I was flying back from working fights in Vegas recently and reflecting once again on the role of sparring and martial arts, particularly kung fu. I have often stressed the importance of it and how it trains the mind for the type of stress that only real fighting brings. You don’t need to be bashing each other’s brains out to get this but you do have to bring on real pressure and threat, though controlled. I have tried many times to bring this home to people but just always seem to fall short. But here I am on an airplane looking at the cockpit door and voila! It hits me. Not the door, the idea. If you were on a plane and it was in distress who do you want to take over for the pilot, another experienced pilot or someone who trained in a flight simulator? Does this make it real enough for you? Perhaps the person who trained in the flight simulator will have enough tools to pull it off but the experienced pilot will definitely have the ability. Kata and point fighting and all the other variations are simulators and have little bearing on real life emergencies. The pressure you feel when completely overwhelmed cannot be imagined. The absolute urgency of the moment numbs the mind and if you’re not trained for it you freeze or panic.
I was driving in a blizzard in Iowa the week before that fight. It was a nightmare and I’ve never seen anything like it, ever. Wind blowing at 45 miles an hour creating what they call a ground blizzard, pure whiteout across the plains. I was in the passenger seat trying to navigate for the driver who was awesome. In the back seat was one of the ring judges from the night before. He was clearly panicked and kept talking and asking questions when we inched down the road, cars strewn about. It took close to 3 hours to get to the airport and would have normally taken 50 minutes, literally a straight drive up Route 29 north IA. When we stopped, I said to the driver, “That was a horrible nightmare, absolutely terrifying! You were great”. The fight judge looked at me and said, “What, are you kidding me? You were quiet and calm the entire time navigating and now you say it was terrifying?” I replied, “Yes it was but it does no good to be anything but absolutely still under such great stress, a busy mind is an impediment. I’ve been in extremely stressful situations before so I know how to handle it. Sorry, but your constant talking and questioning was a complete distraction”. The driver dittoed it. He said nothing.
The point here is that only real stress can prepare you for these situations. A flight simulator will definitely teach you technique and some skill but that resides in the cognitive part of the brain. Stress forces us to the more primitive part of the brain and we must unite the two. Someone who trained in a flight simulator will be much more qualified than someone with no training at all but still will be greatly disadvantaged in a real emergency. You really have to grasp this with your whole being and realize the truth of it. Many martial artists believe that when the time comes the ability will arise from the training; it’s nonsense. You see videos all the time on YouTube where an experience martial artist, with no real fighting background, gets absolutely crushed in a real match. Like I’ve said for years and will keep saying, you can’t train to swim standing next to the pool and you can’t train for the ocean in a swimming pool.
Please think about it when you go about your training. It can really make a difference in a life and death situation.
Spoiler Alert: they run out of gas before hitting the ground and the plane stops! Gotta love Bugs!
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