Did I just say that sport-combat training won’t help you win a fight? I guess I did, but I didn’t mean it that way. Now, before all you BJJ and MMA enthusiasts start suiting up and challenging me to a cagefight, watch this video:

For a quick encapsulation, this fight between two skilled muay Thai fighters starts out like your average muay Thai battle: both fighters standing in the center of the ring, trading power kicks and punches. Things go south after a right-hook knockdown at 25 seconds into the match. The fighter who got knocked down (Red Shorts) gets up and stumbles to the ropes, prompting the other fighter (White Shorts) to attempt some type of flying kick that causes him to fall through the ropes and onto the floor.

Now here’s where the two enemies to every would be G.O.A.T. – emotion and adrenaline – show their faces.

Clearly embarrassed by his epic kick fail, White Shorts barges into the ring, brandishing a trash can lid. (After years of cops/courts reporting, I finally got to use the word “brandishing.” Win!) The ensuing brawl between the two fighters – and another man in a red shirt – bears little resemblance to the type of skilled combat display one might expect from Thai fighters battling out in the ring in their home country.

In classic self-defense situations – i.e., streetfights or barfights – there the element of human emotion and adrenaline is invariably thrown into the mix. This deadly chemical concoction hits our central nervous system and effects us in a number of ways, not the least of which is the loss of fine motor control. What this means is that you lose the ability to access the wide variety of complicated techniques they’ve spent a near-lifetime trying to perfect while in an emotional state.

Before we go any further, I’m well aware of the many YouTube videos showing a calm, collected MMA fighter dispatching a thug using basic BJJ techniques. When this happens, it’s usually the result of the MMA fighter not being a primary combatant embroiled in the situation. Rather, the fighter often dashes in from the sidelines, applies whatever Brazilian/Japanese-named choke hold he has, and ultimately saves the day.

But what happens if that same fighter is in the bar, with a couple drinks in him, and someone says something about testicles resting upon the fighter’s mother’s chin? Will the fighter still remain calm and in control in this scenario? In some cases, maybe; in most cases, I doubt it. I’ve trained with many an MMA fighter – some of them professionals – who’ve gotten into wild barroom brawls and came back to the dojo with a black eye and a story to tell about the encounter.

Hey, it happens…

So am I really saying combat sports training won’t help you in a streetfight? No, not exactly. I’m saying there’s always the chance your mind won’t allow you to access your repertoire of Muay Thai/boxing/kickboxing/MMA/BJJ/assorted deadly sport-fighting art techniques in a highly-charged situation. Thus, your latest belt, ranking, or win-loss record in the cage isn’t always a fail-safe guarantee that you’ll control your emotions and adrenal response during situations outside the cage. And even if you do, those techniques might not be effective in the heat of battle. (Remember: Out of all the technically-proficient strikes exchanged in the above muay Thai fight/brawl, it was a sloppy, stiff-armed haymaker that finally ended it for good.)

The best advice I can give anyone is to enroll in a reality-based self defense course that understands and trains you in the art of overcoming the adrenal stress response. I highly recommend Peyton Quinn’s course at RMCAT as a five-star crash course on the subject. It works with solid, basic techniques used under “live-fire” scenarios, and frankly, that’s all you need to stop most attackers. Bill Kipp’s FAST Defense course utilizes the same methodology, while the advanced RBSD student might enjoy Rory Miller’s scenario drills at Chiron.

And one more thing: Stay safe, good people!

About J.P. Ribner
J.P. Ribner is the author of Viking fantasy adventure series “The Berserker’s Saga.” Currently, the saga features two novels – “Legacy of the Bear” and “Prophecy of the Bear.” For more about his written work, check out his website.

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Comments
  1. Don’t you think that the whole think is a little WWE pro wrestling? he i so up set that he gets a weapon…. that is wide and flat and hits the other guy with the wide flat bit, not the edge! he then gets hit with the wide flat bit not the dangerou edge, also that he couldn’t find a better “weapon” anywhere.
    No one else gets involved, having seen sports matches that do get out of hand, these things escalate quickly, this one doesn’t
    I have seen videos from the ese matches that have a “comical” twist like this one, getting short people to fight or amputees etc, these seem to be used as warm up “fights” before the main event,
    No denying the points you make about the inapplicability of port fighting to SD etc, but questioning the actual nature of the video

  2. Hassan M. Rutherford says:

    It’s been my experience that it takes years of training and unfortunate encounters to be able to suppress the adrenaline response for combat efficacy. But take note: If you ever see someone that appears to be extremely calm in the face of conflict, rest assured that you are looking at someone experienced and ready. Do not engage.

    • JP_Ribner says:

      Indeed, because those are the people who will eventually explode in a very violent and effective attack that most mead-hall boasters aren’t prepared to handle.

  3. […] I used a video of what looked to be a muay Thai fight gone wrong to buttress my point about martial arts techniques and the adrenal response. Many of my loyal readers pointed out that the “fight” in the video was likely staged, […]

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