The Pysche in the Fight !

By Urban Combatives Founder Instructor; Lee Morrison


My search for Combative functionality began some thirty years ago, inspired by one of many school bullies whose very name dumped adrenaline through my body like the fear express on rails. This was the perspective of the typical uninformed and inexperienced ten year old that I was at the time. Like many, it wasn’t so much the physical part of getting bullied that bothered me so much, but more what was happening on an emotional and psychological level, inside my own head. Anticipation was often a lot harder to deal with than any physical event during that time. Like many in search of a solution I turned to the Martial arts and so the journey began. For the next thirty years bringing us up to the present day, I have continued to train, learn and evolve as both a combat athlete and as a person. Having had the fortunate opportunity to train and work with some of the best people in the world within the realms of Martial Arts and Close Quarter Combat, via a huge variety of martial systems both Eastern and Western I have learned many things. Every person and every experience that I have had on this journey, has given me something. But without doubt the best conclusions of all came from the acid test of the street, via the experience gained on the inevitable journey from adolescence to maturity. Yes the worm did turn during my school days and I did find it within myself to stand up to bullies and yes it got physical, bloody and snotty at least from a youngsters perspective, back in the days when punching, hair pulling, shin kicking and wrestling to the ground before punching or getting punched into submission, was what two lads having a fight in the school playground looked like. From that time onward I found myself not just standing up for myself, but if I’m honest standing taller than maybe I should have on more than one occasion. I was a bit of a hot head growing up; it must be the fiery family streak. I’m sure there’s some Latin in there somewhere. Anyway action creates reaction and I found myself partaking in more than the odd street fight and bar brawl like many of my generation. Add to this the experience from some fourteen years working as a pub and nightclub doorman from my early twenties, the conclusions via experience started to accumulate. Not only was I actively training with anyone who was anyone around this time but I found myself, although by now a lot calmer and confident in demeanor, still actively pressure testing what I was practicing, both in the gym and (when verbal dissuasion failed, leaving NO other option available) on the street and on the door. It was here that my best conclusions were formed. Like many before me, a lot bigger and better I had merely come to certain similar conclusions via similar experience.



If the physical becomes inevitable, then I will be pro-active in terms of my offensive response. Here Lee’s attempt to avoid and escape has failed so he pre-empts with a palm-heel strike to the jaw, in this case the threat is still in the game so he immediately attaché’s to the subject and follows up with elbows and knees.




This gives Lee the energy to snatch the subject face first into the pavement. From here Lee maintains observation of his environment before making his escape. This is an example of a pro-active game-plan employed from a worse case scenario perspective.


Instead of detailing those experiences I would rather talk more specifically about some of those conclusions. It’s now common knowledge, in a physical sense that the combatant who hits first and maintains constant offensive pressure until the opposing threat subsides, offers the highest probability of success in terms of strategy. As long as you can manifest significant impact and employ it with attitude. This is now a given and if you didn’t know this already well consider yourself informed. The conclusions I want to talk about come from a psychological point of view and I will begin by posing this question. In regards specifically to traditional martial arts, combat sport and to a fair degree of Reality Based Self-Defence material on offer today; what is the main area left either completely unaddressed or at least, shall we say less attended? Answer? The Psychology relating to any violent confrontation in my opinion there are two main elements of concern here; State Management and State Access.


Any situation when you’re caught completely “switched off” in terms of awareness and observation, will leave you having to overcome the effects of shock and adrenal stress before any hope of accessing a counter measure can be employed. The ideal of course, is not to get caught this way but we must address the “what if” factor via counter ambush training as part of our support system. In this example Lee encounters a knife hold up from the flank and responds by clearing the attack line and smashing him in the head with an elbow strike.


From here the assault continues with further elbow and knee strikes until the threat is down and escape is made possible.



