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The Tactical Freeze

It is always interesting how life presents little lessons in the most unexpected way.  These small lessons can have huge impact however in larger applications!  Take the reaction of someone trained versus someone untrained to a violent encounter.  They can be very different reactions with life affecting consequences!

Yesterday, while going to a local pharmacy to pick up medications for my wife, one of these little lessons happened with my 11 year old daughter and myself.  We were walking to our vehicle when vehicles on either side of us simultaneously started to back out of their parking spaces with us between the two.  My untrained daughter froze.  I, on the other hand, almost ran over her trying to get out of the way and take her with me.  Two opposite reactions to the same dangerous stimuli.  It reminded me of what I have seen spending years doing combatives arts and working in Law Enforcement.

When encountered with violent situations, sometimes those new to the profession will freeze momentarily.  This is part of the OODA Loop where their brain is processing the situation and trying to Orient and get to the step of taking action.  We call this an O-O Loop where their brain ping-pongs between Observation and Orientation while seemingly taking forever to get to Decision and then Action.  Not everyone does this, however.  Some seem to spring into Action very fast.  I suspect their O-O Loop is just really small and thus extremely fast.

I have seen this freezing be very serious and pose risk for fellow officers.  We have seen people freeze for 20 or 30 seconds or more while a fight was taking place.  Sadly, the outcome is often having to encourage the individuals to seek employment elsewhere as the risk to themselves and others is too high.  This long of freeze without rendering help to a partner could easily lead to serious injury or death.

I have also seen this in training.  When doing firearms Simunitions training with marker rounds, we have seen people entering a room in a building search, encounter a threat, and freeze and stop in the doorway, processing the OODA Loop.  This has been catastrophic!  Not only does the one officer "die" in such circumstances, but the rest of the team is unable to clear the door and provide support.  This is why the "Point Man" on an entry team cannot be the "greenest" team member.  It is also best if that not be the most critical team member either as they are often "bullet magnets."  No one wants to be the rookie but seniority does not always come with its privileges!

Movement is your friend.  Moving targets are harder to engage but it also does a lot more.  By forcing the brain to stay in Action mode, you limit the likelihood of the freezing.  Inaction leads quickly to freezing due to inertia.  We try to train people to keep moving when they encounter threats.  That is one reason we train shooting while moving so much.  If your firearms training is only ever done stationary, people will instinctively stop moving to engage threats.  You cannot do this!  You have train to where moving is reflexive and threats are hit while in motion.  The major exception to this rule is of course if you are behind cover or concealment.  In those cases, it may be best to stay put.  Out in the open, however, you should most often be moving.

Does this apply to Martial Arts?  Sure!  When we are attacked with a punch, kick, choke, grab, etc., we need to learn to move.  That can be our feet or hands or both.  The freeze gets us hit!  I generally prefer to see someone take a less than optimal response than to see them take no action at all and freeze.  We should never forget the word "Martial" in Martial Arts.  We need to study and apply the experience of real world fighters and operators to our Martial Arts training.

I had a retired real world military and security operator ask me an interesting question once.  He said the answer to the question reveals a lot about a person's operational experience.  "You can learn that from one question?" I thought.  He was right.  The disparity between training and real world is a huge gap.  He posed the following scenario and then asked his simple question.  "If you are entering a room with five threats spread out within the room and your job is to kill everyone in the room, who do you shoot first?"  Now, this extends beyond a Law Enforcement rules of engagement but does provide an interesting military ROE.  My firearms training dictated engaging threats based upon their relative distance from me and ease of engagement.  That is how we do it in shooting competitions and are graded upon such.  He chuckled and said "Yeah, that is what they teach you on the range.  In the real world however, that could get you killed!"

So, what is the right answer?  We would love to hear how you would answer that question in the comments.  And yes, he did give me the right answer, which makes perfect sense.  Instead of giving the answer right away, we want to engage your brain; you will get more out of having to think about it than just getting a quick answer.  Maybe someone reading this will have the right answer.  It was obvious to me that he had "been there and done that."  Let us know what you think...

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The Stretch Reflex

The Stretch Relex is where stretching a muscle causes the excitation of muscle spindles which causes contraction of large skeletal muscles.

