09 June 2016

Too many options lead to inaction- combatives & Hick's Law




A knuckle dragger's definition of Hick’s Law is as follows, the more choices you have the longer it takes to choose.  The best example is a menu.  It will take you longer to choose from 30 items than from 5.  How does this apply to self-defense? Let's look at open hand combatives.

We have all been in situations where we were pissed off to the point of just boiling over.  We are not thinking clearly and this results in fist pounding or other violent outbursts.  There are many clues that an attack is coming, but the problem is figuring out what the attack will be if the attacker is not consciously deciding.  So what do we know about initial contact distance attacks against us?


  • The attacker will be moving forward towards us.
  • Their arms will be extended towards us.
  • One of their legs will be forward of the other.
  • Their head is most exposed during an attack.


This is a chaotic, dynamic situation.  We know that it takes the average person 3/4 of a second to respond to a particular visual stimulus.  That is if they recognize the stimulus and have a pretrained response for it.  How long will it take when we don't necessarily recognize the stimulus, and stand there considering all of our trained responses?  There is a good chance it means getting hit or stabbed while we try to figure out what technique to use.

Since we have listed some characteristics that are going to be present during contact distance attacks, let's look at characteristics that are present during defense and how they can help us respond with less conscious thinking to achieve these goals.  They are the basics of Principle Based Responses.


  • In the best case scenario, we will be moving towards the threat.  In the worst case, we will be standing still or moving backwards.
  • One of our feet will be forward of the other, blading us to the target like a half open door.
  • Our rising arms will be under their outstretched arms.
  • Our rising arms are protecting the head and lowering our chin.

Response to the mechanics of the attack, not the attack itself.  The goal is past your attacker, here is how you get there-


  • Move to the outside of your attacker.
  • Protect your head and center line.
  • Increase protection from subsequent attacks.
  • Attack his head, elbows, and knees. 
  • Move past and away from the attacker.
  • Puts you under the elbows of your attacker allowing you to leverage him into a vertical surface like a wall or vehicle.
  • Utilizes gross motor skills instead of fine/complex motor skills.


Start off open hand, and then move to edged and impact weapons.  Try it for yourself.

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