3 Things You May Not Know About Real Fighting

real fighting
Real combat situations never go the way you train in the gym/dojo. Here are three things to watch out for if you find yourself in a real situation.

1. In a real fight you lose power.

Yes, that's right, you 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 seems like the bag is about to break free from its chains 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. Turbo charges like that take 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. What you feel in the gym 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 scrabble in real fights
I know what you're thinking. In a real fight you get an uncontrollable urge to play board games. Something to do with the adrenaline, right?
Not exactly. Although suggesting a game of Scrabble to someone who is about to rip your head off and stare down your neck might be a good ploy to set up a pre-emptive strike, that is not what I mean by scrabble.
Here's the dictionary definition of scrabble:
To scrape or grope about frenetically with the hands.
Yes, that’s right. Real violence doesn't tend to play out the way it does in Hard To Kill. Unlike Segal in the 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 gym. The adrenaline messes up your co-ordination and fine motor skills a bit.
Hence, you scrabble. You just want to get it over with. You don't have time to be graceful.
That's why real fights always look so scruffy.
3. Your ego will often get in the way
You know your ego. It's that asshole 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 they 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 recourse to violence?
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.
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. The safest 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 defence point of view that would be the wrong thing to do. Just whatever, the guys a dick, walk away. But your ego will pop up and shout "NO! Hit this dick-now! He insulted your woman!"
I don't need to tell you why that shouldn't happen. Your ego will keep telling you why it should however.
And it's like that in every situation. Unless you have a handle on your sneaky bastard ego it will continue to take over and cause more trouble.
So get a handle on it.
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ashley's picture

Some great points in this post. Training in the dojo is so different to real life situations. It's the element of unpredictability that makes real life situations so dangerous. Thanks for providing your experience.
Neal Martin's picture

There are so many variables involved in any one situation, you could never hope to train for them all. You can only hope to do your best when the time comes and hope the training you have done will come in useful. Experience provides you with feedback however, which you can then use to help you better deal with future situations. Thanks for your input. I appreciate your comments.
hope's picture

I especially, like the first two points, exactly right in my experience. However, practice in the dojo -- pressure tests, scenario work -- still don't come anywhere near the real thing (although much, much better than no preparation!!). I don't know how to get around that (short of hiring a Kato to jump out from behind doors unexpectedly, to keep in practice).
Neal Martin's picture

I think I mentioned that fact in the article, it's hard to recreate reality in the dojo. There is no real way to get around it. As I pointed out in an article I wrote recently, there is no substitute for experience. You have to decide how far you want to take things. I went into bouncing, purely to gather some experience and to test out what I was training in. Not everyone wants to go that far however, so all you can do is make your training as real as possible and hope it carries you through if the time comes when you have to use it. Also bare in mind, there are no guarantees. No matter how experienced you are, things can still go wrong. Here's the article I mentioned: http://combativemind.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/experience.html
Romi's picture

I'm new here and would just like to say I agree very much with the original article (for similar experience and advice read British Geoff Thompson). I'm female, recently got into Krav Maga (I have experience from growing up in violence, but was never a bad guy ;) and we do train under pressure, stress and aggression. An important part of trainign is also - intention. Have the intent to win! It's not about çan you', but 'will you'. And I'm also thinking of getting myself into some boucding work to get myself exposed and taste the real thing. To my opinion, that's the best way to practice your art in real.
Neal Martin's picture

Thanks for your comments Romi. I'm actually a certified instructor under Geoff Thompson. He was one of the first martial artists to bring that element of reality into training. I'd definitely recommend some bouncing experience. Overall, I found it to be a very positive growth experience- apart from the boredom!
deanagg's picture

Intresting reading and I couldn't agree more, but its worth remembering that it not only your that can cause trouble to escalate but its also those around you (friends etc) can also pay abig part in whether you walk away or not!
Neal Martin's picture

I totally agree, sometimes those around you can be your worst enemy, as I've found out to my cost a few times! Family and friends often start things that you may have to sort out or finish for them...often with no thanks afterwards! In fact, you will often become the worst in the world for doing so!
Romi's picture

