Friday, March 28, 2014

Death, Taxes, and a .38

Death, Taxes, and a .38
by W. Hock Hochheim 
     The mixed-person world and how you fight. In this crazy life, you sometimes have to fight. And when you do, it is within the confines of the who, what, where, when, how, and why. Work on the obvious answers first and then filter down. The selection process you choose for your so-called

favorite arsenal is personal, based on those very questions, but vital to consider is the “who question.” Who are you? Your size, shape, age, strength, your athletic ability, etc. I think that you have to train through - be exposed to - a lot of material and experimentation, eventually gaining a certain level of wisdom about it all before you can really select what's best for you - and even then … then that changes through time.

     And it should be noted this learning process is NOT prolonged brain surgery. No prolonged commitments to particular martial arts. No dogma. Just doctrine.

     (As I age, I can foresee my last vestige of fighting as a hammerless, snub-nosed .38 in my jacket pocket. All these years of work. And it will come down to that. Death, Taxes, and a .38.)


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Tactical Crap

Deucing in Dangerous Places
by W. Hock Hochheim

     The Tactical Crap. No, I don't mean "talking shit" about tactical stuff. I actually mean taking a tactical crap. Time to time, I mention in seminars that I once attended a police street survival school years ago where for one period in the training we were taught how to take an official Tactical Shit. You know, a Warrior Defecation. A poop in the wrong place at the wrong time. I mean, you have gear. You have a gun. And sometimes, you just gotta go deuce in dangerous places. You just can't stall finding a stall.

     Attendees laugh when they hear me say this, but there are, here and there, official Crap outlines. There are also some big name speakers out there easily misleading people, poor rookies and so forth, into thinking that just about every time someone jumps up and says "boo!" you will be peeing and pooping right there in your underpants. This, of course, is a bunch of crap. (Literally. I hope you are following this.) This pro-poop position causes some constipation, er … I mean ... consternation among many trainers. But there is much to learn about this subject, so take a seat.

     In the Army, we were taught not to leave our crap laying around. "Drop it, scoop it, and bag it." Like you dog owners do with your dogs. American crap in foreign countries is a clue that Americans are there and doing crap. There are enemy scouts who can differentiate between nationalities of crap, so at some point in your military career, you receive a class about leaving crap around. This is also tactical crap talk. I could tell you some funny stories about police, military, and combat crap, and maybe I will in subsequent comments. Meanwhile, here is a magazine article about tactical craps from Recoil Magazine - which in itself has sometimes been called "same." Click here 

     PPCT's controversial Bruce Siddle and then Killology's poster boy Dave Grossman have preached the defunct and disproved yet still somehow mindlessly taught Heart Rate/Performance Chart. In the odd chart, when your heart hits 175 beats a minute - it is CONDITION BLACK (or maybe it should be called Condition Black Stool?). The results include "Irrational fight or flee, freezing, submissive behavior, voiding of bladder and bowels." Just imagine all those poor bicyclists on a hillside. This has led to articles and lectures at police academies, where the shallow instructors have declared to recruits that not only must they face the occasional gun battle and otherwise fights for their lives, but they will also be filling their pants then and there.

     I read one police magazine article awhile back where the opening line actually was,

"Why isn't Dirty Harry running to the bathroom in each gunfight?" 

     The author claimed that each gunfight will raise your heart rate to poop-potential. His bio and photo showed him to be a young police instructor. He'd bought into the whole Siddle tact-crap-scare, full pot-stock-and-barrel. Completely. Did the police magazine buy it, too, by publishing the article? Imagine being a rookie and reading all this. Hearing these lectures. "Okay, now that we have scared you enough about gunfights, rookie, you will also be crapping loads in your pants!" Wear diapers to work.

     But now, back to uniform crap. That's a lot of crap to do to take off for an average police crap. In many crappers, there is not a good hook or place to hang a heavy police “Sam Brown” belt, so you have to plan for this kind of police crap in advance. In the police patrol business when you crap, many officers disconnect the police Sam Brown belt held in place on the pant's top via "keepers." The keepers attach the Sam Brown belt to the pants belt. The pants belt itself is looped from the actual belt loops on your pants. Removing the Sam Brown police belt allows one to undo one's pants for the impending crap. I will admit and tell you from experience that removing the Sam Brown makes for a more relaxed, luxurious crap.

     No big hooks? Do you now lay the Sam Brown belt on the bacteria-infested tile floors of John and Jane Q. Public bathroom floors? In view of all other "pee-ers" and neighboring crappers? In suspect-infested territories (yikes!), we were advised to keep the belt attached to us. Attached via keepers to the pants. This way, the local “suspect-infesto” cannot tactically sneak up to your stall, reach under, and snatch your Batman belt from under the floor or stall door! Gone would be your gun, your Star Trek Taser, your customized mags, your water purifier, your shank, shark repellant, and all other vital emergency gear on your belt. All your stuff would be dispersed among the common population.

     When crapping in these “crap-might-hit-the-fan” locales, we were instructed to loop the Sam Brown belt around our neck and one arm like a bandoleer. Then sit down. You might keep the gun in the belt holster or in your hanging underwear "holster" before you. You know the crotch of the underwear is at your ankles. You might appear to look like a militant, Mexican revolutionary to the accidental, daydreaming, door-puller, but you are still good to go, amigo! Viva la Crap Revolution!

     To ex-filtrate dismount? Disperse and otherwise exit said stall? Simply reverse all this crap.

     Like I said, some officials leave the Sam Brown belt connected to the pants belt. Then the whole shebang drops to the ankles. This can be done, too, when you don't have time for all the other crap. It is now called in tactical classes and gun magazines as the Larry “Liverpool” Johnson "Shebang Drop," invented by Larry Johnson, respected Range Master and CEO-CFO of Tactical, Urban Commandants, Limited/Unlimited. (You know everything tactical needs an inventor.) Then your emergency quick-draw is like a seated ankle-holster draw.

     I assume the pending "Go-Pro" cameras each officer will soon be wearing will have to be turned off while on the crap trip, whether in safe or unsafe turf. Then the camera turned back on when mission complete. All times recorded and stamped. This means that anal retentive supervisors will soon know exactly how long your crap trips are on average. Take one over average? With all numbers crunched, the Sarge may question you about this.

"On August 12 at 4:16 p.m., you remained camera-off 
in a stall for 24 minutes. Why?"

     If you don't think this can happen? If you don't think such supervisors exist? You have never been in military or police work.

     What if you forget to turn the cam off and go in and do your business live? Humming or reading the newspaper? This has happened for TV and radio news people with attached radio mikes. Well, what a show for the dispatch office! And for subsequent briefings and even perhaps YouTube? It would be so bad it could create a lifelong nickname! The next "Dirty" Harry might be caught not wiping enough?

Commodes on the Firing Line
     I suggest everyone practice shooting from these stall positions at the range ASAP. Somewhere, an oh-so-wise training sarge, being thorough and all, will prepare a live-fire outline for the tactical crap for the range. Imagine a series of commodes on the firing line. (Don't laugh, it took a lot of work to get 15 used commodes for the range.

     Standing officers at the ready ...

"Lids up! Pants down! Liverpool Shebang Drop. Sit on commode! Eyes and ears. 
Draw from your ankle level holster and FIRE!"    

