Thursday, June 27, 2013

An Experiment in Exhaustion and Fighting

It started with a terrible night's sleep. When my one-year-old wasn't screaming for Mommy I was tossing and turning. Were it not for the fact that we've moved our clock so it can't be seen from the bed I'd probably have spent hours staring at the numbers tick away.

When morning came I was beyond exhausted.

After I made a breakfast of ham and eggs for the kids I put it on the table, retrieved a knife and fork and stood there staring at the ham.

I was thinking, I need to cut this. I put the knife in my left hand and went to cut and realized it felt awkward. What am I doing? What hand do I use to cut with?

When I figured out that monumental task I sat at the table sipping coffee my eyes fighting to stay open.

I'm so tired I can't function. I thought. And my luck this is when someone would decide to break in my front door.

That thought stopped me cold. What if someone broke into my home at that exact moment? How would I preform being so tired?

I decided I would find out.

Usually when we are that tired we make steps to conserve energy or renew it. We take a nap (or try to), limit our exertions and maybe look forward to an earlier bed time. These are things I would have done on any other day but I decided I was going to test myself. That night was Krav and for the past few weeks I've been going to the gym daily to lift weights.

I decided that I would forgo a nap, go about my day and workout as usual (no lowing weights or skipping out on certain exercises) and go to Krav and see how I performed.

It was a long hard day, my workout sucked. I dragged myself to Krav and flopped down on the mat.

"I guess you want me to take it easy on you now?" My instructor asked.

"Absolutely not! I want you to bring it!"

He shrugged and we went to it.

We've been working on advanced (or.. more advanced) hitting this month. Class starts out with about 10 minutes of continuous hitting work on dummies. We work jabs from both hands, jab and cross, hooks to the body and head, then he'll mix it up and have us throw a knee or elbow in there somewhere or work against striking pads while he moves around.

It's exhausting when you aren't already exhausted.

I could tell my strikes were not as hard as usual. I wondered if it wasn't because I just finished working my upper body in the weight room or because of my exhaustion. Probably both. Either way, I was not finding my force. I was also having to drop my arms more often.

I could not get "I'm so tired" to stop reverberating through my head.

After we were done with our warmup strikes we were paired up. Usually we switch partners throughout the night but not that night. My instructor stayed with me the entire night. We worked blocking strikes and striking back. We worked moving around the strike and coming inside of a strike to do a simultaneous defense and offense.

He didn't hold much back. He kept the pressure on me and kept it up.

An opening!
He had told me that he saw the video of the New Jersey home invasion that resulted in a woman being beaten in front of her daughter and he said when he saw it all he was thinking was that I would be beating the crap out of the guy. I was thinking he had way more faith in me than I have in myself.

I'm not sure if he was testing me or what but out of left field he decided to throw a large right hook very similar to what was thrown in the video. I blocked it with an elbow and punched him in the face, kneed him in the groin, pulled him down and kneed him in the face.

When he tried it again with the other hand the results were similar.

He would vary it from time to time but in general I was performing decently. I certainly can't say I would have gotten out without a black eye and other bruises. There were also times he would switch it up so fast I would stand there with a blank mind thinking, Damn! What the heck am I supposed to be doing here?!

I could tell that my reaction time and decision making were suffering. I am certainly not to the point where fighting is instinctual. There's a lot of thinking that goes on still and when those mental facilities are tired it definitely slows me down.  

Then he decided to up the stakes a little bit.

We haven't worked ground fighting in a while and we usually only go to the ground when a sparring match gets a little intense and goes to the ground.

He came at me swinging and when I tried to get away from him he grabbed me and set me up for a take down.

I started screaming, "No! No! I don't want to go to the ground."

I was yelling, "No! No! No!" all the way to the floor.

I was so exhausted I knew my ground fight would suck more than usual and that gave me just enough fight to throw my knees up and stop him from falling on top of me. I pulled my feet in, hooked them on his hips and kicked him off me.

I scampered up off the floor and laughed. I was so desperate to not ground fight I think I had my best ground fight yet.

We kept at it for the whole hour and when it was finally over I was ready to collapse.

I rewarded myself with a double bacon cheeseburger, a hot bath and an earlier bedtime. I slept like a rock.

Now, before I get the scolding of concerned followers let me say that this is not something I will make a regular practice. I know that my body needs sleep and rest. I know that I need to take care of it. I know that it seems kind of stupid to purposely put yourself through that kind of experience. But I also know that you don't know your limitations until you push yourself there. I made a conscious decision to test the limitations of my ability to fight when fatigued and I learned some very valuable things about myself and my abilities (or lack thereof).

I expected some of the results, such as the weakness and lag in reaction time. But I hadn't anticipated the huge hit to my decision making abilities. There were a couple of times I had to completely disengage just to buy a few seconds to think. I was getting very frustrated with my inability to get a hold on what I was supposed to be doing. And getting hit in the head because of my inabilities was a harsh reminder of what was at stake.

I also didn't anticipate such a violent reaction to the potential of a ground fight. My strong aversion to being taken to the ground seemed to kick something into gear that was had previously been coasting. I was glad it found itself though because ground fighting our instructor really stinks. Not as bad as fighting my husband, but close.

It was a good experience and one that I think people should at least consider. Maybe you don't need to go out and exhaust yourself and get into a sparring match but doing so in a controlled environment is a good place to see where you need work and how you will respond.

And that's not considering the personality consequences of being exhausted. Many people get far more cranky or confrontational when tired. Their increased agitation can play into their responses and likelihood of getting into a confrontation. Other than losing patience and finding everything funny, my personality stays relatively the same when tired. So unless someone is offended that I'm laughing at them I don't think my exhaustion will spark any fights. 

I hope that as I continue to train I will have to put less and less thought into what I'm doing and more fighting instinct will take over for me. I also hope that I never have to legitimately fight someone when I'm exhausted because it really is not a pleasant experience. 


  1. You are such a mensch. I want to do Krav. Just wondering if someone with a spinal fusion and 66 years behind her could cope. But may that's not the question. The bad guys don't sort by those characteristics. You go, little mama.


  2. I actually had to look up what a mensch Thank you. :D
    You are right... bad guys don't sory by those characteristics.. or, if they do, it's likely because they are singling you out as a victim.

    Hopefully you find something that works for you!