Wednesday, October 10, 2012

SELF-DEFENSE: Lee Aldridge - Why Adrenal Stress Training?

Why Adrenal Stress Training?
By Lee Aldridge

When looking at those with "experience", we see some general trends and characteristics among this group of practitioners.

The most universal attribute which is often discussed is relaxation under pressure. This phenomenon can be seen in everything from tennis matches to Wall Street trading.

How do we attain this?

Repetition (exposure) with the desired situation is a key factor in ingraining "behaviors". By practicing a certain thing many times, it is possible to figure out how to perform the task most efficiently, thereby improving proficiency. Among the qualities which are affected are:

  • Coordination
  • Speed
  • Efficiency
  • Focus

Of these qualities, I will "focus" on the last one. By Focus, I mean the apparent ease at which experienced practitioners affect a response to a given stimulus. I mean the increased efficiency of perception which leads to a simplified decision-making process while engaged. I mean the "unflappability" under pressure which allows one to perform at their best in a chaotic environment.

Experienced LEOs, for example, have often learned the "hard way". They've been in hundreds of tense, dangerous situations and had to apply their skills in this setting. Military operators live moment to moment in the state of "constant readiness", and also apply their skills with only a moment's notice.

One thing they agree upon is that they LEARNED through their experiences, and the resulting improvement in their performance was because they learned to handle the "overload" of stimulus (physical, psychological, emotional) that was presented in each scenario.

There is no denying that the burned hand teaches best (courtesy Southnarc via Marc Twight, alpinist). However, for most individuals interested in self defense, how do we get the experience which allows us to sort out all these bodily reactions to a imminent threatening situation?

This is one excellent reason for Adrenal Stress Training (AST).

Through AST, we can be given a head start on the understanding of our reactions to stress. We can perform many repetitions of scenarios which could well be deadly in the street, and hone our performance far beyond what most traditional training environments allow. True, we may not reach the same level of proficiency that is attained by those whose jobs routinely expose them to "real" threats. In training, there is still an implied "safety" to the setting!

On the other hand, what's to say that those "professionals" are doing things as well as they could? Looking at the problem scientifically, they may have solved the problems with which they were presented, but did they use the most efficient solution?

(Visions of Bill Murray blowing up the whole golf course when told to kill all the gophers....may work....but the best solution?)

Therefore, steady use of AST can even allow experienced personnel to improve their performance by providing a "laboratory" in which they can pressure-test their tactics. For beginners, AST is invaluable, as it introduces a good portion of the stressors that exist in real confrontations. Well-structured AST drills contain more of the realistic "elements" that comprise a street confrontation, and allow you to work your way through all the stages of an encounter.

Becoming comfortable in accessing your "toolbox", whether H2H or weapons, is a huge part of becoming an effective fighter. Even in sport applications, one can become flustered in the heat of the moment, and miss opportunities to achieve an advantage. The stakes in street confrontation are much higher yet.

Sending folks out from training, who have gained familiarity with their personal stress responses and performance issues, gives them a better chance at self protection. Giving LEOs, etc. the opportunity to test various methodologies in a reasonably life-like setting allows them to improve what may already be excellent performance.


The martial arts, etc. have been around for a long time. The various ways to harm another human have been fairly well defined, as we all have very similar morphology. The ways to hit the targets areas of the opponent are similarly well-established.

However, the methods used to train traditional martial artists (as well as some combatives curricula) have not changed that much since the inception of those styles. There are few pursuits of any type that have not benefited from the advancements in training efficiency brought about by modern teaching methods. Martial arts, however, have retained many of the outdated methods because of respect for "tradition". There is no doubt that the old methods produced some great fighters, but the increased effectiveness of modern methods allows more people to assimilate the information and performance characteristics that define proficiency.

AST does not favor certain styles of fighting. You bring what you have to the "arena" and you simply test it out, with full contact, in relatively complete safety. There's no "ego" involved, since AST can make even hardened long-term folks look bad. It's only when strain is applied to an organism that adaptation occurs, so looking bad means you're learning!

For those who are interested in self-defense, achieving the highest possible proficiency as quickly as possible means that the most effective teaching methods should be employed. For the professional LEO, etc., using AST to fine-tune your skills and "re-discover" even better solutions to problems, street survival and better job performance can result.


You can contact Lee Aldridge care of his site:



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