     You follow up with a “get off the X-commode” move. It's restricted footwork. It's sort of a pants-down jog called the “Slivers Shuffle,” invented by William “Break-Neck” Slivers, respected Range Master and CEO-CFO of Ultimate Lethal Force Nuke Destruction, LLT.  Mr. Slivers, suitably tattooed and bearded, invented the shuffle; ergo, the move is tagged to his name.

     There is obviously a whole lot of crap about taking the tactical crap, all while left of bang, bang and right of bang. Are you ready? Are you REALLY ready for the tactical crap lifestyle?


Hock's three novels so far....
Combat books

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The End of "Combatives"

The End of "Combatives"
by W. Hock Hochheim

The end.
For me anyway. 
I have grown to hate the word. 
Call it semantics. Whatever. The world's gone crazy-sick-viral about combatives.
And it is making me ill! 


      I don’t expect most of you to agree with me or even understand when I say this is a lingering sickness of mine. The Combatives Flu. The Combatives Indigestion. Combatives Fever.

     Remember the old joke – "take any song title and add the term 'under the sheets' after it, and it becomes a sex song"? 

     Well, take any system, add “Combatives” at the end, and it becomes modern, sexy, and cool for everyone, except for me. Worse for me, it is a moniker monster I helped promote through time. I spent a lot of money and time spreading the germ.

     Combatives. Those immersed in, or impressed with, the World War II Combatives era systems, usually believe the term/idea was "invented" in WW II. But the word, its core and variations exit for centuries. In the English language these versions were were officially accepted in1819 language. Combat. Combative. Combativity. Combativeness. There is a French bayonet manual written in the 1850s translated to French Military Bayonet Combatives. It is not a new word and not spawned from World War II guys. In the end, the derivation of the word is semantical and perhaps unimportant.   

     In the mid-1990s, there were just a rare few people/organizations using the word “Combatives.” They were people usually associated with World War II Combatives and a few rare offshoots. Back then, I wanted free of all the stigmas of all the systems I’d been in, and I took a good hard look at this word “combatives.” I thought it was a good, generic, rarely used  term and something I could work with for the courses I’d organized. I started using it.

     And as soon as I started advertising the word in the 90s, around 1995, in the major martial arts magazines of the day, I caught some heat from some of the so-called “WW II military” combatives people (I use the quotes around the word military because most of the complainers were never in any military.). For them, I guess, I simply had to be directly associated with the Sykes-Fairbairn lineage - as they perceived it - or I was going straight to “dog hell” for daring to use the term “combatives.” And some others declared that word "combatives" simply HAD to be about hard-core, Nazi-killing, MILITARY-only combatives. 

     I even had a few chubby, "apple dumplings" telling me I could not teach combatives or “military” combatives. I was "not authorized by ________" (you fill in that blank). Even though these same dumplings themselves teach it, but had never been in any military, and even though I’d actually been taught combatives in the military when I was in the military. They could. I couldn't. See the irony? That logic didn’t matter to the apple dumplings. I insisted the word combatives was very, very generic and quite old and quite diverse, and I would use it. (I wasn't teaching military combatives anyway, just agnostic fighting.)

     This WW II Combatives thing. Needless to say, if you look at World War I training films, you would see great similarities with the WW II material that had somehow become popular. There was a cult-like craze on the WW II subject at the time. Small, but present. There still is to some extent, but not as much now as I believe Israeli Krav Maga has captured the pop culture attention span. But for awhile back then, it became important for folks to be somehow connected with WW II, not WW I, combative groups. Some people in Canada even began mythologies about being connected to the Commando Camp X, etc. Whatever. But this whole WW II theme and scene was not for me.

     I just persevered using the generic term. In the subsequent years from 1995 on up, I made these generic hand, stick, knife, and gun courses; and I advertised them as simple, generic combatives. Advertised it all with a capital “C,” spending too much money. In the few popular martial arts magazines back then, I spent about $12,000 to $15,000 a year advertising and promoting the word “combatives." Before the internet, few may recall that if you advertised in Black Belt, Inside Karate, Inside Kung Fu, Blitz, and Tae Kwon Do Times back then, plus one or two mags in the UK, you were actually reaching a giant, worldwide market. In many ways, just about everyone in the martial world read one of those mags. It was a much smaller world back then.  

     Overtly and covertly, and extensively and expansively, from the 1990s, I pushed and helped popularize the word combatives. I even started a worldwide magazine called Close Quarter Combat Magazine, eventually with some 14,000 subscribers in 29 countries. I toured many cities around the world using this word. (For chronological placement? When the new Army Combatives program became firmly established, I covered the news in my already established CQC Magazine.)  In the mid-1990s, I even changed my Filipino course name over to Filipino Combatives (yes, years before EVERYONE else in the known FMA market). Next, and in the late 1990s, Ernesto Presas himself changed his Arnis De Mano over to Filipino "Kombaton." Guess what Kombaton translates to? Yup. Filipino Combatives.

     The term was not overused and was a bit rare. No more. No more. No more. Needless to add, the free and wild and random use of the term combatives has also allowed for a new wave of jake-leg, half-baked, and half-trained people to start and advertise their own systems, flooding the market. 

     Meanwhile, other titles like “BJJ” and “Krav Maga” and the once very mundane “MMA” grew as big, big market buzzwords. But perhaps nothing grew as much and as fast as the catchy term combatives. After all, just think about it, because you will also now find today BJJ Combatives, Krav Maga Combatives, and MMA Combatives.

     EVERYTHING seems to have the word “Combatives” attached to it. And I mean every category. There’s even “Okinawa Combatives” now. Wing Chun Combatives. Jeet June Do Combatives. If you just add an eye jab to any curriculum - and wha-la! You are “Blankety-Blank Combatives.” Fill in the blankety-blank. It is insane! Out of control. Here we are in late 2015 and there are still old systems popping up by adding the word at the end of their program. I here and now officially apologize for helping to promote this moniker monster. Once injected, like a virus it spread. Look around you. And for that I must apologize for my share.

"Combatives" over to "Force Necessary"
     So a few years back, we booted a new web page, launched new apps, reformatted our talk forum, changed the newsletters, created new lines, products, and projects, etc. You may have noticed the uplifting of a newer term I have used quietly for years now, that of Force Necessary. That flag is now fully up the pole. It is in an effort to slowly rid myself of this abused, overused term combatives. For example, instead of Unarmed Combatives, it’s now Force Necessary! Unarmed and so on. This is a huge job. Imagine all the video covers and various big and small places this word is found within my old and established business. MAN!

    And in some cases, I cannot shed myself of the word completely. It is still lingering in subtitles and names, in nooks and crannies. It still must be in search terms on the internet. My PAC course, Pacific Archipelago Combatives, is so entrenched worldwide that I can see no other way but to keep using the course name. But wherever I can? I will remove the word bit by bit. 

     And all you SFC instructors out there are obviously free to use it or whatever you wish, and in most cases you absolutely must use the word for marketing. I understand completely. Use the word. But for me? I am bailing on it, de-emphasizing it as fast as I can. 

     Even Kelly McCann saw fit to vary up, jazz up the word a bit with his version these last few years. You know that dictionary pronunciation approach - kəmˈbæt ɪves he uses? He knew there needed to be some differentiation between him and these hordes of other combateer yahoos. (McCann was another of the original 1990's guys using this term, and he certainly deserves to still use it if anyone does.)   

