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7 Things That Will Happen During A Fight

As much as we train, and as realistically as we train, a real fight is a different kind of beast. Real fights, the ones you get into in dark alleys and smokey bars, create a totally different environment and radically different physiological reactions in your body.

It's like the difference between swimming in a kiddie pool and swimming in the ocean. You're doing essentially the same thing in both places, but now you have to contend with tides, wind, temperature, salinity, sharks, fishermen fishing for those sharks, medical waste … it's the same, but it's totally different.

The only SURE way to know what will happen in a real fight is to actually get into one. Short of that, here's seven things you can pretty much expect to happen to you in a fight, on the theory that forewarned is forearmed.

1. In A Real Fight You'll Lose Power

Yes, that's right, you'll lose power.

You know when you hit the heavy bag in the gym, and you're just laying these hard and heavy shots into the leather and it's folding in half because you're hitting it with so much power? Well, that doesn't happen much in real combat.

Largely due to the cocktail of stress hormones coursing through your body, you end up losing quite a bit of power.

It makes sense. Turbocharging like that takes a lot of energy to produce. A lot of the energy that you normally put into your strikes in practice goes into producing that adrenaline rush. After the initial burst you begin to feel weakened by it.

I've felt this effect and it can come as a bit of a shock when you throw a strike and it feels like you’re hitting with a feather. You can't understand why you didn't strike the way you did thousands of times before in training.

That's why - adrenaline. It has both positive and negative effects. The real key to maximum performance under its influence is knowing what to expect. So, you have to learn about it and you have to experience it first-hand a few times. When you learn to cope better with the stress reaction you will also learn to strike more powerfully when in that condition.

A good start to learning to cope would be doing pressure tests and scenario work in the gym. Exposure therapy. Reality-based sparring. Whatever you call it, what you feel in the dojo will not be what you will feel in a real situation exactly, but it’ll be enough to get you started. You’ll just know to expect more of it.

2. You Never Move As You Want To In Real Fights

I know what you're thinking. In a real fight you'll look like a cross between Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris. Something to do with the adrenaline, right?

Not exactly. Although issuing a cat-scream to someone who is about to rip your head off and spit down your neck might be a good ploy to set up a pre-emptive strike, that is not what I mean.

You'll scrape and grope-about frantically with your hands. You'll trip over your own two feet. Nothing will work the way you expect it to.

Yes, that’s right. Real violence doesn't tend to play out the way it does in ''Hard To Kill''. Unlike Segal in that movie you tend not to be that graceful or fluid in a real fight.

Physical confrontations are so hyped-up and frantic that it is almost impossible to be graceful, at least not in the way you normally would be when doing techniques in the dojo. The adrenaline messes up your co-ordination and fine motor skills a wee bit.

Hence, you scrabble. You just want to get it over with. You don't have time to be graceful. You look like Jerry Lewis having a seizure.

That's why real fights always look so scruffy, so not-like your training, so messy.

So un-Bruce-Lee-like.

3. Your Ego Will Often Get In The Way

You know your ego. It's that jerk who loves himself and is always rudely demanding things; the one who always thinks he's right; the one who can't walk away from a fight, who refuses to turn the other cheek in case he appear weak in the eyes of others.

Think back. In all the times you have had a physical confrontation with someone, how many of those times were at least in part caused by you? How many times could you have easily walked away without resorting to violence?

Well, me neither, but indulge me for a few minutes …

We've all been in a few bad incidents of our own making, times when we pushed things too far, when we said things out of pride, times when we should have left well alone and walked away. It was your ego that made you stay when you should have walked, reacted when you shouldn't have, said things you shouldn't have said.

The ego is a powerful force. It has a massively tight grip on most people and its needs are hard to ignore. It also has a habit of taking over in times of stress.

It's kind of like Bruce Willis that way.

If you wish to lead a peaceful life then learn to guard against and control your own ego. In a conflict situation it will get you in trouble every time. It will strive to make you feel bad about doing the right thing and good about doing the wrong thing.

