T Nation

Cogniscience During Fighting/Sparring


Another thread brought up a realisation and I just wanted to get an opinion. When in fights or serious sparring matches I will mentally disappear. I don't know how to describe it, it is literally like I go into automatic pilot. The people I train with notice it too and if we are sparring will try to snap me out because it is generally a bad thing. In a fight I will "come to" so to speak, if put in an uncomfortable position or need to think my way out.

Especially if I am on my feet, I can go a whole round and not even realize or remember it, maybe bits and peices. until I see it. But even on the ground some times especially in training.

I was wondering if anyone else had experience like this, and other peoples' opinions as to whether it is a good or bad thing during an actual fight?


It's not "generally" a bad thing, it's a "very" bad thing.

Never had it while sparring.


I don't know, I've never really seen that before...most of the time I'm thinking, man I wish we were sparring with takedowns, or if we are doing takedowns i'm thinking, "man I gotta take this fucker down"


Probably a bad thing. You should work on it. It might come with time, and becoming more relaxed during fighting.


Yeah, doesn't sound like a great thing to me either (unless maybe you're owning your opponents). There is only one reality in combat, and that's immediate reality. If you aren't fully tuned into that reality, how can you hope to deal with/react to it effectively?

Do you also get things like tunnel vision, the sensation that things are moving in slow motion and other effects of high amounts of adrenaline?

Experiencing fear during your training is good for actually preparing you for real world combat. But, completely blanking out isn't good either.

Perhaps you just aren't mentally/emotionally ready for full on hard sparring or fights. Different people will be at different levels as far as what drills/training types they are ready to deal with mentally/emotionally.

Maybe work on some drills (other than sparring/fighting) where you are also under high amounts of stress and see if the same thing happens. If you are, then maybe try lessening the level of stress until this doesn't happen and then gradually increase as you become more and more comfortable.

In other words, work on your mental/emotional conditioning and perhaps fear management.


But that's it isn't a fear, thing, and it usually disappears when I stop "owning" my opponent. It is more like my body just takes over.

Before I started training in highschool, when I got into fights I would kind of blackout a little bit, so that kind of made me think maybe it was some kind of laps in short term memory due sympathetic response.

Like when sparring someone will ask the combination I used or sequence of movements to set up a particular strike or combination, and I really have no clue I just did it.

And it isn't stress I remember alot of my first fights those I was stressed and nervous.


Actually it's the best thing that can happen to you.


That's normal i think.
It means you're in the zone.
I get those in my serious fights and usually it means that i'm completely oblivious to all pain...which is great :stuck_out_tongue:
It's a very here and now feeling and everything is presented in incredible detail every second, right?
I usually forgot most of what happened during the fight after aswell.

As far as i know it's a good thing.
There is no loss of control or anything but a sense of heightened awareness which causes everything to be forgotten after the fight for some reason.


The pain thing is definitely similar. There basically is none til like a day later. And your like why does that hurt.

Yeah there are sometimes I can remember and it literally feels like movements are in slow motion and I can read what people are going to do next, but alot of the time I cn't remember it until I see it.


I'm not sure going into cruise control is a good thing if you start losing a fight and need to make adjustments...I can understand 'being in the zone' but I don't think that refers to losing awareness of what you're doing.


It's not cruise control, at all.
It's like instead of time slowing down, your brain speeds up.
If you've been in a real fight or had some tragedy occur to you (a guy pulls a knife on you or you see a car is about to hit your car going full speed) it's that same type of feeling. Super awareness basically.

And you feel something but it's not pain. If you were to punch me in the face i would feel the shock, a small "glow" of pain and it would quickly subside and then be completely forgotten.


This happens to me. Once I just blacked out in a room and when I came too everyone in the room wad dead.


OP, you are not alone. This happens to me as well. I cannot add or comment on fights in the ring, but I have experienced this many times during both fights as a bouncer and combat as a soldier.

When it has happened, I have performed right on the money, doing everything I needed to do, and well. However, as you mentioned, I have only glimpses of recollection, and I don't remember thinking about doing anything, just doing it.

Perhaps it isn't our brains turning off, but the rare moments when it completely turns on. I cannot call it a bad thing, I think at those intense moments if I thought about it, I may have hesitated or frozen.


Yeah, then that sounds like "being in the zone" to me as well. It sounds like your motor memory/reactions are simply taking over. "No-Mind" as it's known in TMA.

Your conscious mind no longer clutters your head with thoughts, there is no split awareness (between thought and your surroundings/senses). You simply sense the world around you and are unencumbered by thought in your responses.

Does that sound anything like what you're describing?

I've had that happen a couple times, but I've always remembered it later.


Something similar happens to me as well, except that I remember everything instant-replay style. unfortunately it's first person perspective so you don't see as much as you'd think. But yea if i'm really "on" i can slow that shit down like Prince of Persia almost...

It's about very much being "in the moment". I have to say it's what i like most about fighting. It cuts down on the chatter. There's no "noise". Like when you talk to a girl you constantly have all the background noise (this describes it better than I can, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wm33zgNmxHY )... Fighting is the one time where everything and everyone just shuts the fuck up. It's the only time I'm really at peace.


I agree with this. This happens to many highly trained, highly effective athletes in many sports. It comes from very good practice and making the movements second nature as well as the thinking process or accessing a situation. Obviously, in sport a situation represents it's self very quickly and needs a counter or resolution made just as quickly. It is definetly in the zone.

This has happened several times to me. Like said previously if it wasn't on tape or there were not witnesses, it may be hard to piece together but at not time did fear enter your mind.


It is a nice little world when you don't realize there is anyone else but you and someone you have free reign to challenge. Win or lose it usually sucks when it is over.

Ok so it is nice to know I am not the only one. It is funny because the only person I have ever noticed this with was my instructor and usually when he would sparr with me. I could look at his eyes and realize no one was home and that is how I knew it was really on we weren't working technique or playing around.

But he also has a strong military SO background.


In Japanese TMA this is known as Zanshin.

Your mind ceases to "think" in the cognitive sense and your body reacts in a type of 2nd nature to your training. It is a reactive state where you are aware of your surroundings, but not, in a sense, thinking about strategy, or planning. You are allowing your trainned responses to flow in response to the external stimuli of your opponent. I think it was noted that people find your reflexes are quicker than normal as well as pain tolerance is higher.

In my opinion, bad for beginners, something for higher level MAist to strive for.


Sorry I did not read all the responses, so sorry if this has been posted.

I strongly sugguest that you focus more on the psychology and mental preparation of training/fighting more so than the actually physical. It sounds like you need to train your mind. I used to have this problem to. Most of the time it was when I was hugely outclassed and getting the snot beat out of me and all I was thinking about was covering. Then I started to read stuff like mind gym, wrestling tough, a fighters heart, ect. Now I am thinking the entire time through sparring/grabbling and I can remember everything.


Generally go on a healthy autopilot when fucking someone up. Generally start thinking a lot when getting fucked up. I don't think either is a bad thing; if something's workin', get in the zone, if its not, come up with something else.