Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pain in Combat

I clicked a link over at Kojutsukan to a t.v. interview/panel discussion on pain. 

To summarize, two elite athletes, one in Cricket and the other a boxer, discuss pain, or the lack of pain, that they experience during their chosen sport/profession.

The boxer discusses how she has only been hurt or felt significant pain twice in her fighting career.  She was aware she was being punched in the face but it didn’t really hurt. 

Is she superhuman?  Immune to pain? 

No.  She goes on to say that she feels agony when she stubs her toe at home.
There are panel guest who explore the why’s and how’s of it all.  I watched a good deal of it.  Here’s the link, if you're interested.

Well, it got me thinking...


People experience pain in varying degrees and in varying situations.  This stands to reason. 

If you are training to survive a violent encounter, you must factor in the fact that you and your opponent may experience pain, or my not experience pain, during combat.  

Bottom line, if you are fighting for preservation in a real world attack, the techniques you’ve practiced that hurt like hell during controlled, partial power practice, may have little or no effect on your attacker.  This will be exacerbated by the attacker’s level of commitment, focus, anger and adrenaline. 

Pain is an interesting thing.  As Dalton said in Roadhouse “Pain don’t hurt”.


Many people practicing martial arts have never been hit, not really been hit.  Hopefully most people won’t ever be assaulted by someone who is really trying to hurt them.  But if you are, you may feel pain, or you may feel numbness, or confusion, or a combination of these sensations.  

I’ve been on the receiving end of a couple good hits in my lifetime.  While shocking to a degree, I did not feel pain, per say.  I was acutely aware that I had been hit hard, possibly injured, but the actual acute pain didn’t set in until a while later, when the situation was resolved.

The experience is quite off-putting, to say the least, and if you aren’t prepared for the shocking nature, you may naturally sort of ‘shut-down’, covering up (natural to a degree) as opposed to defending yourself.  There are a lot of videos on-line where you observe people just kind of ‘taking it”.  It’s tempting to ask why they just stand there or cower and continue to receive a beating.

Like so many things, you have to prepare yourself mentally.  If you haven’t been hit before, understand that it might hurt or it might not but it will be a jarring experience.  Visualize receiving this shocking blow and use the mental rehearsal to create a trigger or response stimulus.  For those of you who have experience, do the same.  Use it like the gun going off to signal the start of a race.  The race in this case being your survival.

Beyond your own reaction, be aware that your attacker may be less fazed by your defense than you anticipate.  They may not be stopped by a well-placed strike or two. If they are on drugs or alcohol, their pain centers may be further impeded.

This is why, when training for the worst case scenario, the situation you couldn’t extricate yourself from safety, you need to make sure your training is effective, brutally effective. 

Any training for realistic self-perseveration should include techniques that do real damage. 

Consider joint locks and breaks and attacks to vulnerable targets like eyes and throat. 

Even if your attacker doesn’t feel pain, you need to disable their attack ‘delivery system’.  If they can’t stand or their limb or hands are disabled, or they can’t breathe or see, then they are less able to injure you and you are more likely to be able to create an opportunity to get away to safety and get help. 

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Real violence is ugly and nasty.  Make sure that your training and mindset is prepared to match this reality. 

Be safe.


Further reading:

I posted some time ago about pain compliance techniques and when they can (and can't) be used effectively.  Click here and here.

More reading on pain:

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