In laymen terms the first, refers to the ability to control our emotions during the stress of any violent confrontation, to a significant enough degree that will allow us to access our skills so that we can effectively deal with the problem. The second refers to cultivating the ability to access the most resourceful state/s of mind and body before, during and after the full spectrum of a violent confrontation. Both of these elements relate to Mindset. Anyone on the cutting edge of Combative training, from either a civilian or active Operative perspective will know that the current addition to physical training comes from the advances of certain learning technologies, relating to Neural Based Learning and NLP (Neural Linguistic Programming) in relation to Combative and Self-Protection related training. First allow me to briefly define the term “State” this refers to our current thought patterns and associated physiology and demeanor at any given moment. Examples include a happy state, a tired or lethargic state. Others include excited, agitated, angry, horny, inquisitive and so on. Throughout our average day we slip in and out of various states without giving too much thought to where we are at any given moment. But imagine if we cultivated the ability to access the most resourceful state applicable to any of our daily events. How useful would that be? Now let’s take this idea and apply it to the task specific event of counter violence.  The fact is, if you take any individual or group of individuals who can do something, anything, really well, be it any athletic endeavor, a method actor/actress playing a role, a top musician performing on stage, someone successful in business or as in this specific related example; anyone who is extremely capable of dealing with violence. You will find that each example of such excellence, shares a certain commonality. There are certain traits exhibited in all successful people within all fields of endeavor that can be construed as the difference that makes all the difference in terms of the results they get. Anyone who has any familiarity with NLP will know that this was the basis from which the founders of NLP Dr Richard Bandler and John Grinder created the idea of modeling excellence.


Here obscurement of the hands is a clear indication of weapon access before deployment. From a position of situational control Lee flanks away from the subject’s weapon bearing side, as he attaches to the subject’s arm. From here he fires into the side of the head with a palm heel strike and continues by smashing out the subject’s base with a knee to the thigh. The takedown is assisted further by jamming the fingers into the eyes/face with a claw-like structure and ragging him to the ground the sequence ends with an optional limb stomp.



I am not going to go into the fine details of NLP here as there are many relevant variables to consider; I do however whole heartedly recommend further study on the part of the reader via any of the many hundreds of books and courses available world-wide. One such variable of commonality in regards to obtaining excellent results, which is relevant to this article, is that of State Management. This refers to cultivating the ability to access and control the most resourceful state/s required to operate the most effectively during any Combative event. We all know that the best preparation of all comes from “experience” of the event. Looking back on those times when I was most active, in terms of accumulating “live experience” I know that I gained a good degree of Combative functionality years ago. I guess like anyone else exposed to such experience, you’ll be amazed at what you get used to and pretty proficient at.



Here the very first entry into conflict comes via pre-emption Lee employs deception by asking a brain engaging question, as he sets up a double slap via equally congruent and deceptive body language.




From here Lee clinch’s the neck and blasts the subject’s base out with a knee strike to the groin, this again supplies the forward energy to snap him down to the pavement.



Here UC instructors Alban Balliu and Rob Pepper demonstrate a counter response to an assaultive grab. Of course reacting to anything that someone is doing to you, is never the ideal, good observation and awareness skills will hopefully negate such a need; but with that said you must have contingency plans for such an event.




The response is to immediately seize one of his holding limbs, with one hand, as you simultaneously strike with the other. In this example Alban hits Rob with a palm shot to the jaw following up by driving his fingers into the eyes. From here he blasts with a knee strike and manipulates the subject into a wall using the environment to end the situation.


But outside of the physical stuff that we have all come to know, in terms of what works; such as hitting first, with plenty of impact, following up as appropriate or in short taking initiative then exploiting the same until the job was done. I never really stopped to analyze why I was consistently effective. I knew there was more to it than the just the physical. I knew about the need to understand fear and adrenaline and that you had to get control of your own emotions and self, before you had any chance of dealing with anyone else. At the time I just put it down to getting my mind right, just as I did when I dealt with my first bully at school. Like many people within many fields of endeavor, you may not necessarily know the whys and how of what you do well; you simply know that you can do it. Then as I started to actively teach a lot more, particularly on the International seminar circuit I realized that the Psychological part of the equation was what most people struggled with. As I started to research Psychology in relation to Combative efficiency under fight stress, I realized that research material was quite thin on the ground, at least from a commercially available point of view. Then I discovered Neural based learning from some of the guys within my own field of Combative training and I discovered that a lot of the background ideas relating to this topic were coming from these guys, who were also NLP practitioners. Fast forward a few years and such ideas are now starting to gain momentum. I have been experimenting and applying such ideas in both my teaching and training with a lot of success and I am now an NLP practitioner myself. In regards to management of emotions and state during fight stress, the starting point of course begins with accessing the right Mindset. Any resourceful state begins with the way you communicate with yourself, via the way you think and talk. (Internal dialogue) This affects the way you feel which in turn affects the way you act, which of course ultimately affects the results you get. It is a dynamic and synergist process: Any internal or external change to any of the components involved will have an impact on the whole. I want to apply this concept specifically to the full spectrum of a violent confrontation, i.e. what happens before, during and after such an event. The main element of concern here is “perspective” or your outlook during such an event, both before and as it unfolds.


