Our bodies are amazing engines, amazing machines, able to adapt and survive to a wider variety of environments than nearly any other creature on earth. This is due to our ability to create, engineer, manufacture, and dream. We adapt and thrive in nearly any situation. Our ability to think and adapt has made us the dominant species on earth. That being said we have an issue.
We as people see ourselves as so high and mighty that we forget how much we have in common with animals. This includes some of our biological processes, including what happens when we are threatened. We are forced to confront three different decisions. Flight, fight, or do nothing. Flight is best used when you do have the ability or means to get away from your enemy, fight is when you are forced to defend yourself.
The third option, do nothing. This option is rarely discussed because all those people in a life and death situation who nothing probably died. Doing nothing is the worse thing to do, or not do, however you consider it.
In a fight however your body is going to go through a variety of different experiences. These are tied to your body’s fight response. These conditions are in place to help you survive, but are not exactly modern. As technology and society evolved these most base instincts did not, and they remain the same as they did when man was chasing Wooly Mammoths. As we go through the different responses I’ll try and explain why they happen, and the supposed benefits and faults behind them.
Loss of Motor Skills
Once that adrenaline starts flowing your mental and physical process will change entirely. Why is this important to you? Well your fingers and hands will be degraded the most. Your hands are going to fill with blood. They do this because we as people have been using guns for a short period in our long and bloody histories. However we have been using our hands to kill since we discovered how to make a fist.
That blood filling your hands is there to soften the pain you feel when you strike another person. Hitting someone in the face and head hurts both you and your opponent. When your hands fill with blood they become quite clumsy and uncoordinated. They absolutely positively suck at working small levers and buttons, like the ones commonly found on handguns. So how do you overcome this? Practice, practice, practice, you train until the smallest things are muscle memory.
When you identify a threat a switch is going to click in your brain and your entire focus is going to be on that threat. In a primitive society this would be important to survive. When early man identified a threat this allowed them to focus on nothing else besides that threat. With full focus on the threat they could dedicate their minds 100 percent to destroying it. That was great when man was killing something trying to steal his food, not so much in a defensive gun fight.
For one you need to be able to identify other threats. If you get drawn so into threat A you could completely ignore threat B. Another factor could be the arrival of the police, if you are so focused on the threat you may not identify the cops arriving and telling you to drop your gun. Remember they only know that shots were fired, but not who or what was going on.
To overcome this one should involve a measure of scan and assessment into their training. After firing a successful drill, look left, right, and possibly behind you. Do not do this as just a check in the box, but actually pick points out to identify to make sure you are really scanning and observing.
This goes hand in hand with tunnel vision and is designed to allow the brain to focus on one threat in its entirety. Of course like tunnel vision this doesn’t bode well for detecting other threats and hearing police tell you to drop the weapon or freeze.
I personally have a lot of experience with auditory exclusion. In 2009 I was in Afghanistan and during my first firefight I experienced auditory exclusion full force. I could not hear the sound of my machine gun, or anyone else weapon. What I could hear though is the sound of my squad leader telling me to move, shift fire, and every other command he said. So it benefitted me, but this is not the norm.
I can’t tell you to simply open your ears and boom you’re good. This goes back to the scan and assess portion. If you can’t use your ears, which could be ringing quite loud after firing your weapon, you have to rely on vision to get you to the next fight.
So your brain is all jacked up on adrenaline. Your brain is also excluding functions to dedicate more brain power to the fight. These functions can include your perception of time and space. This means you may not immediately remember how things happened. Seconds could feel like minutes, or minutes could feel like seconds. You may think you’ve fired two rounds but have fired twelve. You cannot predict how it will affect you. You cannot out train it or try to write it off. This is important to know after a defensive shooting there will be police involvement and you are your own terrible witness. Allow yourself some time to come down, and consult an attorney before making any declarations, verbal or written.
So these are the main effect of a life and death struggle during a fight. They are generalizations of effects. You may suffer something more intense, or you may never feel any of these effects. Everyone is different, but it is best to know what your body may do during a gunfight. Then, prepare and train for it.