The second most dangerous time in a fight

Aikido floor techniques


You’ve been attacked. Fists and feet. A blur. Difficult to see who’s doing what. Move fast. Turn. The glint of a knife. A shape behind…

What are the two most dangerous times in a fight?

Not, perhaps, when you’d expect. Not when the fists are flying, not even when that knife appears, though these are dangerous enough.

I wrote about the most dangerous time of all in a previous blog.

Now I want to write about the second most dangerous time: when you think it’s all over.

Two stories:

Million Dollar Punch

Have you seen the Clint Eastwood movie Million Dollar Baby? If not, SPOILER ALERT, I’m about to ruin the story for you. If you don’t want it spoiled, then skip to the next heading!

The movie stars Hilary Swank as a waitress who persuades a tetchy and underappreciated boxing trainer (Clint) to turn her into a successful amateur boxer.

Fighting her way up to the $1 million prize title fight, she looks as if she’s going to win that one too, until the bell rings for the end of one of the rounds.

Thinking it’s all over, Swank turns to go back to her corner.

And her opponent hits her.


It’s an illegal punch from behind, but no matter. It works. Swank falls awkwardly onto the corner stool. In fact, she breaks her neck and the break leaves her paralysed for the rest of her life. Quadriplegic. She can’t move and can breathe only with the help of a ventilator.

All because she thought it was all over.

It’s never over till it’s over

The end of the fight is doubly dangerous. In fact, I almost put it as the most dangerous time of all. The danger comes largely from your “adrenaline dump”.

During the attack itself, you are fully focused and alert. Much of this alertness comes from the hormone adrenaline, which the body makes urgently. Adrenaline has many vital effects: among other things, it speeds up your heart, gets oxygen into your muscles and sharpens your brain.

All crucial for keeping you alive in a dangerous situation.

And then it’s over. You think you’ve survived, and your body switches off.

The effect is very marked. You will often feel shaky, weak, even numb. You may feel you can hardly stand up straight as the hormone drains from your bloodstream. And you lose focus.

This is when a dangerous attacker could catch you cold.

The security guard

My second story is one I saw myself. One sunny afternoon in our local shopping centre, I watched a security guard eject a trouble-maker, escorting him to the front doors and getting him to leave.

The guard then turned his back on the open door and took out his walkie-talkie to report back.

Let me repeat that. By now, I’m sure you’ll know the problem. Immediately after ejecting a potentially violent man, he turned his back on the open door.

He had no idea where the other man was, whether he had a knife or had gone to get one, or even whether he was about to return with a gang of mates.

And if he had, the guard would have had no chance to defend himself or even run.

Luckily, the man didn’t return. But the guard wasn’t to know that.

Stay alert

In Aikido training, we train not just for the technique but for what you do before and after. I train my students to stay just as focused and alert when the technique is finished as during.

Beginners often have the habit of finishing a technique and then switching off. Their eyes might defocus. They might take a few random steps, wobble, lose posture, or – worst of all – turn their back.

Get in the habit of finishing a technique with calmness and stay focused and still. Eyes on your attacker or attackers, until you are absolutely sure you are safe. At the same time, be aware of any potential danger in your peripheral vision.

Your posture should be balanced, ready for the attack to restart. Or indeed a new attack to be launched from another direction. If you need to move away, either step back or make a quick tenkan so that you are always watching for danger.

Then you hopefully will never fall into the trap of the second most dangerous time in a fight.

Do you agree? Disagree? Tell me what you think.

Read more

The most dangerous time in an attack

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