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Fighting Smart: Negatively Multitasking the Suspect

by George on April 18, 2012 14:20

“Hence that general is skillful in attack whose opponent does not know what to defend; and he is skillful in defense whose opponent does not know what to attack.”   Sun Tzu

 

Any type of fighting carries a risk of injury and death—people have fallen after being simply shoved backward, struck their heads, and died.  So you prepare:  you lift weights, you work your cardio, you keep your weight down, you go to the range on your own time, and you train with other motivated cops in defensive tactics, you attend training paid for on your own dime, and are tactically aware in the street.  Despite your own individual skill development, physical conditioning, and aptitude for dealing with the violence you are faced with, nothing can be taken for granted in any combatives environment.  You may be the toughest guy on the block, but there is always someone on any given day who is more prepared, more capable, and more willing to engage in violence than you—thinking otherwise is foolhardy.  Whether it is hand to hand, hand to knife, or a gunfight, it is vital to make use of every advantage, and not assume that your high level of personal abilities, your size and strength, or any other skill factor is going to mean you will automatically win the fight.

Going head-to-head, muscle-to-muscle is often effective when you are dealing with an unprepared, weaker, smaller offender.  It is also the method most fraught with risk, and is unsophisticated in a situation where a sophisticated fighting strategy disadvantaging the suspect combined with your on-going pre-conflict preparations is the best strategy to win the fight.  Please note that “sophisticated” is not synonymous with “complex” or “complicated.”  Complexity in any fight or tactical response is a sure recipe for failure in the real world of combatives (see the article “Abandon Techniques All Ye Who Train Combatives” on this blog).

For purposes of discussion, assume you have contacted a subject who is on the verge of assaulting you.  He is equal in every way to you physically, intellectually, as well as in his skill development and physical conditioning.  Without considering the “luck factor” that is present in every combatives environment (which may also include the “Murphy-factor”—anything that can go wrong, will go wrong, at the worst possible time), your chance of making it through this fight is no better than 50/50.  How do you change these odds in this fight to your favor?

Change your orientation to solving combatives problems from fighting to fighting smart.  When one is equal to or less than his opponent in physical capabilities and skill, the only available strategy must incorporate deliberately affecting the ability of the suspect to act upon current reality.  All conflict is about time.  It is about taking time away from the Threat and using the time you have efficiently to deprive him of even more time.  Time is a luxury permitting you to understand the current reality of your relative positions and physical actions.  Ultimately, the purpose of every fight is to control his perception of time, hence his ability to make effective decisions leading to relevant physical actions.  This is done most simply by multitasking the subject so that he cannot catch up with the action and make those precious decisions he needs so desperately in order to destroy you.

Multitasking is the concurrent performance of multiple tasks.  We all want to believe we can do it, and we want to believe that we can do it well.  However, if we get honest with ourselves, we really don’t do it very well at all.  Even non-critical tasks such as simultaneously watching TV, reading, and talking to our spouse will demonstrate the fallacy of any type of multitasking capabilities.  As an experiment, try it to see how it works for you (hint:  pay attention to your spouse and forget those other activities if you want to survive this little experiment with any degree of marital harmony).  Similarly, being multitasked by a Threat during combatives can be fatal.  It is a very good strategy to deliberately employ multitasking against the suspect in every physical conflict.  It should be one of your primary tactics for success.

 

Attentional Load

To understand multitasking, research is proving that our ability to focus our attention, or “attentional focus” is limited.  Attention is a basic component of thinking, cognition, and of orienting to relevant change.  To note something in our environment, to have any chance of taking that information into consideration, we must pay some level of attention to it.  Attentional focus is defined as, “The ability to focus attention on cues in the environment that are relevant to the task in hand” (Oxford Dictionary of Sports Science & Medicine).  When someone says, “The knife came out of nowhere,” or, “I had no warning that he was going to attack me,” the hard reality is that the victim’s brain either did not receive the numerous pieces of information signaling the impending threat, or did not interpret the numerous clues because the victim’s attentional focus was elsewhere.  Whether it is because the victim is ignorant of the threatening behavioral cues, or deliberately or innocently distracted, his or her attention was elsewhere, leaving that person unable to apprehend the changes in the behavior, positioning, and/or demeanor of the person about to assault them.

