“All right, they’re on our left, they’re on our right, they’re in front of us, they’re behind us…they can’t get away this time”
- Brigadier General Chesty Puller
When my day ended in high school I drove to the gym and practiced kickboxing and jiu-jitsu for hours. I promised myself that the only person who would leave the gym after me, would be the owner because he had to lock up the place. I drilled, and drilled, and drilled.
I got beat on repeatedly. Then I got beat on less. Eventually, I was able to hold my own against seasoned strikers and grapplers.
Sometimes, we practiced a mob attack drill. One person wears gloves, and every one else puts on focus pads. When the instructor says “Go!”, the many attack the one from all angles.
Fights against multiple people are rarely portrayed accurately in movies and TV. On the screen, one karate master beats on several antagonists, who conveniently attack one at a time. In reality, one against many is not a fight - it is a beating.
The objective of the mob attack drill was to learn how to protect yourself with minimal damage, and create space to run away.
It’s fun enough being a part of the mob. Even in a controlled environment, group dynamics make you feel powerful, and the pitiful defensive attempts by the rapidly weakening individual serve only to increase the power of the mob.
In my first mob drill I tried to cover and block attacks. Each time I successfully blocked a hit to my head, I was blind sided by a hit to my ribs. If I checked a kick, I got shoved into a hook.
After my beating, my instructor, Bret, took me aside and gave me some advice:
Next time, no defense - I want you to attack! Make them wonder if you’re crazy.
Go 100%? Oh, I could do that.
My next time against the mob, I had a new strategy. Once the instructor said “Go,” I rushed the closest person, slammed a 1-2 combination into the focus pads, dropped levels, grabbed his hips, swiveled to his back, pushed him away and ran to the opposite corner of the room. Oh, and I was screaming like a madman the entire time.
When I turned around, the mob was curiously still. They were tentative; I had stolen the initiative. Well, in for a penny, in for a pound. I rushed the group again. In a self-defense situation indoors, the objective is to get to an exit and run. So I practiced running through the mob, attacking with lunatic intensity, and getting space.
My intensity was rewarded. Unlike the first time, when I got pummeled repeatedly, this time, I was the attacker, and everyone else was unfortunate to be stuck in the same room with me.
Mental illness is a mob within the mind. An entity ruled by emotion. It cannot be reasoned with. The mob must be broken, piece by piece, until the mass splits apart under the weight of it’s own irrationality.
Year ago, I attended a Depression Anonymous (DA) meeting. The meeting started with a statement of belief by the group that went something like: “We acknowledge that we are powerless against our illness.”
That was a hard stop for me, and I never went back. I’ve been powerless against my illness, and I nearly killed myself. I prefer agency. I prefer acknowledging that there will be pain. That I will get hit with some blows. That I will stagger.
I can endure. I can recover. I can attack.
Mental Agility is the ability to move your mind. It is a compilation of methods that any one can use to attack thoughts that do not serve the life they want to live. I’m speaking about Mental Agility at Pace Academy, my old high school on 2/15.
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