The Brain's Reactions to an Attack
Many people start out by trying to imagine there response to being attacked. As a result, we all think of different ways we win the fight. What we almost never take into consideration is the brain’s reactions to an attack. Keep in mind we what we are talking about is the surprise attack. This is what triggers our flight or fight response.
Now I won’t go into how thalmus, sensory cortex, motor cortex, amygdala, hippocampus, and glands react. Instead I will cover what the physiological responses are and how they may hinder us. If we think of a dynamic critical incident or self-defense situation. We need to think of what we will be able to do vs what we plan to do. To do that, we must first understand what are minds reaction will be.
To help us understand what will trigger the fight or flight response lets look at what they mean by a dynamic critical incident:
1. Surprising – A sudden event that you did not expect or anticipate
2. Chaotic – Things are happening rapidly and you have no idea what is going to happen next
3. Threatening – With physical violence that could cause grave bodily injury or death
The physical reactions are what is going to determine how well we can accomplish our goal of self-defense. For example, the fight or flight response may trigger all or just some of these responses.
- Reflex Crouch.
- Bringing the Hands Up to Protect From Impact.
- Head and Eyes Locked on the Threat.
- Decreased Motor Skills
- Shaky & Sweaty Hands.
- To Name a few
The Reactions You Can’t See
- Tunnel Vision(reported 79% of the time)
- Heightened Vision (reported 71% of the time)
- Slowed Time (reported 62% of the time)
- Memory Loss (reported 52% of the time)
- Added Strength
- False Memories (reported 21% of the time)
- Loss of Some Cognitive thinking.
- Increased Pain Tolerance
- Suppressed Hearing (reported 84% of the time)
What Does All This Mean?
If we put all of the brain’s reactions together. We can then start to understand what might happen and how to incorporate in our training. For instance, imagine the start of a dynamic critical incident. A person steps out from a bush in front of you. They are screaming that they are going to kill you. You immediately lower your center of gravity in a reflective crouch and put your hands out in front of you. Your then eyes zoom in on the attacker. Immediately your hands start to shake, and your legs are slow to move.
The attacker is now the only thing your eyes are focused on. The rest of your surroundings are blurry. You no longer make out what he is screaming. He appears to be coming at you in slow motion. Being that he is already moving toward you and is determined to kill you are at the very least do great bodily harm. You are forced with the problem of having to make the decision, can you run or are you forced to fight.
None of which takes into consideration do you even have enough time to reach a weapon and get it on target. This is one of the many reasons why training is so crucial. It will be at this moment you will revert back to your lowest level of training. Meaning that you will likely only be able to use the basics rather than complex moves and reactions.
What Can We Do?
This is where the training comes in. Our brain’s reactions when attacked are not there to hinder us but instead to help up survive. The first step should always be to move laterally left or right. The next step is to try and get something between you can the attacker. In this case it could be a tree or the bush itself. Preferably it would be something that would prevent the attacker from causing you damage. In some cases simply showing your gun, or even drawing it would be enough to scare someone off. The problem is, you can’t count on that reaction. It has to be the start of what you are going to do not the end.
We have to change the attack from you reacting, to the attacker having to react. Then moving to cover or concealment. Keeping in mind that cover protects you from the attacker. Concealment simply hides you from him. Just having something between you will slow the attacker down. The goals is to buy you more time to react and to break some of the fight or flight response.
At this point you have your weapon drawn, and you have something between your and the attacker. You have a split second to decide what course of action is going to get you home safe. Whatever decision you decide, will then be looked at over the next few months or even the next year by prosecutors. They will determine what other choices that you could have made and if your decision was legal. They will use what they call a reasonable standard. What would a reasonable person have done in the same situation.
The fight or flight response is what allows us to focus on the immediate threat. By blocking out everything else our sole purpose becomes survival. It does not take into consideration that many attacks are done by multiple attackers. As a result, you could find yourself being blindsided while focusing on the immediate threat. You could also lose where the second attacker is after you have dealt with the first. Setting you up for a second ambushed attack.
Even though you have a weapon on you. It does not mean you will be able to reach it or even be able to use it. That is why taking steps to create distance and slowing down your attacker is so crucial. To incorporate some of these responses in your training will likely help save your life. You can start with the basics.
Use a startled response(reactive crouch), Identify your target, and determine the level of force needed. As an example, you could do reactive crouch, identify threat, and then draw while moving laterally left or right and shoot. Never shooting in a routine but mix it up. Shoot twice the first, four times the second and so on. Keeping it between 2-6 shots each draw and never the same number twice. The balance of speed and precision drill helps with this. To finish it off do a 360 degree scan. Make sure to not only look all the way around you while keeping the gun in front but to also find something to focus on while you do. All of these incorporate our brain’s reactions in some way and use our body’s natural responses.