The first time was during a drill and a big ol' Texas linebacker thought his friend was his "attacker". He didn't know that his friend & I had exchanged places & where the friend's tombstone pad had been, my face now was. That big ol' boy whipped around & BOOM punched me right in the mouth. Thank God he was wearing those little fingerless MMA gloves. I always expected to go down if I took a hit like that, but instead I just wordlessly turned around and marched straight into the ladies room to count my teeth. They were all there, the only weirdness was a big swollen black spot on my bottom lip, so I just marched back onto the mat & finished the drill. I was shaking so hard I was useless, but quitters never win, etc. My neck was completely stiff & sore for 3 days, which was the only fallout.
The second time was during Phase B. Long story short, I missed a punch defense & my partner was going very hard and not wearing gloves. When he punched me I saw a weird simultaneous flash of light and flash of blackness, then turned into an angry 3 year old. I clenched my fists & stiffened my arms at my sides & marched back & forth, stomping. I was trembling so hard my jaw was chattering (standard operating procedure for me under an adrenaline surge). But here's the thing. After my intial flash of anger (not at my partner, just a surge of general anger) I looked at the instructor, AJ Draven, who wore a look of complete boredom. He was peeking at me discreetly from the corner of his eye, pretending to ignore me. This is how I knew I was okay. I've always been grateful to AJ for handling it that way. So I stomped over to my partner, put up my dukes & said, "Go". Here is the result:
Yes, my lips are also split.
And now for something completely different. This past weekend I attended an instructor training with John Whitman. During a pause in my training I stepped completely off the mat & was standing in the lobby looking out the window. A guy in the class, about 6'3" & 225 lbs., delivered a powerful inside slap kick (I didn't know there was such a thing as a powerful inside slap kick!) to a padholder who wasn't paying attention, and the pad flew out of his hand. I happened to turn around at that moment and saw this giant black thing right in front of my face. It looked like a giant asteroid hurtling toward earth in an old sci-fi movie. BOOM! Right in the money-maker! My head flew back hard, sending my weight over my heels ,and in slow motion I sank to the ground onto my behind. Yes, I went down! I don't like it, but facts is facts. Here you can see the road rash.
And here's the thing: there was no flash of anger, no adrenaline surge, no uncontrollable shaking. I just instantly turned into a zombie. The guys were surrounding me yelling, "OHMYGODAREYOUOKAY?" and I had no idea, so I just sat there in a haze until John walked over and barked, "She's fine, get back to work!" And you know what? I WAS fine. But if he'd said, "OMG, call 911!", I would not have been fine. My stupor left me in a highly suggestible state, which is disturbing, because I like to believe I am someone who thinks for herself. As the science teacher in the group put it, "A six pound pad traveling at at about 40 miles per hour. That's a lot of velocity!" But John said I was fine and I believed him, so I walked onto the mat and got back to work.
The take-home lesson: the difference between being focused and at least aware that you're in a situation where you should protect yourself, and being totally taken by surprise (as in a sucker punch) can mean the difference between going home safe and going home in a bag. Had I been on the street & taken a hard sucker punch to the face and then lots of follow-up punches and kicks, could I have snapped out of my zombie-like state and defended myself? I used to think I could, but now I'm not so sure. I'll tell you one thing - I'm damn well going to work on it.
What can I do - what can YOU do - to prepare yourself for such a scenario? First, you can accept that it is possible that it can happen to you. I was surprised and embarassed by the fact that it took several seconds to snap out of it. Second, when you catch yourself hesitating in class during a self-defense technique, GO. Just fight. If you do the "wrong" defense and counterattack, you will still reap more benefit than if you allow yourself to stand there trying to remember what you were supposed to do. Third, when you're out in the world, pay attention to your surroundings. If I hadn't been off in la-la land thinking about when it would rain, I believe I would have recovered faster. Focus on aggression and shortening the freeze every time you're in class. I will, too.