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The Five Kinds of Combat Pain
Jason Wonders at the Winter of a Fighting Life and the Downside of Combat Training
“Greetings! I just finished the Winter of a Fighting Life. Is the fate of all those who want to learn fighting pain? You no longer fear it. But I want to fight to avoid it. Of are you just a maniac who gave his body over to science?'
-Jason

That book I wrote exactly ten years ago, I think, and I am still training and fight maybe once a year, against the expectations I held then.
I spend a great deal of effort avoiding injury despite my neanderthal pain tolerance. Because I fear nothing more than the inability to resist attacks upon my person. Staying healthy and injury free is important. I used to laugh at how compromised I was in terms of self-defense for my seven peak years of competition, when I virtually always had a broken finger. Ironically, I was rarely targeted during these times except by PIGs due to the extreme skulking arrogance of my mindset, imbued by 6 hours a weak of full contact, minimal gear stick sparring, stick fighting and boxing. I was a maniac then. My mind was such that I would gladly thrust my already broken finger into an eye socket and snap it off into a compound fracture. I am now, a much more gentle soul—I would use my healthiest finger and snap it off in his brain for maximum effect.
I would suggest that you, Jason, like most of us who train, are doing so to avoid the psychological pain of failing to protect yourself or your family from some criminal. The prospect of being made the bitch of some turd of humanity is why I still train, to avoid that final humiliation. I lived my first 11 years as the punching bag and squeaking kick toy of older, larger, more numerous children and youths. There is no greater pain than that which you wake to in the night, for decades, never leaving you. Bones heal. Even my shoulders, elbows, hands and low back, all injured, do not hurt much and not all the time. I'm 58, with 2 hernias and just terraced a hillside and laid in 1,000 pounds of block today.
Over the past two years I lived for about 5 months with a young fellow who suffered a brutal attack as a youth and never got over it. He had to drink himself to sleep to keep from dreaming, and then when he sobered in his sleep he'd wake in the wee ours and pace in our apartment. In the first two weeks together, he was reclusive about his pain, ashamed, as he regarded me as something of a bad-ass. I would see him pace past me often in the shallow dark, as I rarely sleep for more than an hour, most of my dreams being brutal nightmares.
One morning he apologized to me and I told him that I wake up every hour anyhow, that it wasn't him. He was such an intelligent and empathetic young man, that despite his own pain, courtesy for me, was his first concern. Then he said to me, “I know you have nightmares—your dreams are bad too.”
I asked Jake, “Was I winning or losing?”
“Some of both—I can't tell you what sounded worse,” he answered. “How do you deal with it?”
I responded, “I have trained myself to forget them. I spend most of my dream life killing and dying in unwinnable and unjust circumstance. The worst ones are when I win. I think they come out in my fiction, which I write in a trance, why everything I write, even love stories can be classified as horror. Also, getting beat with sticks while fighting back that has helped.”
Jake's nightmares eventually took him from us.
I'm always going to miss him.
There are things I could not endure having endured, like Jake did. He was a lot tougher than me. That is why I train, so I can die preventing the loss of my physical autonomy, fractional as it is.
Now, when I was a youth I first trained to defend myself, then became a maniac that wanted to be a champion fighter. Without a coach I over trained and suffered many injuries and was then abused by some more formidable sparring partners and got more injuries. I also sustained injuries in fights that I entered to test myself, to prove to that kid inside of me that spent a decade of hell getting picked on, that he'd never have to beg for mercy again, that I'd be rugged enough to demand death from the overwhelming forces that hate us. Even the highest level competition I entered, in which I suffered two broken bones and two KOs in a day-log tourney at the hands of top international fighters, that—I knew that I could not possibly win the event—was a successful self-defense training. My goal was to be dangerous enough to force the man who toyed with every other fighter and ran clinics on them, to knock me the fuck out, and he did, twice, breaking my arm in another fight and disarming me in a fourth.
That pain was nothing compared to my childhood pain, nothing compared to Jake's pain. I fought 3 weeks later.
There are five kinds of combat pain from most to least severe:
-humiliation
-injury [very often not painful until after the event. A surprise punch in the nose that does nothing but sting will usually chart higher on the pain index than a broken hand or arm.]
-defeat
-decorative
-drive
We suffer the lesser pains to avoid the greater pains.
To a large degree, since I remained in fighting as a coach and to experiment with weapon fighting, I did decide to donate my body to science, figuring out being mediocre at best and small would give a reliable baseline for better specimens.
-Drive: The pain of pushing yourself out of a comfort zone, just like in running or weightlifting, is a way to develop the will to fight.
-Decorative: It is important to experience non-injuries pain, like getting punched in the nose or whacked with a stick that does not break anything but stings like hell, so that you can inure yourself to the pain of injury that might occur when you are attacked without giving in. Toughening is important. This also enhances relaxation ability and endurance and peaks your will power, your drive.
-Defeat: Also, it is important to face defeat in some kind of none-injurious competition, like fighting with gloves, cup and mask with a light stick. Recovering from a bruised ego in competition and getting back to training and facing the same guy again, that seasons your will in a way that puts you in control of your ego and emotions in a survival situation. If you can get back to training after some old fart out points you in a stick bout, then you are better able to walk away from a challenge by some criminal that is trying to bait you into a fight. Many men, able combatants and not, are mugged, arrested, gang stomped, stabbed, shot or incarcerated or sued simply because they did not have a seasoned ego that permitted them to suffer the indignity of backing away from some scumbag. Winning and losing in honorable combats with like-minded men of decency helps a great deal in enabling the man who is unjustly challenged to a lose-lose bout of interactive stupidity to nod respectfully and walk away without swallowing his pride, because his pride was built in a harder place than that damned sidewalk in front of the 7-11.
-Injury is to be avoided as it compromises ability and training.
-Humiliation is our unmanning nemesis which we train to avoid. I am sure you would gladly sustain an injury to defend your family members from some random criminal. And, when alone, you better be able to sustain defensive operations after being stunned or injured in a surprise attack, so that you can get home to that family.
For me, in competition, growth = victory.
In survival, getting home alive = victory.
Of my 20 boxing bouts, I only won 7. But in this I gained the ability to face down scores of ruthless attackers trying to get me into a “fight” that would set my up for a pack attack by the whole gang. You can achieve a great part of this without the agony of defeat simply by using the safe training methods we developed over two decades of Modern Agonistics training from 1998 until now, 2021.
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