Our ability to focus or concentrate on anything can be compared to a very bright, narrow, very focused, spotlight in a very dark room filled with dozens of pieces of a puzzle, each constantly moving independently of the others, changing position, or modifying its shape and color.  As the spotlight of our conscious mind is placed on a particular puzzle piece in that black room, we are able to utilize our attention to gain information on the specific puzzle piece illuminated by narrow bright beam of light, considering changes in status of that puzzle piece solely based on what we are seeing at that moment.  All of the changes occurring in the other puzzle pieces in that dark room are unavailable to us until we focus on each individually.  The problem is we can only ascertain the status of a particular piece when we are focused directly on it.

The moment the spotlight moves to another puzzle piece, we no longer are able to monitor what is happening to the last puzzle piece.  Our ability to focus on multiple puzzle pieces is serial rather than global; that is, we must move the spotlight of attention from one piece to another to another to another before moving back to the first in order to monitor what all of the pieces are doing, how they’re changing, and what all of this means to us in the real world of violence, pain, and death.  Attentional focus on multiple areas or problems, therefore, is a cycling of attention where one’s full attention cannot rest upon any single piece of the puzzle long enough to ponder its significance.  This attentional cycling permits only snap-shots of information without the ability to deeply consider its relational meaning.  Significance is fundamental to relevance, and determining relevance is a function of orientation.  This means that unless a particular puzzle piece among many is not immediately and obviously significant, it is unlikely that you will be able to orient to its meaning, and its significant information and relevance will be lost to you. It may also be that you are focusing your spotlight on a particular puzzle piece that is changing its status in a very important and meaningful manner while your thoughts are elsewhere, perhaps thinking about that puzzle piece you saw moments or minutes ago, or even something completely unrelated to solving the puzzle at all.  Your eyes may be looking directly at the puzzle piece but your focus of attention is elsewhere, making it impossible to “orient” to the important information that is right in front of your eyes.  We have all experienced looking directly at a person speaking to us and not hearing a word he or she said because our mind was “a million miles away.”

A limiting factor of the ability to focus on threatening suspect behavioral cues is the amount of information you can work with at any one time.  There is a maximum capacity limiting the information you can process or focus upon at any moment in time.  As the demands to your attentional focus increase, your ability to focus on multiple tasks will rapidly become limited as your attentional load is maxed out.  Irrelevant information is filtered out as the attentional load increases, permitting attentional focus on whatever has captured your attention.  The greater the “task load,” or for our purposes, as your perception of personal threat increases, so, too, does the narrowing and filtering of available information available for your attention.

  • Tunnel vision is the result of an intense perception of threat where the attentional (or in this case, perceptual) load of the central focus is primary, and the “irrelevant” information is excluded as being unnecessary to survival at this moment. 
  • Auditory exclusion occurs when the attentional load in attempting to resolve the perceived threat is so great that visual processing of environmental cues takes precedence and what the subject is saying, or even that anything is being said (or yelled or screamed) at all is not available to be processed.

As more information is received and considered, older information is lost from your working memory, or “cognitive load” (“The total amount of mental activity imposed on working memory at any instance of time.” http://dwb4.unl.edu/Diss/Cooper/UNSW.htm).  As you experience a deluge of more and more data through the senses, your ability to understand, categorize, and utilize the info is quickly overwhelmed.  Once overwhelmed, your mental filtering systems begins shutting down data (perceptual) streams to attempt to manage the situation, and give you the ability to make sense of the data to produce useful information.  Being increasingly pressured by time and the perception of threat, the more and more overwhelmed your cognitive processes will be, and the less effective your ability to discern and synthesize useful information from irrelevant data.  Injuries, overwhelming frustration, and fatigue begin to compound, increasing the sense of being overwhelmed. At some point, the attempt to sort out the valuable from the worthless stops, and the individual is incapable of problem-solving his way out of the fight.

 

Negatively Multitask the Threat

In a physical conflict, the least sophisticated method of fighting is head-to-head, muscle-to-muscle attritional conflict—“I’ll be able to inflict more injury and disable you before you can inflict injury and disable me.”  Inherent within the “victory through attrition” is universal injury; even the victor is bloody and walks away with a limp.

