When I first began martial arts I was told by my instructor that the first 10 years of martial arts was spent getting over yourself. As a young man at the time I had no real clue as to what he was saying. Over the years, through various sparing drills and grappling competitions, I began to understand what he meant to a small degree. I had come to conclude that overcoming yourself was about learning not to react as your instincts would have you react, but rather learning to control them. I see that I was partially correct, but was missing a large part of the overall concept. It was my first fight in MMA that helped me fill in the rest of that wisdom he had laid in my mind.
The night of my first fight I was pumped and supremely confident. My family was there and I knew there was no way I would lose in front of them. I felt calm but nervous, but nothing I had not felt before playing sports. The gravity of the situation did not hit me until I stuck my head from behind the makeshift locker room and saw the fighters before me slugging it out. Their fight went three rounds but it seemed like it passed by in less than a minute.
It was then my turn. My opponent went before me. He was tall, about 6'2'', and slender. He seemed to tower over my 5'7'' inch body. He looked at me with little emotion and made his way down the isle at a slow and steady pace. You could tell he had made this walk before. I on the other hand had not. As my music began to play and I heard the announcer call my name, a wave of emotion struck me with intense force. I felt invincible. I burst through the curtain, through my hands up quite dramatically, and yelled at the top of my lungs. I then proceeded to make a fast paced Stone Cold Steven Austinisc walk directly to the cage. I stared down my opponent from my corner and jumped higher than I have every jumped before bringing my knees to my chest with each hop. The crowed ood and awed and clapped a little. I felt on top of the world.
We went to center ring and the stare down continued. I barely remember looking into his eyes. We touched gloves, the bell rang, and my world changed. I met him in the center of the cage and completely FROZE. I had no idea what to do next. It was like all my training had abandoned me and I was lost. My inexperience and inability to move was greeted with an immediate kick to the body and a knee that broke my nose. I thought, "I have to do something" and began to punch wildly. The next three minutes were a blur of mayhem and my blood. I thought a few times about tapping just to end the chaos and regain my sanity, but i could not find it inside me to go through with such a thing. The round ended and at that moment I had come to understand, although I didn't realize it at the time, what my instructor had meant by the words he told me so long ago.
In Psychology, this effect is called the Fight or Flight response (and really is should be called Fight, Flight, or Freeze because a lot of people just sit still and don't know what to do). This effect occurs under times of extreme stress. A person will either instinctively fight, run, or freeze up. It can mean the difference in life or death.
So how about you Maniacs? I know many of you have MMA experience, or maybe you don't. Maybe you have been in a fight in another way where you were forced to respond. How did you overcome this feeling? Or were you even able to overcome it at all? Let your stories be heard.