The manipulation and prevalence of time as a functional tool

Time. Time is, and has always been, a fleeting thing. I turned around the other day and I was approaching my 50th birthday. Just like that. Bang, there it was. The interesting thing is that time is a multi-faceted thing perception-wise. It can viewed on a plane that runs through you laterally or parallel to you moving forward. “Through-time” where deadlines, cut-off points, time-limits, and being prompt, timely, or on-time is of the utmost importance. “In-time” is more laissez-faire and without an internal-timeline clock ticking-away dictating your actions and their being streamlined. In-the-moment, as it were. Linearly vs. cyclically. Distortion, perception, manipulation. It can also be seen from very different perspective – some cultures retain old, ancient, conservative traditions (seen as being somewhat “lost in time” from others) while those others adopt a very modern, progressive, constantly evolving society and methodology (“in modern times”).

We have copious volumes of time metaphors and analogies. Time is money. Time is a resource. Time waits for no one. Time is the wisest counselor of all. Time flies when you’re having fun. Time is an illusion. Time flies when you’re having fun.

I noticed a huge discrepancy when moving from Canada to Costa Rica. Canada being part of the “western world”, time is everything. Accomplishment. Rapidity of market-arrival. Beating the competition. The volume of things gotten done during the day’s time-allotment. Education and manners being reflected in one’s capacity to adhere to time and it’s social-stigmas. Being late, not adhering to dictates of time-starts, deadline-passing are considered a sign of irresponsibility, rudeness, disrespect, and lack of dedication.

Here in Costa Rica, time is fleeting. When giving a time-of-arrival or time-deadline, it’s considered a ballpark estimate to generally work-around. Showing-up late is the norm and hardly disrespectful if everyone adheres to it. Being tardy is a consistent issue for North American & European businesses that operate here. “Si Dios quiere” (If God wants…) is something always heard regarding the events of tomorrow. Family-time is more important. Siestas. Breaks. Fun. Entertainment. Down-time. The little things. Less intensity.

Time-distortion can cause time to speed-up, have one get lost in time, be taken-away by time. Time flies when… A great piece of music. A transfixing piece of art. A painting that takes you back to a different time and place of fond memory. A dose of intriguing foreign culture. Nature’s beauty. We can lose track of time because the moment, experience, enjoyment, company causes us to forget about the time. It can also cause time to slow-down. This is generally affixed to trauma, fear, or great physical exertion. Events that force us to have time drag, have time become the enemy, or be amazed at how slowly time moves. All time-distortion but at opposite ends of the proverbial spectrum. Time can expand (when positive experience is occurring) or contract (when negative).

As mammals, we all have unique Circadian rhythms that based on the Earth’s rotation and 24-hour time-clock, our sleep-awake cycle. These are affected by a number of filters that are dependent on elements like the amount of light, temperatures, climate. In North America we have Daylight Savings Time. People suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) based on the 4 seasonal-changes. Time can disrupt functional biological-process as well. Airline pilots and crews that fly into numerous time-zones regularly can affect greatly their sleep-patterns, time awake, light-dark transitions, and the like. Travellers, owning a bed-and-breakfast and seeing this almost daily, suffer from jet-lag for the same reasons – a drastic acclimatization to different stimuli that alters their body-clocks and patterning. Hallucinogenic and other drug-use and alcohol-consumption can greatly alter perception of time, space, and distance. Depression and disorders as well can alter regular time-routine and cause misperception of time and context. Even lighting (bright/intruding/invasive lighting vs. tranquil, “low-volume” soothing) has heavy studies being done on how it can affect one’s sleep and time-perception.

In the self-defense, martial arts, combatives, counter-violence, personal-protection industry, we sometimes hear the term time-distortion as it pertains to tachypsychia, or adrenal-dump. It’s given heavy reference to it’s importance in understanding yet rarely is that understanding delved-into or explained.

In combat, conflict, danger, threat-assessment, violence – time can be a weapon. Let’s do a little of that delving and go a little further down the rabbit-hole to explore some intangibles in the coherence of this concept.