A simple example of this is when jumping from a height and landing on the feet, the impulse in the leg muscles will likely cause a corresponding reflex of contracting the gluteal muscles in the hip which helps protect the body from injury.

Stimulus of the skeletal muscle, in turn, causes the antagonist muscle to lengthen and relax.  As the muscle relaxes and lengthens, the joint near the strike will not be as well protected as the body attempts to protect the core.

Naturally, our job is to take advantage of this reflex. How do we do that? Well, it is quite easy.

Let's say we are striking to Golgi's Tendon above the elbow (TB-11 for those with knowledge of acupuncture nomenclature). Naturally, the opponent will tense up as he expects the impact to his elbow region. As the muscles are about to be struct, they are contracted to resist the blow. The impact elicits a Stretch Reflex and immediately as the skeletal muscles are triggered, the relex causes the opponent's muscles to relax and lengthen, leaving the elbow joint exposed to injury. Immediately following up with a second strike to the same target will result in damage to the joint!

It really is that easy. But, please be extremely careful when working with a partner as it is unbelievably easy to dislocate elbows with this strike and do serious harm to your training partner. So, please be gentle!

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The Crossed Extensor Reflex

The crossed extensor reflex is also known as the Cross-body Motor Reflex and is one of the Somatic Reflexes we discussed previously.

Let's look at a practical example of stepping on a nail with your right foot. Naturally, the right leg will contract, via the flexor muscles, to withdraw the foot from the source of the pain. Ouch! At the same time, the right leg's extensor muscles will relax to facilitate the process with minimal resistance.

Meanwhile, the left leg will experience the exact opposite function and the leg will lock via the extensor muscle extension while the flexors relax. This is done to allow the left leg to maintain complete body weight. This is known as a contralateral reflex since opposite things happen on the opposite side of the body.

This is possible since branched of the afferent nerve fibers cross from the stimualted side of the body to the other side via the spinal cord. It is there where they synapse with interneurons and excite or inhibit alpha motor neurons on the opposite limb.

Of course, there are other stimuli occuring which cause the center of gravity to shift, but let's not think we are neurosurgeons here and get too complicated!

Now, let's apply this to CombatiXâ„¢. When we apply a joint lock to the fingrs of the right hand, have you ever noticed that the other arm will often swing away from you? As the flexor muscles of the right arm are stimulated, the cross extensor reflex causes the extensors of the left arm to engage and it typically swings in the opposite direction.

We use this natural reflex all the time to cause the opponent to rotate his body away from us and take the other arm (and fist) out of the fight to keep us from getting hammered with it!

Hopefully by now, you are starting to see just how much science there is involved with CombatiXâ„¢! For many years we have focused on teaching the Eastern side of the art and thus in these training reports I have decided to spend a fair amount of time revealing the Western side of the art as well.

Hmmm, I wonder if I can stimulate this response enough to make the opponent smack himself in the back of the head? Time to go find a training partner...

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Somatic Reflexes

Have you ever had a doctor, or a really twisted friend, tap a spot near your knee and it reflexively kicks? If so, you have experienced a somatic reflex.

There are essentially five somatic reflexes. Three are spinal reflexes:

  • Stretch
  • Crossed Extensor
  • Superficial Cord

And two are cranial reflexes:

  • Corneal
  • Gag

A reflex arc is a neural pathway which controls an action reflex. In humans, most sensory neurons don't pass directly to the brain, but synapse via the spinal cord. This allows reflex actions to occur very quickly by activating spinal motor neurons without experiencing the delay of routing signals through the brain, although the brain will receive sensory input while the reflex action takes place.

There are two types of reflex arc: autonomic reflex arc, which aaffects the inner organs, and somatic reflex arc, which affects muscles.

In the knee jerk reflex, a strike to the patellar tendon initiates a somatic reflex which causes a contraction of the quadricep muscle of the leg and causes it to kick. Since this bypasses the brain, this type of reflex occurs without conscious thought.

As there are a number of these sorts of reflexes in the body, activating these will cause a reaction regardless of whether or not the individual feels it. These can be of great value to those intoxicated, in altered states of consciousness due to drug activity, or those with impaired thinking.

Too many people try to get these types of individuals to comply based on pain. As you learned in the previous report, this is usually Slow Pain techniques such as strikes to the body and such. Instead, activating Fast Pain receptors, especially those tied to somatic reflexes offers the greatest opportunity to bring involuntary compliance.

