Home > Karate, Martial Arts, Self -Defense, Training, Women's Self-Defense > Common Sense Self-Defense Lesson V: The Cycle

Common Sense Self-Defense Lesson V: The Cycle

When you are attacked, your mind functions differently than it normally does. Changes may be subtly different from person to person but they are basically the same.

There is a formula for the cycle that takes place in your mind. It has been called and named several different things. No matter what you name the four stages of this cycle they have the same meaning.

• Process
• Decide
• Respond

It is common for the brain to process attacks, and other situations as well, using these four stages. In the case of an attack they will occur during and after the brain dumps a huge amount of adrenaline into the person’s system. This adrenaline dump can be very advantageous as it is nature’s way of giving a person tools such as additional strength and speed when encountering a dangerous situation. One other advantage of the adrenaline coursing through the body is that often times it will make the situation appear to slow down in the mind. Many martial arts accept this and have several different names for it. The slow-down makes the cycle easier to analyze.


You see the attack coming. You see a fist becoming larger in your vision. You see a leg swinging though the air with the foot aimed at your solar plexus. You see a dark figure emerge from the shadows and move rapidly toward you. An arm comes from behind you and wraps around your neck. You understand that “something” is happening.


You realize that it is an attack. Your brain processes that the foot speeding toward you is a kick or that the shadow figure that is moving toward you is an attack, that the arm wrapped around your neck is someone grabbing you. If the brain did not start pumping adrenaline during the perception stage of the cycle it certainly will now.


After the brain processes and understands there is a very real danger it will, as our human brains do, attempt to rationalize and decide what action to take. “Should I block?” “Should I attempt an arm lock?” “Should I run?” “Should I dodge the kick?”


The name pretty much sums it up. After you have made the decision on what to do you will respond.

That is the general process in which your brain will deal with an attack. Although it is natural there are a couple of flaws in it. Flaws? You may ask. Yes, there are. To begin with you must realize something; your attacker has gone through fairly the exact same cycle in carrying out the attack on you. He has seen you as being or having something he wants (Perceived). He has saw an opportunity to take that which he wants (Processed). He has made the choice to act upon it (Decided). He has begun his attack on you (Responded). Understanding this you must realize that your attacker’s #4 stage of the cycle is your #1 stage of the cycle. He attacks you, you perceive the attack. After this you carry through with the cycle until you get to your #4 (Response) which, in turn, re-sets him to the beginning of his cycle. In other words you respond by running. Your attacker Perceives your flight and he begins the cycle completely over again only in another fashion in his mind.

Another flaw in the cycle is your, as the defender, reaction time. By starting at the first stage of the cycle and working your way through it you actually waste several critical seconds. You can train yourself to speed up the cycle by training yourself to do away with parts of it that take up precious time and slow you down. Obviously Stage 2 and Stage 3 are the two stages that not only need to be eliminated but actually can be. It takes some time but you can train yourself to see the threat and immediately respond to it. You see the fist ball up and the attacker’s solar plexus automatically is struck and he cannot breath. This can be accomplished by what I call Reaction Training. It takes a while and it takes a bit of practice but it can be achieved One draw- back to it is that you have to ALWAYS be aware of your surroundings and what is going on due to the fact that people have this strange tendency to horse play. Control is essential and it will come with practice. An example. I was once “standing mainline” at work. In other words, I was supervising approximately 400 inmates eating lunch. This is one of the most dangerous parts of the day. All of the different gangs and races are in one place in mass numbers. My Lieutenant was a great lady. She was really good to the officers and would always offer help if we needed it. Her one downfall: she loved to horse play. On this particular day she walked up behind me and knocked my cap off. I completely skipped stages 2 and 3 and out of reflex turned to attack. My backfist stopped about an inch from her face. She never did that again. The point is to train yourself to react instantly.

