SP ARCHIVES: No adrenaline dump

BN asked: I would like to address some points that you made in the previous “Mindset” thread.

You stated that you don’t get an adrenal rush in confrontations, and that getting an adrenal rush is “starting off on the wrong foor.” I found this surprising as I always thought that an adenaline rush is a default state.

If you don’t get one, is this due to your genetics, life experiences, or would you put this mostly down to your training?

If you have any further tips on how to do this it would be much appreciated.

I am also curious how you feel in a confrontational situation, if you don’t get the adrenal rush, how do you feel? Please be aware that I am not trying to solicit fight stories, nor am I asking for some kind of vicarious interest.

I would like to know how to access your mental state when in a confrontation.

Steve replied:

My perception of the adrenaline response is that it’s fear-based. My personal response to a confrontation isn’t fear. I actually want the fight. THat’s the difference.

I don’t even know what an adrenaline rush feels like. Honestly. I don’t know if it’s a D4DR thing, hard-wired, or down to my life circumstances, or both.

For you, I have no real answer other than one which is based on common sense, which would be simply to immerse yourself in situations which would normally call for an adrenal rush, so that they become routine. And that would be a part of your training. If I was training you, everything you’d learn would be under stress. You’d be pushed to a point of stress before I even started working a move with you. I’d want to snapping like an alligator at reflex level, because cortically you haven’t got that hard-wiring to want to fight. So whatever you’d be doing, I’d have to condition you to do it by reflex.

But for me personally, and I know that there are other people out there like me, it’s different. The gun, in me, is already loaded and cocked. After a fight or an emergency situation, I feel great. It’s a kind of euphoria, a chemical reward for the risk.

People can pick it up off me, but whether it lasts outside the gym long enough for it to become part of their persona, I don’t know. And much of this is circumstantial. You really don’t know what you’ve got in you or what you haven’t got, and the only way you find out is to put yourself in a punishing regimen of training. One that is more challenging than the fight you’re going to have to fight. And being in the company of a trainer, or fellow trainees, who have that persona you’re seeking to achieve. Immerse yourself in that, and then you’lll find out what you have to do to rise to the level.

You can’t sit back at home and visualize. Not on this one. You have to be in the challenging, punishing situations and in the company of tougher guys, and then you’ve got an impression of how you need to be. THen you can go home and empathise or visualize.

I hope this helps shed some light.

BN wrote: Yes, that’s very helpful. Particularly what you said about visualizing not being enough and actually needing to be in a stressful situation.


Ken Milling wrote:

But for me personally, and I know that there are other people out there like me, it’s different. The gun, in me, is already loaded and cocked. After a fight or an emergency situation, I feel great. It’s a kind of euphoria, a chemical reward for the risk.

It seems to me (I could be wrong) that there wouldnt be too many people who would have a similar experience to your self. I have read lots of pieces that have been written by experienced door men & most seem to ‘manage fear’ & still function anyway to varying degrees.

I was emailed by a guy who trained with you a few months back (he has trained with many high grade karateka etc) who stated that when he was in your presence & you clicked into that ‘other’ state of being it was very scarey, he had never experienced this before. I guess all of this is difficult if not impossible to articulate in a post.

I have no doubt that the above experience is of value. How much can we change? But ultimately if we cant physically function in a fight & are debillitated/inhibited by fear then the physical training is almost a waste of time without the essential mindset.

It seems to me that when you teach you are facillitating experience for participants that they have never had before, maybe didnt know they were capable of.

In a previous email I mentioned the ‘hell realm’ & you replied ‘Yes, however, there are different levels of hell’. It is these other levels of ‘hell’ that I guess many guys who do not have fight experience are interested in.

Just to clarify. When I stated ‘Can we change’ I have no doubt that some people can, I have experience of this (I wont go into this as I will end up off topic). The million $ question is how much can we change, to what degree.

I was training the other day on my own & wondering how I might fight if I had your mind in my body. I hope this doesnt come across as weird but it is an interesting way to train & think/visualise. I will be experimenting with this one later today when I train with a friend.

I suspect that even though some people say that you are genetically gifted you would probably still be a great fighter even if you were in a body that was less than ideal. Again it seems to come back to mindset, as you so often emphasise.

Nick Hughes wrote: Steve, Hope you don’t mind me sticking a bit in here…

I was training the other day on my own & wondering how I might fight if I had your mind in my body.

Ken, I spoke about this very thing the other day in another post…

One of the biggest for me was constantly asking myself “What Would Bob Do?” (and this was years before the “what would jesus do” stickers came out ) and acting accordingly. I wanted to be like Bob – in fact my goal when I was seventeen was to be the best streetfighter in Australia – so the easiest thing to do was ask myself that question and respond accordingly.

