

    Subjective visualization involves picturing yourself accomplishing the same thing as if you were part of a movie. Associated visualization is "moving into the movie," or picturing what you would see through your own eyes, hearing what you would hear through your own ears and so on.

    If visualization goes awry and you imagine a negative outcome, mentally rewind the match, go to the "frame" in the movie immediately before the negative part and insert a positive ending.

    At this phase, you must also identify your performance goals. Have a catch phrase for one encompassing goal and repeat it like a mantra to enhance your concentration.

Contact Engagement:

    If it all transpires smoothly, there will be no work to be done during this phase, which is the event itself. However, it is rare that you will not be taken by surprise. No one can expect the unexpected, but you must expect to encounter unexpected events. Remember that the truest test of your Mental/Emotional Skills does not occur when things go as planned, but when the unexpected pops up.

    When the unpredictable happens, what do you do? You should not even ask, for if you do, it means your performance has already started to suffer because of mismanaged energy and panic. The key to stopping it from growing involves Switching to the Machine. The Machine represents a deep psychological operation that lacks emotion. It is purely logical and systematic, and its effectiveness stems from preparation and experience. As you fight, a psychological decision exists between the machine and your outward appearance. Verbal as well as nonverbal communication must be deliberate and convincing.

    The only way to program the machine is with everyday activity. If an event in your training routine solicits fear and panic begins, you must use the "second mind" of the Machine. Begin by asking yourself: "Is this a credible threat?" Then separate the machine from your outward appearance. Finally, deal with the task at hand, thus neutralizing the threat.

Post-contact Debriefing:

    Immediately after your performance, record all the details while the machine is still present. Do not discuss them; simply record them. Your teammates and coach should contribute their perspective as well.

    This critical phase requires relaxation for you to Switch off the Machine. You should relax with a hot shower, food, drink and physical companionship. No discussion of the event is allowed. Pretend that it did not even occur. Then sleep. This is crucial for allowing the emotional arousal of the event to chemically reabsorb into your system ... to prevent post-traumatic disorders from accumulating.

Post-contact Assessment:

    This phase, which begins the day after the competition, involves a discussion of your performance. Did anything unpredictable appear? Which goals must be altered for you to improve?

You should then return to everyday training. If an unexpected incident begins to elicit fear, prepare to switch to the Machine on a count of 25. This time-delay on the switching will allow you to create a governor so the Machine/appearance split is always under control and not used when there is no real crisis.

When the machine is switched on, begin a mini-sequence of the following procedures: Start with reconnaissance and assessment. Then ask yourself, "At what point did I begin to panic? When did I begin to feel unusual?" Your answers to the questions will help you attain your goal, which is to meet the crisis head-on, to cover the fear inside you and to proceed with your life.

Be sure to check out my article:
Double-D: 8 Minutes Of Delicious Torture!

Faith Matters.

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