Action vs. Reaction: Stages of Mental Processing

Posted: December 19, 2017 by urbantacticskravmaga in Krav Maga Principles
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Action (Preemptive) vs Reaction (Reactive)

Action Vs Reaction for Krav Maga Self Defense: Audio by Jonathan Fader

When it comes to a human vs human situation action is always faster than reaction. Humans brains are all made up of the same stuff and operate in relatively similar fashion. We all have neurons, and our brains generally function with the same brain chemistry and processes. Most people will have approximately the same action-reaction potential with regard to response times. While there are of course exceptions, as in the case of extreme athletes, most people will fall within similar parameters. Below, the action vs. reaction concept is broken down into the four basic steps to processing information for the purposes of self-defence. The names given may be similar to standard process models but are simplified for the purposes of the self-defense model.

Mental Processing.jpg
  1. Perceive

This is the initial identification of an attack or action.  The “Oh-Shit” moment when you identify an imminent threat.

2. Analyze

At this point, your brain examines the threat, in the context of your situation, to determine what to do.  The brain will consider the speed and trajectory of the threat, his or her size and shape, the direction of any escape routes, and numerous other identifiers.

3. Formulate

Now, you are consciously thinking about what to do and searching your memory for the appropriate response. Do you run? Do you fight? Do you freeze?

4. Action

Finally, based on your perception and analysis, you now act on your plan.

Both an attacker and defender are going through these same stages, which can take approximately 0.25 seconds to move through all four. However, in a life or death situation, this can seem like an eternity. If you failed to recognize and act in response, you now find yourself relegated to a reactive action (rather than a preemptive action); you are now playing a game of catch up. Your attacker may be at stage 4, with a punch, while you are still at stage 2 or 3. If you fail to give yourself enough space, or cannot counter-react fast enough, that punch will now hit you.

Your goal is to always engage in an aggressive fashion should you find your self in mental colour code red, so that you are constantly resetting your attacker’s mental process to 1 or 2. This can be done by off-balancing, causing pain, or resetting their mental process through disruption. (See Off Balance, Cause Pain or Reset)

Because of this model, and how the brain processes information, action is always faster than reaction. The Four Stages of Self-defence, as taught by UTKM, must keep this processing in mind, and approach violence in the appropriate order so that a defender always has to option to engage with a preemptive action rather than a reactive action.

*Topics under any principle category (Eg. Krav Maga Principles) may be updated from time to time.  So check-in every few months to see if the posts have been updated.

**A similar model is the OODA Model of Observe, Orient, Decide, Act.

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