Stage four I'm going to give you some credit. I will assume that if you see something bad coming you will avoid it. Yeah, that takes some common sense and maturity but I believe in you. Really. What this means, practically, is that if you got assaulted it was a surprise. Maybe not a complete surprise- you might have known it was bad or it was going bad- but the first contact (fist, stick or boot or...) was a surprise. Otherwise it wouldn't have gotten in.
In case I haven't made it clear, the seven circles are stages of training. They mirror what happens in conflict, are based on that, but this is a map of training, not of the field. Yeah, things will pretty much break down in this order.... I'm rambling. General warning: Models are never reality. They are useful, they are not absolutely real.
So, stage four. The sucker punch. Given that action beats reaction and all the cool stuff about the OODA loop martial artists tend to hand wave past this stage. Some traditionalists say, "Mushin will take care of it." and some RBSD guys have said, "You can't do anything about it so there's no point in training for it." In this case, the traditionalists are closer to the truth. Closer.
There are some things that any good martial artist will train to reflex. It will be based on style and instruction and inclination. Sometimes it is simply a block, sometimes a block and counter. Some judoka will respond with their favorite throw before they have consciously registered the opening. A very good ring fighter will strike at openings almost before they appear.
This is basic Operant Conditioning training. Stimulus/response stuff. If you have seen this in the simple things described above you know that it exists and you have an idea of how it works. OC is a style of training. It is what you need for the fourth circle (I'm still up in the air on calling them circles or stages or whatever. I'm thinking book, so send your suggestions.)
The problem with OC is that it tends to get trained pretty specifically. An overhand right requires, in most styles, a different response than an overhand left or a kick or a straight right. A sudden assault may be an overhand right, or a kick or a stab or... Training for each possible attack may take years and will never cover all possibilities.
So here is the stage four training- practice one move for most sudden attacks. Sounds too simple and there is more going on, but that is basically it. I'm not going into technique here. I have predilections. So do you. The Stage four techniques that you practice must serve your preferences, not mine. In general a perfect technique will better your position, worsen the threat's position, do damage to the threat and prevent damage to you... my idea of bettering my position is based on being an infighter. If that's not you, my particular favorites may hamper and not empower you.
As I said, it's more complex. I teach each student three techniques. One for an attack you see. Not an attack you identify. That takes too long. Your intuition tingles, the threat starts to move, you move. I only teach one to each student (unless they plan on teaching) and I try to tie the action to their natural flinch. There are two natural flinches for something coming at your eyes. If you find out which one the student has (and on people who have trained a long time it is harder, years of conditioning alter the natural response) you pick a response based on that.
The second is for the attack you feel. Something hits you in the back of your head. Someone grabs for your weapon. Arms come around your neck. Something slams into your kidney. One technique that works for all of these. You've taken the damage, you need to get the initiative back. The technique you teach/train has to respect the fact that if this is a blitz, it won't stop with a single attack.
The third, again, is for an attack that you feel, but it overwhelms you by breaking your balance forward. I wish I could come up for a single response for attacks from behind that worked for both dynamics, but I haven't.
So each student gets one response for attacks from the front (defined as anywhere in the visual field, anything you see before you feel) and two for attacks from behind.
They have to be practiced in a realistic environment- that means the stimulus must be an attack, not a sparring lead with feints. One of the things that makes this hard to practice to reflex is that you have to guard against instilling a 'pull'. You are laying something in pretty deep and you can put bad habits, like pulling or stopping, right in with it. Generally, my students practice on me (more experience at avoiding damage) and I wear armor.
Stage four integrates with stage five. If you get hit and you weren't expecting it, you will freeze. You will have to deal with a cascade of stress hormones. However, if your training at stage four was effective you have already counterattacked. This evens the playing field. The threat wasn't expecting this and now may be frozen also. (Part of stage two is understanding how threats think, how they have a plan and experience with a certain type of attack, how that attack is designed to prevent or minimize resistance. A counterattack is rarely in the plan.)
Koolaid drinking at this stage? Part is mentioned above: "You can't do anything so you might as well not train." is the form of koolaid drinking based on, "My instructor didn't have an answer and he is the right hand of god so there must not be an answer." Expectation of mushin is also a form of koolaid drinking. True mushin does exist but is levels beyond what most people describe. Maybe in another post, a twilight zone post, I'll try to pick that apart.
But something I call 'false mushin' happens pretty frequently. If the attack looks very much like something a person has trained, the practitioner's reaction will kick in without thought. Because it happened without thought and was successful it pretty much fits the description that most practitioners have of 'mushin'... but it is just an OC response. It relies on luck, the luck that what you trained for is what you will get.
Something else sometimes happens. Raise your hand if you've heard this story: "I been training for awhile, you know, and this guy was being a jerk and he said some shit and I said something and suddenly he hauled off and just out of nowhere I kiai'd and threw a punch and I pulled it an inch from his nose and he slunk off..."
The person who does this sees it as a major success and it is. Sort of. A drunken idiot who wants to Monkey Dance can be intimidated by a pulled punch and a yell. What I see in that story is that someone had trained pulling to the point that when their reactions kicked in to a real threat, the pulling came right along with the technique. If they had been facing a predator or even an experienced MD fighter, all the threat would have learned is that he didn't hit, that he had trained not to hit, that it would be perfectly safe to kick the living shit out of him.