06: Hope for Nothing, Fear Nothing, Be Free with

MMA Coach Pete Panos 

This episode is a conversation with MMA Coach Pete Panos from UPRISE MMA in Los Angeles, CA, about finding calm during a fight and balancing the physical and the mental aspects of training.

Many non-crucial details of emergency medical cases, like when a case happened or the age or gender of the patient, have been changed randomly to preserve patient confidentiality. As always with the Emergency Mind Podcast, the goal is not to provide medical advice or commentary on medical care, but to explore best practices and ways that we can all improve how we think during an emergency and apply knowledge under pressure. Additionally, the views expressed on the podcast are personal views and do not represent the views of the employers or organizations at which we work.

01:30— Details about the mixed martial arts school Coach Pete runs on the westside of Los Angeles, CA, called UPRISE MMA can be found here or on Instagram at @uprisemma. Details about Artbar LA, the art and music venue next door, can be found here or on Instagram at @artbarla.

03:10—There are a large, large number of different types of martial arts. In this podcast, we focus on primarily on two styles: Muay Thai (a primarily striking art) and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (a grappling art). Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) refers to a hybrid style of multiple martial arts which involves elements of both striking and grappling.


06:15—Other activities (like yoga or surfing for instance) certainly also have the deep and rich internal components found in martial arts. That said, in martial arts the connection between inner (mental / spiritual) and outer (physical) training is particularly strong and important. In the more traditional martial arts, this connection has been explored in books like The 20 Guiding Principles of Karate-Do, by Gichin Funakoshi, The Book of Five Rings, by Miyamoto Musashi, or Zen in the Martial Arts, by Joe Hyams.


08:30—The single mindedness approach to a complex and potentially dangerous situation that Coach Pete is describing here is obviously important during emergencies in generaly. While there might not always be a literal punch coming at you, if your attention is divided you will not perform your best. Martial arts training has the distinct advantage in teaching this idea because the gap between stimulus (divided attention) and response (getting punched) is particularly short and obvious. The question is how to be mindful of this in other realms like business or emergency care where the linkage between divided attention and suboptimal outcome might less obvious (though no less true).


10:15—I really enjoy this meditation instruction that Coach Pete describes: just focus on your breath and if a thought arises, just let it float on down a river.


12:05—In Episode 03, Dr. Andrea Austin digs into some of the connections between breath and performance when she talks about “tactical” or “box” breathing. Check out 39:49 or so. Coach Pete’s instruction to just remember to breathe and to find the moments to take a deep breath in the middle of whatever is happening is also simple and useful. It’s also something he routinely reminds me of during our Jiu Jitsu practice.


15:37—We don’t get into it at all this episode but there’s a deep connection between facial expression, emotion, and performance that is explored deeply in the excellent book The Hour Between Dog and Wolf by John Coates. There’s some really interesting science behind Coach Pete’s suggestions here, reflecting the broader ideas that physical techniques (breathing, posture, or anchor movements, for example) can profoundly alter our response to stress and pressure.


20:45—There’s a wonderful Japanese proverb that captures this idea. “Fall down seven times, get up eight.”

23:33—“You train until you’re good. Then, you keep training until you’re better.” Deep wisdom in there about doing the work and training for training’s own sake. Similar in some sense to a quote by Maya Angelou: “Do the best you can until you know better. Then, when you know better, do better.” There’s also some more discussion of this idea around 26:00.


28:00—“You can’t fake da funk.” Arguably my favorite part of this conversation and seriously true. Your hands are either up or they are not, you either put in the work to get better at applying knowledge under pressure or you don’t. There’s no way to fake it. 

31:10—For a great introduction to the basic leg lock positions, check out this video on the MMA LEECH site from Professor Gustavo Gasperin, the head BJJ coach at UPRISE MMA and a professor I’m extremely fortunate to get to work under


33:03—“By panicking, the situation is not going to become less chaotic.” When we panic, we don’t fix the problem, but we do add another layer of problems on top of it. As the Zen philosopher Alan Watts puts it, “No amount of anxiety is going to make any difference to anything that happens.” The discussion here by Coach Pete about the importance of staying calm when under attack is excellent and highlights the fact that staying calm is both a choice and an ability.


36:49—“I don’t want the first time he gets kicked hard to be in the ring.” Training to handle to pressure by training under pressure is one of the core principles of the Emergency Mind. There’s obviously a balance here-- excessive or unnecessary amounts of pressure in training can run the risk of injury or burnout before the actual event, but nothing can really prepare you for taking a hit like being hit. In the emergency medicine world, the comparison would be to the need for high-fidelity simulation to prepare for critical cases. (See for example Episode 03 with Dr. Andrea Austin and Episode 05 with Dr. Amy Hildreth, both of whom talk about the importance of simulation for emergency training.)


38:40—There’s another quote on the wall at UPRISE MMA which we didn’t talk about, but which is also worth digging into: “Tomorrow’s battle is won during today’s training.”​