Reactionary Gap – an age old military tactic

Reactionary Gap (RG) is an age old military tactic to keep the enemy at a distance so you can maneuver resources to take care of the potential threat.  Today on the street we have adopted this useful tactic to deal with ‘passive aggressive threats’ from bad guys.  Basically you know the type of belligerent talker who tries to get into your space using intimidation, threats and positioning.  Trust me, as a cop I got lots of practice using this tactic against passive aggressive types and assaultive individuals who thought nothing of setting a cop up for an attack.


You met these kinds of kids on the school ground growing up and you called them bullies.  As an adult you’ve probably met them as some street people panhandling.  Then there are the more violent orientated types who use intimidation as the prelude to an assault by taunting you first.  These taunting rituals are used by them to build up courage to attack and/or test your resolve in your defense before attacking.  If there is more than one it can have a more serious assaultive setup action building up to an all out attack.


Basically your RG is going to use the distance from yourself to the bad guy.  This distance we call the RG.  The RG tactical concept works, provided you’re mentally ready, the gap gives you time to react to the physical attack by getting off centre-line.  Of course you need to train yourself to recognize the ‘tells’ being giving off both verbally and physically by a belligerent subject.  To react requires enough time to do so (in this case distance).  Plus this type of situational reacting takes more skill than taking action yourself or pre-empting the attack and nullifying the assailant.   This is why against a ‘talker’ making your tactical assessment is always so important to the force option you will choice.


If you’ve trained with me you’ve heard me preach about staying rational in the face of a potential situation vs. the emotional high-jacking that is most people’s mental reaction in these circumstances.  The bag guys who use this tactic of intimidation are very good at drawing you into their ‘hostility loop’ with the aim of creating panic in you and therefore a lack of defensive reactions to the hostile actions their putting off.  So staying centred & focused becomes critical to how you’ll pull training together to deal with the threat.  Remember your brain is the first defensive mechanism you need to call upon because it must make the right rational ‘combat appreciation’ and select the correct tactic for this situation.  So breathe and stay calm and rational.  Don’t enter the hostility loop and get READY to call into action all your self defence skill and knowledge to the forefront because you may need it rather quickly.


Setting your reactionary gap; the ideal distance is your arms reach plus a few inches.  Keep in mind the environment will affect this distance so be prepared to adapt and improvise distance ‘something I call proximics’.  Use tactical communications and take in all the tactical information you can as you make your assessment; especially, is he armed or possible weapons in reach (beer glass in hand), is he alone or has he backup (no one is brave by themselves these days).  What is your potential weapon, do you have an escape route?  Remember you don’t get paid to fight.  Ask this person, “Is there anything you can say or do to get them to leave you alone?” command language it.


In a perfect world you control the reactionary gap using these methods;

1.     Your presence (this has probably failed if they are in your face)

2.     Distance (proximics)

3.     Verbally (stop don’t come any closer)

4.     Physical force (whip lash, battering ram…attack)


Experience has taught me you cannot control the environment incidents occur in but you can learn to control ‘your mindfulness’ in that environment.  That’s why I offer such courses like 4-day CORE course to give you the emotional edge so you can develop the assertive confidence to use tactics like reactionary gap.  This gives you a huge advantage when others might fall victim to the ‘talker’ and their belligerent tactics.


We’ll see you on CORE…SOON!