30 seconds. Half a minute. It’s no time at all is it? It will probably take you longer to read this blog post. Here’s the thing though, time (even 30 seconds) is no more than perception. What can seem like no time at all to one person can seem like a lifetime to another. It all depends on the context.
To illustrate this in class, we do a little experiment with the students. 30 seconds exercise giving everything they have, followed by 30 seconds water break. Another 30 seconds of a different exercise. Another waterbreak. We did his for only about 10 minutes. Then we asked the students how long each interval was.
The students believed that the water breaks were between 10-15 seconds, while the exercises were between 1 and 2 minutes. Even with 20 students on the mats, without exception the answers were strikingly similar. The perception was that the water breaks were a lot shorter, while the exercise intervals were a lot longer than the reality. This is called Perception of Time. According to Steve Taylor, senior lecturer in psychology at Leeds Metropolitan University, clock time may be about minutes and hours but real time is down to how we experience it and it differs from person to person.
People who have been involved in car accidents will know that time seems to slow right down. It seems like you have time to stop for coffee and danish, knowing the accident is going to happen, but being able to do little to stop it. This is because your brain registers what is going to happen, allowing you ‘time’ to try to react. An inbuilt survival mechanism that has evolved with us.
So what’s the point? Well this is particularly relevant in a fight. The perception of time slowing down, and the adrenaline can effect your body in ways you won’t expect. On the one hand it will give you the extra energy required to deal with the situation. But on the other hand this saps your body’s energy just as quick. The point is to push yourself in your training. Know your limits and how long you can keep that intensity up for. Because 30 seconds sparring with a partner is not the same as 30 seconds fighting as if your life depends on it! Get a bag and some gloves and go all out for as long and hard as you can. How long could you survive if you had to?
My thanks to Russell Jarmesty of Jarmesty Martial Arts Academy for highlighting this important lesson in his Mean Street’s Seminar.