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Reaction time in combat

reaction timeReaction time in bare, armed hand combat, whether it’s combat sports or self-defense, is important, albeit with different specificities.

In a sports fight the reaction time has dynamics while the sudden attack in the urban context, in the street fight has another that is always linked to time but with specificities.

The overall reaction time to an assault is usually approximately one second.

So the space traveled in the reaction time is that traveled from the moment of perception of a situation of danger to that of the beginning of the reaction.

The length of time your brain perceives an input signal at the time the muscles begin to perform the required action is called reaction time but here we are still at the beginning because an input must match a correct response output.

How to measure reaction time:

Today there are many tools for detecting reaction times but one of the first problems that arose was how to detect them.

The survey is used both for statistical reasons but also to be able to improve.

Usually the reaction time is very much used with cutting and firearms to perform extraction and respectively strike or fire.

The issue of extraction and extraction times is very important in armed defense and is one of the jobs that you should not neglect.

reaction time

Shot Timer

I want to start the system among the most used today.

Shot timers are used for both cutting weapons and firearms.

The stimulus is the sound, as soon as you hear the sound you have to pull out the weapon and hit a metal object that emits a sound and he detects the time.

Clearly there are so many settings to measure multiple action dynamics.

Below are a couple of examples of a level!

This is my preferred method to detect times even on metal and knife shape to calculate extraction times.

Reaction time in combat Fighting Tips - Street Fight Mentality & Fight SportReaction time in combat Fighting Tips - Street Fight Mentality & Fight Sport

Empirical measurement of reaction time

If you don’t have tools to measure reaction time, there’s an empirical way to see if you’re quick enough to pull out a knife or weapon and hit an object by striking a human silhouette in the case of the knife in front of you or in the case of a firearm 6 meters away.

The proof you need to do is as follows:

You have to position yourself with your arm pulling out the weapon outstretched forward and a coin resting on the back of your hand;

When he decided to shoot or strike, he turned his hand, thus dropping the coin, and with the same hand pull out the knife or the gun;

The aim is to extract and hit the target with the knife or pull out the weapon to shoot and hit the silhouette before the coin touches the ground.

Why do you use a coin?

Calculating that the hand holding the coin is at about a little over a meter and a half in height, the time for the operation was about 40 cents of a second.

In this case, however, there is a limit that you always decide when to pull out the weapon and hit or shoot, lack the actual reaction time and for this you have to get help from a training partner who puts you next to you.

Le Light Training

More suitable for a bare hand response job but an interesting job.

It is a system usually consisting of 8 discs with LED lights and a central controller with wireless technology with the ability to create “movement models” stimulating the reaction and perception of the athlete with visual stimuli.

The system is simple in use and allows to be adapted and configured for any sport, for the training of the coordination “hand-eye”, “foot-eye”, athletic conditioning and/or controlled rehabilitation of injuries, all integrated into a single system.

It is usually connected to a time-tracking application allowing you to improve the speed of response to a stimulus.

You can place them wherever you want both on the ground and vertically.

There are various brands available!

Now consider that there are also jobs you can do without such tools to improve speed.

Reaction time is influenced by several main factors:

  • The type of stimulus (acoustic, tactile, visual),
  • the number and mass of muscles to move,
  • from their distance from the brain,
  • genetic characteristics of the subject,
  • specific training of the reaction gesture.


The reaction time has different specificities when it comes to reaction to aggression:

  • bare hand
  • with cutting weapons
  • with firearms

A person’s reaction time can be improved and for certain specific reactions to a stimulus time can be drastically reduced through training and verification tools you can build instinctive reactions that do not require thought intervention.

To compare it to something you know, try to think of your eyelids and the lightning-fast eyelid reaction to a gesture directed at the eye.

The same response must be built but to a gesture that eliminates thought.

So you have to change the INPUT — > THOUGHT — > OUTPUT reaction to INPUT — > OUTPUT

The reaction time is typically measured relative to the hand, minimizing the required movement (press a button that detects).

From tests done on a number of people you can see that a normal person has minimum reaction times around 20 cents of a second but there are also people who without training manage to do the same thing in 10 cents and others who can not get below 30 cents.

So to summarize:

  • Normal — > 0.2 seconds
  • Fast — > 0.1 seconds
  • Slow — > 0.3 seconds

The study of reaction time is especially interesting for what are the instinctive reactions with bare hand and with both cutting and furious weapons.

Instinctive shooting is a highly sought-after theme to address modern defensive issues and needs.


