On Combat is a fundamental volume because it goes to unravel in depth about what happens in a real combat situation.
On combat was given to me a few years ago (its first Italian edition is from 2009) by a friend and I read and studied it several times.
It is a book that I personally like to reread because it is easy to always find extremely useful ideas for the management of such a delicate and strategic aspect as the psychology of combat and to which on the blog I gave a lot of space because it is a central aspect.
This book is based on the analysis of hundreds of cases, the consultation of countless post-action reports in the military and civil spheres, the correspondence between the author and the protagonists of dozens of fights and police actions.
The book explains the physiological and psychological dynamics of the human being while in combat, or in a state of extreme emergency, analyzing the processes of physical and mental reactions that arise from the conflict of the parasympathetic system with the sympathetic one, the distortions of spatial, temporal, visual, auditory perception, the mechanisms of defense and greater capacity that the body and brain automatically activate , and above all their combined influence on the performance of the fighter and the ability, through training and knowledge of mechanisms, to dominate, guide and turn in their favor what nature has endowed the human being for survival.
5 Reasons You Need to Read Dave Grossman’s Book On Combat:
- It is a book written by a person who has lived and lives in the field and not by a theorist without concrete experience.
- It is a book written in an intense, captivating, engaging way; speaks to people’s hearts and reading it feels like you’re in training with the author.
- It shows examples of many real-life cases, practical examples, lived stories that allow you to get into the situation
- It goes to explain in a simple and scientific way what happens in people’s heads in the face of a deadly threat and how to prepare to improve their ability to react.
- Explain what to do first (training, very useful for all instructors), during (fundamental for operators and civilians who may find themselves acting in a conflict situation) and after (how to help a person who has overcome a conflict and report a post-traumatic stress situation).
The Effect of Fear
One of the first things that Grossman explains in the book is the effect of fear and the physiological consequences on the body in terms of heart rate and the consequent alterations of perceptual and motor skills.
In a first phase, up to about 145 bpm,the body prepares to fight, sacrifices fine motor skills in favor of complex ones and benefits from a reduction in visual and cognitive reaction times. Blood flows from the extremities and surface making the body ready for confrontation (red condition).
A number of psychological conditions can be identified, conventionally identified with colors:
Perceptual distortions in combat
The second part of the book is dedicated to the different perceptual distortions in combat:
- hearing exclusion,
- sonic intensification,
- tunnel vision,
- sensory exclusion of pain,
- perceived action in slow motion,
- automatic behavior,
- et cetera.
When it happens in our body, a rapid release of Adrenaline, and it is so powerful that it can alter the perception of reality.
In fact, under its effect it is possible to have perceptual and sensory distortions.
Tunnel vision: it is the restriction of the careful field that makes us appear larger and closer objects than they really are.
The eyes focus on what is happening in front, attenuating peripheral vision.
Acoustic isolation: The mind, focused on the threat, tends to exclude all other information
Dissociative psychological state : one may have the impression of observing himself outside, as if he were another person;
Feeling of autopilot: you feel transported by the action without you opposing it;
Mind speed: The temporal perception of events can be altered, as if the movements are slowing down.
And still radical alterations of memories:
- erasing memories and
- memory and event alteration.
These distortions can obviously vary from individual to individual and their combination with personality aspects will then determine their tactical ability to handle the threat, outcome and consequences of a violent confrontation or aggression.
All this is documented by scientific research and real cases exposed in a very engaging way.
How warriors are “built”
The third part of the book On Combat is dedicated to how to forge warriors, how to physically and psychologically prepare human beings to better face what can happen in battle or during an aggression.
This is an extremely useful part for all instructors and provides many interesting ideas to share during the courses.
Finally, the last part of the book on the psychology of combat is about what happens after the fight:
- post-traumatic stress and
- how to treat veterans and survivors.
It’s a fundamental book, especially if you’re interested in self-defense.
On Combat is one of the most interesting and comprehensive books on the psychology and physiology of combat that has been written.
Also by the same author is “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society” is a book written by military psychologist and U.S. Army veteran Dave Grossman.
Published in 1995, the book explores the theme of human nature and the relationship between human beings and the act of killing, focusing specifically on war and combat.
Grossman analyzes the psychological and emotional effects of killing on individuals involved in combat, pointing out that the act of taking a human life can have a significant impact on the soldier’s psyche.
The book also examines the techniques and strategies used to overcome the inhibition of killing in military training.
“On Killing” questions traditional beliefs about war and violence, bringing to light the complexity and psychological consequences that accompany killing in war contexts.
The book sparked extensive debate about the nature of killing and had a significant impact on discourses regarding military training and war policies.
It is important to note that “On Killing” is a book that explores sensitive topics and may not be suitable for all readers.
Before reading it, it is advisable to consider your personal sensitivities and look for additional sources to get a balanced perspective.