Sharpening the Warriors Edge: The Psychology and Science of Training

Sharpening the Warriors Edge: The Psychology and Science of Training


One of the most imperative skills an army officer should possess is survival and combat practice skills. In his book, Sharpening the warriors edge: the psychology and science of training, Bruce K. Siddle attempts to offer different approaches that are helpful towards making one become an efficient army officer (Siddle 24). Siddle approach to army training laid more emphasis on combat performance and survival strategies. It is important to note that Siddle’s work was based on the studies of prominent sports psychologists. Prior to his research, sports psychologists used variables such as the rate of fluctuations in heart beats to measure the performance, because it is the only measurable biological variable that can be used to evaluate performance. Siddle’s research attempted to shed more light on the concerning the physiological effects that are bound to affect  a person’s fear, for instance, increasing heart beat rates and declining skills. Siddle also attempt to explain how instructors can reduce such associated fears (Siddle 34).

According to Siddle, fear significantly determines the survival skills of an individual. This simply means that the way an individual and particular warriors have different strategies of surviving and is subjective to the levels of fear within them (Siddle 40). Siddle views a state of combat as a perceived threat that consequently engages the nervous system to take a reactive action. This is the basis of self-protection for a warrior or an army officer. The way the nervous system responds to a threat situation is autonomous and one has no control over it, except to adjust his fear levels. Survival skills training play an important role in determining the way a warrior responds to a threat situation (Siddle 45). Survival skills usually have a psychological effect on an individual and changes the way in which perceives a threat situation. According to Siddle, there are diverse factors such as increase in heart rate will significantly the way a warrior will respond to threat situation. Physiological factors also play a significant role in determining the visual sensory of an individual (Siddle 56). The visual system is an important element of self-protection and combat. The visual system is basically affected by factors such as the dilation of the eyelids. This results to visual narrowing and therefore impairing the survival skills of a soldier or an army officer. With a narrowed vision, an individual becomes accustomed to using binocular vision rather than using one eyed aiming. Binocular vision is imperative in cases of multiple threats, because the brain always focuses what the visual system reveals as the principal source of threat. Siddle refers to this concept as the light house effect; since a person under threat is subject to reduction of his visual field by approximately 75 per cent (Siddle 67). What this implies that it is important for a soldier to conduct a visual scanning in order to search for other potential opponents before embarking on a combat or self-protection strategy. Army officers should learn to regulate their heart beats; this is because at high heart beat rates, it is difficult to maintain a visual focus on the near environment. An army officer should therefore engage himself in an in depth perception; having a close analysis of the close and far objects. In order to engage oneself in an in-depth perception, an individual has to deploy the use of binocular vision, which tends to enhance in depth perception by approximately 30 per cent. The auditory system is another significant physiological element for an individual under threat. At high heart beat rates, the parts of the brain that is solely responsible for hearing is significantly impaired. The physiological factors also affect the brains; this basically explains why people in a battlefield hardly remember what transpired during a confrontation. The motor skills such as trigger pulling are also significantly impaired (Siddle 78). An overview of the above depicts that the human body experiences physical alterations during threat situations characterized by high stress due to the probability of mortal danger. A warrior should anticipate such physiological and psychological changes and he should be able to identify them when they occur and adequately plan on effective counter strategies to tackle them. Some of the approaches that Siddle proposes are outlined in the following paragraph.

An army officer or a warrior can counter the physiological and psychological factors in a threat situation in various ways. It is worth noting that SSR response to threat environment is autonomous and takes place without incorporating the conscious mind of an individual. One of the most effective ways to maintaining a heartbeat rate is through the use of skill confidence; this can be attained through mental training and in some cases, physical training. Another strategy training strategy that can be deployed is the use of simulation training. Simulation training can enhance ones confidence through making an army officer get used to the stimulus. The training that an individual undertakes should incorporate a realistic environment that is response based. Another important training aspect that Siddle suggest is the use of visualization, which serves as a mental imagery. Enhancing one’s breathing skills is an important martial arts requirement (Siddle 89). As an army officer, it is important have breathing skills. An effective breathing training that an individual should adapt must incorporate a consistent breathing cycle, which aims at reducing the heartbeat rate to about 115-145 beats per minute; this range is the most appropriate for individuals in a threat condition. It is important for a soldier to consider his life as precious, therefore appreciating the value of life. With this in mind, a soldier will put a lot of consideration in securing his life and that of his fellow members. On a similar account, another beings life is of ultimate importance. The morals of an individual are usually directed towards protecting one’s life and the life of a fellow being through avoiding cases of serious injury and death. In a self-defense scenario, an individual has to undermine his moral will and may be compelled to take the life of a fellow being or cause some serious injuries to the opponent. Perhaps, the most important attribute that an army officer should possess is the confidence in the mission. An army must believe on the mission in a manner that the benefits associated with the mission should outweigh the risks. Having that mentality is imperative in ensuring that a soldier can deploy appropriate combat strategies. The faith system of the military unit is also important in facilitating the way a soldier or a warrior will engage in a combat. People will not engage in a combat while the core issues are yet to be resolved. It is worth noting that a faith system that is resilient minimizes the chances and the fear of dying by an army officer. An instance is the September 11 events whereby the terrorists were already willing to die; therefore, they could not jeopardize the mission at hand. In the general sense, combat training should incorporate both motor skills and the various ways of handling psychological and physiological issues that may arise during a threat situation. In a combat situation, an army officer has to enhance his stimulus response time, contrary to the situation a police may find himself on the streets. An army officer must therefore learn a single response that can be applied to diverse situations; this helps in the reduction of a response time required by an army officer to respond to a given stimulus (Siddle 100). It also vital to understand the associated effects of the aftermath of a army officer should therefore have the necessary approaches that can be used to handle the psychological effects that are always as a result of war. For instance, the loss of a comrade, injuries that may render him not serving in the army and other backlash related effects on the mind.

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