For efficiency of movement and economy of energy, there is NO DOUBT, that being relaxed is better. In combative sport it is essential that you conserve your energy and use it when an opportunity presents its self. Unfortunately, that's not how it works when your neck is on the line. There are two instances that "relaxing" in a real fight can happen. The first is you have had hundreds of life and death confrontations. This allows you to be inoculated against the stress (some times). In that case, I want to meet you. Now it is IMPOSSIBLE to replicate fighting for your life in training. You can get intense, but it's not even close. Because deep down, you know you're not going to die, no matter how intense you train.
The second is you're a sociopath. In that case you should be arrested. Let's look at a non-fighting example:
Most of us drive, some better than others. When you're driving and you get cut off, what happens? A shot of adrenalin and your moving before you can even think about it. Your hear rate increases, you start to breathe rapidly and you spit out the nearest obscenity. Are you "Relaxed?" Most of us drive EVERYDAY. If it's something as mundane as driving (unless you're driving with Clint, in that case it IS a life or death situation) why aren't you able to RELAX when you are about to crash? Simple, because you realize that your life is at risk and your body prepares for the worst. And there's NOTHING you can do about it. Now don't start telling me about some Grand Dragon Wizard Master. I'm talking about you.
Here's another example:
First responders, people who deal with life and death regularly, Fire Fighters, EMT's, Police and Soldiers all get that gut-churning feeling when they know SOMEONE'S life is at stake. No matter how many times they go to a call, they get the same feeling. That's why training is simple, routine and repeated thousands of times. You need to perform common tasks during uncommon circumstances. And this is the ONLY way to do it. It's only your training that prepares you. And it's the repetition of high percentage techniques that will save you at that critical moment. It has to be instinct. During these times, your body is only going to allow you to perform certain functions. Relaxing is not one of them, pissing your self is. On the site I talk about the effects of your body's mobilization for battle (www.how2fight.com). These are biological functions you can not over ride. IT IS AUTOMATIC.
This is where combat sport and real combat part ways. No matter what is "allowed" in competition, you know the other guy is not going to kill you. It doesn't matter if it's the UFC or the Olympics, you may get beat up, but you won't get dead. You will be nervous, tense, and even scared. But deep down you know that if you get into trouble, the fight will be stopped. This is ALL the difference. Men like Carl Cestari, Charlie Nelson, W.E. Fairbairn, EA Sykes, Biddle, Applegate and others all experienced this first hand. Even Bruce Lee talked about using the "straight blast" when really pressed. Why not use the straight blast EVERY time?
This is the value of the videos @ www.thetruthaboutselfdefense.com are why they are so successful with military, police and seasoned martial artists. They know the difference.
When you fight for your life your body operates in a way that is beyond your control. You need to train in such a way that allows you to operate in this "zone". Did you know that a typical adrenaline blast lasts only 30 seconds? Then you need about 3 minute to "reboot". That is a lifetime when you are fighting the unknown. Weapons, multiple assailants, broken bottles on the ground, snow, sleet- all must be factored in. Standing toe to toe and practicing your contrived techniques?.where does this happen. Even trying to practice your breathing is ludicrous (not the rapper, that's ludakris). How many first hand accounts start with "He came out of no where" or "he suddenly appeared". If you see him or "mark" him, chances are he will pick another victim. He will come out of no where! The other element that should be mentioned is your assailant. Personally, I train for the meanest, toughest SOB I can imagine. I picture him appearing at my door. I think about him coming into the door of my dojo and only one of us is going home. And I guarantee you, if some one is standing between me and my family- there's no question of the outcome. Incidentally, you should feel the same way too. It's easy to practice to beat your training partner; it's easy to do something on your friends or even the local blow-hard down at the pub. That's 70% of the world. You should worry about that psycho 1% and let the other 99% take care of its self. If you think that you ARE trained you will be surprised what happens when you are in this situation. You never think you are going to act the way you think you are.
True story: Famous Okinawan Karate man, was serving as a Marine in Viet Nam. This person had trained in Okinawa under Choki Mobotu for several years prior to his deployment in Vietnam. During his training with Mobotu he endured endless hours of makiwara training and bogu fighting. During a firefight in Viet Nam the conflict degraded in to hand to hand. As I am hearing the story, I was waiting to hear how he decimated a V.C. Platoon with a reverse punch, I mean real "One shot- one kill". Since grenades was all he had left and they were too close to throw them, he proceeded to bash people in the head with the grenades. After that, did he start knocking dead with a front kick, no he proceeded to use his helmet as a club and smash guys the enemy in the face. Was his training a waste of time? Definitely not, in fact, it was probably his training that gave him the stones to do what he did. Did he ever imagine his reaction, no. But it worked. The point is even if you think you're "trained, you won't know what will happen when your life is on the line. When your gross motor skills kick in and you CAN'T EVEN SPEAK, do you think you will be able to "RELAX".
Damian Ross is the owner of Zenshin and instructor of Tekkenryu jujutsu and Kodokan Judo. He started competing in the combative sport of wrestling in 1975 at the age of 7 and began his study of Asian martial arts with Moo Duk Kwan Tae Kwon Do at the age of 16 in 1984. In 1989, Shinan Cestari gave a seminar at Sensei Ross's dojo. Sensei Ross has trained under Shinan Cestari's direction ever since. In addition to Tekkenryu Jujutsu, Judo and Tae Kwon Do, Sensei Ross has also studied Bando. Sensei Ross continues his study of Judo under the direction of 8th degree black belt Yoshisada Yonezuka and Tekkenryu Jujutsu under it's founder, Carl Cestari. Below are is a list of some of his title ranks
Yodan (fourth degree black belt) Tekkenryu Jujutsu under Carl Cestari Shodan (First degree black belt) Kodokan Judo under Yoshisada Yonezuka Varsity Wrestling Lehigh University under Thad Turner 2nd Degree Black Belt Tae Kwon Do