The Flinch, and Fear

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The Flinch, and Fear

Post  Dennis M on Thu Aug 24, 2006 11:37 am

This was a long thread back in 2004, I've extracted the main posts...enjoy

From Greg "Juggababba"
Before I started martial arts and a long time into them I used to think it was a weakness to flinch and I thought I was weak because I could'nt eliminate fear, This was before i did any research.

The Flinch.

About 10 years ago I was in a pub called the Broughton in Cheetham Hill, I was boxing at the time and heavily into the training. One of the locals who was an ex boxer found out that I was boxing and decided to come and have a go.

I got off my stool and he threw out a punch straight away now all i did was flinch and he hit my elbow hurting his hand.

I felt really bad because I flinched everyone was taking the piss saying that all I did was flinch. This did my head in for some time.

Then a few years back I read an article about the flinch/ startle response/ knee jerk reaction whatever you want to call it.

It said that there is a part in the brain that controls just the flinch response and nothing else. The tests proved certain things:-
1) The flinch cannot be gotten rid of.

2) It is faster than the flight, freeze or fight response.

3) It can be modified to be your first line of defence if caught by surprise.

The research also shown that there are 3 types of flinch. up close, further away and off to the side.

Over the years I have been shown numerous examples of this in different arts, the fend, the asking hand in wing chun, There are examples of the flinch response in Thai Boxing and Silat. Plus the S.P.E.A.R. All good examples of the flinch response.

So I started to incorporate this into my training and a few years ago on Saturdays nightclub in Manchester I used the flich to save my life.

I was working on a Wednesday night there were 2 of us on and the policy was that after 1 no one was allowed in but the club didn't shut till 2.

Anyway these 3 vietnemeese guys came up to the door and I said "we are shut now mate", The main one replied " If you came to our club in China Town we would let you in" Now my spidy sense was working over time I thought whats he on about there is no club in China town and I told him so.

We exchanged a few more words and the he said" I will be back and I am going to chop your arm off"
So I said"well do it know"

He went away and the last our seemed to drag forever.

My mate was working the front door and I was at the bottom, he shouts me"your mate is back"

My arse started twitching like a rabbits nose.

I went out the front door to front the guy I didn't want him taking me by surprise and said "What the f@xk do you want" He repeated my sentence. I noticed he had a budweiser bottle.

Now at the gym we had been practising distractions to get your shots on. So I felt he was going to throw the bottle at me.

Which he did Followed at warp speed by pulling a machete that was nearly as big as him.

My reponse was to do a kind of shoulder roll on the bottle and kep going towards the door.
I pulled the door over and he whacked the door inches from my head

I could see the machete through the glass as he chopped the door.

He turned and ran and I followed him out throwing a couple of bottles at him.

I heard later that he chopped a doorman in the gay village.

So thank F@xk for the Startle response.


As for fear Up until I started reading Geoff Thompsons books and other sources I thought I was weak feeling fear.

I tried all sorts to get rid of fear, could never get rid of it though. Constant rationalisation that I bottled it.

Until I read of all the people that deal with fear on a daily basis and seen that they all feel the same way and in fact the bigger the adrenaline rush the better you can perform so long as youy can keep it under control.

Just a couple of points to digest.


From SeanMGN
Agree with all the above. I was very much an advocate of Southnarc's flinch and gave it a large portion of my training time. Once or twice at work it came in very handy.
For anyone that doesn't know, our very own Si Squires has his own version the "fend" that I feel is an improvement on an already great concept.


From Si Squires
Surely it's "cheque book out" time if we use the word Flinch?


From Seanmgn
Nah, surely even Mr Blauer couldn't manage that could he? I assume you are referring to him. I wonder if the Massai warriors of Africa could sue him for stealing their spear concept?

Paul, here is my semi informed understanding. We all have certain responses pretty much hardwired into us to an unexpected stimulus . Someone throws a ball at your head which you see out the corner of your eye, chances are you will duck slightly ,possibly turn your head away and bring your hands up to your head. That is an instinctive flinch response also known as the startle response.
I am no expert but I beleive it is something we all have and which as well as being very fast is almost impossible to over-ride, as in you just can't help do it. Others on this board will know more. No matter how big and tough you may be , you will respond to a sudden unexpected stimulus. Eg Mike Tyson opens a drawer and a Jack in the box jumps out. Iron Mike will still "jump" in surprise. But , as a result of all that training, it is possible that in doing so he may instinctively cover up a la the boxing guard position.
I understand that by training to build on an instinctive response so that it is more combative (eg hands up but moving forwards rather than back with elbows forward) it is possible to utilise the startle response more effectively than standard martial arts blocking movements.

As I say , others can no doubt explain it better but thats how I understand it.



Last edited by on Thu Aug 24, 2006 12:49 pm; edited 2 times in total

Dennis M

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Re: The Flinch, and Fear

Post  Dennis M on Thu Aug 24, 2006 11:39 am

From SouthNarc,
I personally stopped using the word "flinch" to describe the physical mechanics of modifying what we do instinctively into something that protects the head and keeps us on our feet. I was taken to task with the definition of flinch as something that could not be controlled, and since we are modifying a natural reaction albiet only slightly, flinch then is somewhat of a misnomer.

The term I use now is "default position" which I feel better describes what we are doing which is ONE thing in the event that we don't take initiative and preemptively strike, which of course is always preferred. A default response is like a seatbelt. It's there if you need it and you usually only do when you didn't use good judgement in avoidance or preemptive maneuvering.

Regardless of what you do it should cover the head adequetely and keep you on your feet for a split second. The objective is to keep from getting knocked out or knocked over for a MOMENT IN TIME, and provide an aggressive launching platform for a furious barrage of striking, knees, low-line kicks and clinching skills to regain that lost initiative from the adversary. We're taking back lost ground just like an immediate action drill for close range ambush, conducted by an infantry squad. Aggression is the key.

All default responses have pros and cons. I teach an asymmetrical default response which takes longer to learn and doesn't cover the head quite as well as a symmetrical response, such as the double vertical elbow shield that Chico King of MMA/Straight Blast gym fame and John Holschen of Insights Training teach. My good friend and colleague Lee Aldridge teaches the "cowcatcher" which is very similiar to Fairbairn's double chin-jab.

One of the main parameters of my default response is extremely quick access to a hand-gun or knife, while in-fight, which the asymmetrical strong hand position excells at. Most of what I do is focused on a weapon in hand for the end-game. Also the asymmetrical position is a bit less narrowing to one's field of view, which is critical with multiple opponents.

Pros and cons with everything but regardless of what you do they ALL work extremely well and are a valid concept for the tool box.

From Den
I noticed on SDF you were calling your method "notaflinch". Pretty funny.
Flinch, Fend, Coverup, call it what you will, it's an essential part of the overall training. We now understand pre-emptives pretty well. Now guys are starting to realise we don't always have the opportunity to pre-empt. The work that S'Narc, McCann and others are doing is very much filling that gap.

From Greg
The way I practise the startle response is first I sussed out what my natural flinch response was in the differing positions. Then I worked out a way so that they would need minimum re shaping to be a first line of attack, then I began to make realistic drills to incorporate these responses and added appropriate follow ups.
I have used these responses live in the field many times.

I also incorporated them into my sport training, most notably in my freestyle-wrestling practise. I found this one out by mistake.

Once at the Y club in Manchester I hadnít been doing the wrestling long and one of the guys shot in low for a double leg and I just kinda flinched a straight palm to the side of the neck and he twisted his ankle.

The good thing about the Flinch is that it overcomes mental inertia allowing you to get to the rest of your arsenal rather than freezing which is always a bonus.


Dennis M

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