Time to hit the anatomy books...

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Fast Pain vs. Slow Pain

How fast do you make your techniques hurt? Seems like an odd question, right?!?!? Well, it is actually quite a good one! Not all pain is created equal. It turns out some pain is faster than others! Time to talk some science...

By studying a scientific process known as nociception, we learn that pain comes in at least two basic forms: fast and slow. Nociception is a process of encoding and processing noxious stimuli. So, what is that?

Basically, these are pain stimulations where there is potential for bodily harm. These impulses are initiated by nociceptors, otherwise known as pain receptors. Once range of motion or impact reaches an internal threshold, these pain receptors fire signals along the spinal cord to the brain.

Where do these pain receptors live? They are located along joints and in the skin. Their distribution varies within the body, but are in greater densities along the extremeties. For thsoe who love joint locking, especially fingers, you now have a good idea why fingers make such good targets!

Fast pain travels along type Aä fibers and terminates on the dorsal horn of the spinal cord where these synapse with the dendrites of the neospinothalamic tract. Fast pain can be felt in as fast as one tenth of a second! This pain is usually felt as a sharp acute pain. These are often stimulated along with tactile receptors which keeps the pain being felt as localized but intense pain.

In contrast, slow pain is transmitted by type C fibers, which are slower, to laminae II and III of the dorsal horns, which are known as the substantia gelatinosa. One tenth of these signals eventually terminate in the thallus and the other nine tenths terminate in the medulla. Pain is typically felt as more of an aching, burning, or throbbing pain.

How does this apply to CombatiXâ„¢? Well, it is simple. We try to stimulate Fast Pain Receptors as often as possible. This fast signals travel at lightening speeds through the brain stem and cause immediate reaction. When dealing with someone who is pain resistant, this is one of the most effective ways to get them off their feet. Often, the legs have buckled before they feel any pain; in some cases they never do feel it! Either way, these type of techniques are not really pain compliance techniques, since feeling it is not necessary to get them to work. Instead, they cause neurological reflexes to take place that are operating at a subsconscious level.

Now go grab a partner and make it hurt fast and good...

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The OODA Loop

OODA Loop is a concept created by USAF Colonel John Boyd. It is an acronym for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Action.

He created this primarily for helping fighter pilots get through the mental process for taking action more quickly. In the business world, "time is money" but in life-and-death situations, "time is death."

If one can minimize the time it takes to take a correct action greatly increases one's survival rate. Taking too much time or getting hung up in the Orientation Phase can kill you.

First, let's remember that we have dealt with the Observation Phase of OODA by discussing the Levels of Awareness. Being more aware of your surrounding, gets you through that phase much faster.

As I said, most people get caught up in the Orientation Phase. This is where one must filter the information collected in the Observation Phase and process it. One's ethics, morality, religious inclinations, and such have a tremendous impact on how long this phase takes. For example, if someone believes killing is always wrong, it will be extremely difficult to overcome this in a real-life situation.

Unfortunately, many people never consider how they feel about this until it is too late. Instructors should regularly help their students confront the question of whether they are prepared to injure or even kill another individual if the situation arises.

Mental imagery can be used to help one answer these questions and pre-program their minds to take action when necessary.

We have also looked at the Decision Phase with the study of Hick's Law. As you may remember, fewer decisions leads to a faster response time.

The final step is the Action Phase. If one reaches this point, strikes and/or defensive actions are taken and then the process begins again. After fighting back, more Observation is needed to determine how the opponent reacted. This information must then lead to Orientation, more Decision, and likely more Action.

The possibility exists, however, for an individual to get "stuck" at some point in the loop. If fear is not controlled, it will escalate into a "Fear Loop" which can get stuck in a repeating cycle if one does not break out of it, but more on that later...

It is also possible, for someone to get to one phase such as Orientation and decide they do not have enough information and thus go back to more Observation. This can happen at any point. It may even happen just before taking Action, thus delaying Action until more Observation, Orientation, and Decision.

It should be real obvious by this point that we must learn to get through this process as quick and efficiently as possible to survive an attack. It is also interesting to note that an opponent goes through the same process. Wanna bet who typically gets through it faster?

