Neurophysiology and The Real Fight

by | Sep 22, 2020

Geoff Thompson is one of the founders of reality-based self defense. Geoff, and my friends Dennis Martin and John Brawn, were the reasons I went to the UK in the 90s to test neural-based training on the street. If you want to see how training works in a street fight, you have to go to where the street fights are. The UK martial arts/club bouncer scene is one of the world’s most violent arenas for unrestrained personal violence.

It’s a fine street lab. The participants have no patience whatsoever for precious theory.

They want what works.

Right now.

During the second day of a two-day seminar I taught there, one of the attendees “Tommy” showed up with his head swathed in bandages.”

“What happened, mate?” I asked.

“Hit with a bloody axe, Marcus,” he said. “I’ll tell you, mate, that state access bit worked a charm.”

Afterwards, I went to South Africa for the same reason. If you want to test your gunfighting, you have to go where the gunfights are. For civilians, private security, law enforcement and specialized military, there was no better laboratory than the mean streets of Johannesburg, which at the time was the most violent city by far in the world.

I followed William Fairbairn’s example and went to those who engaged in gunfights daily to measure how the neural-based training concepts performed.

I was gratified to have many students let me know that the training they’d received saved their lives and those of others. See one such testimonial here:

What I proved — to my satisfaction — was my teachings worked on the streets in real fights, armed and unarmed.

So what does that have to do with neuroscience?

The historical research studies of the 80s and the emerging science of the 1990’s offered speculation and insight into what might be possible about enhancing combat performance. See the Jedi Project, from the 70s and 80s, which quantified better performance than most training today in the 2020s can accomplish, here. We created training to test those theories and to build upon that foundation to discover what was actually possible when tested in the crucible of real combat. What we identified, refined, taught and rigorously tested ON THE STREET was what we then took back into the laboratory to start examining via pre- and post- cognitive testing, EEG, real time brain monitoring and other technological means.

The brilliant pioneering work of Chris Berka at Advanced Brain Monitoring in refining the neurological signature of optimum shooting performance mirrored EXACTLY what we had been doing, teaching and testing under fire for many years before. For case studies and research done by Chris, who I consider the leading researcher in the field, see here.

What we focused on has been rigorously proven by Chris Berka’s research, our own research, and the research of many others.

An essential factor in superior performance under combat or “immediate threat to life” stress is the optimal neurophysiological state, AND the ability to control that state at a pre-conscious/sub-conscious/unconscious level to maximize performance when it counts the most and when failure equals death.

The continuing evolution of neurological monitoring equipment enables us to track that optimal state before, during and after training. We’re not quite to the point where we are able to track performance during all operations, though that capability exists and is used in technology rich environments like aviation, space, and other classified venues.

Where we work and what we do is create training that installs the ability to control that optimal state. To identify it, to evoke it, to maintain it, and, for PTSD mitigation, to turn it off and transition to a recovery state.

We’re delving into the technological piece that can achieve those same results WITHOUT training, so that one has a literal electronic “switch” to hit those states on demand. This builds on work done in “Metabolic Dominance” with pharmaceutical and supplement dosages. The problem — and it’s a glaring one — is while technology can shorten the time investment for  training, it fosters dependence on that same tech and the supporting infrastructure. In future warfare, and the accompanying precarity, relying on a robust electric, cellular, internet, and logistical support grid may be unwise.

It may be the best way is the old way, updated with rigorously field tested practices, with technology and pharmaceuticals on tap if necessary — but only as augmentation to an existing robust mental platform designed and installed during training.

That’s what we’ve found.