Ken Milling wrote: Yes, I did read the above & also what you mentioned about Terry Oneill. I hope it doesnt come across as me stealing your ideas, thats not my intention. I had a discussion with Steve via email about a similar exercise a while back using Fedor Emelianenko as the example/role model but I had gotten off track/forgotten about the exercise. I was also referring to your thread with regard to doormen & fear etc.

Musashi wrote: At a guess, some people just “have” this state ready to access and some learn to access it?

I know personally I always pick up low level threat from Mick Coup, even when he’s being funny and helpful. There is that thing in him that he could just go off any time. I used to get the same from my younger brother, I commented to him (my brother) once that I never knew if we were going to fight or train when we met up. He was a bit put out and couldn’t understand what I meant, but he had that potential violence thing simmering away.

Even being around that type of person brings out a low level adrenal response, adrenal trickle? You know it could go off but probably will not.

I guess you can learn to be that type of personality, when it’s On it’s all the way On, no half measures or holding back. It can take time and varied degrees of sucess, but is doable. Would you really want to become so inured to stress and conflict that you actually feel nothing though?

I think a certain level of Adrenal dump is fine, it lets you know you have a real threat to deal with, as long as it doesn’t paralyse you that’s ok.

There are certain forms of Autism where people just don’t “get” normal human feelings or interaction, stuff like Aspergers Syndrome where folks can function fairly well but not connect to general human feelings or thoughts.

I am of course not saying that Steve or Mick are afflicted with Autism or likely to start doing a Rain Man in Vegas!

Just saying that some medical conditions can cause a similar response to learned or programmed responses? This is not generally seen as a good thing among mental health professionals, and one might be well advised to not pursue a course of training that would result in similar brain responses as displayed in high functioning autistics.

I’ll quit now while I’m not (hopefully) incredibly behind, and having Mick offer me as a strike test dummy !

BN wrote: Thanks for your post, very interesting. Do you know anything about conditions such as autism or Asperger’s syndrome. Specifically what parts of the brain are affected? Or what causes these conditions?

I’m just curious. Not going to start hammering out mt frontal lobes or anything like that.

Musashi wrote:

The exact cause of AS is unknown, although research supports the likelihood of a genetic contribution, and brain imaging techniques have identified structural and functional differences in specific regions of the brain.
Neuroanatomical studies and the associations with teratogens strongly suggest that the mechanism includes alteration of brain development soon after conception.[26] Abnormal migration of embryonic cells during fetal development may affect the final structure and connectivity of the brain, resulting in alterations in the neural circuits that control thought and behavior.[30] Several theories of mechanism are available; none are likely to be complete explanations.[31]

Taken from Wikipedia, so maybe not a definitive answer?


Apparently they don’t really know how or why some people have it, or why it can be so severe in some cases and not in others. The main difference in people with Aspergers is that they don’t readily understand others emotions, can’t pick up on body language cues, and can seem odd or insensitive.
That kind of lack of empathy on a basic level seems to be what some are trying to achieve through training and mind mapping?

Steve wrote: Guys, I need to come in here with some clarification from my experience and observation, but I’m really rushed today. The Asperger’s thing is way off track from my personal experience.

I’ll post more as soon as I can.

BN wrote: Thank you for posting that info. I found the stuff about brain formation and autism very interesting.

Whatever, I suppose that an adrenaline rush is something you either have or don’t have. I don’t think you can train it away, just desinsitize youself to the effects somewhat as Steve intimated.

Steve wrote: In my life I’ve known a number of extremely dangerous and violent people. Some of them were members of North London firms, two were Mafia, two were martial artists (namely Gary Spiers and Terry O’Neill), some I met in the Army and others, ex-Army, SAS, Special Forces, Paras whom I met after I left the Army, and there were a couple of doormen. Though all of them by way of their profession had done the business on numerous occasions, no two of them, personality-wise, were similar. If you put them all in a room together and talked with them, they would appear to have little in common. Sure, all of them you could term ‘natural born killers’ or possibly trained killers. By that, I’m not talking about some serial killer who takes out old ladies, or some mugger who attacks unsuspecting victims. I’m talking about guys who take on their own kind.

What were these differences between them? Some were hot-blooded, some were cold. Some were intellectual, others were just plain dumb. Some were gregarious, some were silent and brooding. Some were always telling jokes, others didn’t know what a joke was. You couldn’t generalise. Some were flamboyant in their expressions, and others didn’t move. Some you’d look in their eyes and you’d see sparks, and others you’d look in their eyes and it was just a dead crocodile eye. You really cannot tell by looking.