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Fairbairn’s Timetable of Death

About W. E. Fairbairn
Let's begin our Discussion of the Fairbairn's Timetable of Death by first looking at who he was.  The following was taken from WikiPedia:

William Ewart Fairbairn (28 February, 1885–20 June, 1960) was a British soldier, police officer and exponent of hand-to-hand combat method, the close combat, for the Shanghai Police between the world wars, and allied special forces in World War II. He developed his own fighting system known as Defendu, as well as other weapons tactics. Notably, this included innovative pistol shooting techniques and the development of the Fairbairn-Sykes Fighting Knife.

The television series Secrets of War suggested him as a possible inspiration for Q branch in James Bond.

Military Career

Fairbairn served with the Royal Marine Light Infantry starting in 1901, and joined the Shanghai Municipal Police (SMP) in 1907. During his service with the International Police in Shanghai, Fairbairn reportedly engaged in hundreds of street fights in the course of his duties over a twenty-year career, where he organised and headed a special anti-riot squad. Much of his body, arms, legs, torso, even the palms of his hands, was covered with scars from knife wounds from those fights.  Fairbairn later created, organised and trained a special anti-riot squad for the Shanghai police force, as well as developing numerous firearms training courses and items of police equipment, including a special metal-lined bulletproof vest designed to stop high-velocity bullets from the 7.63x25mm Mauser pistol.

During World War II, he was recruited by the British Secret Service as an Army officer, where he was given the nickname "Dangerous Dan". Together with fellow close-combat instructor Eric Sykes, Fairbairn was commissioned on the General List in 1941. He trained British, American and Canadian Commando forces, along with Ranger candidates in close-combat, pistol-shooting and knife-fighting techniques. Fairbairn emphasised the necessity of forgetting any idea of gentlemanly conduct or fighting fair: "Get tough, get down in the gutter, win at all costs... I teach what is called ‘Gutter Fighting.’ There’s no fair play, no rules except one: kill or be killed,” he declared.

For his achievements in training OSS personnel, Fairbairn eventually rose to the rank ofLieutenant-Colonel by the end of the war, and received the U.S. Legion of Merit (Officer grade) at the specific request of "Wild Bill" Donovan, founder of the U.S. O.S.S.

In an effort to define how long it takes for a person wounded by a knife wound to either lose consciousness or die from hypovolemic shock, Fairbairn created his well-known Timetable of Death.

No one knows quite for sure where he got his numbers but they have come under some scrutiny in the past few years.  While no one doubts his fighting prowess or his intent to train troops, but his numbers seem to be off the mark in areas.  For instance, the depth of some arteries and organs appear to be different from known anatomical sciences.

It also appears that his estimates of bleedout times do not match with tactical experience.  Due to these inaccuracies, a few researches have attempted to re-calculate the times.  I too have taken up this challenge!

From looking at the attempts of others, it appeared to me that blood pressure, the effects of Body Alarm Response, heart rate and other factors such as gender, were not being factored into the calculations.
After great research, it became obvious to me that new methods had to be created that took all of this information into consideration.  My calculations are based on Cardio Physics of the human body.

The basic conclusion of this research is that several knife fighting tactics are flawed.  When one considers that some knife instructors advocate attacking vascular targets due to bleedout time, it becomes apparent that they may not have complete information.  Or else, their numbers may be based on Fairbairn's original research.  While attacking vascular targets do in fact kill, the times are often longer than what most people expect.

To make it far easier to calculate time for shock, time to loss of consciousness, and finally time to death, I created an application to make running scenarios much easier.  With this tool, it is possible to estimate these times for various genders, body sizes (height and weight), different heart rates, and blood pressures.  This allows you to simulate at rest as well as under stress.  Moreover, you can see the effects of stress on the body.

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The Interview

The Interview is a process of victim selection which few prey know anything about. Unfortunately, this causes them to pass the Interview process. Having an understanding of what it is and how it is conducted, and more importantly, why is instrumental in failing it. Why would you want to fail an interview? Because this one may cost you your life!

Victimology is the study of victims and why they were chosen to be victims in the first place. When interviewed after a violent encounter, most victims report that they had no idea why they were attacked and even go so far as to state that they had no idea what was about to happen. After probing by investigators, however, most begin to remember details leading up to the attack that did not seem quite right. Gavin de Becker in his incredible book, The Gift of Fear, describes many such incidents.

