She’s supposed to be searching me, but I’m just tired of it. So I turn, with everything I’ve got, and smash my elbow into her face. I try to drive her neck into the wall with my forearm so I can hit her more, but she’s already out and down. I’m not sure what I’m going to do, but I step forward to do something to her again.

I’m grabbed from behind, violently. There might be yelling or commands, but I don’t hear them. It’s the other guard. She spins me around, maybe hits me, I don’t know. I duck under her arm, grab her around the waist.

I’m told later that she, being a trained judoka, tried a leg sweep/trip throw on me, but I was having none of it. From my waist grab, I drive my right shoulder into her solar plexus, and slam her into the wall. Hard. I pull back and do it again, harder. I’m trying to crush her. I want to feel ribs giving way under my shoulder. About the third hit, she gives up. She’s done what she knows how to do and it isn’t working, and some part of just gives up. She doesn’t know what to do. And that’s when I know I’m going to kill her.

I’m wearing a full set of High Gear protective armour, with MMA gloves on. She’s wearing a working uniform and all the gear she will have on her job…but it’s all non-working replicas in safe rubber and plastic. She’s got on knee and elbow protectors, hand protection so she can hit me, and a really solid bit of headgear so she can take my punches. Mostly. I’ve been instructed to go medium intensity.

She is also a he, and more than one person, and all this is taking place under supervision from master trainers, in a training room. This really happened, but I’ve mashed together a number of my recent experiences into one coherent person and event. One of the things I do now is role player work for people who wear uniforms for a living and have to use a lot of varied skills under tremendous pressure. I’m the bad guy, usually. Go figure.

I’ve been told what the win condition is for the trainee, and I’m not stopping until they figure it out. The process is a bit of a battering ram for both of us. They are doing it once today, I’m doing it over and over again. Some people blow through the set up and me like a machine. Nothing I do works and the scenario is over almost as fast as it starts. Other people…most people…it’s a knock down drag out fight that doesn’t end. And some of them quit.

You can feel it. They shrink down a little while you are beating on them. They just fade away a little. When I’m watching the other role players work with their trainees, I can clearly see it happen. I see it happen sometimes in my classes when we are sparring. Two people will be rolling on the floor, working different submissions and trying to get a good position, and one of them just goes…”Fuck it. I’m done.” And they tap.

It’s the right thing to do in class. You’ve probably got a lot more bouts to go, and if you really are outclassed, you need some instruction. You are there to learn, so you can just stop and go ask your teacher or partner for a lesson on what you need to do for next time.

We’ve all been in that place in our training. You hit a point where you’ve got nothing left, so you surrender. You’ve hit the wall in your body, mind and soul so you stop. If you haven’t hit that place in your training, you aren’t training at a real martial arts school.

The thing is, it’s safe to quit like that in your school. It’s a good idea, even. Injury and brokeness can result if you don’t quit. But.


I’m on top of a guard, full mount. I’m pounding on her face, and she’s quit. And every bit of her is telling me she gives up, she has failed and admits it, and can we stop now and face the consequences because she has nothing left. She’s completely broken. So I hit her again. And again. And again. I swing wildly, not like a trained pro, but like an angry prisoner who knows he has only a few seconds left of rebelling against the unfairness of his life before he is back in a blank cell trying to write his name on the wall by chipping the paint off with his fingernails.

And the guard breaks again. Something snaps or changes in her, and she’s no longer limp and dying. She bucks. She swings back, she goes mad. I’m off of her suddenly, somehow. I’m on my knees and she’s hammering knee after knee into my side and oh my god that hurts and I want her to stop…

My first days bouncing, walking up to a table full of off-duty cops at their favourite watering hole. Two giants standing up, screaming at each other. I stand between them and I want to walk away. They are big enough to smash me flat without even noticing they have done so. I want someone else to deal with the issue. I don’t want to do this job anymore. I’m small and tiny and I don’t know anything and that is a special kind of fear you don’t know until you’ve felt it in this situation.

One of them grabs an oversize pint glass and hoists it up. I can’t quit, someone is going to get hurt. I step up and shout something, and both the bruisers freeze. I grab the glass and tell them both to sit the fuck down. They do. I ask them if they want to have a bad night or a good night, and then it’s just talking and everything goes all calm and friendly after a while. I’ve moved past my quit spot, because I had no choice. And I now I know I can do that.

The guard on the wall has quit, and I’m going to kill her. I pull back to ram my shoulder into her one more time, and that space inside her changes. She somehow shrinks inside my grip, drops low, and manages to spin in the tight space between my arms, chest and the wall. I don’t know how she gripped me as she did this, but suddenly I’m upside down with my hips slamming into the wall, crashing down on my head. One of the most beautiful throws I’ve ever been privileged to be a part of.

There is no technique that can take you into the space beyond quit. You can only find your way there by being crushed and broken into quit, and learning for yourself that quit has no helpers, no teachers, nobody. It’s the final place of loneliness. It’s only you, and you have to take that single step that leads you back into the world.