For all your concerns and worries about how you should react in a tight spot, action seems to flow out automatically when you actually face such a situation. If your life is threatened, you start defending yourself right away, and you do so without thinking.
You don’t take a moment to recollect that cool trick you once learned, or the strategy you had once thought of, you are just fully present their with the situation and act instinctively.
What you do in such moments may surprise you yourself, and the surprise can be both pleasant or unpleasant. There are times when people do heroic acts in such moments, but there are also times when they do things that they may repent later. You probably would have certain past experiences that still make you flinch. You knew something better to do, and still did not do it, or couldn’t do it. Instead, you did something very stupid.
But what could you do? It was an instinctive response, out of the control of your intellect.
Is their anything we can do about our instinctive response?
My martial arts instructor used to say, ‘In times of adversity, you don’t rise to any heroic levels, you fall to the level of your practice.’
When you act instinctively in times of danger, you are in the hands of your subconscious. And the subconscious doesn’t register one time strategies and tricks. It responds to repeated suggestions. It’s like that rock they used to fix over wells in Indian villages. There would be a rope going over the rock that would be used to pull the bucket of water. Nothing would happen to the rock the first time you would draw water, nothing will happen for the first week, or the first few months. But over a period of years, as the rope rubs over the rock at the same place, a grove is formed. It becomes a steady grove and holds the rope firmly inside.
Same in martial arts. To practice self defense, there are certain drills that you do repeatedly, every day, over months and years, till they become second nature to you. You don’t just learn a trick and become better. It doesn’t happen that way. When the situation would arise to use it, your mind would draw a blank and you will forget all about it. Or you may remember it and try to use it, but your implementation now would be shoddy, or even harmful.
No, if you know there is one good way to react in a certain situation, the only one way to make sure you act that way is to practice it regularly.
That is also how you prepare yourself for greatness, through years of consistent practice. When you see someone start acting in a heroic way, or seizing opportunity after opportunity, it is not by fluke, it is the result of years of repeated practice. They have rubbed a grove in the stone of their mind .
It’s not about getting lucky. That kind of greatness usually doesn’t last long. Moreover, you are not prepared for such greatness and it might be more of a discomfort maintaining it.
It is not about being clever either. A lot of us think that we will do something clever and surge ahead. That again may help in the short run. In the long run, it only matters how consistent you are.
Whether it is danger you are preparing against, or greatness that you are preparing for, it is consistent practice that will decide what you do and where you reach. It is consistent practice that will mold your greatest power, your subconscious.