To avoid this high-risk method of combatives, it makes better sense to fight the Threat on both the physical and the mental planes.  Negatively multitask him.  To "negatively multitask a suspect, you intentionally give him two or more tasks, each of which is threatening, and each of which demands his full attention.  If he stops one of your efforts, he pays dearly at failing to stop the other(s).  Negatively mutlitask him to get into his head and confuse his decision-cycles by misdirecting his attentional focus.  Creating confusion provides openings and opportunities to exploit that are less risk to you while creating more confusion and injury for him.  Events begin moving too fast for him to react and understand—he just won’t be able to put everything that is happening into context in time.

Negatively multitasking the suspect is achieved by physical or psychological means.  It requires you to divert his attention from what he wants to focus upon, and deliberately engage his attention on multiple tasks, none of which he can afford to solely focus upon.  It may be necessary to focus his attention on an irrelevant factor leading to his sufficiently being distracted so that he cannot orient to your actual intent, preparations, or movement.  This requires you to fight smart rather than through attrition.  For example, the following examples compare commonly trained attritional solutions with a possible solution that negatively multitasks the Threat.

WEAPON RETENTION:

  • Attritional Solution: Pin your weapon into your holster with your gun-hand and strike the suspect repeatedly with your free hand or elbow, head strikes, knee strikes, bite, put your free hand’s fingers into his eyes, etc.  If possible, take him to the ground, landing on him to ensure additional disability so it does not turn into a groundfight.  When he is sufficiently injured and incapable of continuing to fight, remove his hand from your handgun and force him into handcuffs.
  • Negatively Multitasking Solution:  Pin your weapon into your holster with your gun-hand.  Strike, hit, bite, etc.  When he begins to focus on defending against your strikes, he will necessarily lessen his focus on your weapon (attention being serial, he cannot help but lose focus on your weapon), and his grip will relax to a degree.  Move to small targets:  grab a finger as hard and pry it suddenly and viciously back while maintaining pressure on the grip of the weapon into your body.  If he is not immune to pain because he’s mentally ill, diabetic, or under the influence, he will likely focus on you twisting and pulling on his broken finger.  Transition back to your strikes with the other hand.  Continue twisting the finger until you judge he no longer wants to disarm you.  Peel his hand from your weapon and shove him away.  Note:  a Parole Officer in Pennsylvania was forced to break four fingers, one at a time, to protect his weapon against a psychotic offender who first attempted to kill the officer by hitting him in the head with an ax.  Once the four fingers were broken, the suspect could no longer physically grip the weapon and was eventually taken into custody.

SUSPECT DRAWS A HANDGUN FROM TWO OR THREE STEPS AWAY:

  • Attritional Solution:  You draw your weapon in response, depending upon your vest and volume of fire to save your life as he fires as quickly as he can at you.
  • Negatively Multitasking Solution:  The moment you perceive he is drawing a weapon, you move hard and suddenly at an angle toward his flank.  As you’re moving you draw your own handgun.  By now you are just a few feet from his flank, punching your handgun at him, firing as soon as it interrupts your eye-target line.  You continue to move to his back as he frantically attempts to target you through the bullets punching through him and the muzzle blast thumping his body.  Your movement and fire continues as he spins in pursuit of you, and finally corkscrews, falling to the ground.

ATTEMPTING TO EMPLOY AN ARM TAKEDOWN TO PUT A RESISTING SUBJECT ON THE GROUND:

  • Attritional Solution:  This subject needs to be on the ground right now!  You have a hold of his elbow, pin it to your body, and attempt a takedown.  However, he’s a prepared offender and skilled enough to prevent the takedown, you both begin moving in circles.  As you attempt harder and harder to put him down, the action speeds up.  At this point, you’re a bit frustrated and getting scared he might get loose, and that would not be a good thing for you with this guy.  You use brute force to muscle him to the ground, shoving him quickly and with as much strength as you can.
  • Negatively Multitasking Solution:  This subject needs to be on the ground right now!  You have a hold of his elbow, pin it to your body, and attempt a takedown.  However, he’s a prepared offender and skilled enough to prevent the takedown, you both begin moving in circles.  As soon as you orient to this fact,  you quickly slap at his upper inner thigh with one hand, striking sharply just under his groin before locking your hand back to his arm.  His body reacts defensively to the slap as if it actually struck his groin and you hear a quick grunt of anticipated pain.  This puts him off-balance, enabling you to complete the takedown without extraordinary effort.

