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Krav Maga and Stress Responses: Part 3 - The Freeze Response

Updated: Feb 15

In our ongoing exploration of stress responses and Krav Maga, we come to the "freeze" response. This reaction is perhaps one of the most misunderstood and underestimated of all, and it's an essential aspect of self defense and Krav Maga training.




The Freeze Response

The "freeze" response is a natural, instinctual reaction to stress, fear, or danger. It often occurs when individuals are caught off guard or overwhelmed by a sudden, unexpected threat. During this response, the body's physiological and psychological reactions can render you temporarily immobile, unable to think clearly or take effective action. Your brain is essentially calculating a ton of possible outcomes and scenarios at home time.



Physiological Changes in the Freeze Response:

  1. Decreased Heart Rate: The heart rate may slow down as the body conserves energy.

  2. Muscle Stiffness: Muscles may tense up, making movement difficult.

  3. Limited Speech: Verbal communication may become challenging.

  4. Tunnel Vision: The field of vision narrows, and focus can become extremely limited.

  5. Slowed Reaction Time: Cognitive functions may slow down, making it difficult to respond quickly.

*Tunnel vision is bolded because that in and of itself is a fascinating response that our body has. Below you will read about situational awareness which is a great way to train our bodies to try to see the entire situation in front of us. Tunnel vision focuses on the most important goal, We are essentially prioritizing the most threatening stimulus. For those practitioners that are reading this that have been training with us for a while will note that we will often add stress by adding a lateral threat or target. For an example we will escalate a side choke technique by having you strike a target in front of you while someone approaches you and puts you into the side choke. You defend, counter, and disengage to the outside of the situation and not through the situation. We are training you to still access your peripheral vision while increasing the stress around you. (amongst many other aspects of what we are training you on.)





How Krav Maga Can Hack the Freeze Response: Krav Maga recognizes the freeze response as a common reaction to sudden stress or danger. Here's how Krav Maga can help you manage and overcome this response:

  1. Training in Realistic Scenarios: Krav Maga places great emphasis on scenario-based training, which helps desensitize the individual to stressful situations. This familiarity can reduce the likelihood of freezing in a real-life scenario.

  2. Muscle Memory: Repetitive training in Krav Maga builds muscle memory. When a stressful situation occurs, your body will instinctively react with the techniques you've practiced.

  3. Awareness and Situational Assessment: Krav Maga training includes teaching students to maintain situational awareness and assess threats. This helps reduce surprises and the associated freeze response. When was the last time you scanned your surroundings? It has at least been 2 minutes since you have been reading this post. Look up and look around to identify potential threats and potential exits. Working in 'scans' can be a great way to become more situationally aware.

  4. Combat Psychology: Krav Maga often incorporates mental conditioning and psychological preparation. This equips you with mental tools to manage stress, reduce panic, and make quick decisions during the freeze response. Our combat fitness classes also work to push you physically and mentally.

  5. Stress Inoculation: Krav Maga instructors expose students to controlled stressors during training. This gradual exposure helps individuals adapt to stress, minimizing the freeze response. Like coming up from a burpee into someone throwing a jab. You would use your inside defense, counter and work around your target. Vs. having time to stress and overthink the situation.

Understanding and managing the freeze response is a critical component of self-defense, and Krav Maga effectively addresses this instinctual reaction.


In our next instalment, "Krav Maga and Stress Responses: Part 4 - The Fawn Response," we will explore another stress reaction and discuss how Krav Maga can help manage and overcome it. The Fawn response is not often talked about and it is a very psychologically interesting response! Keep reading for more insights on how Krav Maga equips you with the tools to deal with stress in various scenarios.

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