“Adrenaline Dump” is one of the most thrown around terms used in reality based self defense. It seems to be the go-to that people use when they want to poke holes in other systems. I, as an RBSD instructor, don’t agree entirely with this blanket term so I figured… Let’s talk adrenaline.
Let’s start at the top; the term “adrenaline dump” is a bit of a misnomer. When the fecal hits the fan, adrenaline is not the only thing that hits your bloodstream. When attacked your body goes into full sympathetic nervous system arousal and dumps a heap of chemicals into your bloodstream to get you ready to protect yourself. For the purposes of this article I will still be using the term adrenaline, but remember that is not exclusively adrenaline that I am talking about.
Your body releases adrenaline in two ways… Yes, two. The way that has stolen most of the lime light is quick release adrenaline, or the dump that most RSBD people talk about. This is what happens when you are ambushed or surprised and your body just pumps you full of stuff. This way has been talked about a lot!
What I want to cover is the second way of adrenaline release, which is the slow release. If you can imagine being on a roller coaster as quick release then waiting in line for that same roller coaster is your slow release adrenaline response.
Why should we care about slow release when we are usually talking about being attacked by surprise?
The reason is simple; if you are a force specialist (military, law enforcement or doorman) sometimes it takes time to lead up to an engagement. If you don’t understand that during this wait time your body is slowly releasing adrenaline you may be in trouble.
When I was a doorman at one of Edmonton’s more punchy bars, I always handled myself better when the violence was sudden. If there was a lead up (monkey dance style) I seemed to get way more injuries. Most of my on the job training while doing doorman work was in the quick release side of things, so I always fared better in those instances. Only when I learnt what was happening in the lead up did I start faring better there as well. Adrenaline presents differently in lots of people; during slow release my legs always, and I mean always, shake.
The reason why we need to talk more about slow release response and why you should know how it presents in you, is because it is during this slow release that you will generally second guess yourself with negative self talk. Plus, getting control of yourself during this stage you will be able to use these chemicals to your advantage as they were intended.
I know a lot of guys who will walk into a knife fight but will walk out of the line for a roller coaster because they have only mastered one side of their adrenaline response. One group of people who get a lot of flak from the RBSD community but are masters of the slow release response are mixed martial artists.
These guys spend weeks knowing they are going to get into a cage, in front of family and friends, (as MMA is the pinnacle of social violence) and possibly lose. This is the perfect example of a martial artist mastering the slow release response.
So now that we understand that there are two types of adrenaline response, let’s talk gender. Another very rarely mentioned fact is that men and women experience adrenaline much differently. Men’s adrenaline response is almost instant, very intense, and over quickly whereas women usually have their major dump about 20 min after the event and it lasts much longer. This is shown in how men and women argue. Most men will get extremely mad right away and then cool down relatively fast, where when men are cooling down women are just gearing up and will stay mad for a while. If you are an instructor you may have seen it happen in some female students after a particularly intense drill. They may cry for no apparent reason after the training is over; this is a very common reaction when the dump happens for the first time.
Adrenaline response is a fantastic tool that we have as human beings. It allows us to fight longer, become stronger, bleed less in combat, and continue far past what we thought we were capable of. However as most things (like combat) it is more complex of an issue than people think. Remember to master both the quick and the slow release through proper training and train to your biology, not just your instructors.