The reality is that most people remember things prior to the attack that after review, seemed like strange questions or statements. This is a usually part of the predator's Interview process. Only when a potential prey passes his/her Interview, does the predator solidify their choice of prey.

There are different types of Interviews. Some are verbal and others are non-verbal. They can also be done either from a distance or close-up. The key is to understand that they do occur and know how to fail them!
Let's look at a common situation to help illustrate one way the Interview is conducted. Also keep in mind that there is a Force Continuum at work here. In a situation where an individual wants to abduct a young lady, he may approach her offering to help her carry groceries into her apartment. If she accepts, then he moves onto the next Interview "Question." If she refuses, he may make a second offer with a little more force. If she relents here, then he has learned that while she may initially resist, with more pressure, she will relent. This is bad news indeed!

If the predator moves onto the next step, he may carry the groceries from her car to her door. If she stops at the door and thanks him, itending for him to stay outside, he will take what he has learned and insist on "being a gentleman" and putting the groceries on her counter. With his knowledge he has gained that it may take a couple of attempts of insisting, he will test her further to see whether she allows him in.

At this point, if she does allow him into her apartment, an attack is likely. Naturally, he may overplay the idea of being a "nice guy." He may also bring more manipulation methods into play such as Forced Teaming, which we will likely discuss later. The more alarms that she can recognize, the more likely she is to avoid the problem by failing the Interview.

Why does the predator go through all of this? Basically, because they are cowards! They choose the victims who will offer the least resistance and will be least likely to bring charges against them or even report the attack. The predator needs someone who will put up little resistance, someone they can dominate without drawing too much attention from the neighbors.

So how could they lady have failed the Interview? By saying "No!" and meaning "No!" she convinces the predator that perhaps he chose the wrong prey. By showing that she is confident, loud, and determined, she conveys to him that she is more trouble than what he wants. She has to make eye contact and stand firm in what she says. In his mind, she is intimidating and there are always easier victims.

Naturally, there are several other ways Interviews are conducted. Sometimes it is two men in a bar or on the street. The idea is the same. At some point if the victim "passes" the Interview, the predator decides that his victim selection is correct and he is ready to take things to a physical level. If things go poorly for the predator, the process may cease and they may take off looking for an easier prey.

Another Type of Interview

Above, we talked about the Interview process that a predator uses to interview a potential victim. This was part of our study of Victimology. This time, we will talk about a type of mixed Interview that involves both verbal and non-verbal "questions."

Let's consider a scenario where two guys get into a heated argument. If you are paying close attention, you realize that the Interview has already started! Verbal fights are often part of the process. We can imagine that at least one of the guys has assumed a position with his chest enlarged and puffed out. He is making a territorial display to look as big as possible to try to intimidate his opponent. Why? Because this is a non-verbal "question." If the display causes his opponent to back off, then he grows in confidence. If, however, it causes his opponent to become more aggressive, he realizes that his "prey" is not initimidated.

If the decision is made to continue, one party may escalate force to contact. Often, this is done as a small push. Although force is escalating, this is usually a test before a punch is made. At this point, passing the Interview process would be to not react immediately. Failing it might be to push back even harder. This is where things have to turn around or a fight is imminent. Often at escalataing force, one or both parties feel that fighting is the only resort. They have to "save face" with everyone around and feel there is no alternative. This is why the study of verbal de-escalation techniques is essential to avoid conflict! A fight may be avoided by use of verbal techniques which allow the aggression to evaporate with one or both being able to salvage dignity and not looking afraid.

Back to the Interview. If the victim does not strike back and looks fearful, the attacker may determine that it is safe to launch an attack or may seek more assurance by pushing again -- this time harder! If he makes another more forceful push, he is probably getting close to making a real attack.

As you can guess, a punch is almost always next. Notice how the whole situation escalated from posturing, to yelling, to pushing, and ultimately to physical assault. While some people will walk up and strike you without notice or apparent reason, this Interview process is quite common. Even when attacks seem to come out of nowhere, the reality is that the predator was likely conducting the Interview non-verbally from a distance by observation.

In these cases, they may stalk their potential prey and learn their schedule, the times they are alone, and their awareness levels. When they are convinced they have enough information and the time is right, they attack. To the victim, this was out-of-nowhere, but in reality, it was quite planned.

