Friday, January 18, 2008

Time: the First half second

It's about time for a short series on the things that people just don't get when they are talking, thinking, training or analyzing acts of violence. One of the biggest is time. First some background:

There are different types of fights, different approaches and different dynamics- but not really a lot of them. The dominance display sometimes goes to a fight. Not usually, unless you let your ego get involved. I call that one the Monkey Dance and it is common, predictable and seemingly genetically imprinted to be safe. On the rare occassions someone dies in a Monkey Dance it is by falling and hitting their head.
There's also a display of solidarity, the Group Monkey Dance. There are two levels of this. Both suck, but one can be brutal and pitiless beyond what too many people are ready to accept in their comfortable, safe worlds. The high level GMD is the one type of attack that scares me most, because it is the one that I have least experience dealing with and the one that I have trouble even imagining a high percentage response. I know two strategies to survive them, I've used one of those... but I have no evidence that my survival had more to do with what I did than it had to do with what the bad guys didn't do.
The third is the predatory assault. This is the one I think of when I am writing about survival and self defense. This is the one that I plan and train for. The other two are largely preventable or avoidable (NOT the same thing, not even close). A good ambush is generally preventable but rarely specifically preventable (and that is the third very important concept so far. If you don't grasp the difference, remind me.) Yeah, there are variations- the charm and blitz predators use different approaches; process and resource predators have different goals and follow somewhat different dynamics after the initial assault. Hustlers trying to use predator dynamics rely on display instead of effect, and there is a vulnerability there that can be exploited, but exploiting it comes with its own special danger.
So just to be clear, we are talking about ambushes. Sudden assaults.

In a Monkey Dance, sparring or dueling it starts at a very mental and perceptual level. What is the threat doing? How is he positioned? What can I do? Then someone decides to do it. If you make good decisions fast, you can usually establish dominance early. The threat may get the first move and will be a big step ahead, but much of your intelligence gathering is done- you can recover.

The assault is different. You get hit first. What do you do?
"Well, that depends..."
You get hit again.
"How is he hitting me?"
You get hit again.
"What can I do?"
You get hit again.

If what you do depends in any way on what he does, you will take more damage while exploring options.
If you need any data beyond the fact that you are taking damage in order to make a decision, you will take more damage while you gather it.
If any aspect of this is a cognitive process, you will likely never close your OODA loop. In other words you will take damage and probably never act.

This is fast. A decent fighter can hit you eight to ten times a second. Most street fighters aren't particularly skilled in the nuances of short power generation- they will only hit about six times a second because they are putting weight and power into it.

Do those numbers seem high? If so, it is probably a sparring artifact, where the two contestants maintain a balance between offense and defense, distance and time. In an assault the predator relies (with iincredible reliability) on the speed of the attack freezing the victim. He has probably never heard of the OODA loop, but he uses the dynamics. And it works. Also, if the numbers seem high, get out a stop watch and try it. Completely untrained people hit at least four times a second. I seriously doubt the skill of any striking artist who can't do eight. I've hit thirteen. One of Loren Christensen's students peaked at seventeen.

This is what I usually refer to as the OC stage of the attack. The person attacked has to be trained for immediate action regardless of the nature of the attack. What kind of immediate action? It really doesn't matter. Turning and running could work. I'm partially to irimi. One guy I knew could reliably kick the knee from almost any position. Palm heel to the face is good. But it must be immediate, must bypass the cognitive process.

This training for immediate action is a separate thing from fighting skill. Decisiveness, what USM Jones calls "Initiative" or "violence of action" is a skill all its own. It is probably the premier skill if you expect to survive an ambush. If you do not survive this stage, you will not be able to access whatever killer you skill you have gained in your training. What you will do is sit in a depression a week later and lament what you could have done, all the options that you see with the perspective of time. If you are very unlucky, you might even have an instructor that will reinforce this, claim that he would have seen what to do. Don't be fooled. This ability for immediate reaction is a separate thing.

Ask yourself honestly if you train for it.

Dueling and Monkey Dance based styles don't need this within their world-view. So sometimes it's just new information. I can think of one person (Hey, Tony!) who has made a great career out of helping people with this new information. But sometimes (and in my opinion this is criminal) I've seen instructors deny that it exists and a few practitioners stick their heads deep in the sand with the old saw, "You can't train for that so why bother?" But people do train for it, and use it with decent success.

