Reactionary Zones Part 2

What happens when the problem is too close to avoid?

by
posted on December 1, 2023
Reacting to a break in

Last month we dove into The Complete Combatant’s Reactionary Zones Part 1, which focused on the “most” amount of time to react, act and respond to a threat. The most distance is around 25 feet and beyond. We often say that “distance equals time” so this zone gives us the most distance or time to make a really good first decision.

Scenario: It is the day after Thanksgiving and you have decided to “walk off” some of that turkey so you grab your coat and head out the door. You are on the sidewalk enjoying the fresh air, the cold on your face and then all of the sudden you catch movement out of the corner of your eye. You turn your head and see a group of 4 youths sitting on the hood of a neighbor’s car, and you know they are out of town for the holidays. They see you watching them, they are up to no good and they don’t like you looking at them, so one of them slides off the hood and starts walking towards YOU. What are your options?

The Space Between Us

Before we go any further, I would like to re-introduce you to Edward T. Hall.

Edward T. Hall is a cultural anthropologist that specialized in proxemics that are maintained by healthy, adult, middle-class Americans. He wrote a book called The Hidden Dimension that explains “proxemics” and the difference in “distance awareness” among many cultural groups.

There are several “aspects” of proxemics. The one that Hall writes about is the distance maintained between people when they are communicating. Hall named his four distances public, social, personal and intimate. The Complete Combatant has named their four Reactionary Zones “most amount of time to react,” “some amount of time to react,” “least amount of time to react” and “no amount of time to react.” In Reactionary Zones Part 2, we will be focusing on The Complete Combatant’s “some amount of time to react” distance.

Per Hall, social distances for normal healthy adults range from 4 to 12 feet. This distance fits perfectly for more formal business and social discourse. Discourse means “written or spoken communication” so at this range, it is very acceptable to make eye contact with a stranger for a few seconds, smile, nod at them, and even say hello.

Because of Hall's framework, we know people can feel the pressure of whether that person belongs in a specific zone/space/distance.  In self protection management, we can use his research to our advantage by measuring the violence options available to the bad person while measuring the options available to us to react, act and then respond. 

Some Time Is Not A Lot Of Time

Now let’s switch gears from normal healthy adults, to criminals. The “some” Reactionary Zone, which is 12 to 25 feet from you to the bad guy, gives you “some amount of time to react.” Not the most, but some.

In this zone you have some time to decide what to do like have pepper spray in hand, avoid, make contact, etc. You have some amount of time to gather more information like look at his hands, any movement towards his waist, are his hands hidden, is he targeting you? You have some amount of time to make this distance “come alive” by changing direction or just leaving the area. If that person changes their direction as well, then you now have an early warning sign and more good decisions must be made very quickly!

There are some things to consider in the “some time to react” distance.

  • Around the further part of this zone, you don’t want to try to “manage” him. Meaning, you don’t want to yell at him or try to converse with him in any way.
  • But if you are around the closer part if this zone, it is very reasonable to make eye contact with a stranger for a few seconds and nod at them. This says “I see you”.
  • They have every right to be there….until they don’t.
  • At this distance, you could be in immediate danger.
  • If a bad guy is in shape, he can cover 25 feet in less than 2 seconds. He can cover 12 feet in less than 1 second.
  • If you have a hard time gauging distances like me, ignore the numbers and let’s use an object to judge the distance. I hope one of these items resonates with you.
  1. Four medium loveseats are 20 feet
  2. Two average-sized kayaks are 20 feet
  3. The most common rented U-Haul is 20 feet
  4. Two basketball hoops stacked on top of each other is 20 feet
  5. The most popular length bass boat to buy is 18 feet
  6. Two treadmills are 16 feet
  7. Two hockey goals are 12 feet
  8. Two refrigerators are 12 feet

Boy movingNow back to the scenario. You turn your head and see a group of 4 youths sitting on the hood of a car. At the same time you are judging distance and thinking that they seem “out of place”, you reach into your pocket for your pepper spray, all the while turning to run away. You must react, act and respond quickly. They do not chase you; they go back to trying to steal that car.

There is absolutely no benefit or positive outcome to engage with any of these kids. It is okay to run: Let’s not use your medical insurance because you thought stopping them was more important than your health.

You are now safe and sound in your home and the door is locked behind you. You call 911. You had some amount of time to make a good quick first decision…avoid! Now grab yourself a turkey sandwich, put your feet up and enjoy your day.

Next month’s article will be focusing on Hall’s personal distance and The Complete Combatant’s least time to react zone.

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