I was wondering if anyone else out there feels that time slows down when they step into the fight?

Punches and kicks feel slow, especially from the opponents side.Hits feel like pushes more than hits. I've watched my own fights on video and what lasts 3 minutes, to me felt like 15.

A friend of mine who plays football says he has it happen to him every so often during big games, but never in training or friendly matches.

  • 1
    I have the opposite experience, my punches and attempts to slip/dodge feel slow while my opponent's are lightning fast...
    – Doug B
    Dec 3, 2015 at 19:52
  • 3
    “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. That's relativity." - Albert Einstein. In a fight the situation is probably too tense and time is felt relatively slower than usual. You may have quick reflexes from training that is too fast for your opponent. In due time your opponent may get tired due to the lack of stamina. That's when hits feel like pushes.
    – paperclip
    Dec 4, 2015 at 6:03
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    I had that happen when my Sensei sparred with me and he was quick. He punched and I thought,"Wow, that's slow." and I blocked the punch. I could see on his face that he was surprised as well. Wish I could walk that path all the time.
    – user7663
    Nov 5, 2016 at 23:40
  • This question seems to attack a lot of "Cool Story Bro" answers. I am assuming the question is about identifying the effect not about gathering useless anecdotal stories. Mar 20, 2017 at 14:08
  • How did you do that? Are there any scientific studies based on this phenomenon? By the way, it reminds me of the first spiderman movie :D
    – user11733
    Jul 18, 2021 at 9:08

5 Answers 5


Adrenaline is a game changer. The football analogy can be good. You're playing a friendly game, or a training. You won't feel the need to win. For sure, you practice, it's important to feel the stress a little, but in a competitive case, the stress brings a lot of adrenaline which makes you much more reactive to what's happening.

The fact that you feel hits like pushed can be related to two things :

  1. Your opponent is tired, which makes his hits less effective.
  2. The adrenaline makes you not feel pain (yet, lol).

It's all related to the adrenaline and the stress to win.

  • pain always comes next day or late at night. Some only deeper internal damage like pulled ligaments or shoulder always comes more than 1 day later. I think you may be right. In life I'm really calm and handle stress easy. I probably build up too much adrenaline which I don't use up :D
    – ibimon
    Dec 5, 2015 at 1:36
  • It's 100% normal to be stressed for a fight and to build lots of adrenaline. Don't you worry about that. I'm a very calm/controlled person but in competition adrenaline changes me completely. After a tkd competition I found out I had a broken hand. During the fight I felt almost nothing ahah
    – IEatBagels
    Dec 5, 2015 at 7:50

The effect you have experienced is a well known psychological phenomena, known as Slow Motion Perception. It is an effect commonly experienced in high stress situations:

Slow motion perception is a subjective perception of time in which things are perceived as passing by slower than the normal perception of time. To a bystander watching a life-threatening situation such as an accident, time is moving at a normal speed. However, to the individual in the accident, time seems to have slowed down. As a result, the individual in the accident may be able to think faster and act faster during these events. However, even though individuals commonly report that time seems to have moved in slow motion during these events, it is unknown whether this is a function of increased time resolution during the event, or, instead, an illusion of remembering an emotionally salient event. Research conducted by David Eagleman has suggested that time does not actually run in slow motion for a person during a life-threatening event, but, rather, it is only a retrospective assessment that brings that person to such a conclusion. To bring this into the realm of scientific study, he measured time perception during free-fall by strapping palm-top computers to subjects' wrists and having them perform psychophysical experiments as they fall. By measuring their speed of information intake, they concluded that participants do not obtain increased temporal resolution during the fall, but, instead, because their memories are more densely packed during a frightening situation, the event seems to have taken longer only in retrospect.

However, a meta-analysis from 2012 by the University of Turku questioned both the method and the framework proposed by Eagleman's 2007 experiment. Instead, the paper suggests a framework where cognitive processes are indeed improved, with the result being a slowed perception of time.

An experiment from 2012 seems to supports the idea that cognitive processes can be sped up. When primed first by action preparation, subjects showed a reduction of perceived frequency for flickering stimuli and an enhanced detection of rapidly presented letters during action preparation, suggesting an increase in sensory processing.

  • "more densely packed" like in a movie at 60 FPS?
    – shackra
    Mar 27, 2016 at 23:55
  • @shackra You might be able to run with that analogy, but the brain's approach to storing memories is sufficiently different from that of a film strip that you are likely to run into issues with that analogy falling short at some point while analyzing such perceptive effects.
    – Cort Ammon
    Mar 28, 2016 at 4:10
  • I would have referred to Eagleman as well, because it's the best empirical research regarding this. Especially the actual perceptual capabilities (not improved in the sense of slow motion) vs. the memory (number of details perceived) is important here. You do not really perceive anything in slow motion, you just remember it that way, because you perceive way more details, but at the same rate. Oct 6, 2016 at 12:32

I've had it sporadically occur during a fight as I was evading a reverse roundhouse to the head from a much younger and quicker appointment.

Anyway while ducking to evade the kick, Time suddenly starting slowing down it felt like 5 seconds and the kick was still in the air crossing in front of my view everything was black during this time (due to my opponents black pants). During this eternity I devised a counter attacking strategy to commence as soon as I saw daylight. Which I executed perfectly nearly knocking out my opponent with several punches (to me in slow motion) but to the audience and the instructors/refs. it was a very quick blur of a response.

This is the first time I've experienced this during sparing or executing MA. Interested to hear of others or am I a freak?


  • I'm definitely interested in this. Mar 26, 2016 at 18:10

I haven't experienced slow motion while sparring, but I have experienced tunnel vision - when the adrenaline kicks in, I don't see or hear anyone/thing other than the person right in front of me.

As I got more experienced at sparring, I experienced this less and less. During a recent self-defence demo with my instructor, showing how to use one's voice to avoid physical violence, I experienced the same tunnel vision even though it was a demo (clearly, my instructor's simulated aggression was real-enough for my fight-or-flight instinct to kick in!)

I have experienced time slowing down like you describe as a passenger in a skidding car!


I have experienced time dilation under stress, but it involved needing to quickly react to 2 evolving driving emergencies: a horse on a highway and a multi car pile up. In both cases, time seemed to slow so I was able to easily track speeds/vectors, react with what seemed to be plenty of time, and select best evasive moves. Time resumed normally on the other side of danger. But with threat of attack by a single mugger and another time with a set of 2 muggers, there was no time distortion at all. In those situations and no self defense training, I think my Irish heritage kicked in, and both situations resolved with muggers fleeing when my brain chemistry flipped an attack switch I didn't know existed, and I found myself chasing them. Apparently, if you're radiating the willingness to "bring it", you may not have to actually fight. But they were looking for an easy mark. In none of the above, did I feel I had a choice, it was just body took control with no thought and no fear.

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