Masada Tactical Blog

Sat, 11/02/2013 - 5:50pm
In our classes, whether at the studio or when training professional warriors, we often times refer to "Hick's Law". But what does this law say, and how does it apply to us?

At its simplest form and definition the law simply states that the more skills a person know the slower his/her reaction time.  Mr. Hick came at this conclusion when he was timing a student who only knew one way to defend a strike. The defense was instinctive and rapid because the defender knew no other response option. As soon as the student was shown a second way to defend a strike the reaction time slowed. The defender now had a choice to make, and even though we are talking about fractions of a second, it is still a slow down of the response time.  By further extending and increasing the number of defenses taught to the student, Mr. Hick was showing a correlation between the number of skills known and the response time, essentially showing that response slowed down exponentially as the number of options grew.

The way we train matters. We must keep in mind that in a true violent encounter many of the "luxuries" we take for granted in training will not be available to us, including: a compliant partner, ultimate environmental setting (gym), and most importantly: Time. The time it may take your brain to process an attack and figure out the right response option may be too long. And that just isn't acceptable. In order to overcome this issue we must follow a simple rule in training: Hick's Law. We must teach the least amount of skills possible that we can use in the most amount of situations. Thus, if and when attacked, our brain retrieves the necessary defense in a relative swift manner.

There are self defense systems that teach multiple ways to defend against different attacks, even when those attacks are similar and could be addressed in one cohesive manner. For example, there are systems that teach one defense against a choke from one direction, a different defense if the choke is being placed from a different angle, yet another if the choke involves a push, pull, or an object. The se are too many variables to consider when your life is measures in milliseconds. Again, time is a luxury not available to those who are faced with a need to preserve their lives NOW.

In ICS we take every step possible to evaluate and re-evaluate, and change our curriculum to keep simplifying response options, so when the need arises and our students are faced with a true threat then the response is immediate. Using choke defense again as an example, we teach only one way to defend against it, regardless of direction, obstacles, momentum, etc., it's always the same: stab one arm straight up, and turn to place that arm between you and the opponent. In addition to being one skill only we also assure that the skill is not strength dependent, that it is gross motor skill oriented, and that it is easy to recall under stress. Hick's Law in action.

So next time you evaluate a skill ask yourself "Is it in line with Hick's Law?"  If you learn one skill that you can apply in multiple situations you are one step ahead of the curve.

Thank you Mr. Hick.

As always, stay safe!

Tzviel 'BK' Blankchtein
Masada Tactical