When it comes to the world of martial arts, reaction and response are part of your toolset that you need to learn and learn quickly.
This is especially the case if you are practicing a full-contact martial art, where a move that catches you off guard, and before you can react can be the difference between a loss and a victory.
However, one of those things that can stop you from having the perfect reaction time is flinching or blinking. For a lot of newcomers, that can seem like a strange connection to make.
After all, aren’t blinking and flinching two separate functions of the body?
Well, that is what we are going to find out in this article. We are going to explain what exactly each of these functions is, as well as whether or not blinking can be considered flinching.
On top of that, we’re also going to show you some extra tips on how exactly you can stop flinching when you are in full-contact sparring, whether that is Karate, Judo, Muay Thai, or any other contact sport.
What Is Flinching?
So, before we go any further into this discussion, we should probably first establish what exactly a flinch is. Not only so that we can come to a better conclusion, but also as a quick recap.
Whilst many of us assume we know what it is, we can also be hard-pressed to put that understanding into words.
Fortunately, most people broadly know what a flinch is. Generally speaking, it is when your body freezes up in response to some kind of perceived item that might pose a threat to you.
Some people completely freeze up, whilst others even manage to raise their arms or fists somewhat in response to something.
But, more often than not, a flinch pretty much stops your body in its tracks, at least for a moment.
More scientifically speaking, a flinch is a reaction that your nervous system has to the perception of a threat to your person, as a way of trying to detect and counter the danger it thinks your body is in.
This means that flinching isn’t a conscious response or even a subconscious reaction that you can simply will your body out of doing.
Learning how to not flinch, especially when in a sparring match, is a process of conditioning your body to not need to respond to the kind of contact that you normally get in a martial arts match.
Blinking is effectively another bodily function, although it is usually much more utilized in day-to-day business.
Blinking is generally the process of your eyelids closing to allow debris or other dirt to be cleared from your eyes.
This can cover several functions, from simply cleaning your eye, or moisturizing it.
When it comes to fighting and spotting danger, blinking is a way of potentially clearing your vision, so that you are better able to spot any oncoming threats.
Alternatively, blinking is also a mechanism that is used to protect the eyes if the body perceives danger.
Even if it is only a thin layer of skin, the body will attempt to find ways to respond to a threat.
Which brings us to the next section that everyone likely clicked here for: Is blinking flinching, and why is that?
Well, to put it simply, the answer is yes.
To give this answer a little more detail, blinking, when it comes to combat and danger, is often a knee-jerk response to the threat of oncoming danger.
Effectively, this means blinking when you feel or fear that an attack from your opponent is often accompanied by a flinch.
Indeed, when people who are not trained in martial arts or self-defense first start sparring, alongside other flinching responses will often be a blink as well.
Why This Can Be An Issue
Of course, there is no shame in flinching if you are surprised or fear that a punch or kick is coming your way.
As we have stated several times already in this piece, a flinch or blink is a natural response that your body often needs when it feels like it is in danger.
However, when it comes to contact martial arts, especially in full-contact sparring where serious injury or danger is unlikely, to better perform against your opponent, it is a response that you are going to need to condition yourself to not have when faced with a punch, kick or another move.
In other words, you’ll need to learn how to unlearn a flinch
Ways To Learn How To Stop Flinching
So, how do you overcome a blink or flinch reaction when you are practicing martial arts?
Embrace The Strikes
The first and probably the best lesson that you can take away from this is to embrace any punches or strikes that hit you.
Not literally, obviously, but it is important to know that they are an inevitability in martial arts sparring, and there’s no way to avoid it.
Just accept that a strike is coming, put up the best guard you have, and see what happens. Even if it connects, you’ll have at least learned what not to do!
Slowly Build Up
Another way to stop flinches is to slowly build up the pace of your spar. Start very slowly and methodically, throwing strikes and blocks at an easy pace, and slowly build up the speed.
After a while, you will be sparring at a natural rate and moving accordingly.
Continued Training And Combat
With training, we cannot emphasize enough the importance of training. With more time and practice, you will train your body not to flinch at a strike.
As you can see, flinching isn’t exactly an easy habit to get out of. But with enough practice, it will be a thing of the past for you.