Welcome back. Thus far in this series we have discussed some key points that must be considered in the developing of our personal skills as wells as firearms training program development. If you haven’t read Part I, Part II and Part III, it would be beneficial to read them prior to reading Part IV. You can find Part I, Part II and Part III in my website www.gunfightersltd.com or in my Face Book page – Gunfighters Ltd Combat Shooting Methods Inc.
In Part IV of this series, I want to discuss how the activation of the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) can affect the way we apply the various elements of our firearms training program and the methodologies that are included in the program. Understanding this information will help guide us to training that will account for the way our mind and body can be affected by the SNS activation. It will also help insure that the methods included in our training program are compatible with the environment where we will apply them.
A concept that is necessary to understand about the SNS activation is that its activation is in response to our personal perception that we are in imminent danger of serious bodily harm or death. Each person’s perception is their own unique way of responding to something that is happening in their environment. Many factors can influence how they perceive what is happening thus each person’s SNS activation is unique to them. So as we discuss the issue of what is affected by the SNS activation, I don’t believe that there are absolutes and each person may have a different perception of a particular threat. Therefore, it must be understood that the various mental and physical affects of the SNS activation can vary from person to person based upon their personal experience and their perception of what is threatening them. Also, as we discussed in Part III, there may be distinct differences in how an individual’s mind and body may react based upon if the incident is a planned event as opposed to a spontaneous attack initiated by the suspect.
The first issue that I want to discuss is our visual system and how important it is to our understanding of its relationship to the training methods that we are using and/or teaching. Out of all the senses we have, our vision provides us with the vast majority of information about what is happening in our environment as it relates to close-quarters combat.
Before we go any further, it is important to put into context the environment in which we will have to apply our training. We will focus on a spontaneous engagement because this is very common and presents many challenges to our training. Here are a few of the parameters that may be present in this type of engagement:
- The suspect/attacker begins the fight at a time of his/her choosing
- The officer’s or legally armed civilian ‘s handgun is holstered either in a duty holster or concealment holster.
- Since the attackers time-line begins at the moment he/she decides to attack, the defenders timeline doesn’t begin until the attack is detected (this can be when the attackers handgun is discharging, when it is already in his/her hand concealed from view, when the handgun is being drawn from concealment or when the suspect makes initial movement to access the handgun that is concealed on his/her person or within arms reach.
- The attacker has a decided advantage because in the cycle of combat – the OODA cycle (Observe, Orient, Decide, Act), the attacker is well ahead of the defender. It could be as severe as the attacker is already discharging rounds and the defender is just observing that the attacker has spontaneously initiated the attack.
As you can see from the parameters above, this will be an extremely high-speed event. Also, these types of attacks are characterized by being initiated when the suspect is in close proximity to the person they are attacking. Now that we have examined the environment common to close-quarters fights, we have to examine how our vision fits into the discussion.
Our active defense against the spontaneous close-quarters attack will not begin until our vision allows us to observe that the attack has begun. Your vision is going to provide your brain with the necessary information about what is happening so you can orient (figure out what is happening), make a decision about what you are going to do about the situation and then turn that decision into action.
In these fractions of a second, our vision will be intently focused on the threat. This phenomenon has been studied as far back as W.E. Fairbairn’s analysis of the numerous gunfights his officers were involved in during his tenure at the Shang Hi Police Department in the early 1900’s. When you think about it, where else would your eyes be intently focused when someone is trying to kill you? How else would your brain receive the necessary information to analyze if your eyes ARE NOT on the threat? How would you know if the threat, now your target (why I call it Target-Focused Shooting), is stationary, moving or advancing towards you if your eyes are NOT on the threat/target? Remember, this is all happening in fractions of a second and time is not on your side if someone else starts the attack.
Taking your eyes off the threat/target at the critical time when your brain is trying to process information about how you are going to respond to the threat/target is like closing your eyes for any length of time while driving. Your brain needs a continual flow of information to make force decisions. Once that decision is made, your brain needs to have a continual flow of information to adjust to what the threat/target doing. This process is as intuitive as when you are driving your motor vehicle. Your vision is providing your brain with the information needed to engage the target/threat. This information is coming via your vision.
In Part V, we will continue our discussion about how vision will impact the shooting method we use for close-quarters combat. Also, it is important to understand how the SNS will affect our motor skills. Our goal is to gain knowledge about the environment where we fight and how our vision is working under the high stress of a close quarters gunfight. In addition, we must know how our motor skills are affected by the SNS activation and apply that knowledge to how we will train to be successful when all these factors are present. This knowledge will greatly impact the shooting method we use to increase our ability to win the close quarters gunfight.