In less time than it will take you to read this article you could have gone from living a normal life to being the victim of a crime and (hopefully) surviving the aftermath.
There are an infinite number of situations where you might have to respond to an act (or the threat of) violence and even in the best of circumstances, the bad guy will have the tactical advantage.
Ideally, we will become aware of a potential threat before the threat becomes reality. In order to accomplish this we must be aware of what is going on around us.
We do this by observing what is happening around us. Once we observe the potential threat, we orient our attention towards it. We gather as much information as we can about the threat and possible ways to mitigate it.
Once we have this information, we then decide what action to take and then finally we act upon our decision.
This process is called an OODA loop.
We already do this on a daily basis. Let's say we're driving along and we see traffic slowing ahead so we focus our attention on the traffic and not our phone, decide to slow down rather than change lanes and then we slow down.
So this process is nothing new, we're just using it to highlight how the self defense timeline progresses and evolves.
In our example, you walk out of a store and observe someone to your left. You decide to turn right in order to mitigate the risk of getting too close. That's the 1st iteration of the loop (and in an ideal situation, the only one). Now, as you're walking away, you observe the individual starting to walk in your direction! Thus begins the 2nd iteration of the OODA loop. As you observe, orient, decide and act upon what is happening, the other person is altering his (or her) behavior to compensate for your actions.
Even though you're acting...you are still reacting to the other person. If this progresses long enough you will eventually become the victim of a crime and you may (or may not) be able to defend yourself.
The most important part of a self defense situation is the decision to defend yourself and then the actual act of self defense. Sometimes you can defend by running back into the store. If that's not an option then you have to choose another route.
Regardless of your decision, you'll need at least one free hand!!!
If you have your child in one hand and a fresh Starbucks in the other, which one are you going to let go of?
So, the bad guy sees you drop your coffee and now his OODA loop is in motion. If he decides to press on, your next iteration says "get out the gun" and then his next iteration responds to that action.
But your act of dropping the coffee flipped the process, causing him to evaluate YOUR actions.
This back and forth process continues until one of you prevails. Often times, the unaware and/or unarmed become the stories we read about in the news.
The robbery victim, the missing person or the latest homicide of the year.
Bad things can happen very quickly which is why it's important to have the proper training in how to respond. Once you have that training, it's just as important to practice those response techniques on a regular basis.