A general (Patton? McArthur?) once said, "A decent plan now, violently executed is better than a great plan too late." In an assault, even in a military ambush, a half second can be too late.

This is a trainable skill. It's a critical skill. What will you decide to do?


aaron said...

It was Patton.

Loudernhel said...

Can you expound on the two ways of dealing with the group monkey dance?

The first one that comes to mind is doing something immediate and gratuitously violent to the Chief Monkey.

But then again I usually suck at nuance.



Mark Jones said...

I think I get the difference between generally and specifically preventable ambushes. If you're alert to the possibility of assault and act accordingly (don't walk down that dark street, run away before the scary guy gets close, whatever) you can generally avoid being ambushed. But if you fail to notice the signals in this one encounter (just general obliviousness or you're tired or distracted this one time), you may not avoid a specific ambush. Is that it?

Anonymous said...

[i]Ask yourself honestly if you train for it.[/i]
Kind of, sort of, which may amount to a no. I train with people who are trained to react deliberately with violence to an assault, but they sometimes react to any touch or unexpected move the same way. I've seen it in action, seen the results and I'll be honest and say that to totally give myself over to that is kind of scary. I know given their professions that it is the skill that makes their other skills work, but I'm not them.

Mike K

Kai Jones said...

Mark: But if you fail to notice the signals in this one encounter
Or you've encountered one of the really bad guys, who hide their intent successfully. Or who hide deeper than your ability to detect.

And a blitz attack--well, you've seen them. Like when the guy with the knife can beat the guy drawing his gun, it happens so fast that someone you thought was far enough away still puts you in danger.

Mike K: but they sometimes react to any touch or unexpected move the same way.

They're not paying attention to the difference, then. That's part of it, and it can be trained.

toby said...

so how would one go about training for that immediate automatic reaction?

Anonymous said...

They're not paying attention to the difference, then. That's part of it, and it can be trained.

They're just used to playing in a different playground that's a little more grey Kai, but you are right you can train these reactions. I've picked up a little of the skill, and have used it, but have adapted it to fit what I'm most likely to face with some extra wiggle room.

Mike K

Steve Perry said...

I dunno, does the philosophical notion "When in doubt, hit!" fit into this?

Rory said...

Aaron- Thanks, and welcome.

David- the two strategies are to beat their minds (your tactic would fall under that category); or to endure it- very risky.

Mark- Strategic use of terrain (avoiding likely bad places) is one general avoidance. Appearing as a hard target (fit, alert, good self-respect) is a general deterrent. The problem is that if, for some reason, the threat sees you as the only source of what he want, he will compensate for those qualities in the ambush.

Mike- training for this doesn't turn you into an uncontrolled killer. You don't even have to train for counter assault. There is a profound difference and easily distinguished between a child tapping on your shoulder and someone hitting you in the head.

Hi, Kai!

Toby- This is one of the things I go over in the book and is really easy to mess up in a short description. It is also easy to mess up because it is simple and humans can't seem to leave simple alone. You need a single high-percentage, extremely versatile action and you use very pure Operant Conditioning principles to pair that with the stimulus of classes of attack.

Steve- not at all, on two levels. Doubt is a side-effect of a cognitive process. OC conditioning sidesteps the cognitive process, so if you experience doubt, this isn't what you are doing. Second, hitting isn't always the response, but action is required. On a side note, though, if someone anticipates experiencing doubt about what to do when actually taking damage that's a big sign to do some serious soul searching well in advance. getting beaten down is a very poor time to try to work out your ethical issues with countervailing force.

Actually, that falls under the concept of discretionary time. have I already written about that?

Steve Perry said...

Hmm. I think the expression is meant to be more metaphorical than literal, the 'When in doubt hit," thing.
Doubt isn't really a part of it, only a way to focus the intent, which is to take charge and don't wait.

As in all metaphors, accuracy is approximate.

It's our discussion on proactive versus reactive, and it dovetails, I think with your comment that if what I do depends on the what the attacker does, it's too late.

I know we can't get this laid out photonically enough to be clear, but the idea is that what the attacker does isn't as important to me as what I do, and I want to do *something* useful in a big hurry.

Bram said...

8 to 10 times a second sounds like a lot, but in 5 attempts 8 was my best and I averaged 6. I have no training in striking and my last martial arts training was 5 years ago.

That's pretty scary actually, react a second too late in a blitz and you get hit that many times. I don't want to be there if it's a blitz with a knife...