A commonly heard phrase within the martial arts relates to the “fight or flight” response.

Let’s examine here what that means.


Virtually all animals have, as their most powerful instinct, the need to survive.

Whether we like it or not, human beings are animals. We, therefore, share that common evolutionary legacy of being driven by automatic psychological and physiological processes to do everything we can to survive in normal circumstances.

Threats to our survival

If that all sounds a little theoretical, many of us have experienced this phenomenon in our real life.

Sometimes we might find ourselves in a position where we believe we are in danger. That might be whilst riding a bike, climbing a ladder or seeing a group of people walking towards us in a dark street.

In all those circumstances, our body will automatically start sending out chemical signals to prepare itself for trying to deal with the danger – i.e. it transitions into survival mode.

The symptoms of this might include:

  • increased heartbeat
  • feeling the hair at the back of our neck stand up
  • experiencing heightened senses including vision and hearing
  • faster rate of breathing
  • muscular tension.

In most cases, these symptoms arise automatically and are not under our direct conscious control. They can even come about when, logically, we know that no danger exists. An example of that might include terrifying fairground rides.

How people react to these symptoms

When facing danger, there are two options – stand your ground and fight or flee (called “flight”). The most sensible might depend upon a rational assessment of your situation.

However, for most untrained people, that decision won’t be rational or something they can control. Their body might well demand that they do one or the other and they will find themselves automatically responding accordingly.

Just why some people will instinctively stand and fight while others will flee is a subject hotly debated. It is not understood in totality.

What is very clear though is that ideally your decision to fight or flee should be based upon a rational assessment, not raw emotional instinct. Being able to do so might well improve your survival prospects.

Martial arts training

This brings the discussion full circle back to martial arts training. There are techniques we will teach to help you analyse then control many of your basic instincts. That includes the fight or flight response.

Why not contact us to find out more?