Informed Fighting

By Colin Sullivan

Sound crashes all around you. Your vision blurs as you recoil and attempt to find your surroundings. You look up towards your opponent in front of you, his fists raised. He has a look in his eye that both excites and frightens you. The Adrenaline starts to kick in as you clench your fists in rage. An unknown attacker stands in front of you. Two Options are set forth before you: fight or flight.

If in a situation where you might need to use your martial arts, you will have no indication of who your opponent is, what they know, or how well they fight. Your decision to either fight the attacker or flee the situation depends entirely on a series of bodily responses that you have little control over.

Every time the body is faced with a situation that it deems threatening, a response called the flight or fight response is triggered. As soon as a threat is perceived, a part of the brain called the hypothalamus does two things. It triggers a nervous response for the body to react physically using the Sympathetic Nervous System that will activate the endocrine system so that the body can deal with the threat. When the body activates the Sympathetic Nervous system, the body generally starts to work faster. The Sympathetic Nervous System will now active both the pituitary and adrenal gland. The pituitary gland will release the chemical adrenocorticotiphine hormone (ACTH) that will travel to the adrenal gland just above the kidneys. This chemical is then processed inside the adrenal gland and the adrenal gland will release more than 30 chemicals into the bloodstream where they are transferred to the brain so that the threat can be processed. The brain then processes this information along with visual information to make a decision on what to do in a very short amount of time. With this sudden flow of all these hormones inside the bloodstream, the body will also start to change and adapt to the situation around it; the muscles in the body will tighten, blood pressure and heart function will increase, and the eyes will dilate to take in more light. The body prepares for the worst as this ancient instinct kicks in.

While the inclination of a competent martial artist may be to fight, there should be no shame in fleeing the situation as well. There is far more power in knowing when you can and can’t fight than just knowing how to fight. Many people equate learning Tae Kwon Do with learning how to fight however it shouldn’t be just that. Learning martial arts should be about learning to fight so that you don’t have to fight. Words will be able to bring you a lot farther than your fists and Tae Kwon Do reflects that.