Some of my favourite moments in martial arts are when the whole class is pushed past the point of exhaustion.

During last night’s class, I looked up during the wrestling drills, and saw over half the students flat on their backs, trying to get their wind back. They would catch their breath, and then go right back to the grind. After a while the grins are gone, but the determination is still there.

At that point you forget things. All of your go-to methods are useless to you, because you’ve already used them on your partner and they’ve found solutions. You are too tired to try and surprise anyone with bursts of speed and cleverness, you haven’t got the gas to jink and fake anymore.

In the grind, you are left with guts and willpower. You stop thinking about being the better wrestler, and start to think about surviving. If you are in the place where all you feel is suffocation and pain, you resign yourself to facing an opponent who will always win because they have the edge in physicality.

You forget plans and strategy, and start to pay attention to the reality of the moment you are in. You feel the weight and intentions of your partner. With your mind emptied out and your body drained, you are in a place to finally see how your partners intentions make them predictable. You can feed them the victory they want. Because you can feed them, you can look past their dominance as a loss, and start to see the opportunities.

You know the path they will take, and you start to see how they can be tripped. The faster and harder they go, the harder they will fall. In that drive for a crushing forearm pin on your throat, they leave an elbow exposed…and now the line to their back is open.

Facing the knife, all your technique is lost on the far side of an exhausted fog and burned neurotransmitters. All you can remember is the need to grab that knife hand before you get the next shock. You pull it off, and then things whirl around in an almost detached awareness while you try to recall what to do next.

Those are the moments where the real training and learning happen.

Those are the moments that make you pace at home the next day, replaying the moment over and over, drilling against the air to try and fix a new solution into your wiring.

Those are the moments that leave a class full of grins at the end of the night, and everyone reluctant to stop even through they can barely move.