Friday, March 10, 2006

Where to Focus During an Attack has good information on why it's important not to be focused while fighting. The article cites research published last year which validates something I've been stressing for years - defocus your vision! Key points in the article:

In a fight or altercation, new research suggests that if you become focused on any object, such as an attacker’s face or on a punching fist, that you might just miss a secondary attack or another attacker altogether.

This same phenomena accounts for that fact that if you are talking on a cell phone or listening to the radio in a car, you are more likely to miss seeing a stop sign or a pedestrian crossing the street. Now we know why this happens. [Study then cited - read it all]

... If we become so focused on an attack or weapon, we might just miss another attack or even another attacker.

This concept is not new, but it is now better explained. As a teacher of karate, I have always instructed students not to focus on the attack when facing an opponent (2), but to look beyond the attack so as to ascertain the next move or attack. I knew that when visually focusing on one thing that it takes time switch back the eye’s focus to a more general awareness so as to pick up secondary attacks.

From footnote:

This is not to suggest that you never concentrate intentionally on an opponent. Before conflict begins or is initiated, if there is a single opponent, it can be helpful to look at an opponent’s eyes while still maintaining a general focus. I have found that in this way I can pick up slight, unconscious changes in the eyes just before an opponent initiates movement. This can help you respond faster since you can have a slight forewarning of an impending attack. Once conflict is initiated, however, only a non-focused general awareness should be maintained.
My response:
I've observed that many studies just confirm the obvious and give validity to what the rest of us call, "common sense." Just as speaking on a cell phone or listening to loud music while driving can "drown out" your senses and dull your responses to visual stimuli (other vehicles or pedestrians) that can be a danger, concentrating on anything in a physical conflict can lead to being hit or outmaneuvered. In stand-up fighting, if I just watch the hands I might get kicked, and visa versa. If I focus on his eyes, I may miss almost anything. As a more deadly mistake, I may concentrate on what I am doing (or going to do), and not notice something has escalated because the attacker now has a weapon in hand, or a partner approaching fast from the side. In stand-up grappling, or on the ground, you may focus on avoiding strikes or a lock, and miss something happening with the legs that will put you into a bad position. Therefore:

Defocus your vision from any particular part of your opponent, and watch the entire body. You'll notice right away that you can react more quickly because of the increase in lead time between the attack and your response.

Position your guard so that your hands don't get in the way of seeing the stance and feet of your attacker. If he bends his knees and shifts his weight forward, he may be getting ready for a takedown or strike. If he shifts his weight to the side or back, he may be getting ready to kick. Remember, ALL hand-to-hand attacks are a transfer of weight, so that happens in the legs and hips. The only exception to that is the finger jab, and even then the attacker has to transfer weight when closing the gap (moving into range).

Think ahead of what your opponent is doing right now, and focus on where he is moving or shifting his weight. You have to defocus to do this. What I mean is that If an opponent is moving to his right, you may not have to worry about his right hand or leg, but focus on what he can do with his left (hand or leg).

Enough for now. Please read the article if you have time.

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