     I am not a self-defense instructor by definition. I am not an RBSD (that reality-based, self-defense) guy, either. I really dislike the redundant term of RBSD. I am much more than that (though self-defense material is automatically covered in the materials I teach).

     For 20 years, I have become inexorably attached to the word combatives. This shift away will be slow and won’t be easy, and marketers will say -

     "Hock, it isn’t very smart to drop such a common search and pop term like this one."

     But drop I must. I have always used the business axiom “that which differentiates.” I also tend to trend on the outside of things, anyway. I’ve got to do this. This is just me. You do what you want.

     Call things what you want. You carry on combateers, carry on. I'm dropping out.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Combat Clock: Curing the Angle Fandango

Using the Military Clock for Angles of Attack

by W. Hock Hochheim

     The clock points. I was familiar with military terminology and concepts from my Army experience. If you were on a foot patrol and the point man suddenly shouted "enemy at 2 o'clock!" everyone would instantly look in that direction. The same for pilots - who also have both a vertical clock and a horizontal clock. "Twelve o'clock high!" Simple. Quick. Effective. Unforgettable.

     Yet scores of differing police and martial arts training systems are not clock-based. Their elaborate weapons angles of attack were disjointed and forgettable, a major problem in this frustrating rat race of systemologies and the various lines of attack protocols each used for hand, stick, knife, and gun tactics. Each tries to outsmart or outdo each other rather than focus in on maximized education. The worst in my opinion are the two extremes - the oversimplified and the over-complicated. 

     I began to ask myself how are all these directions of combat the same? It became clear that attacks universally come in from the center, high, or low or right or left sides, whether standing or on the ground.

     No matter the weapon, the angles/directions are the same. I returned with trust to the simple military “combat” clock. The clock face is an imprinted image in our minds since early childhood. The simple angle of attack patterns is right on your wrist, work or play. I discovered or, better said, I rediscovered the simple, military-clock method as a training foundation. Stand it up or lay it down, you have an unforgettable pattern to teach, memorize, and work from:

Basic Hand, Stick, Knife, Gun, Combat Clock Training:
     12 o'clock from axis to above (anything to or from above)
     3 o'clock from axis to the right (anything to or from your right)
     6 o'clock from axis to below (anything to or from below)
     9 o'clock from axis to the left (anything to or from your left)
          * Axis point is the center of the clock
          * Vertical clock or horizontal clock for footwork

Advanced Hand, Stick, Knife, Gun Combat Clock Training:
     From the axis center, point out to all 12 numbers of the clock. This offers more precision training if needed

The Combat Clock is used to:
     * Learn hand, knife, stick, and gun manipulation and solo 
        command and mastery skills.
     * Maneuvering - organize attack and defense footwork if 
        laid horizontal.
     * Target spotting - direct fire and locate enemies with a vertical and horizontal clock.
     * Delivery system - use to deliver angles of attack.
     * Organize attack striking, hooking/slashing strikes if set vertically.
     * Organize attack shooting/stabbing/thrusting points if set vertically.
     * Defensive system - used to block or defeat angles of attack and footwork moves.
     * Timetables - the preparation for, and length of, an encounter. Coordinate mission timing.
     * Other - the clock can be used numerous ways, such as the photo/chart below on how pistols 
        are removed from the hand.

     Example: The clock can be used numerous ways, such as with this photo/chart on how pistols are removed from the hand. This is from the perspective of the disarmer.

     In the last 20 years, I have taught thousands of people from utter novices to experts and from cadets and rookie cops to vets and martial arts black belts from all over the world, and I can get them to interact with each other in mere moments by using this simple basic Combat Clock format. Remember, I did not invent the Combat Clock; it is a military concept, free for us all to use.

More Notes on The Combat Clock....
     You know I go to a number of differing schools each year, and some are Filipino-based. Each one has a stick and/or a knife numbering system. Some use five. Sometimes twelve or more angles. Almost all are different. The same angles because there are only so many possibilities but ordered differently. After doing many FMA systems since the mid-1980s, I had to learn all these angles, too. Actually, it all drove me crazy. Many systems also have within themselves numerous other angles of attack systems really compounding the problem. Angles of attack upon angles of attack upon ... etc.

     These classical systems require by way of name and tradition that people learn THEIR particular numbering systems. Is there a rhyme or reason to these angles selections? Usually NO. For example - one very popular master uses a nine-angle system. Why? Because the name of his system ... has nine letters in it. Okay! What? What does that mean? There are eight letters in my last name, then should I use eight angles of attack? Of course not. Does that mean that a tank torrent should only move four ways atop a tank because there are four letters in the word "tank"?

     This is not just a classical problem. New people starting new systems have the propensity to invent their own angle of attack system. Why? Just cause, that's why! As they usually make the same generic mistake. Seeking something different, they may make an even more unusual numerical progression.

     In a way, this is a thinking disorder. It makes zero sense. Many of these angle attack systems are constructed in this haphazard manner by people with no tactical training or knowledge in scientific efficiency or practicality. Many of these guys have no college or no high school. Or no education on how people learn things. They just … make up angles.

     In the mid-1990s, I began to ask myself, "Do we really need all these redundant and different angles of attack"? Why not use the military combat clock? When a point man on military patrol spots the enemy and declares “enemy at 225 degrees”? No one knows where that is! If he shouts out "enemy at 10 o'clock,” everyone knows where that is. The magic and beauty of the clock. 

     Use the clock. I do, and it works. Since about 1996, when I arrive in these places and teach the simple, unforgettable combat clock, I can put total novice strangers together hitting each other with hands, sticks, and knives in the opening minutes of a session.

     This training involves civilians, cops, and soldiers. Imagine getting in front of 100 cops and making them memorize “Quinton's 18 Angles of Attack” to start their first day off before they can interact with each other. Bubba, that is a slow day of unhappy cops (and soldiers and citizens). Many instructors that are "embedded" into their family systems also like my idea of the clock; it's just that they can't officially do it.

     As a result, some of these host instructors have decided to use the Combat Clock as a teaching and workout tool. It helps retention and gets folks busy fast. Basically, they tell me that they are handicapped and stymied with beginners who cannot function in a class without memorizing their family system 6, 8, 10, 12, or however many angles. Class time is wasted with these new people trying to get them to learn the 10, 12, 14, or whatever angles systems they MUST traditionally know before they can move on to the next step. The instructor often assigns some other senior student off to the corner to teach the new guy these angles.

     Complicated angles taught in nonsensical patterns can even run your students off. You know, these angle systems are essentially katas. I find it ironic that many modern stick systems (many wanting to sound so modern and tactical and even in their black tactical pants of many pockets, etc.) make fun of katas, laugh out loud at them, then turn right around and do a 12-angle drill with footwork. Dude! Guess what! You are doing a kata with a stick in your hand.

     But with the simple, basic combat clock of 12, 3, 6, 9 clock (high, right, low, left) you can get them interacting within minutes. And the fun begins faster. Happy students mean happy customers.

     You can later learn the traditional angle systems for the esoteric stalwarts who wish to learn them. I understand the interest. I really do. But with the Combat Clock, many of these "embedded" instructors now have a quick trick for teaching and can better interact with the civilian, police, and military that they so much want to attach themselves to.

     Anyhow, my point is that a number of these people are now also teaching and exercising through the combat clock for classwork and getting the students onboard and in action right away with the named system angle of attack required. Then they memorize the classic mandatory angle fandango later.

