Aside from technique, one of the most difficult aspects to combat is overcoming fear. Fear is incredibly debilitating because it limits the student from achieving their maximum potential. A lot of positives can be derived from the human survival instinct, but in combat sports, the following reactions create weaknesses:
Fear in a combat situation results in:
and Tensing muscles.
Recognizing these three manifestations is the first step in mitigating them:
- A fighter’s instinctive reaction to an attack is to close their eyes. But this means they can’t see where the attack is originating. When their eyes are open, at a minimum they have a better chance of reacting to an attack and protecting themselves. The most damage typically occurs when an attack is unexpected.
- Students also have a bad habit of holding their breath at the intersection of an attack. This has a compounding effect if the student also holds their breath when they are attacking. This occurs because the body is instinctively reacting to a physically stressful situation. But the result is debilitating. I tell students that they will exhaust themselves four times faster by holding their breath because muscles are being deprived of oxygen. By remaining calm, breathing can be controlled, and a steady flow of oxygen can be maintained throughout a match.
- The third problem is what I call the “balloon effect”. This happens when a student tenses their muscles and holds their breath when getting hit. By freezing their body the student is unable to react to an opponent’s attack, nor execute an effective counter-attack. Tensing is also painful because the body is forced to absorb the force of the punch into surrounding muscles, organs, and bones. Fighters need to learn to breathe out when they get hit. This helps by releasing some of the attack’s energy.
The fighter who blinks less sees more.
Proper technique requires confidence. This means opened eyes to see and react to all the nuances of an opponent. Controlled breathing is needed, both when being attacked and when attacking. Finally, fighters are most effective when they are relaxed. This doesn’t mean being relaxed 100% of the time. Rather to tense muscles only when called for – such as in the last milliseconds of an explosive attack.
About the Author
Gabriel Dusil has been a practitioner of Martial Arts for over twenty years. Originally he trained in the traditional style of Shotokan Karate. Gabriel has also trained under Sensei Martin “Sonic” Langley in the United Kingdom and currently trains with Karel Ferus in Prague at the Ferus Fitness Fight Club, fffc.cz. More recently he focuses on circuit training, strength & conditioning, and kickboxing.
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Martial Arts • Fighting Science Series
If you would like to read more articles in this “Yin Yang of Fighting Science” series, check out these posts:
• 1 • Yin Yang of Technique vs. Power
• 2 • Yin Yang of Speed vs. Timing
• 3 • Yin Yang of Fighting Styles
• 4 • Yin Yang of Technique vs. Instinct
• 5 • Yin Yang of Empty vs. Full Cups
• 6 • Yin Yang of Slow vs. Fast
• 7 • Yin Yang of Perception vs. Reality
• 8 • Yin Yang of Fear vs. Confidence
• 9 • Yin Yang of Threes
• 10 • Yin Yang of Burden vs. Privilege
• 11 • Yin Yang of Anticipation vs. Surprise
• 12 • Yin Yang of Compliance vs. Resistance
• 13 • Yin Yang of Attacking vs. Defending
• 14 • Yin Yang of Fighting 360°
• 15 • Yin Yang of Teachers vs. Students
• 16 • Yin Yang of Physics vs. Physiology
• 17 • Yin Yang of Vulnerability vs. Opportunity
• 18 • Yin Yang of Martial Arts vs. Combat
• 19 • Yin Yang of Sport vs. Violence
• 20 • Yin Yang of Rhythm vs. Random
• 21 • Yin Yang of Stability
• 22 • Yin Yang of Strategy vs. Tactics
• 23 • Yin Yang of Instinct vs. Reason
• 24 • Yin Yang of Unstoppable vs. Immovable