BACK UP! GET BACK! Those are a couple of examples of what you may hear or say to create space between you and a threat, real or perceived. Creating space between you and a subject is officer safety 101, but it not limited to public law enforcement. It applies to you and your self defense strategy just as well. Creating distance has numerous benefits, some of which we discuss below.
In the “industry” we call the gap we create using different tactics the “Reactionary Gap”. One of the primary reasons for this aptly named concept is to allow us time to react. Common sense, and a little bit of physics, tells us: the greater the distance of an object traveling towards us the greater the time it will take to reach us. Traveling is a prime example. If you visit your friend down the road, it take a couple minutes, to visit your relatives 300 miles away, it will take several hours.
This concept is what started the 21 foot concept in the 80’s. (Learn more about the 21′ “rule” HERE). Lt. Tueller, in a classroom setting determined that on average his students could draw and fire in the time it took another student to run 21 feet. This highlights the importance of creating space and distance.
But! And it is a big but; can you reasonably keep 21′ or more space between you and everyone you encounter. Although we may wish that was the case sometimes, no, that is just not reasonable. What is reasonable in most cases, however, is “our bubble”. Take your hands and stick them straight out to the side, like you would if you we pretending to be an airplane. The circumference you make when you turn 360 degrees is your bubble. This is you space. No one has any business being inside of that space uninvited.
What this means is: a reasonable reactionary gap is your bubble. The downside here is you do not have much time, and most certainly not time to get to a traditional tool. So, you must learn to buy time with what you have. That leaves something already in your hand, or just your hands. Keys, a purse, a cell phone, etc. can all be employed as an intermediate weapon if need be.
Another benefit of the reactionary gap is the cost. It’s free! The self defense world can get expensive; with all the gadgetry, tools, training, etc. So, when we stumble across that beautiful gem that we can learn and employ for next to nothing, there is no reason what soever we should not become proficient on the topic.
This brings us to our final concept: Using objects. Using objects to buy us time, even when distance is not available, gives us a reactionary gap. You may be just across a low fence from a threat, but that fence must be overcome before the threat is valid. In the case of a dog, that fence may give you such a reactionary gap, there is no threat.
The reactionary gap may sound like a technical new phrase, but the concept is something we employ everyday. While driving we create distance between us and the car ahead of us to allow time to brake. We put things between us and a threat: a fence, a car, a table, etc. Don’t fret the terminology, you already know and understand the reactionary gap as a concept; now you just need apply it to your self-defense strategy.
What can we learn?
It’s free, master it
Creating distance of space and/or time allows us time to react to a threat
Use objects to create time. Knock a chair over, trash can, get behind a car.
If the threat cannot physically reach you, they must have a tool that can close the gap. If they do not have such a tool, you have effectively neutralized the threat (to a point).
A substantive reactionary gap is not always possible. Develop techniques and skills to forcibly create distance.