  1. January 18, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    alot like…S,T,A,R,
    this is what we are taught in the academy
    “correctional officers training”

  2. January 18, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    You know what is terrible, Zen? The Feds don’t give you a set course or set cycle on it. They lump everything together. Our self defense course is once a year in a four hour block. about 2 hours of that is eaten up by Rapid Rotation Baton which is only relevant at one institution.

    • January 18, 2012 at 12:39 pm

      true… as I stated before, I had my studio and I offered training to local law enforcement which amazed me how they do not teach any reliable sources of self defense. Like you said they get yearly in-service training as we do (correctional officers) and they do not allow us to interact with one another for fear of injuries and that may cause lawsuits and involve insurance rate hikes. It is a paradox which forces officers to train outside the service they represent. Which is a good thing, if they will do this, a lot have expressed they do not need training in self-defense because they Carry a weapon. I feel the weapon is just an extension of the person. a catch 22

      bows humble (~_~)

  3. January 18, 2012 at 5:37 pm

    Everyone on the planet should get this training. Particularly me. Today some guy was outside taking pictures of the signage and then of the building when I was looking out at him at work. I work in a house and I think I skipped 2 & 3 in the sense where I was up, out of my chair and going outside motioning for him to “come here” … He dove in the passenger side of the vehicle he was in and I wrote down the plate number and ran it.

    Now. Can we all say how “DUMB” we think that was of me? I think that was way too reactionary and to me, if an altercation took place, that probably wouldn’t have gone well. But, we did get the guys plate, ran it and I got a name, at least of the driver.

    Okay, 🙂 so this wasn’t an attack. However, I think we need to know self defense, you don’t know whose there and who is around you at any given moment or what they’re capable of. Love this post.

  4. January 19, 2012 at 5:23 am

    Thank you mysterycoach. I think what you did was a very good example of what I was saying.

    • January 28, 2012 at 3:29 am

      I’m sorry, I didn’t see your response until today. I read your post over again and realized I didn’t skip 2 & 3 at all. Not even a little bit. I’ve never been in this particular situation before, all I knew was that the person’s actions were questionable and I didn’t like it.

      When I took some martial arts classes with my daughter, I never wanted to spar… that could be a problem, well, that is a problem. When money permits and maybe there are some less expensive classes, I would like to go again.

      • January 29, 2012 at 8:57 am

        Hi Mystery. I must apologize to you as well. You know the thing is in your case, steps didn’t matter. You did “something”. That’s what is important.

      • January 29, 2012 at 9:26 am

        I don’t believe an apology is in order here 🙂 thank you though. I think though, the approximate 20 second window there where he turned and looked at me like “what are you going to do” that set me off and out the door wasn’t quite the wisest move on my part. I mean, he ran off, sure…

        I thought about afterwards, when all that adrenaline was coursing through my system and I was shaking calling the guy to run his plate number, how that may not have been the smartest thing on my part to do. Meaning, if he’d turned and confronted me … what was I going to do? Something sure… but would it have been enough.

        I mean, for me, I snapped… I have MUCH more control when my daughter is around because I don’t want her following me or anything like that and these instances are rare but … isn’t it a shame that if someone needs help, they have to yell “fire” … instead? That’s messed up… truly.

        Yah. I felt seriously compelled to go out there and do “something”, this much is true.

  5. Drew
    January 26, 2012 at 1:25 am

    This reminds me a lot of John Boyd’s OODA loop which is considered the grandfather of measurable combat psychology. It was developed to teach pilots engaged in dogfighting which contains the spatial environment of a dynamic 3rd dimension since you would be in the air.

    The goal is to interrupt your opponents cycle as quickly and as often as possible, much like you describe here.

    Good stuff Mr. White

  6. January 26, 2012 at 6:55 am

    I would agree with you, Sensei. As I remember, the man I learned it from mentioned Boyd’s name in his writings. If that is the case then it, in my tranlation or interpretation of it would indeed be the grandchild of Mr. Boyd.

    Thank you for the comment, Sir and thank you for reading!

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