Knife Dueling Training Film

-  get the DVD
-  download right now!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Hick's Law versus the World's Fastest Men


Hick's Law versus The World's Fastest Men

by W. Hock Hochheim

"Called the fastest man in history, in one
of the world's fastest sports, he did
not do well at all when selecting Hick's
pretty lights...."

     Just when freshly educated people began to realize what little influence the true 1950's Hick's Law actually plays in fighting, combat, and training doctrine, another piece of research "pops up," pushing it even further off the chart of importance.

     Just now pops up? Well, no, it is not new. The sad part of the story is this first little event popped up in the 1980s! Perhaps a decade before the real marketing ploy/rush of Hick's Law infected and overburdened the training programs of the world. It's the 1980's story of Desmond Douglas, our first and perhaps fastest athlete. But first, some quick Hick reviews …

In-a-Quick Review 1 - Hick's Law. I have written before about its misconceptions, misuse, myths, and misunderstandings in numerous articles. Need we revisit and belabor the perception more than a brief setup? People have been told about the 1950's lab test, which famously involves selecting colored lights and how fast you can select these lights. People believe that all the things you know are stored like a Rolodex card file in your brain, and the more things you know, the longer it takes for the Rolodex to spin and for you to pick one card and decide to take any physical response action. People say it might take about "a second" or "half-a-second" to respond between two choices. That grows "exponentially" - the more things that you know. The more time. Three options? About a second "Four Things"? Two seconds or more. So it is, therefore, best to stay pretty dumb. That, in a nutshell, is the common lore of the Hick's Law as it is perceived by the masses. But the Hick's math perception of life does not compute to the everyday life around you.

     The classic "split-second decision." Look at the words “split-second.” Splitting seconds. How many ways? The time-measuring pros, the scientists, commonly split a second into 1,000 parts or milliseconds. Atomic Clock experts split it even more. It is virtually impossible for a mere mortal to comprehend or properly experience one millisecond or even 500 milliseconds though we say so flippantly, so frequently, “be there in half a sec!” We can't get there that fast. A millisecond's true meaning exists for us after the fact, like when we see the finish-line photos of horse, people, or car races, all an “after-the-fact" performance measuring stick. Ten milliseconds or 25 milliseconds means about the same to us as saying “trillions” of dollars. We slightly grasp it as a concept, but we've never really handled the money. But before we talk about Desmond Douglas, "the fastest man alive," let's review:

In-a-Quick Review 2 - the "Zen of the Millisecond," if you will. Have we heard these lines much?

     “Oh, if Johnny Williams could only have been 34 milliseconds faster!”

     “Son, stick with me. As your coach, I will promise I will improve your speed by at least 45 milliseconds. Maybe even 47!” 

     Probably not. In truth, elusive milliseconds could well be gained or lost by things totally out of our control – like a sudden headwind or by the sheer thinness of the air itself or the heat on the spongy asphalt. Or your hair gel? In the recent Russian Olympics, athletes complained that the thin seams on their shirts were too big, costing them milliseconds. It might have nothing to do with the peak performance of an athlete on any given day. You are only so good or so fast. And so many teeny intangibles can affect milliseconds.

In-a-Quick Review 3 - Hick's Law is a 1950's-era computer test somehow extrapolated over in human performance and split-second reaction times of humans. Hick's Law has been overemphasized, twisted, and strangled into various misstatements in training programs. This misunderstanding has been covered extensively in my prior writings, so I shall not repeat them here, but one silly, extreme example reminder statement would be the classic,

     “… it takes about half a second to decide between two choices. This increases exponentially when you add another choice.” This little diddy is regurgitated in training sessions all over the world to this day. And they usually explain "exponentially" wrong, too. "Four choices? Two whole seconds. Six choices - four whole seconds, etc.," as if the adding machine numbers run up. If this common line were true, this would grind sports performance down to a slow-motion snoozer or standstill. The boxer would stand, still thinking, “Ahhh, jab? Cross? Or uppercut … or.…” A simple football play would not unfold as you see it before your very eyes.

     Another classic is the issue of "greater reaction time" to choose between two or more choices. I quickly ask, how long is "greater"? The word "greater" just sounds really big and great, but what if it were really only 17 milliseconds? Or 300 milliseconds? How fast can we as humans actually get, or how dumbed-down should we remain?

     No matter how theoretical the Hick's line might be, statements made that are this off base can really have a negative impact on training. Widespread, they do dumb down training. They express and promote a certain futility. They can just ... dumb you down. One example? I have had a police instructor tell me I couldn't learn a second punch because I would have trouble and waste seconds trying to choose between two punches. Three punches? Worse!

Now the Main Entree - UK's Desmond Douglas! Douglas was considered one of the fastest men alive in international, championship, and Olympic ping-pong/table tennis. The greatest. At this level, ping-pong is played furiously. You have to decide whether to strike a blurry ball rocketing at you by moving your feet and moving your torso and moving your arm and paddle up, down, right, or left and then maybe even apply whatever spin you can. You deliver your lightning ball to your opponent's weaker spot. This a quite a number of split-second choices; and under considerable stress in world championships and the Olympics, Douglas garnered the respect of players worldwide. (Oh, and as an aside, there is considerable stress in the Olympics. Certainly worse stress than sitting in a room matching colored light bulbs with buttons.)

     In 1984, the media decided to try and capture this lightning in a jar, to time Douglas's reactions and marvel at them and him. Enter the classic Hick's choice format. Under the watchful eyes of reporters and fans, they tested Douglas playing the old colored lights game, and they were shocked to discover that the champ performed poorly. Not just poorly but very poorly at these tasks. This was shocking to the world choir. Called the fastest man in history in one of the world's fastest sports, he did not do well at all selecting the Hick's pretty lights. His official reaction time ... was poor.

Let's Take a Quick Look at a Fast Man in Baseball!

     Fact: The time it takes for the ball to leave the pitcher's hand and pass home plate is just 400 milliseconds.

     Fact: Baseball-hitting coaches suggest there are four or even six fundamental choices of bat swings to make for a hitter. Swing high, swing medium, swing low. Swing tight to protect the inside of the strike zone. Swing extended and full power. Punch it right. Punch it left. At times, even bunt! Four to six decisions to make in 400 milliseconds.

     Fact: The window of time to hit a major league average fast-pitch baseball is a mere five milliseconds. If you are keeping score or times – again, that four to six decisions to make in 400 milliseconds and to react in five milliseconds! You might think these simple facts of a common baseball game alone blow Hick's Law right out of the water. The Hick's numbers don't add up.

     Fact: Albert Pujols. But it gets worse for the value of Hick's. There is one more layer to this. Player Albert Pujols is considered to be one of the best hitters in baseball for his generation, with a great lifetime batting average and great on-base and slugging percentages. He was capable of making these incredible millisecond decisions and choices with precision, maneuver his arms and the bat. Yet, when Pujols took the usual Hick's Law test by selecting colored lights? Albert scored poorly, in the 67th percentile! Nonathletic college students did better than him. It appears that selecting Hick's light bulbs is different than real tasks in real life under real pressure. His official reaction time ... was poor.

     Another Fact: Researcher Dr. Janet Starkes has become one of the most influential sports performance experts in the world. In the 1970s and 80s, she saw players of many teams in
many sports fielding by what she called "these caveman” reaction tests. In 1980 she said, “They were using simple reaction-time tests (like Hick's) for selection, and they thought it would be a good determinant of who would be best … I was astounded that they had no idea that reaction time might not be predictive of anything.”