Let’s see how to measure the reaction time under the three different conditions:


The ability to extract the weapon and fire in quick themes is critical in the field of security.

This type of action is a fundamental that is cultivated by many enthusiasts and has always established in the past the times of extraction of the weapon and fire perhaps also for the memory of the rapid gunslingers of the far west but that remains even today in a fundamental modern key and that is why you use The Shot Timer.

Even before these modern instruments, however, methods were used to measure whether a shooter was fast enough to extract the weapon from the holster and fire a human silhouette six metres away.

Today, there is clearly continuous research on fast-mining holsters.

In the field of short-weapon shooting it is through tests established that the minimum time it takes a normal person to perceive the danger (input), decide to extract the weapon (thought), be able to extract it and shoot (action) is if everything is fine of a second and a half, of which about 30 cents spent to begin the reaction.

Also take into account the stress and training to perform quick draws that are dynamic should be trained.

The study of reaction time is therefore useful for calculating the defense possibilities that you have in front of an attacker.

The security officer has analyzed the specific situations to understand what is the minimum distance to be positioned by the armed subject to have time to react effectively in the face of a possible assault by a person armed with a knife or broken bottle, other, so not a subject with firearms to avoid being hit.

How did this measure come to a conclusion?

Through the science that has now perfectly established what are the reaction times required to perform certain operations, very different times from subject to subject and variables in relation to the stimulus, acoustic or visual, to which you have to react.

This combined with physical tests filmed and analyzed allowed to arrive at conclusions and standards that consider the average of the subjects,

It has been defined as a standard measure, now “accepted”, is that this safe distance and as much as 9 meters although some say 7 meters .

The minimum distance is 9 meters to be able to extract the weapon and fire on an attacker who has the knife in his hand and who suddenly sprints towards you running at full speed.

This has important consequences for the behaviour of a person armed with a knife.

The approach time from 9 meters

An attacker 9 metres away who sprints towards you to attack you makes 4.5 m/s which is about 15 km/h, equal to 20 seconds on the 100 meters, manages to get into physical contact with you in less than 1.5 seconds and you in this time you have to be able to extract the weapon and shoot at the target.

So when you point the gun at an attacker convinced to keep it at bay your attacker has an advantage that while you’re keeping it at bay and then you’re not acting but you’re ready to react, he just has to act, it’s him who gives the start, which generates the input.

If it is skilled it can make you in time to extract a cutting weapon within your reaction time and if it is too close under 9 meters can easily grab you or move your arm or weapon in extraction, before you managed to react.

It is essential that those who carry a weapon and foresee a situation of possible aggression, as in the case of an intervention call, must already begin to extract the weapon (with shot in the barrel and without safety) to be even more ready to act (extraction of the weapon and predisposition to fire) when the opponent and still at a certain distance.

Because the distance of 9 meters allows you just in time to pull out the weapon and fire and seen the stress and that the target must also be hit is not so obvious and simple.

Extraction against a person with a firearm

The question of time of extraction against a person armed with a gun is also a problem to be analyzed.

Now to measure the extraction and fire time you use coma you saw before the shot timers or if not available the use of the coin that we saw before but that has limitations.

Time must stay below 40 cents a second

The type of weapon and holster also affects the timing.

Fast shooters pull out the weapon and hit the target at three meters in 25 cents of a second but beware that they often have modified holsters and adapted weapons, you have to think of a standard weapon and a standard or fast-extraction holster but still standard.

With such low speed, a shooter who has this speed of extraction and fire in front of a person who points the gun at him from a short distance, is able to pull out his gun and shoot, before the other has time to pull the trigger.

It has been calculated that a third of the time is taken to bring the hand to the weapon, a third to extract the weapon and a third for the actual shot.



Cutting weapons

One of the problems you’ve always faced is how long it takes to extract the weapon and fire when an attacker armed with a cutting weapon charges you before you reach a target.

I want to extend this to the extraction of your cutting weapon because surely seeing a cutting weapon come out can change your mind in your attacker’s strategy.

However, it is necessary to extend the concept by distinguishing it in two areas:

  • Distance of intervention
  • Distance of aggression

The distance of intervention is the minimum distance that security workers must have if they are dealing with a person armed with a knife.

In this case, the distance of intervention must ensure in case of sudden aggression by the subject sufficient time to extract the weapon and stop the aggressor.

It is not so obvious because you also have to hit the target.

It can still be useful even for a civilian to know this distance if he sees a subject armed with a knife but without having a weapon clearly the distance must be used to escape and it is not enough 9 meters.

