Understanding Adrenaline


A resting heart-rate


When a student first walks into my school they may have the goal of one day successfully being able to defend them selves against a strike, although what I try to do is to teach that student to aim to not have that strike thrown in the first place.


It is important for my students to know that I do not promote violence, nor do I try to justify it, but if there is not avoiding it, you should know how to handle it, and this does NOT always mean having to fight.


If you can walk away, then walk away


However, if you cannot walk away then try to defuse the situation, calm things down by talking your way out in a relaxed manner, and if you have been a bit of a dickhead, apologize (and stop being a dickhead).

But, if you cannot walk and you cannot talk then do not wait to see what happens, if a strike is definitely going to be thrown, let it be from you first.


So what are the signs?

Well usually there are three stages of adrenaline, and in order they are:






Looking at SIGHT first,

I’m sure we have all at some point in our lives found ourselves in a situation where you were made to feel uncomfortable because of the distance gaze of an unfriendly looking person way across the other side of the room.


Moving on to SOUND,

This is when we get close and personal with vocals such as:

“What the **** are you looking at?”

Then finally, TOUCH,

This may take the form of a push, a prod, or even the first strike.


This switching on of adrenaline can also be used in our defence by going from nothing to everything, this is done by suddenly using all three stages at the same time with solid eye contact, a massive push with both hands, accompanied by screaming “COME ON THEN!” right in their face.


Switching on their adrenaline, giving them such a rush that this is read by them in the same way it was to you, making them think ‘Is this guy crazy or does he actually have something?’ giving you the vital seconds you need to steadily make your exit.


The flip side of this is when you have decided that you will fight, at this point it is best to look weak and small, create a limp, hey what the heck, fake a heart attack!

While your opponent now sees you as an easy victory, his guard will begin to drop (both mentally and physically) then you can strike.


This is NOT a sucker punch!



Because it wasn’t you that started this, YOU tried to calm things down, YOU tried to walk away, but left YOU with no choice.


Another situation is when a person stands in front of you with their arms out to the side and their chest puffed out, attempting to start a fight, a lot of the time this is just bravado (or stupidity).


We see this all the time in the animal kingdom, one male putting down another in order to attract a female, whether it’s the cockerel’s chest, the lions mane, a cobra, peacock and so on.

But how do we know when the playing around has stopped and the time for action is now upon us?


There are three changes we need to watch for (presuming that all this time you had decided to remained calm, collected and together, not taking the option to simply nut the guy or punch his lights out from the beginning).


These three points are:

His arms starting to pull in

His chin beginning to tuck in

His brow starts to furrow


AT THIS POINT, the playing is over and an attack is imminent, so either get out or react first.



Adrenaline gives us that extra push in order to fight (arms) or flight (legs) but in the fighting frame of mind this can possibly be detrimental.


The average resting heart rate in a completely relaxed state may be around 86bpm (beats per min) giving you perfect dexterity in your fingers, therefore allowing you to handwrite with the greatest of ease.



However, should a fight break out, that heart rate will likely rise to around 140bpm.

This extra pumping of the blood, from the heart to the larger muscle groups will cause much less dexterity in the fingers and make writing now much more difficult.


Should a knife appear or a glass break, causing you to fear for your life, this heart rate may now hit 220bpm, making it not only difficult to write but hard to even hold the pen!



And it is for this reason that we see so many people in fights, swinging their arms so much, all blood flow has gone to the biceps and quads with little left for focus.


This is why we train Siu Lim Tau to help us to breath (keeping the blood highly oxygenated and reducing the build up of lactic acid) and to keep us focused, not only on the fight itself and what is around us (possible a sucker punch) but also to be able to direct attacks down center.


Because if you can focus just a little bit, if you can relax just a little bit, if you can take centerline just a little bit and reduce over-commitment and swinging, just a little bit, then you have the best chance of allowing your Wing Chun to work.


For the full version of this article please read my regular column in:

Wing Chun Illustrated (April edition)

Thank you



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