How long do you think you’d last in an all-out fight for your life? A minute? Three minutes? As long as it takes?
The people at Force Science put together a study to measure law enforcement personnel’s ability to recall crucial details after a grueling obstacle course meant to simulate a fight with an assailant, a foot chase and other physically demanding, high-stress situations.
What they found during the “all-out effort on a heavy bag” portion of the test is of particular interest to our self-defense training:
“Most dramatic — and alarming — was the speed at which exerters depleted their physical resources. On average, the officers spent 56 seconds hitting the bag, although some either quit or were called out as thoroughly exhausted after as little as 25 seconds. The blows they were able to deliver ranged from a low of 73 to a high of 274. The average was 183. The overwhelming majority of hits were fist punches.”
“Reviewing time-coded video of the action, researchers were able to count second by second the number of times each participant struck the bag. The average officer peaked at 15 seconds. After that, the frequency of strikes fell in a sharp and steady decline.”
“‘The officers started out strong, driving hard with penetrating hits that visibly moved the heavy bag,’ [Dr. Bill] Lewinski reports. ‘But by 30 to 40 seconds, most were significantly weakened. They were not able to breathe properly, their cadence dropped, their strikes scarcely moved the bag if at all, and they were resorting largely to very weak, slowly paced blows that would have had little impact on a combative assailant.‘”
In effect, Blocksidge states in a paper he has written about the research, the exerters “delivering a concerted and sustained physical assault… ‘punched themselves out’ in a matter of seconds.”
Self defense training and physical conditioning had nothing to do with it.
Regardless of conditioning most of us should expect to be completely spent in 15 seconds of all-out assault effort. If we assume you’re going for nonspecific trauma, i.e., to “beat the crap out of him” you better hope he has less than 15 seconds of nonspecific trauma endurance in him. Unfortunately, most people have far more — the human body can take an awful lot of punishment in the form of bumps, bruises, lacerations and whatnot.
Far better, then, to focus your efforts for maximum effect; break something important inside of him so it doesn’t work anymore. The essential difference between nonspecific and debilitating trauma is that in one you’re asking the man to quit and in the other you’re making the choice for him.
If you can only count on having 15 good seconds, then you better be training to be effective inside of that time limit. And while it might be tempting to think of increasing your conditioning in the hopes of giving yourself more time, that idea was unfortunately dispelled in the study. The fitter officers hit harder initially but just ended up expending more energy per strike, exhausting themselves in the same amount of time as the less fit.
With TFT Self Defense Training, we have always actively trained to be effective inside of five seconds — we assume three to five seconds of chaos that you resolve with the first real injury. So the incident starts, and then you nail him in the side of the neck to knock him out. Done and done.
No wasted time, no wasted movement, no wasted effort. Everything is directed straight through a target, to smash it.
This is also why we stress the use of body-weighted strikes over the simple extension of the limbs (striking as opposed to punching and kicking) — when your muscles grow tired you can’t punch as hard, but you weigh the same whether you’re good-to-go or exhausted. Even winded you can still smash things with your mass.
It’s easier to train for results than to train to “go the distance”; it’s also easier to execute, and it aligns with a reality that, though constantly disappointing and often at odds with our own wishful thinking, must still be dealt with.
If training for the fight is an illusion, then our only option is to train for the knockout.