When I looked up Asperger’s, I didn’t recognize any of the characteristics either in myself, or in guys I’ve known who are natural born killer types. It’s the wrong template. Just become someone is antisocial, it’s not an indication of autism or borderline autism; it’s not even the same antisocial from one guy to the next. And in fact, I’m not sure there is a template in the sense of personality. Sure, the brain is shaped by exposure to violence at a young age, but to equate the brain of an autistic person to the brain of someone who has had a violent childhood is crazy. They are two completely different things. We all have a brain signature, and they’re all different. Disorders such as autism group people together so that they can be treated more effectively, but you mustn’t extend that thinking to form stereotypes when it comes to fighters.

I used to generalise by referring to partially psychotic, non-neurotic, extrovert characters because I’d been reading research about high-sensation seekers and I recognized many of the characteristics in myself. But that doesn’t really cover the whole picture. I was mainly using this stereotype as a contrast to the low-sensation seeking, neurotic, introverted types characteristic of many martial artists and held up as a standard to aspire to. Geeks.

Let’s get away from personality typing and talk about training.

In terms of what I advise people to aspire to: first of all, Asperger’s has got nothing to do with it. Get that out of your head.

I can’t speak for or about Mick Coup or anybody else. But if you’re worried about developing social problems as a result of the type of training I advocate, then here’s what I have to say.

Guys like myself and Mick Coup are able to rationalize this violence that we have inside of us, and the experiences that have arisen as a consequence of it. And as professional trainers, we are able to translate the essential aspects of that rationalization into training. We can articulate what is important, we can break it down and turn it into drills and conditional fighting methods, etc. so that when you as an individual engage in it, the training will produce the necessary mindset, conditioning, athleticism, and skills with which to fight within different scenarios and situations.

Whilst I’m aware, and I’m sure Mick Coup is aware, that people pick up on our mindsets (which, incidentally, are quite different from one another), we’re not actually selling that mindset. We’re trying to enhance you and develop the mindset and skills, etc. that will work for you. We’re not trying to make you into versions of us.

Mick Coup and myself are not just selling hand-me-down doorman experiences. We’re actually analyzing every nut and bolt of this thing, and we’re looking for what will be important to you. Not what was important, necessarily, to us. I think I can safely include Mick in this, although Mick feel free to jump in if you disagree. We’re taking the essential components of the fight/dangerous situation as we understand it to be, and transferring that into the gym in a very live, full-throttle way WITHOUT YOU GET HURT. And because we know that people have different learning styles, we have to engage you in different ways. If one way doesn’t work, we’ll find another. Because we understand what we’re trying to teach. We’re not just passing on a product. We’ll do what we have to do to get you where you need to be in order to handle yourself in a conflict.

Personally, I guard against my gym becoming an animal-day place. I’m in control of it. There’s a strong esprit de corps and people don’t abuse each other. I don’t tolerate that. There is a feeling of all for one and one for all.

I just want to add a word about empathy. I’m an extremely empathetic person, as well as being highly emotional. (For Christ sake, I’m a Celt.) But empathy and sympathy are two different things. Empathy is the ability to feel what other people are feeling, and that isn’t always warm and fuzzy! Empathasing allows me to get into the thoughts and feelings, and to read the actions, of the bad guys as well as the good guys. It helps me to read what his intentions are toward me or anybody else that might be under threat from him. And if being friendly and engaging ain’t working, I can switch very quickly and take you out. And then go back to being friendly and engaging with everybody else. Something which observers say is scary. But that’s the kind of control I’m looking for.

It also helps me to make a kind of a moral choice of how do I deal with this guy? On very little information I can respond decisively or try to mediate, and if I’ve had to be ruthless I can justify it to myself that I wasn’t just acting like a crocodile or a hungry tiger. I was there as a human being making a decision.

I get this empathy not by wishing for it, but by reading body language in an animalian, right-brained way. I take in the impressions unconsciously: his eye, his facial expression, his body posture, the tone of his voice, his smell maybe—everything—and like an actor or an impressionist, I actually feel what he’s feeling and think the way he’s thinking. People who are close to me have accused me of being psychic, but it’s not that. It’s that I’m a watcher. Unlike a lot of people, I don’t censor the information my subconscious is giving me according to what’s socially acceptable.

That was one of my problems in the Army. I didn’t like being told what to do, and if somebody was an arsehole, I didn’t care what rank he was wearing, I wouldn’t listen to him. Story of my life.

Luciano wrote: Similar about this subject, I watched the following rugby clip:


The fear in the blue team is obvious 

So, some primal ritual (of course one more subtle and incorporated in train) can put a “normal” man in stamina state for fight too?