If some drunk says something rude to your wife your ego will immediately want to reprimand that person. You'll feel like you have to confront the guy, maybe even hit him. From a self-defense point of view that would be the wrong thing to do. Just, whatever, the guy's a douchepickle, walk away. But your ego will pop up and shout “NO! Hit this douchepickle - NOW! He insulted your woman!

I don't need to tell you why that shouldn't happen, but your ego will keep telling you why it should.

And it's like that in every situation. Unless you have a handle on that sneaky ego it will continue to take over and cause more trouble.

So get a handle on it.

4. Time Will Dilate (Tachypsychia)

Sometimes referred to as Tachy Psyche, tachypsychia is the apparent slowing-down or expanding of time during a fight. Technically it can also have just the opposite effect – time will appear to speed up – but this seems to be a bit rarer in fight scenarios.

Tachypsychia occurs because of the dump of adrenaline (epinephrine and a whole soup-bowl's worth of other chemicals) we experience during a fight and is part of the body's natural fight-or-flight reaction to stress.

The trick is to learn how to deal with this sudden flow of adrenaline and the resulting tachypsychia.

Broadly speaking, when you're feeling suddenly overwhelmed in a stressful situation, with too much to comprehend and accomplish in the time-frame available, you're likely to perceive time speeding up. But in a similar situation, if you are sharply focused and drawing on a deep well of training to respond, time may appear to slow down, because your brain has streamlined the situation and is operating efficiently in survival mode. Because your sense of competence, confidence, emotion, and attention can vary among quite similar situations, your perception of time can vary as well.

So once again the answer is “experience” and “training”.

5. Visual Distortions And Tunnel Vision

That broken bottle your opponent across the room is waving around looks like the Mars Rover. That's because you're focusing so intently on just that object, and when everything else in the room suddenly vanishes that's tunnel vision. You need to learn to focus on specifics but also maintain a general level of environmental awareness to combat these two reactions.

Try “softening” your vision – look at your opponent's chest, instead of just one of his hands or his eyes, while maintaining your peripheral vision. If the distancing is right, sweep your eyes side-to-side every few moments. Relax. Breathe. Reposition yourself.

6. Auditory Exclusions

You might not recall that gunshot going off right next to you after the fight, or even during it. You'll forget what anyone said to you, you'll swear your opponent was a mute. Again, this is due to all of your senses focusing on a single threat.

Auditory exclusion is often described as a high-pitch ringing in your ears at a moment of crisis. Other sounds, like the sounds of gunfire, flash bangs and people screaming, seem to recede into background noise and only the high-pitch ring or tone seems in the forefront of sound. This is partially due to the epinephrine in your system dilating the blood vessels in and around the ears, making it physically more difficult to hear. Another reason for the hearing loss is mental. Cognitive dissonance prevents the mind from prioritizing sounds.

Good way to get blind-sided.

Auditory exclusions are one of the most difficult fight-induced responses to conquer. To be honest, this is one of my weakest points: I've already had poor hearing from an early age and the high-pitched ringing usually starts up immediately for me in a fight. I've yet to learn to deal with this effectively, so any ideas would be much appreciated. Thanks!

7. You'll Have A Post-Fight Reaction

Several events will occur immediately after a fight. A severe decrease in brain activity caused by the “catecholamine washout” after the fight will leave you feeling dumbed-down – the mental “crash”.

Hypo-mania … After an incident the adrenaline doesn't just go away. Its presence will manifest in many different ways - some people get the jitters, other fidget and pace, others rapidly babble, some get an erection, some yell and shout and some people do them all (hopefully at different times). This is part of the 'winding down' process.

Physical crash … your body will begin to feel the soreness and the injuries, you might vomit, strangely enough you might experience an erection – all are par for the course after a fight.

So, we have a fighter who is weak, slow and clumsy, with a huge ego, who is checking to see that his watch is still working, but he can neither see it nor hear it.

And he's sporting major wood.


Martial Arts | Martial Arts Philosophy


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