     "Not predictive of anything." And that was 1980! After this and more research a decade before police training, "wonks" latched onto the idea of using Hick's Law as a seductive sales pitch; and then the mindless throng that further regurgitates it read more about what really counts by looking into her work. She also has proven that proper training and experience are the paths to fast performance.

     This is not shocking to me at all. The tasks in playing table tennis or fencing or baseball are different than the tasks of Hick's seated control-room lightboard. In fact, the tasks involved in almost anything in life are different than Hick's. Hick's test and task reaction times are directly proportionate to … taking Hick's test.

     The Douglas' and Pujols' situations are a grand example of the flawed essence of the Hick's test at its very core when comparing it to reaction times in other varied performances. There are other studies where some fast competitive fencers did poorly on the Hick's Tests (see Dr. Aladar Kogler's book called One Touch At A Time above). If you want to time someone? Time them doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing, not matching colored lights. Reduce the abstract.

     The only real thing Hick's Law first told us is that it takes some time to decide. "Some time." Milliseconds. But these decisions can take just mere, mere milliseconds, faster than our natural and normal comprehension can grasp. And, yes, even with multiple choices. Milliseconds. The solution is to stop with all the extraneous Hick's babble and worship and just improve your speed with dedicated, goal-specific training. An athlete and a coach should maximize training. Push the envelope. Barring the intangibles, you'll get as fast as you can get.

     To juxtapose this ignorance - did you know, for example, that when your foot touches the ground, it (your brain) adjusts to an irregular surface in seven or so milliseconds? Nerves from the foot travel to the brain and a position decision returns back to the foot. Not too dumb or slow, huh! And pretty darn fast.

     People ignorantly or by a business plan have designed, sold, misrepresented, exaggerated, or confabulated what was the original small scope of Hick's Law. Usually, it's from flat-out ignorance. The Hick's Law process is quite worthless as some kind of a vital fight-training standard. It only makes for flighty discussion on various subjects. Subjects like the length of some web page menu list or like some racetrack banter about horses bolting off the starting line, all after the fact, after the race.

     Or like you buying a hamburger with a trillion-dollar bill. Theoretically, you can, but....

     Just some of the "new books" that choose to completely ignore Hick's Law or inadvertently discredit its value.

     And perhaps the most important book to read is this one. It, too, is recent and CHOCK full of response time info.

     Vickers, in quick summary, barely mentions Hick's Law but for a few paragraphs in this amazing and comprehensive textbook. She adds that Hick's selection times can easily be increased by training. For more on this must-read book, Click here:

Some Social Media Conversation on This Essay and Subject
     Scott Fague says: "OK, I buy it that Hick's Law is false. Is the idea of training hard on a limited skillset instead of training on 1,001 techniques also not valid?"

     Hock replies: "Oh, no. No. Hick's Law is not utterly false. It truly exists. It really does take time to see and time to decide. It's just that it takes mere milliseconds. Again, there are 1,000 milliseconds in a second. Other simple rules of common sense will dictate how many things (or techniques) are needed to do something. Like being ambushed and dealing with simple freezing. Like Dr. Vickers says, training reduces Hick's timetable.

     "In training, at what point does it become just plain stupid to bother with 45 things when 20 things will do the job? These types of common sense are not and should not be so based on Hick's Law. That common sense is based on ... well, common sense. And what karate system actually has 1,001 moves, I wonder? Are there really 24 completely different blocks to a punch? These are thoughts and terms embedded in our minds from charismatic salesmen using the "straw-man" sales pitch/argument. These guys will make you pay thousands of dollars and sit listening for hours for something that can be easily explained in just a few minutes. Explained and/or sometimes explained away, that is.

     "But Hick's Law, Hick's idea certainly exists. It's just not that important to preach and bang a drum constantly about, as so many police and other trainers do."

* * * * * *

     Michael Patrick says: "Mr. Hochheim, can you point me toward the source of this information? I would be very interested in reading it in its entirety. Thank you!"

     Hock replies: "Michael, the very books shown above! I would start with two newer and great books. The Sports Gene by David Epstein and Bounce. In many ways, these two books are entirely about this very subject. The ENTIRE BOOKS are like a reference, full of references. The books are about people learning to naturally excel and perform well. Well beyond the suggested restrictions that uneducated and unenlightened trainers have imposed upon us since about the mid-1980s (especially police trainers and next, martial artists trainers who have looked to police trainers as a source) with Hick's Law. These are not the only new books.

     "A must-read classic is Thinking Fast and Slow. A regular critic of mine, whose blood pressure seems to burst every time I dare talk about Hick's and its applications to fighting, was quick to point out that Thinking Fast and Slow is 'not about Hick's Law.' Not in his close-minded world, maybe, but it is very much. First off, its scholarly, Nobel-winning author Daniel Kahneman's book is all about the subject of the mind and thinking. One would think such a comprehensive book would at least mention the term Hick's Law once? But it does not. Not once. This point alone minimizes the importance of Hick's. Further, the book explains the many reasons for lagging response times other than the Hick's and the "Spinning Rolodex" selection concept. Not all slow responses are about the Hick's selection process. There are other reasons for slow selection.  

     "In fact, if you look at any newer, progressive, modern training and sports psychology textbook, you will not find the term 'Hick's Law' even so much as mentioned; that is how unimportant it is, except maybe once in a while to discredit the overall concept (The Sports Gene merely mentions a bad 'reaction test with lights'). Read these entire books. These books were not written just to debase and debate Hick's Law. The books were written to advance thinking and performance. They ignore Hick's Law.

     "Then there is this article that has dozens of references in it. It is odd, though, that when many, well, ... brainwashed believers ... read this article? They still somehow ask for …."references." What? About 70% of the article is made up of references of doctors' names and study names, paragraph by paragraph. Click here for the article:

     "Also, check out the work of Dr. Janice Starkes, whom I mentioned in the essay. She has pioneered something called 'Occlusion Training' (not the weight-lifting version, but about vision). Everyone who knows this gets this and uses this in some way. It is about how the brain REALLY works to perform as quickly as possible and reinforces the need for experience and repetition training. The subliminal reinforcement of seeing what the opponent does and how to respond.

     "Modern sports training experts, books, and professional performance programs “in the know” do not remotely mention Hick's Law anymore. And I also suggest it be dropped from the training vernacular to avoid the general confusion and misconceptions it has generated. Hick's Law is specifically a test about timing the selection of colored lights, and that makes it exactly and only what it is, just a test about selecting colored lights. It is what it is. Some of the proven fastest people on the planet do poorly on this test, which ought to tell us something right there!

     "And you must read the Vickers' book I listed just above."


     Michael Patrick continues"Thank you, sir, for the references. These will surely be great resources. I am always trying to provide the best material to those I train as I can. I also always remain quite open-minded and understand that science is always evolving its understanding, especially in the field of combatives. I always try to consider both sides of every argument. I have been an adherent of Hick's Law in the past due to my training. Now I tend to go with the less is more concept of not trying to master two dozen ways to defend a punch. In that regard, I often reference Hick's Law only to minimize decisions that have to be made. Too many trainers make ridiculous statements on its application, especially on timings of the decision process. Perhaps it is time to find new terminology. So I am looking forward to reading these materials. Again, I thank you, sir!"

