Today I went over to Zak's house to help him make some plans for a family retreat we're doing at our church. It was fun. His house is really quiet when the entire youth group isn't packed inside. Imagine that. Anyway, I had just eaten lunch and was kind of tired because I tend to get less sleep on Saturday nights than I do normally (I teach Sunday school and often over-prepare). Right as I was about to leave his house, Zak came up behind me and put me in a rear-naked choke. I was NOT expecting this AT ALL and it really threw me for a loop.
In short, I panicked. My mind went somewhere else. I don't even remember whether or not I successfully got out of the choke hold. I know he let me go, but I'm not sure if I was effective at all. It's like my thought-process switched off and I reflexively reacted...but I don't remember how I reacted. It was different from practicing in the dojo. At least there's some warning when you're working on choke-holds in class. This was out of the blue; completely random. And while I'm sure Zak wasn't going all-out on me, it was still unsettling.
In reality, an attacker isn't going to announce, "Okay! I'm gonna choke you now!", he's just going to do it. You have to be ready and be able to implement the techniques learned in training. You have to be able to keep a clear head and know what to do, even though it might be a fight for your life. If you panic and your mind blanks like mine did today, you may or may not be able to defend yourself. The risk isn't worth the cost. You want to know that you'll be able to use what you've learned effectively. You want to get that guy OFF of you, as soon as possible. That requires a clear head and the ability to control your fear enough to be able to think about what you're doing.
We've got to be ready for anything. You never know when being prepared will be the difference between life and death. Keeping a clear head in the face of danger and fear has probably got to be one of the most difficult things to do, but it is very, very important. It's hard to learn how to keep your mind clear when you're scared, but fortunately, the ability to do hard things is something that can be learned with training. Especially martial arts training.