Here is an example of working from ECQ or Extreme Close Quarters; UC Instructor Rob Pepper gouges the subject’s eyes in order to create just enough space to drive a head butt into the face.




From here Rob follows up with multiple elbow strikes to the head to bring an abrupt end the situation.

The simple fact is that, the reason that some people freeze up in the face of confrontation or in anyway allow themselves to get derailed via the affects of adrenal stress; is because they fear consequence, particularly the consequence of injury. Fact is if you fear getting injured in any potentially violent confrontation then you won’t do anything to deal with the situation in a physical sense, just incase you get injured. If you enter into any potentially violent confrontation worried about the outcome or consequence be it getting hurt, fear of comebacks, police involvement, litigation or possible imprisonment then there is no way that you will be able to access your skill-set regardless of how much martial study you have undertaken. Control of negative emotion leads to the access of skill under pressure and this starts with the way you think, or your perspective. This, as I said before affects the way you feel, the action you take and the results you ultimately get. If I walk into a potentially violent event thinking “man look at the size of that guy, he’s gonna kill me!” Do you think such a perspective will allow me to access a state of resourcefulness that will ultimately bring about a successful conclusion? I can tell you most honestly it will not. The commonality that any individual who is capable of dealing with violence well, will all share regardless of whether it’s a seasoned street thug, a violent sociopath or a Spec Operative is Mindset. Their perspective of the pre-fight event will be the same or very similar. In short their mindset will be Combative, focused on what they’re going to do to the subject in front of them, NOT on the consequences of what the subject they’re facing could do to them. Perspective is just one part of the Combative mindset or the psyche in the fight; it is the doorway to efficient Combative psychology. NLP is based around the modeling of excellence within any field of study; this study is about developing the ability to counter violence well. Anyway you cut it, violence is negative and anti-social behavior but sometimes it is a clinical necessity. The sociopath capable of hurt and hate or the Spec Operator capable of de-humanizing a subject to nothing more than a target or a piece of meat, is not someone I’d desire to be 24/7 but it is most definitely the ideal state to model for the ten second duration of any potential threat to life event, particularly if it allows me to Win. The objective of course is state management, which is defined as the ability to control state; that is access; use and control it at will and like anything; repetition is the mother of mastery. An article such as this can only introduce such a concept, hence the recommendation for further study. The point of this article was to discuss conclusions, so here is mine, the compressed curriculum that I teach and train comes from a minimal toolbox of functional, pressure tested hard skills adaptable and task specific, built from the power base of Mindset. The key to Mindset begins with you perspective of the forthcoming event. Mental “crisis rehearsal” to map in how you will win, via visualization is just one key tool for the cultivation of perspective and Mindset and like all good preparation it must be practiced to a level of unconscious competence before any such event might manifest itself in a physical sense. Within our Urban Combatives curriculum Mental Conditioning gets as much, if not more flight time in training as does Physical Conditioning and Tool Development. So, Mindset and perspective is all about cultivating the mentality and preparation; that if this situation is going to “kick off” I am prepared to fight until there’s nothing left to fight about! The focus that accompanies such thinking is all about, “what I’m gonna do, NOT what he or they are gonna do.”  The very root to all such thinking comes from your values and beliefs. What is your belief system? We have all heard about the power of belief. Martial culture has many examples to offer, for example the old Filipino knife masters would often settle disputes and pressure test their art through challenge matches or judicial combat from anything from first blood to death. Such individuals believed that the outcome of such combat had already been pre-decided by a higher spiritual order and they would often wear an amulet or a talisman that reflected such a belief. This would allow them to overcome any psychological boundary such as he fear of consequence, injury or death allowing them in turn to access their skill level to the very best of their ability, thereby giving them a higher probability of success. The Thai fighters would often have a prayer for their safe well being, tattooed somewhere on their body by a Buddhist Priest as he burned incense and prayed over the fighter. This installed the belief that the boxer was being looked upon by a higher presence during conflict, leaving his mind free from the clutter of consequence to operate effectively. Similar examples can be found from historical culture both Eastern and Western from the ancient Samurai to the Knights Templar. The latter believed that if they fought bravely in the name of Christianity that each Knight would be cleansed of all sin on the Day of Judgment.  I offer such historical examples, both out of interest and as relevance to cultivating the Will to STEP UP and DO.