     Hock continues: "Michael, I've been doing several martial arts since the 1970s, and I would be hard pressed to list two dozen defenses against a punch. Whereas with a tweak or two in preparation and presentation, 'defenses against a punch' can be just one single, overall, big concept (like a very popular and accepted learning method called 'Chunking'). It still takes 'time-and-grade' training to get good at something. How much time depends on individual people. There is nothing wrong with 'less is more.' Nothing.

     "Words mean something, and we have been tricked by the terminology through time and salesmen. Great sales phrases like -

     - 'It takes greater time to decide.' (Oh, there's that word 'greater'!)
     - Or the dissing - 'My karate system has 1,001 moves.'
     - Or even 'two dozen ways to block' mentioned above, really.

     "What karate system really has 1,001 moves, I wonder? Are there really 24 completely different blocks to a punch? Fifty-two? These are thoughts and terms embedded in our minds from charismatic salesmen using the "straw-man/scarecrow" sales pitch/argument. These guys will make you pay thousands of dollars and sit listening for hours for something that can be easily explained in just a few minutes. Explained and/or sometimes explained away, that is.

    "You learn a lot of things - workout and experiment with them to pick your favorites. You also learn a lot of things to mentor your students into picking their favorites. Somehow this very old idea has been lost through time.

     "As you might read elsewhere when I write, 'Einstein said - 'keep it simple, but not too simple'! And what was simple to Einstein would make our brains explode. It is all so damn relative."

* * * * * * *

     Tony Torrez, former SPEAR instructor and now of Functional Edge Mixed Martial Arts in AZ, USA, comments: "I've said it before, and here it is again, Hick's Law does not apply to combat. It only applies to desk jobs and computer interfaces.

     "Combat is not a decision-making process. It's athletic performance. Too many moving parts to fall into 'making decisions.'

     "And I leave you with this to ponder as a bit of a side issue, but it still relates:

     "Unconscious thought theory (UTT) was first presented by Dijksterhuis[ and Loran Nordgren in 2006. UTT posits that the unconscious mind is capable of performing tasks outside of one’s awareness and that unconscious thought (UT) is better at solving complex tasks, where many variables are considered than conscious thought (CT), but is outperformed by conscious thought in tasks with fewer variables. The theory is based primarily on findings from comparing subjects presented with a complex decision (for instance, which of several apartments is the best?) and allowed either:

     "(1) very little time;

     "(2) ample time, or;

     "(3) ample time but are distracted and thereby prevented from devoting conscious attentional resources to it. It is claimed that subjects unable to devote conscious processing to the task outperform both those who can spend time deliberating and those who must respond immediately.[3] Dijksterhuis and Nordgren interpreted these findings as strong support for the idea of UT being superior to CT and used them in part to justify six principles distinguishing UT from CT. This position runs counter to most research on unconscious processing conducted over the last 40 years, which has found unconscious processes to be characterized by simple responses and to be incapable of complex operations.[4] Unconscious Thought Theory has come under stiff criticism from researchers unable to replicate the original effect."


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Myths and Misconceptions about Tunnel Vision

Tunnel Vision, Adrenaline, and Combat Effects
By W. Hock Hochheim

“… some police departments train their officers to quickly sidestep 
when facing an armed assailant on the theory that the officers, 
in effect, disappear from the criminal's field of sight from their tunnel 
vision for one precious moment.” 

     DISAPPEAR! Really? One sidestep off to invisibility? For a MOMENT! We have all heard that moving while drawing a weapon is a sound strategy for several reasons, becoming a moving target, but becoming … like ... like ... invisible?

     Even the renown, beloved Killologist, Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman, extols this idea on page 69 of his popular book On Combat. He goes on to say this method is widely taught to police officers. Widely taught by him, maybe, but not accepted in coast-to-coast doctrine, because a certain level of common sense finds it very flaky.

     This type of side-step invisibility is about the most extreme confabulation on tunnel vision I have heard from some trainers. A great many trainers would never say this. And some martial arts instructors like to quote these military and police trainers to sound “in the know,” “hip,” “cool,” and an “insider” to their civilian students. Who doesn't like to quote Grossman? (well ... me, but....) Very few question these sources and just regurgitate what they read or hear. Is a sidestep into invisibility a tunnel vision issue? Or is it that you have become a moving target in a very complex situation with numerous variables? Is adrenaline always blinding you and your enemy?

"Is a sidestep into invisibility a tunnel vision issue? Or is it that you have become a
moving target in a very complex situation with numerous variables?"

     When “normal” people hear the term “tunnel vision,” they think about a certain, dedicated concentration of focus. They might think of a person so dedicated, so goal-oriented that he or she zeros in on an objective and ignores distractions to pierce and leap obstacles. The definition is enjoined with the idea that this success might happen at the expense of a social life or other normal distractions that bring a negative flavor to the term.

     Medical people, especially those associated with optometry, think first about “the loss of peripheral vision with retention of central vision, resulting in a constricted, circular, tunnel-like field of vision. The normal human visual field extends to approximately 60 degrees nasally (toward the nose, or inward) from the vertical meridian in each eye to 100 degrees temporally (away from the nose, or outward) from the vertical meridian, and approximately 60 degrees above and 75 below the horizontal meridian.” A reduction in this range may be caused by a series of medical maladies.

     But there are some in the police and military fields who also consider tunnel vision as a temporary, mandatory symptom of a problem which they like to attribute to “adrenaline.” Most everyone knows that adrenaline (or epinephrine) is naturally produced in high-stress or physically exhilarating situations. The so-called “adrenaline dump.” It actually dumps twice, once in you in the beginning and more or less dumps out of you in the end. And many instructors will say that adrenaline always causes a vision tunnel that is described as having to "look through a toilet paper tube."

 ... having to "look through a toilet paper tube." 

     Under stress, the armed citizen will experience two physical handicaps: "Tunnel Vision" and "Auditory Exclusion." These are normal physical responses to the adrenaline surge. Tunnel Vision is when peripheral sight is diminished, and all the shooter can see is what is directly in front of him. One could say he has "blinders on" at this point. Auditory Exclusion is when the hearing shuts off. To break "Tunnel Vision," the armed citizen must execute a "quick check" over each shoulder and then back to the target. Left, right, target – a citizen gun instructor and writer, who is scribing the most common pop observations on adrenaline and shooting. 

     This view is totally accepted by the masses. Actually, I am surprised he has only listed two of the typical handicaps.

     For the last 60 or so years, adrenaline has been both revered and reviled. Many decades ago, adrenaline was generally respected as a power source to help you survive war, crime, and accidents. “God's gift,” so to speak. But since the late 1980s, adrenaline has taken on ogre-like characteristics in the doctrines of more than a few martial trainers. While it is said that it will make little old ladies lift automobiles off of crushed grandchildren in car wrecks, others say it will rob you of your critical thinking, your hearing, your fine motor skills, make you urinate and defecate in your pants, and, yes, … yes, many swear that it will always give you a case of toilet-paper-tube tunnel vision at the very worst possible time when you need your vision the most. Adrenaline - an ogre or a blessing? A life saver or an obstacle in saving lives? Which is it?

     Seeking that answer, a current internet search on the subject of combat stress and tunnel vision will yield quite a bit of information. Unfortunately, quite a bit of this is the same info repeated over and over. Not much challenged or questioned.

