This topic isn’t very fun, but I also think it is very necessary.
As fighters, we spend several hours a week training in striking or otherwise physically dominating other people. It’s controlled, it’s a
game almost – most of the time. But we’re nonetheless conditioning ourselves. Very often, we spar until we are exhausted. Other fighters hit us when we’ve got no resources left. Train hard and long enough and you will develop a “fight mode” mental space in which you can push yourself beyond your normal limits. This mental space becomes a place where you go when you are pushed – physically and mentally – beyond what you could normally endure.
That’s very good for fighting, sparring and training; it’s not so good in the extreme circumstances of real life.
The reality of conditioning your mind into “fight mode” is that when and if you feel pushed beyond your limits, the conditioned reaction can be one of violence and dominance. You probably realize that your training makes you stronger and more dangerous than most people, and that with these skills comes responsibility; but trying to compute that when you’re in an emotionally extreme situation can be a challenge.
You’re conditioning yourself to punch when there’s no gas left in the tank. You’re conditioning yourself to keep going when the person in front won’t let up even though you hardly have the energy to keep your hands up. That’s extreme.
You should not be surprised if – when you get pushed emotionally – some of these coping mechanisms want to come out.
Once you realize what’s at work, though, it becomes easier to contain a potentially aggressive reaction. If you feel pushed beyond your emotional limits, get physically out of the situation. Walk away. Tell the other person to get out of your space. Basically insert some distance between yourself and the stimulus. Breathe. Try to remember that as a fighter, you have the responsibility not to use your skills outside of the training context.
Of course, the most important thing is not to direct physical aggression at others. If you feel like you’ve been pushed too far and the impulse to violence is too strong, redirect it. Run or do some sort of physical activity to dissipate the negative energy. If you absolutely need to strike something, pick a convenient inanimate object – a sofa, a pillow, a car seat or some other cushioned surface. Holes in walls and broken hands are not especially good results of an outburst.
This is probably the most important lesson little fighters. Realize: with enhanced power comes the weight of responsibility. Just as you won’t beat up a beginner in her first sparring session, so you mustn’t give in to a violent reaction in the real world – no matter how far you might be pushed. As someone who plays the dominance game on a regular basis, it’s your job to manage such reactions.