Maai - Reaction Gap Drills
Experts in defensive tactics talk a lot about the reactionary
gap--most police officers are schooled in it during patrol training.
What is the reactionary gap, and why is it important?
The reactionary gap is the time you have between
identifying a threat and reacting to it. For example, suppose you're
walking down the street and are suddenly attacked by a mugger. The time
between realizing that the mugger is assaulting you and your commencing
the appropriate response is the reactionary gap. Breaking the concept
down further, here's what's going on in this scenario:
- Steady state: Walking down the street,
blissfully enjoying the stroll
- Identifying: Wait--that guy's holding
something shiny in his hand...
- Thinking: He's coming at me. Quick, think!
What should I do?
- Reacting: Stop walking forward. Move to
his non-knife side. Prepare for his attack. Respond with force.
Note that once you've Identified a threat, you still
have to Think about what you've seen and what your response will be.
Then, you can React in the way you've been trained. To increase your
reactionary gap, decrease the time you need for each of these steps, or
find a way to give yourself more time for each step.
Decreasing the time you need for the Identification
step is largely a matter of awareness. If you are combat aware, (in
"Yellow" as discussed in an
earlier article) you can Identify threats faster than if you are not
Increasing the time available is a matter of distance.
If you give yourself additional distance between your body and potential
threats, you give yourself additional time to identify them as people
who might do you harm. "Distance" in this discussion really just
correlates to time--the time it takes for your assailant to cover that
distance and attack you. Most defensive tactics experts state that an
average man with a knife 20 feet away can close that gap and cut you in
one second. You can increase this time by giving yourself more distance
between you and potential threats, or by maneuvering so that obstacles,
like pool tables or parked cars, are in their way.
Controlling this distance-time relationship is
essential in defensive situations because of the Thinking step described
above. While your assailant has already initiated his attack on you, you
have a lag time between identifying his attack and reacting to it.
Highly trained operators, like SWAT team members or anti-terrorist
squads, have very small lag times. But average individuals, and even
trained martial artists, need some time to evaluate the threat and
figure out the appropriate response. When defending, you are always at a
time disadvantage to the attacker.
Naturally, if your assailant has a weapon that
increases his or her reach, you need more distance. If you have a weapon
that extends your reach, it's in your advantage to increase the
distance. Alternatively, you can choose a defensive response that
maximizes your reach, and therefore your control over maai. Like in that
classic police movie, "...if he uses his fists, you use your baton. If
he pulls a knife, you use your gun..."
In all of these cases, you need to control maai to