     One source you will find over and over again is a survey conducted by Psychologist Dr. Alexis Artwohl, a longtime friend and consultant to law enforcement. She administered a written survey years ago called Perceptual Distortions in Combat to 141 police officers about their shooting experiences over a five-year period. It covered numerous topics, and one was about tunnel vision. Various sources like re-quoting Artwohl and stated that 79% or 80% on up to 82% of the officers reported a case of tunnel vision when they shot. This survey steamrolled through the law enforcement community and created a flurry of misconceptions about adrenaline and tunnel vision. Information that, once in the wrong hands, perpetrated these odd ideas such as the aforementioned “one sidestep to invisibility.” (I do not believe Dr. Artwohl is responsible for any of the subsequent misconceptions and interpretations; she was just conducting an important test.)

     Lawrence Gonzales wrote an otherwise very good book called Deep Survival - Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why in 2003, and on page 38 he quickly reports a one-liner that "police officers who have been shot report tunnel vision" in a very quick, offhand remark. Oh, says who exactly, Lawrence? The steam just keeps rolling on....

     The process of “seeing” the scene around you is more than just the medical issues mentioned above. The eyes and mind (and later memory) must also cooperate. Though one third of the brain's activity is devoted to the overall process of seeing, you cannot digest the full "letter box" view of the landscape in detail all at once. It must be scanned. “The resolution in your peripheral vision is roughly equivalent to looking through a frosted shower door, yet you enjoy the illusion of seeing the periphery clearly,” reports Baylor neuroscientist David Eagleman. “Consider the fact that we are not aware of the boundaries of our visual field.” This illusion, as Dr. Eagleman calls it in his book, Incognito, The Secret Lives of the Brain, contributes as reference points to the definition and memory of tunnel vision.

     A John Hopkins study led by Dr. Steven Yantis, a professor in the Dept. of Psychological and Brain Sciences, tracked how the human brain handles competing demands for attention. Dr. Yantis reports that the brain has limited capacity for paying attention and recording what it perceives. It shifts among competing stimuli to accommodate what seems most important and blocks out the rest. This is everyday attention focus and a form of tunnel vision.

     The eyes and the mind working together. Dr. Bill Lewis of Force Science Research Center based at Minnesota State University-Mankato, a man leading all the significant and groundbreaking work in the field of officer-involved-shootings, says on seeing, "This process of selecting some information and rejecting or being blind to other information is a normal and constant feature of human performance at all levels. Virtually any amount of concentration on one thing will cause this 'inattentional blindness' to occur in the senses that are not being used. The key here is focused attention. Has the reader ever put on a CD to play and then been so preoccupied on a task they didn't hear a single song?"

     Dr. Lewinski goes on, “In baseball, it takes 54/100ths of a second for a fastball traveling at 90 mph to travel from the pitcher's mound to home plate. A baseball player who is focused on hitting the ball, whether under the stress of competition or just during practice, is usually so attentionally limited by his focus on the grip of the ball in the pitcher's hand, the motion of the pitcher's arm, and the initial path of the ball that during that half a second - if he truly is focused - he would not be able to inform us about anything else going on in the playing field, including the feeling of the bat in his own hand. This is usually not important for him, and no one is concerned about this. But when the same phenomenon occurs to an officer in a gunfight, it becomes of major significance."

     In the shooting world, most instructors demand a shooter look at their front sights, actually ordering and demanding them to tunnel vision down and in on their barrel's tip and thin slivers of sights. It would be safe to say that a majority of shooting instruction on the planet teaches this "front sight method," in constant argument with the point-shooters. At the same time, in their next doctrinal paragraph so to speak, they berate and accuse adrenaline for the ill-effects of tunnel vision. What do they think aiming is? A preponderance of shooters will suggest always shooting with both eyes open, which is difficult and unnatural for many but which allows for a more open field of vision. Still, shooters will experience various seconds or half seconds of small attention focus. They (as with our quote above) also suggest that the shooter always keep looking around to break the wicked spell of tunnel vision, especially to his sides or back - the ubiquitous “check your 360.” But at the very instant of the shoot, you can't just start looking around. And what many do not grasp is that you will still be exercising tunnel vision while you do look around. In both solutions, attention-focus and/or tunnel vision will still naturally occur. Yet it is thoughtlessly declared a handicap because someone in the steamroll said so. It seems like a shallow hypocrisy. A gap in thinking. A lack of grasping the big picture.

     A calmer, cooler mind might wonder why all 100% of Dr. Artwohl's survey respondents didn't say they experienced tunnel vision in their shootouts. Every time someone shoots a pistol at any target, live or paper, it is an exercise in tunnel vision, an exercise in focus and attention. In fact, whether you are in a gunfight, on a shooting range, watching your favorite football team on television, driving down the street, eating dinner, or looking at your watch, your eyes and brain are always processing information through a certain tunnel vision, attention focus, and all within limited peripheral vision.

     Dr. Lisa Sanders is a renown medical diagnostician and consultant on the famous TV show “House.” In her recent book, Every Patient Tells a Story, she adds to this tunnel vision debate. By now, we are all familiar with the popular “attention test” where experts challenge people to watch a film of basketball players and count how many times the team in the white shorts passes the ball. Your attention is completely on Team White and the ball. She reports:

     “My task, once the video started, was to watch the white team and keep track of how many times the ball was passed between players, keeping separate counts of when it was passed overhead and when it was bounced from person to person. The image started to move, and I kept my eyes glued to the white team's basketball as it was passed silently among the moving mass of black and white bodies. I got up to six overhead passes and one bounce pass, and I lost track. Determined not to give up, I kept going until the thirty-second video was complete.

     "Eleven overhead passes and two bounce passes, I ventured. I told Chun that I got a little confused in the middle. Despite that, I'd done a good job, he told me. I missed only one overhead pass. Then he asked, 'Did you see anything unusual in the video?' No, I saw nothing at all out of the ordinary.

     'Did you see a gorilla in the video?'

     'A gorilla? No, I had definitely not seen a gorilla.'

     'I'm going to show you the video again, and this time, no counting, just look at the game.'

     He restarted the video. The white and black teams sprang back into action. Eighteen seconds into the game - around the time I lost my concentration - I saw someone (a woman, I find out later) in a gorilla suit enter the hallway court on the right. She strolled casually to the middle of the frame, beat her chest like a cartoon gorilla from a children's TV show, then calmly exited out of the left side of the picture. Her on-camera business lasted eight seconds, and I hadn't seen her at all.

     If you had asked me if I thought that I could miss a gorilla - or even a woman in a gorilla suit - strolling through the picture, I would have agreed that it was impossible to overlook such an extraordinary event. And yet I did. So did more than half of those who were given the same task by Daniel J. Simons in his lab at the University of Illinois at Urbana - Champaign. How is that possible?

     We have tremendous faith in our ability to see what is in front of our eyes. And yet the world provides us with millions of examples that this is not the case. How often have you been unsuccessful in looking for an object and recruited the help of someone who finds it immediately right in front of you? Or had the embarrassing encounter with a friend who confronts you angrily after you "ignored" his wave the night before while scanning for an open seat in a crowded movie theater? According to the Federal Highway Administration, there are over six million car accidents every year. In many of these crashes, drivers claim that they had looked where they were going and simply hadn' t seen the object with which they collided - evidence that people are regularly capable of not seeing what's in front of their eyes, what Sherlock Holmes might have called seeing without perceiving.