HE ATTEMPTS TO DRAW A HANDGUN FROM HIS WAISTBAND WITHIN TOUCHING DISTANCE FROM YOU:

  • Attritional Solution:  Upon orienting to his grabbing and pulling something out of his waistband, you focus on his hand, grabbing his wrist as you attempt to prevent him from being able to draw the weapon.  You begin to strike him with your forehead, free elbow and hand, and attempt to prevent him from getting that weapon out of his waistband until he is sufficiently debilitated, permitting you to safely remove it, and then throw him to the ground.
  • Negatively Multitasking Solution:  Upon orienting to his grabbing and pulling something out of his waistband, you focus on his hand, and suddenly reach out with your closest hand to press his hand and wrist as well as the handgun against his body as you surge to his flank, wrapping his head with your free hand in a slapping motion.  Pulling his head sharply backward against your shoulder, with your fingers abruptly dig into his face.  With your hand pressing on his and his weapon at the waistband, your fingers, while still pressing the handgun to his belly, reach for and press the trigger.  The weapon fires as he is still worried about being off-balance and your fingers digging into his face.  The shock of the contact shot to his groin/pelvic/femoral area permits you to take him to the ground (if he isn’t already falling).

YOU'RE MAKING ENTRY INTO A HOUSE:

  • Attritional Solution:  You and your team line up, give the announcement, and after a sufficient time for his response, your breacher rams the door successfully.  Your team flows through the door, taking possession of the living room and access points to the whole house.
  • Negatively Multitasking Solution:  You and your team line up, give the announcement, and after a sufficient time for his response, your team leader radios the initiation command, signaling the window to the room where the suspect is expected to be ported and flash-banged while the back door is simultaneously breached and held.  Upon hearing the report of the flash-bang, the front door is then breached successfully, and your team flows through the door, taking possession of the living room and access points to the whole house.

As can be seen in each of the above solutions, every fighting problem can be solved in multiple ways.*  How you deal with the specific combatives event involves your orientation to the solving this particular problem.  In each of the “negatively multitasking” solutions, you took advantage of a momentary distraction, purposefully redirecting his attention from his main effort and intention in order to capitalize on his inability to track and react to every counter of yours.  Once his attentional focus is diverted, he is unable to keep up with the events as you are directing them.  He just doesn’t have time to focus on all of the information he is receiving, and becomes confused and less effective.  That decrease in efficiency and effectiveness translates into an immediate advantage in the ability to process information, orienting more closely to the current physical reality of the conflict, and the resultant control of the direction of the fight.

It is through the multitasking of the Threat that you can defeat a superior athlete with superior skills.  It is said that “Deception is the art of the master.”  If you are someone who cannot expect your attributes (your size, strength, skills, endurance, etc.) to permit you to quickly win through an attritional solution in every instance, learn to negatively multitask the Threat to negate his advantages over you.  If you are someone who has superior attributes, never discount the role of luck in a fight.  Increase your odds of winning by learning to negatively multitask the Threat so that he is confused and overwhelmed first in his mind, and then physically.  It is better to learn it and not need it, than to need it and not to have learned it.

If being successful in a combatives situation is the result of controlling the perception of time, negatively multitasking the subject decreases the time available to him.  The net effect is that you have more time to make better decisions in the fight.  Time is the greatest luxury on a battlefield.  Treat yourself luxuriously in your next fight—negatively multitask him—and you may very likely limit the amount of bleeding and limping you will do after the fight.

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*    Note:  None of these “solutions” are offered as "trained techniques.”  They are a result of the “Universal Rules and Principles of Combatives”© within the “Effective Combatives Problem-Solving”© system of “Integrated Force Combatives”© available only through Cutting Edge Training, LLC.