When a person is attacked, the human body reacts by dumping adrenaline into the bloodstream, which makes your heart very beat much faster. Your heart starts pounding, you take deeper, faster breaths… These physical reactions to stress were designed to give you more oxygen in the blood so you can FIGHT or TAKE FLIGHT.
The adrenaline dump can even make you impervious to pain. (You will feel it afterwards, but not during the meleé.) This body reaction is well-known as our ‘fight or flight’ response. And all human beings were born with it.
Sometimes the body gets hit with so much adrenaline, that all you can do is stand still and shake. I know, it happened to me once as a 21 year old.
I witnessed a furious cook with a large kitchen knife in his hand dash out of a burger bar and chase after a running skinhead. The chef caught the skinhead and held him with the knife at his throat until the police arrived and took over. The cook didn’t cut the skinhead, but happened right in front of me and I still got the adrenaline shakes.
I know I trembled for several minutes afterwards. This is a perfectly natural body response. Adrenaline might have been the way the caveman stayed safe from saber-toothed tigers, millions of years back. If the human kept still, the dangerous animal might fail to see it. But who knows?
Some traditional martial arts use sparring or tournaments to get their students to handle this adrenaline rush, but many don’t. This is quite useful to judge how you are progressing.
Aikido is a martial art where the traditional styles prohibit competitions or tournaments. They teach their students to remain serene while being attacked, but it takes many years. Also remember, the street is a hellava lot different from training in the dojo.
Shodokan Aikido, which I have trained at for many years is different because it is the only Aikido type which allows randori free practice (just like a Judo school), and they can also have competitions where you test your skills against another person who is just as good as you are and knows the same tricks you do. Now that is a test of your skills.
The thing about any kind of self defense is to be aware of that big adrenaline dump and try to find a fighting system that handles this realistically, and a martial arts or self defense system that you are happy with.
Books, videos and DVDs are of some help, but they’re best used to supplement what you’re learning hands on from an instructor. These learning aids are no substitute for physical body-to-body practice.
You also need to practise your different self defense moves again and again with a friend or a training partner. You will just be fooling yourself if you think it is enough to ‘train’ alone. You don’t want to discover that the hard way, on the street in a real fight situation.