"You see Watson but you do not perceive."

(Ground-breaking, important college textbook on this subject and an absolute must read. Perception, Cognition and Decision Training by Dr John Vickers. It is packed with the latest research, much about this subject. In one part she covers how novice athletes facing a challenge look everywhere - too many unimportant places. Moderate athletes do better, and elite athletes look exactly where they need to look to determine their next move.) 

     Researchers call this phenomenon "inattention blindness" because we often fail to notice an object or event simply because we are preoccupied with an intentionally demanding task. Our surprise when experiencing this very common event derives from a fundamental misunderstanding of how the brain works. We think of our eyes like movie cameras capturing all that is before us as we choose what to focus on at the moment. We might not be paying attention to everything, but we assume, first, that we will be able to recognize any important event that occurs and, second, that, if necessary, we can always rewind the movie and play it back in the theater of the mind. What we missed the first go-round would be noticed when we remembered the event.

     Dr. Sanders was not in an adrenalized state, just trying to count ball passes when she viewed the video. She also probably didn't see the proverbial flower pot beside the TV, no more than our off-duty police officer watching his favorite running back on his big screen TV. The brain must see and care to remember.

     The adrenaline rush actually improves vision! Medical experts report that the adrenaline rush from stress dilates the eyes, improving vision. "In life or death situations, tunnel vision can be a life saver because it brings focus to the task at hand. Being cranked up on adrenaline can also make you jumpy and super aware of gleams of light and shadows," reports clinical therapist Paul Dooley. "Pupils dilate to let more light into the eyes in order to increase visual acuity," says Dr. Veronique Mead. There is plenty of clinical evidence that adrenaline also increases vision and that these unscrutinized reports of general tunnel vision are really just intense seconds of clear attention focus. Many veterans report enhanced senses during dangerous encounters.

"Many veterans report enhanced senses during dangerous encounters."

     Another renown USA police vet and trainer, Dave Spaulding, reports, "The various phases of body alarm reaction that have been discussed over the years such as tunnel vision, slow motion movement, loss of digital dexterity, and the like were all recalled by the subjects interviewed (over 200 people). None of the people I spoke with remember suffering all phases, but everyone remembers suffering at least one of the sensations listed under the category of body alarm reaction. Those that understood what was happening to them better handled the sensation during the encounter versus the people who did not. Without a doubt, forewarned is forearmed."

     Do all gunfighters wrestle with some form of attention focus/tunnel vision? In the very generic sense explained above, probably yes. Is all the tunnel vision reported in all gunfights the result of evil adrenaline? Yes, and quite possibly no. It is simply impossible to say given all the factors. Too many variables. How could anyone read this science by these experts and say otherwise? How are thousands of our soldiers and Marines functioning in chaotic firefights on numerous landscapes versus multiple enemies, all looking through this "toilet paper tube" caused by ogre adrenaline?

     My personal experiences with this would be anecdotal, but I have never had debilitating tunnel vision as so fearfully described. Focused vision? Yes. I usually have never felt more wide awake, alert, and ever-so-alive than in dangerous situations. Did I zero in and out on things? Yes. Yes, of course. Without a doubt, I have focused in on small things. I would have to answer "yes" to Dr. Artwohl's questionnaire and, therefore, eventually become part of all this distorted misinformation about tunnel vision and adrenaline. Do you see how it happens?

     And this to me is the real heart of the matter. The blind fad, acceptance, or craze to denigrate a natural defense system like adrenaline as an inhibiting negative to overcome. This idea has been used to sell training programs that oversimplify and dumb down curriculum. The history of sports, criminal justice, and war has proven without question that adrenaline is a positive source for the success and survival of mankind.

     Next, I find it irritating that so many people, many calling themselves training professionals in police, fire, and the military, are so ready and willing to regurgitate, without any question, the biased or ignorant conclusions of these misguided sources and agenda-based training programs. This blind acceptance, this steamroll, is a syndrome all unto itself and one I wish would indeed take one giant step to the right and flat ... disappear.


A review and additional by Arthur Chenevey (  (always interesting to check in with him.

Mr Hochheim:

I enjoyed your article addressing some interesting facts and many opinions about the kinds of visual distortion which can occur with people under a high risk/dangerous scenario.
You are correct in presenting a more specific relationship occurring when a perceived threat, real or imagined, is presented, and how easy it is for what is actually going on at the neurophysiological level, to become grossly misrepresented by academics and first time survivors.
What is actually happening with the individual under dire duress of a life-threatening mechanism is a battle between neurological systems competing for dominance. The Limbic and Brian Stem systems are the first to gather and perceive the threat. The more these two systems are allowed to over-ride the Prefrontal Lobe from engaging its executive functioning, the more these two more primitive systems rule the roost.
Adrenaline has nothing to do with the focus, nor are the chemicals released, responsible for what the human does in an emergency. There is too much focus on this chemical dumb, which is erroneous.
If the Limbic/Brain Stem remain in control of the situation, it's hundreds of millions of years of evolution guiding our actions, just as you said: WE FOCUS SOLELY ON WHAT IS THREATENING. This is not tunnel vision. Tunnel vision is a bad label to use for intense focusing on the threat. Those who have been in killing combat know it does not look like we are looking down a tube. It is merely seeing what we have assessed as the real threat at that moment.
The idea of Stress Exposure Training, the only real successful training protocol we have, currently, at the professional level, that trains the Executive Function to over-ride and utilize the data the Brain Stem/Limbic system provides us, is a training protocol you will not see occurring at the commercial level.
This format for training, to do it correctly, it is too detailed, too expensive and not litigation proof. It is the system we use in the military's training of SOCOM operators, and with the Federal Law Enforcement's: FBI HRT operators and the Federal Border Patrol/Customs SRT operators. But then, the Federal government has the funds to conduct the data.
You can find a copy of the Federal Law Enforcement SET program on the internet from FLETC.
The truth is all commercial training falls horrifically short of training the Executive Function properly to over-ride and use what the Brain Stem/Limbic System perceives and assesses as dangerous threats. This is the key--the neurology that is taking place. The hormonal excretions are a response to that, and nothing more. What the chemicals do is supercharge the body for serious trauma--both in sucking it up and inflicting it--nothing more. High levels of cortisol do negatively impact the hippocampus, responsible for memory formation, though.
If the Executive Functioning remains in control, focus will be able to see more than merely a singular threat, regardless of the chemicals in the body.
The other truth is what you indirectly alluded to: Too much pseudo-science is being pawned off as real science for personal gains. Too many people at the professional levels, who have made little empires for themselves, continue to be considered savants in studying killing, or about what happens to people under duress when their data doesn't measure what they say it does. Using such data to train people for high risk environments gets more people killed, even as they feel confident in those bogus skills.

What is ironic, none of these experts have ever been in combat, so they possess no real experience. Then everything else they know or have learned has been through the academia (books), or in clinical work, which does not extrapolate well in real time. Like we like to say" "...surveying or interviewing others is not research, it's a talk show."

Keep writing articles along these lines, calling out misinterpretations and misdirections of data to become far more than what they really are.

A. Bodhi Chenevey

The Arms Race! Grappling with Arms Training Film

  - get the DVD, or
  - download the training film now!

For more click on: