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11/30/2013: "What's going on out there?!"

We've talked about the OODA loop and how we train to shorten our reaction time and continually reset the attacker's. There's another phrase we sometimes use in class: Perceive, Assess, Respond.

In some scenarios - in the middle of a physical altercation - there isn't a lot of difference between the OODA loop and Perceive/Assess/Respond. The subtle difference seems to be that people use the OODA loop primarily to refer to what you do during an attack, whereas Perceive/Assess/Respond can be used both before and during.

Here are three recent stories from dojo members, illustrating how Perceive/Assess/Respond helped each of them decide what to do in the moment.

In the first, the setting was a cul de sac with townhouses. Late on a Saturday night, the dojo member heard an argument near his house. From what he could hear, a female was being extremely aggressive with a male who apparently lived there. The dojo member began paying more attention as the interaction went from raised voices and profanity to phrases like "You stay off me! You mean you'd hit a girl?"

At that point he called the police and opened his front door to listen more clearly, and when it started to sound as if things were becoming physical - a scuffle or fight, he stepped out and yelled that the police were on their way. The girl then jumped into a car and left. Once he heard a police radio, he went back inside; the officer(s) didn't talk to him.

In the second, the setting was an established, older neighborhood with single-family homes, a very quiet area. Late in the afternoon there was suddenly a female voice yelling - shrieking, really - but the words weren't audible. It sounded as if the person might be under attack. The dojo member went out on the porch... and discovered the neighbor's teenage daughter standing in their driveway, VERY upset.

Nobody was near her. She might have just gotten out of her mother's car, and was having an absolute screaming fit at whatever had set her off; the adults from the house were present, but basically seemed to be ignoring the fit. The dojo member watched for a short while, determined that nothing untoward appeared to be happening, and went back inside - keeping an ear out for any escalation in the situation. There was none.

In the third, the setting was again the neighborhood with single-family homes. It was a sunny, bright, warm weekend day, with the windows open, and the next-door neighbor out in his back yard, tinkering with his car. Suddenly, there was a short, sharp report. It didn't quite sound like a gunshot, but...

Not having heard any altercation etc. before the sound, the dojo member waited a few minutes to see whether there was anything afterward - voices, reaction to a "shot" etc. - then investigated, carefully. It turned out that on that warm day, something had apparently overheated and exploded - the neighbor wasn't quite sure what. Everything was fine.

In the first case, the altercation appeared to be taking an ugly turn toward the physical - which could quickly escalate, with injury possible at least to those involved, and potentially also to others if they attempted to step in or a projectile weapon were drawn and a shot fired. Definitely worthy of a call to law enforcement. In the second, although the emotional content was similar to the first, there appeared to be no danger to the teenage girl or anyone else - so no call to the police, but a watchful eye/ear in case things did start to get worse, and become physical toward an individual or property. In the third, a flag went up, but some pieces seemed to be missing. Worth investigating, but carefully.

Perceive, assess, respond. Three similiar and yet dissimilar situations. Fortunately, the outcome each time was a lack of injury to people or property.

Potentially dangerous situations don't have to involve an argument - we previously posted a similar story, about not killing the messenger. Luckily, "perceive, assess, respond" saved both of those involved from injury.

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