Reaction times

If you have to defend yourself, typically that means you are reacting.

That means you are behind the curve.

You have to perceive what’s going on, process what’s going on, figure out what to do, and then do it. That takes time. At best it may take only a second or two, but that’s still time. Every second can be critical.

I saw this posting at Fark about an F1 driver and his reflexes.

Here’s the video:

Watch how quickly things unfold, how quickly he reacts, and how quickly everything could have gone south. Of course, this is why he’s Dino Zamparelli and one of the top F1 drivers — and you’re not.

In the Fark discussion thread, Farker sat1va wrote:

That was pretty damn great. I left collision reconstruction about 4 years ago but the latest on perception-response when I last applied it was anywhere from 1.0 to 2.5 seconds depending upon the circumstances. Perception-response is the time it takes to identify a hazard, decide upon a reaction, and execute the reaction with your body. The circumstances make all the difference for this time and removing any element such as knowing you just need to brake or push a button will lower that time. For example if you’re driving in heavy city traffic (lots of visual noise) through a green light intersection and a vehicle enters from your left (unexpected hazard approaching from a high eccentricity) you’ll tend to have closer to the 2.5 second perception reaction time before you begin to steer or brake. On the flip side if you’re bombing down a sparsely populated rural tertiary highway (low visual noise) and an oncoming vehicle crosses the centre-line (low eccentricity) you’ll probably be closer to 1.0-1.5 secs. Clearly this driver was on his toes driving down the wet low visibility track, and we don’t know if he was fed any information on a yellow flag up ahead, but either way his reaction time was either spectacular or had a dash of fluke in it.

So consider that: 1.0 to 2.5 seconds to react. Look at all that unfolded within a second or two in that video. Look at how much can happen in such a short period of time. Consider in this racing context it’s a pretty controlled context and there’s a small set of possible situations and responses to have to deal with, so you can trim down your reaction time.

Now back out to a violent attack. How many variables could we have to deal with? How much will our brain have to flip through a mental rolodex to find what to do? And will it find anything?  Considering the greater number of possible situations and then possible reactions (because “shooting him” isn’t going to be and can’t be the only answer), consider then how this affects your reaction time. Chances are, your reaction is going to be slow. Yes every situation is different, and yes people are different. But let’s just back up and look at the general concepts and its a fairly good risk of being slow.

This is where force-on-force training can be useful, because your brain can find a problem and solution to an already experienced event, instead of now having to invent one on the fly. You get put into real and typical scenarios, you then reacted. Maybe you did it wrong or did it right, but either way after the scenario is done, there’s a briefing to discuss, and you will ingrain the lessons. The more FoF you do, the more you’ll learn. The more you’ll come up with game plans, and then you can just act instead of having to wing it.

It’s also why formal training with reputable schools is important. These are people that have studied what it takes to stay alive in a deadly force confrontation. They have worked for formalize methods of teaching so they can imbue reactions in their students that are appropriate. For example, when we get into classes like Defensive Pistol Skills 1, we don’t just tell you to “draw” or “shoot” or “fire”. We yell “GUN!!!!!” as your indicator for when you should be drawing your gun and shooting. Why? It’s attempting to replicate what your brain is going to be saying. Some dude pulls a gun on you and you’re not going to ask him out for tea! No, your brain is going to be going “HOLY SHIT! HE’S GOT A GUN!!! GUN!! GUN!!!”, so it’s about ingraining that reaction to that stimulus.  And then, your reaction times can decrease because you don’t lock up wondering what to do next, you can get to action.

I don’t know how much credence to put into sat1va’s numbers, but the principle remains. Shit happens, we’re behind the curve, and it takes time for us to perceive, process, devise a plan, and execute the plan (OODA loop). Anything you can do to tighten up your OODA loop works in your favor.

3 thoughts on “Reaction times

  1. Great post Hsoi. This is important stuff. Your suggestions and points are solid.

    I’d just like to add one more thing. Maintaining awareness, knowing what pre attack indicators to look for and knowing high risk times and places will enable us to identify a potential threat early and deny a threat the element of surprise.

    This will limit our need to spot something by surprise and therefore be forced to make quick decisions.

    It sets us up for success. Though for sure, if for some reason we are caught by surprise, participating in good training like you talk about will definitely help in such a situation.

    Cheers,

    Adam

    • I agree. Awareness plays a huge role in things, because that helps you get ahead in your OODA loop faster. I mean, the first “O” is Observe, and the sooner you can observe — which awareness enables — the better off you’ll be.

      I have come to accept tho that we can’t be fully aware all the time. We’re human, we slip up. We fall into condition white. We get really into something (e.g. deep problem at work), and we become unaware of our surroundings. It happens. We must strive to not, but since it does well… all that we can additionally do to tighten up our OODA loop, the better.

      Thanx, Adam. Always a pleasure.

  2. Great post Hsoi. This is important stuff. Your suggestions and points are solid.

    I’d just like to add one more thing. Maintaining awareness, knowing what pre attack indicators to look for and knowing high risk times and places will enable us to identify a potential threat early and deny a threat the element of surprise.

    This will limit our need to spot something by surprise and therefore be forced to make quick decisions.

    It sets us up for success. Though for sure, if for some reason we are caught by surprise, participating in good training like you talk about will definitely help in such a situation.

    Cheers,

    Adam

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