In addition to being a Krav Maga practitioner, I train in judo and have always been interested in the competitive and tournament side of the sport. While others may love watching a great football pass that leads to a spectacular 50 yard run resulting in a touchdown, I am equally enthralled when I watch a judoka execute a perfect throw on a resisting opponent. It can be an amazing sight to see.
One thing that I always found interesting was that at the end of a match, several times the judokas would be splayed out on the mat, seemingly exhausted to the point of not being able to move. They would lie there for several seconds until the referee would motion for them to stand up and bow off, thus officially ending the match with a winner declared. I would think, “How could they be so active and fighting hard just a few seconds ago and now they can’t even move? They’re young and they’re fit, so how could they be so tired?”. I spoke to my daughter about this, who is also a judo competitor, and she said she’s experienced that level of exhaustion many times in her tournament matches, or the training camps. It wasn’t until I experienced the same level of exhaustion in my recent green belt test that I appreciated even a small trace of what my daughter was talking about.
It is difficult for a person to independently push themselves to the point of exhaustion because usually before they get to that stage, they’ll stop and take a break. It’s like trying to hold your breath until you pass out. There may be some fitness fanatics who do push themselves to that degree on a regular basis, but I believe that for the average person, which I consider myself to be, there are primarily 3 situations which could drive them to the point of exhaustion and beyond.
1) In a test,
2) In competition
3) In a life-threatening situation.
I heard people shouting “Get up! Get up!” but it just wasn’t happening. My spirit was there, I was fully aware of what was going on, but my body was just not responding.
In each of these situations, the timing of when the “ordeal” ends is out of your control, so you have no choice but to fight through the pain and keep on going. Personally, it’s been years since I’ve been at this level of intense situation, if ever, so in retrospect, I found it an interesting experience to be pushed to the point of exhaustion. During the green belt test, this point occurred when I was sparring one-on-one with someone in the last few minutes of the 3 hour test. I was already tired, physically and mentally, and I found myself on the ground. As I was trying to get back up my body, my arms, my legs, and anything else literally felt like 1000 pounds and I could not lift myself up, as much as I was telling myself to continue fighting and get back up. I heard people shouting “Get up! Get up!” but it just wasn’t happening. My spirit was there, I was fully aware of what was going on, but my body was just not responding. It was like being in a bad dream where you find yourself running through molasses. I think that was the point that Jon told me later when he thought I wasn’t going to make it and was going to give up. But slowly, ever so slowly, while trying to punch at the same time, I managed to get up. I know now that when pushed to your limit, it truly becomes a game of mind over matter. It would have been so easy to just lie down and think “Who cares.”, but if you’re determined and you refuse to give up, you will overcome things that your body tells you it doesn’t want to do.
I can’t imagine being in a situation like this again, at least in the near future, but I now better appreciate how competitors will find themselves splayed out on the mat at the end of a match unable to get up. I also appreciate more what my daughter has gone through in her judo training and competitions. If you get the chance where you will be pushed to this point of exhaustion, you should embrace it and relish the opportunity, because it will likely be in a safe environment where there is minimal risk of injuring yourself, or worse. It’s an interesting experience and you will be surprised at how much you can tolerate and where you discover the edge of your envelope is. And then the next time, you can push beyond it. Push yourself, strive for more, keep going and don’t give up! You’ll thank yourself later.