Elements: Time-distortion, as we refer to it, occurs during situations of high-stress, heavy physical-exertion, anaerobic-range, multiple/simultaneous-stimuli, sense-overload, fatigue-fear, and pain threshold/tolerance concerns (both acute and cumulative).Intangibles: Time limits create different fighting-styles and game-plans. Time limits call for staggering endurance, interspersing rest and intensity, burst-capability. It promotes more tactical-time for setting a game-plan to accomplish overall strategy. One can utilize an opponent’s fatigue, wear, accumulated damage, pain-levels all as tools to manipulate time and force it to work against an opponent where the things above cause time to become a desperate factor working against their cause.

Presuppositions: Well, let’s put it in a very succinct way. If I find time flies while you find time to drag due to preparedness, calm, experience, vision (to see the happenings above), and confidence advantages – who will have a better “time?” Who will function more calmly and efficiently in-spite of ability, training, talent? Who will handle the stress of the event better? Who will have more lengthy-plans and multiple-strategies at one’s disposal? Who’s reaction-time will go down? Dictate pace and tempo? Generally the greater one’s perceptual-filter accuracy: experience, exposure, nature, nurture, context-understanding, knowledge, education, training, etc. in those high-risk, high-order, high-price scenarios has the edge and the one with the edge can manipulate time better than the one who doesn’t. Stamina, clearly, is also a major tool in the toolbox, obviously. “Gas-in-the-tank” is a great time-manipulator as well when knowing that it’s greater than one’s opponent early-on. If my time-perception speeds-up while yours slows-down, “all things being equal” has a major caveat kinking the hose. And this isn’t just in sparring, fighting, combat, conflict, it’s also in business, personal-interaction, politics, discussion.

Development: I use a number of time-distortion drills but there are some required-elements that go into this type of training. It is NOT for everybody and a clear understanding of its repercussions and negatives is absolutely needed. Trust is a huge element that’s imperative to hitting that correct-state without unneeded concern for excessive-force, egregiousness of training-partners, bullying-mentality, unnecessary punishment, will-to-hurt, etc. Without that trust, one simply cannot focus on the improvement of time-utilization.


  1. Grappling without submission with high-intensity, 3rd-person barking to maintain that intensity, no time limits. No position-comfort or “resting”, dominance-maintenance, consistent high-pace movement
  2. Multiple-attackers standing or on-ground. One can either do it standing with controlled-impact until the person calls enough, standing-grappling, or on the ground again without submission.
  3. Static isometric poses without time-limit.
  4. Psychological-engagements. Yelling, swearing, screaming, pushing – basically a replication of the “interview” up to and including physical-contact but pre-fight. Serious and really pushing and provoking. As you generally know the people in front of you to at least some extent, one can use very personal, private, privileged methods of provocation to get one into the state of anger, fear, stress, etc.
  5. Hyperventilation/panic-breathing. The “tire-throw”. One starts holding one’s breath, throws a tire as far as one is able, sprinting to the tire and, while circling and maintaining breath-hold, shadow-boxes until one has extended one’s capacity, picks-up the tire and sprints back to the starting place. While others partake, recovery-breathing is utilized until regained in time for upcoming turn. (timer/heart-rate monitor – how does your internal assessment of time compare with the actuality of time)
  6. Simple clock-gauge. In calm while simultaneously doing some monotonous, simple (yet minutely-distracting) activity (clapping hands, tapping foot/feet, walking-in-circles, humming), allow a person to start at the same time as the timer and go between 30-60 seconds just to gauge how in-line their perception of passing-time is with actuality. It’s amazing how off and disconnected many people’s internal-clocks are with the external one.
  7. Pain threshold/tolerance. Body-walking, ground-punishment with body/emotion/relaxation-control, the “stick-tap” on the prepared-body with various levels of impact, gradual joint-lock/strangulation/choke/pressure-point tolerance or pain-capacity.

Note that the elements of pain, exertion, and fear are all present and accounted-for here. Also note that, with all of these, both a heart-monitor and timer are invaluable tools to help one understand one’s maximum capability, extending that capability, and increasing one’s overall threshold for difficult situations.

***Be very aware of your clients’/students’ limitations, previous health-risks, time put-in, and restrictions. This is NOT training for everybody.

So, in closing, nobody really has the all the answers with time, time-perception, time-distortion. Many have simply experimented with it to gauge performance-improvements, increasingly calmer-states, less gaps in internal and external biological-clocks, and having one develop greater confidence in one’s extended-capacity to manage trauma, pain, and fear. I do not have all the answers – but I am a constant-experimentalist.

“Men talk of killing time, while time quietly kills them.” ~Dion Boucicault

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