Ahaahhha, just like reading that British guy I mentioned above. He has very similar experience (was a bouncer 10 years). But anyway, Neal, not many dare to expose themselves and do good work for others, so thanks for doing so and sharing your valuable experiences here.
Neal Martin's picture

Agreed Dean. I've found myself in enough situations in the past where my friends and even family have started things that I've had to finish or sort out. As you said, in those situations, you can't just walk away, you have to face the music come what may. Thanks for commenting.
Chaleira's picture

This was a good read. Thanks for sharing!
Neal Martin's picture

No problem. Glad you enjoyed it.
Terry Shea's picture

I was a bodyguard for DOmestic Violence victims for many years. Yes, I have scrabbled at times. but mostly I assess my situation and respond according to the threat level. Yes, there is time to think about your response, a split second. But that is enough. I have learned to keep my temper out of it, as that will cause me to lose power and focus. Also, my ego has no place in my response. I will make too many mistakes. But, that way of defense has taken me many years to develop. And it has taken many years to learn to keep my ego out of it. I have to focus on my job at hand. When I do that, my power is undiminished. Wildness, rage, fear, all will scatter your power and cause you to make mistakes
Neal Martin's picture

Agreed Terry. Learning self control will only come through experience. After years of door work I just developed the mindset that I had a job to do and that was that, just get on with it and don't make it personal. That helps keep you calm so you can evaluate situations before you go in and also keep you from getting too emotional about things, which helps with the adrenaline. Thanks for your comments.
cris donovan's picture

i like the last point; it is particularly pertinant to the pre fight time too.
Neal Martin's picture

Learning to handle the pre-fight is one of the biggest things you can do to increase your chances. Fights are generally won or lost at this stage.
Romi's picture

Agree with others, it was a good read, a very important one and I can't really understand who would vote this down. They might find out their truth out there once. Ouch!
Neal Martin's picture

It's honest information and the truth as I and many other experienced people see it. It's what I try to put across when I write on my Combative Mind blog and other places. I don't know why people would vote down the truth, probably because they have never experienced it. As you say, they may find it out to their cost one day.
ramsey's picture

well put
Neal Martin's picture

Thank you Ramsey.

that article was well written and most of the time use to experience what is written there and that is well putten
Neal Martin's picture

Thank you for your comments.
aikishihan's picture

It may be a bit oversimplified, but this article dramatically points out the simple, common sense awareness each person needs to have to survive. Of course there are more clues to learn and incorporate as experience guides you forward. This is a good place to start.
chang's picture

hi, I liked your article. I have a kneen interest in martial arts, but I only know little basics of it .I want to ask something- nowadays I am very stressed, because of an incident happened few weeks before, I am a college student, on a day, three senior students came and they snatched my phone and gave warning to beat by feet, and said that don’t talk to girls in your class and don’t message to girls. After I get in tension, I don’t know why they done this. Next day I with my two classmates gone to them and asked why they done that, there they said that I am doing wrong messages to a girl. But it was not true, they was having confusion. We say them that this is not correct,they didn't believe and abused, we also abused them and come back to class. After that class 30 senior students came to our class and started beating us, me and the two friends.After they gone I was having a cut below my eyes by the attack of their punches. We gone to the college authority and reported. They suspended 3 seniors whom we recognized. But the boyfriend of that girl who send them to beat us didn't get suspended because he was not present at the fighting. Now After that incident some students tease me, that I had beaten without any reason and I had done nothing, I am a coward. My ego gives me tension, to beat that person. What I do? Do I beat that person and fight with them or not? Please give me advice.. chang
ashley's picture

How about ignoring these people?
chang's picture

ya, i try to ignore, but whenever they come nearby me, they show a laugh and give a competing eye contact.
taekwondo101's picture

good article.I find martial arts fascinating and enjoy the camaraderie.
tracma's picture

this article is true.....which ever you are at in this kind of situations hehe,but nw im hardend my head to mke sure im ready hahaha