So the first thing if you see a person armed with a knife is to get away immediately.

The distance of aggression, on the other hand, is a very complicated distance.

This is a typical distance of the assaults, typical of those who deal with security in the premises but clearly also of the police.

It is full of news stories of attacks on security workers and law enforcement agencies started from this distance and as a result it is one of the training conditions that must be developed and studied.

It is a short distance about 1.2 – 1.5 meters so really very close and that has different complications such as the fact that usually the knife is hidden to the last.

Now the dynamics of action are also different:

  • In the first case it’s a subject who runs like a madman at full speed armed with a knife
  • In the second case it is a subject who pulls out the weapon and hits you or grabs you with the free hand and hits you.

So they are two different issues that have different inherent difficulties whether you are bare-handed (unarmed) or have weapons with you by cutting or firing.

An important detail, the firing of shots after the first takes place in lightning time, this to say that where the aim can betray the volume of fire can help you catch an attacker running against you.

Reaction time in combat Fighting Tips - Street Fight Mentality & Fight Sport

Hands naked

My advice is to use the light timer that allows you to measure the time between the light stimulus and the touch that turns it off.

With this tool you can do dozens of exercises and it is possible if you have the version with the 8 lights simulate really many conditions.

A great more empirical exercise is the stimulus to touch because it simulates the condition of parade and immediate response, and it is a fundamental work for a fighter, because the way you respond is fundamental.

For bare hands there are several exercises to improve responses and themes of reactions but we dedicate a specific post.

Reaction time in combat Fighting Tips - Street Fight Mentality & Fight Sport


The analysis of reaction times is essential if you study the typical situations of personal defense to understand within distances and dynamics how times move and then build proper prevention and response.

The aim is to train a correct response within times to not be hit.

If you want to measure reaction times with your friends, you can use the ruler method.

The method is to take a ruler 50 cm long and hold it suspended for the end in front of the person to be measured;

The person to be measured puts his fingers exactly below the beginning of the ruler’s graduation and then enlarges them so as not to be in contact with the ruler.

Reaction time in combat Fighting Tips - Street Fight Mentality & Fight Sport
From a text by Zanichelli Publisher

It starts and those who hold the ruler wait and let a few seconds pass (about 3 to 10) and then drop the ruler and the other grabs it as quickly as possible.

This allows you to measure how many centimeters the ruler has fallen before being grasped and through a formula it detects the elapsed time.

The formula says that time is equal to the square root of the fall divided by the force of gravity, but can be safely approximated by multiplying the fall in cm by 20 and then extracting the square root

For a fall of 50 cm the time will be given by the square root of 1000 plus 31 hundredths of a second.

I’m going to give you a table to make quick surveys without calculating.

Reaction time in combat Fighting Tips - Street Fight Mentality & Fight Sport

Or there are machines used to detect reaction times.

Reaction time in combat Fighting Tips - Street Fight Mentality & Fight Sport

Take a test with your training partners!

Stay Tuned!

Street Fight Mentality

Con una passione per la difesa personale e gli sport da combattimento, mi distinguo come praticante e fervente cultore e ricercatore sulle metodologie di allenamento e strategie di combattimento. La mia esperienza abbraccia un vasto panorama di discipline: dal dinamismo del Boxing alla precisione del Muay Thai, dalla tecnica del Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu all'energia del Grappling, dal Combat Submission Wrestling (CSW) all'intensità del Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). Non solo insegno, ma vivo la filosofia di queste arti, affinando costantemente metodi e programmi di allenamento che trascendono il convenzionale. La mia essenza si riflette nell'autodifesa: Filipino Martial Arts (FMA), Dirty Boxing, Silat, l'efficacia del Jeet Kune Do & Kali, l'arte della scherma con coltelli e bastoni, e la tattica delle armi da fuoco. Incarno la filosofia "Street Fight Mentality", un approccio senza fronzoli, diretto e strategico, unito a un "State Of Love And Trust" che bilancia l'intensità con la serenità. Oltre al tatami, la mia curiosità e competenza si spingono verso orizzonti diversi: un blogger professionista con la penna sempre pronta, un bassista dal groove inconfondibile e un artigiano del coltello, dove ogni lama è un racconto di tradizione e innovazione. Questa sinfonia di abilità non solo definisce la mia identità professionale, ma dipinge il ritratto di un individuo che nella diversità trova la sua unica e inconfondibile voce e visione. Street Fight Mentality & Fight Sport! Andrea


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