Here we see one final example of Combatives from ECQ; Lee jams the subject as he attempts to drive him into a wall. From here Lee indexes the head high and low and employs a fast head-twist rotation, thereby reversing position and ramming the subject into the wall.



Lee continues to employ the environment by blasting the subjects head into the wall…


The situation is ended with an elbow strike to the head.

My own Belief System and Values allow me to access and manage the most resourceful mindset needed to prevail within any Combative event that I train for.  My Belief System is based upon a framework of self Value and Self Importance. I don’t mean that in an egotistical sense that says I am the greatest, I simply mean  that too many people in my life (my children, my wife and family) need me, rely on me and I need and rely on them. Therefore I am too important to be taken away from them. I must prevail, I must Win! The next layer of mindset comes from focusing my indignation. “How f**king DARE YOU step into my world and compromise all that I love! If you step up to me, I will smash you to pieces!” This focused, determined attitude allows me to control fear and utilize adrenaline. It’s common knowledge that no one fears when angry. Instead adrenaline is now the fuel for the fire to fight the fight. It’s important to understand that such a mindset is merely a necessary resource, called upon only in times of great urgency. This is not a place I want to hang out. Think of it a one of my peers Richard Grannon calls it, a Supra State; the willful creation of a split in the personality to create a persona that CAN deal effectively with violent confrontation. This is like a shotgun under an overcoat that would only be called upon worse case scenario, outside of that it remains tightly covert and boxed away. The control of such a mindset will allow anyone to control their emotions during the full spectrum of a violent event. Pre-fight; the ideal state, is highly observant, calm, collected and confident with my indignation quite bubbling under the surface just waiting on cue. My confidence comes from pressure testing my training, previous live experience and crisis rehearsal that is mentally visualizing how I will win. The bottom line to confidence in ability comes from knowing you WILL assault with massive impact and attitude. That really is the very foundation of Combative functionality, Impact with Attitude employed where possible from exploited initiative i.e. be first. This is accompanied by the access of voluntary clinical aggression. If for whatever reason, I find myself having to react now to something that someone else is doing to me (never the ideal) then I will operate from an acid tested support system in order to regain the initiative, again with Impact and Attitude. The late U.S.M.C Hand to hand combat instructor John Jasper Styers; summed it up best via the following quote:


CONFIDENCE in yourself, the Self-Assurance that YOU CAN DO IT, is the first requisite, the rest is a matter of know how and practice! This confidence allows you to stay loose both mentally and physically, until the moment that necessitates the application of your chosen plan of attack. Then hit FAST and HARD, pressing the attack to its successful conclusion!” John Styers, Cold Steel 1951


With that in place, if the physical becomes inevitable then our game plan is to hit first sustaining the offensive until the threat subsides. Such a response should allow you to turn down your offensive as appropriate as, when and if a lower level of force to threat parallel becomes necessary. This is the conflict phase of the event. The visual representation of explosive aggression is contained only within the skill-set of your physical response for the brief duration of the event. It is fuelled by guttural determination and offensive forward pressure. Such aggression is controlled and cultivated and comes with an accompanying Big Red STOP button that can be hit at any point during the fight, as soon as my objective is met. Just as before the event, post-conflict you need to be collected and in control of emotion. You are now looking to break state, back into one of collected observation in order to re-instate a higher level of brain function in order to make sensible decisions, such as finding an exit, driving a car safely, administering first-aid or talking to a police officer without incriminating yourself.  This three-fold approach to Combative functionality is the difference that makes the difference. The physical part of the equation is easy, this is where’s it’s at. Such access and control of mindset is the commonality shared by all the people that I have met, studied and interviewed who can well and truly, DO IT for real. It’s only when you break it down so specifically that you can find such shared commonality, which in-turn can then be structured studied and modeled. In closing, like I said earlier the people that can effectively operate within any field, do not necessarily know the whys and how of what they do, they simply know that they can. I hope this article has given some of you food for thought. Perhaps it will enlighten some of you who have such efficiency already, as to why you operate so effectively. Either way I believe that equal focus should be given to mental conditioning as well as all aspects of physical training, I hope this article encourages some of you to move in that direction. Peace LM....

“If you think you can, or you think you can’t you’re probably right.” Henry Ford