Being aware of people who seem out of place or seem to take too much notice of you is the first step in failing the Interview.

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Universal Response Technique (U.R.T.)

Due to the implications of Hick's Law, I developed a concept several years ago called Universal Response Technique, or U.R.T. for short.

This concept is about minimizing the decisions one has to make during a violent encounter. As we discussed previously, more decisions equals more reaction time.

Consider what often happens during an attack. The opponent makes a sudden threatening move and the defender has to decide which technique to use, which foot to step with, whether to use hands or feet, and a number of other decisions. And they have to do this operating behind the curve when the opponent simply has to take action (no reaction)!

Let me ask you this. How many techniques do you know to deal with a punch? Would you say you know 5? How about 10? More? How would you decide which to use when the time comes? Even if you have your favorite(s), it is still necessary to take some amount of time to decide unless you have pre-programmed your response.

Pre-programming is the act of deciding in advance and committing that to motor memory. This is the basis for Universal Response Technique.

Now, let's say your opponent pushes toward you. How many defenses to a push do you know? How about if he chokes you? You get the idea.

So when attacked, you have to analyze the attack and then choose a proper defense -- all while trying not to get killed! That is a lot to overcome in a real fight!

If one could eliminate many of the choices and move toward generalizing a response to fit all situations then your survival rate goes up.

How do you do this? By pre-programming the initial movements. What if you eliminate the decision of whether to step with the right foot or the left? That is one less choice. In other words, what if you always stepped with your left foot forward regardless of the attack? Whether you are grabbed, punched, choked, or whatever, you would always step into the same stance.

Now, what if you always raise your arms into the same defensive position? No decision as to what to do with them initially. That would eliminate perhaps another choice.

Ultimately, you will have to vary the response depending on the attack. That is for certain, but the idea is to help you survive the critical first few moments of the attack by making you as fast as you possibly can be.

Now if you take your initial response and work with various attacks from a training partner, you will be surprised how often you can use the same U.R.T. You just have to spend some time experimenting.

In my DVD, Players to the Game Volume 1, I introduce my favorite U.R.T. Yours may end up looking a little different, but that is not what is important. Having a standard response is more of what it is all about.
Time to hit the mat...

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Hick’s Law

There is a common principle that many Martial Artists are familiar with called Hick's Law.

Hick's Law is named after British psychologist William Edmund Hick. The HickHyman Law (for Ray Hyman), also called simply Hick's Law, describes the time it takes for a person to make a decision as a result of the possible choices he or she has to make. The Hick-Hyman Law assesses cognitive information capacity in choice reaction experiments. The amount of time taken to process a certain amount of bits in the Hick-Hyman Law is known as the rate of gain of information.

In the equation, 'b' is a constant which is determined empirically by fitting a line to measured data. Basically log2 means that you perform the equivalent of a binary search algorithm with each decision. Binary search is where each choice, cuts the remaining choices in half. The first choices are the most costly, but each choice still adds dramatically to reaction time.

To measure this, Hick used a set of 10 lamps that would illuminate at random and the test subject had to press the corresponding button. He then varied the number of buttons which could illuminate from 1-10. Measuring the response time for a pre-determined number of choices led to an increase in the time to react. From this research, he formulated his equation.

According to his research, the first choice adds a 58% penalty to your response time. This means that if your response time is 300ms, then the first choice could slow you down to about 474ms! That is dramatic and could mean the difference in success and failure! Thinking back to my previous experiment on response time, this could mean an additional foot or so to the non-reactionary distance!

Also take a look at Fitt's Law, developed in 1954. This is based on Hick's research, but takes into consideration adding movement and accuracy to the equation. In these calculations, the smaller the target, the more time it takes for cognitive processing and motor movement, thus response time. This has real application to the combatives practitioners as you can imagine.

There are those who dispute their research, but the principle holds true nonetheless. Additional decisions take time to process. And time is not on our side during an attack!

What can we gain from studying this kind of research? A lot I think. We know that to be successful in combat, we have to limit our choices as much as possible since decisions equal more time and distance. How do we do we limit choices? There are a few ways and we will talk about that in future training reports.

Until then, remember that Hick's Law is not just for Rednecks!