Tension slows down your body, plain and simple. When in combat you must move quickly and deliberately. The physiological response to a combat or use of force situation can be severe yet it can also be controlled.

Ideally the human body will only tense or contract the muscles necessary for the movement to occur, and leave the rest of the muscles not contracted or relaxed. Too often we move our body using too many muscle contractions which causes undue stress and slows are bodies down. We must strive for relaxation.

For example, In the Pramek (Practical Mechanics Survival System) Adaptive Combatives system we only use 25% of our available energy resources at any time so that we have a reserve for more fighting or more opponents if necessary, or to hike miles out of an area with full kit.

Combat breathing is one method to help create relaxation even in the midst of stress. The breathing cycle consists of a four count inward breath, a four count pause, a four count outward breath, and finally a four count pause.

Tension causes opposing muscles to be contracted while the active muscle is trying to work. Generally,

  1. Unnecessary and unwanted “muscle tension” throughout your body
  2. Unnecessary and wasted “motions
  3. Unnecessary and wasted “time” in your body movements
  4. Disharmony” in your body movements.

Unnecessary “muscle tension” is any kind of muscle tension in the body that restricts or hinders a fluid movement of the human body. Unnecessary “motion” is any motion of the arms and legs that are not needed to help you run faster but is a complete waste of time. Wasted “time” is any movement in your body that produces a delayed reaction or response. The human body is designed to work together as one harmonious unit.  It is not designed to work independently. “Disharmony” in your movements occurs when the muscles are not working together in harmony to move your body faster. The body maintains a steady state of muscle tension based on active and passive components. The nervous system actively adjusts tension based on feedback it receives from the muscle itself.

So what can be done? Train while under stress so that the mid-brain knows what to do when needed. Practice four count combat breathing which consists of breathing in for a four count (through the nose), four count pause (holding your breath), four counts exhaling through your mouth, and finally four counts pausing before you repeat the cycle. If you can practice this breathing technique regularly, then when you are in combat or under stress you will be able to do your breathing exercise then as well.

Focus on becoming relaxed at all times and it will serve you well no matter what activity you are engaged in.


Author – Dr. John M. Landry, Ph.D. (State Law Enforcement Detective Lieutenant – Retired). Dr. Landry has served as a police instructor since 1995, and is certified as a Field Training Officer, Firearms Instructor (Rifles-Shotguns-Pistols), General Topic Instructor, Defensive Tactics Instructor, TASER Instructor, Chemical Weapons Instructor, Impact Weapon Instructor, Firearm Retention Instructor, Handcuffing Instructor, and Reality Based Training Instructor. Dr. Landry has also trained with some of the best instructors in martial arts, firearms, and combatives to include the Crucible’s Iraq Pre-deployment course.