BN wrote: Thanks for your latest reply. Fascinating stuff. One thing I was curious about when you were listing the “natural born killers,” were you ever intimidated or uneasy around any of these people ?

Ken Milling wrote: Luciano,
If the guys in blue are the French team (I think they are) then the Haka didnt help too much as the all blacks lost that game.

As a trainer do you get a sense with guys who you are training as to where they are at in terms of that ‘killer mindset’ etc and/or the lack of and the degree of that ‘lack’? Using your empathy/intuition/instinct (whatever it is-I also have an idea of what you are talking about when people ask are you psychic-although Im not coming at it from the fight perpsective)

I ask this question because it seems clear to me from what you state in your DVDs and writing that without the necessary mindset the rest is purely academic.
A number of years ago I sent in a letter to your web site and mentioned a street fighter who I befriended (Rod) & the impression he made on me with regard to his mind set & mine. I think I stated something like ‘I was a lamb in a land of wolves).
To return to the animal analogy! Can the lamb become a wolf and/or might he have to settle for becoming something less? Is this something that you have a sense of? How far a person can go and the potential limitations?

Steve wrote: BN, in that company I felt perfectly comfortable. Not intimidated.

There are things that scare me, but they aren’t physical dangers or anything to do with martial arts. But those are very personal things.

On the haka, what I’ve always found from intimidation is that it sometimes raises the game of the other person. Although, when I watch the haka it’s entertaining, but that kind of open, aggressive intimidation shouldn’t scare you. That kind of display has showed you the level you’ve got to go to to beat him. But it’s the guy who doesn’t show anything, no signature, no front, that’s the guy you’ve got to worry about. And your perception has got to be more acute in order to read the cues that are signalling to you ‘danger.’ They’re there, but they’re not as obvious as the haka would make it out to be!

Ken, this is a question that everybody’s got on their mind. If we took an example of aggressor/dissimilar training, you have to really think, act, and be like your enemy in every way. It’s a bit like method acting. I’ll just say to you, that if I@m walking down the street, sometimes you look at situations and you actually visualise yourself doing the business on people who don’t even know you. You take on characteristics which you wouldn’t normally have unless a situation arose, but you run through the visualisation of that not just lying in your bed, but actually sitting on the bus, train, walking down the street, etc. and you run through the scenario. And you see people (who are completely innocent) as if they were adversaries. It’s a ‘what if’ game. And you can play that in your mind, get accustomed to being an aggressor.

If a mugger wants your wallet, it’s not a spontaneous act. He’s planned it. It’s gone through his mind. He’s seen you as a mark. He’s visualising how he’s going to go about it: what he’ll say, how he’ll move, etc. It’s no different to a javelin thrower mentally running through the throw before he performs it.

if you rely purely on your training, or situations, to bring about this kind of mindset, you won’t get it. You have to be working on that mindset outside of training, outside of situations, as if you were the predator. Or, as if you were going to be the prey but you intended to not be a victim. So in that case, you’d visualise people as attackers. And you visualise the complete business on the person/people. Which one do I go for first, how do I go about doing it. You can practice this mentally on an innocent group of people. And the beauty is, it can be going on in your mind and nobody needs to know anything about it. You’re feeling and sensing the whole thing.

Now, with regard to prey, horses effectively are prey (to cougars, wolves, whatever). So are sheep. But I’ll tell you what, Ken, both of these species have injured me, worse than lots of so-called predatory guys. So the point is, if your nature isn’t predatory that doesn’t automatically mean you have to be a victim. I’ve heard that a giraffe can kick off the head of a lion. The important thing is, the giraffe didn’t want to be the lion’s dinner.

So if you can’t get the predatory mindset, then run your mental drilling as the sheep who fights back.

Back at Bourne Hill House, we used to have a farm manager who was a real hard South African, knew the animal business inside out. And we needed to catch this sheep (we had a group of castrated rams that we called ‘The Ramettes’). Wayne had cornered him and was about to rugby-tackle him and the Ramette just shot straight at Wayne, did a flying headbutt, and took him out, flattened him, then crashed straight through an oak post and rail fence and was off.

Wayne got up and we looked at each other and just said, ‘Fuck it. Let him go.’

You could be that sheep, Ken. And you ain’t been castrated (well, I hope!)

Oh, and about Wayne. This guy was so tough, once he got bitten by a snake on the grounds and didn’t even know about it until a couple of days later when he found the fang marks on his leg. He was genuinely puzzled. ‘I thought I felt something,’ he said. ‘When I was in the muck heap.’