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Scale of Injury

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Following up on last week's discussion of adversarial attraction and the “Predator's Optic”, let's talk Scale of Injury.

In the event of a physical attack it is imperative to keep your bodily injuries, and that of those with you, to a minimum. As with any physical altercation, injury plays a significant factor. To minimize personal injury it’s important to understand what you’re up against.

In any violent physical altercation, there exists the potential for five levels of injury. This is referred to as the Scale of Injury. The lowest end of the scale is no injury, which is of course the most desirable outcome in any scrape. At the extreme opposite end of the spectrum is death.

The next level up from no injury is a minor injury such as bruises, scratches, minor cuts, or abrasions; these are uncomfortable and inconvenient but still better than the next level up on the scale, which is a recoverable injury such as a broken leg, broken arm, broken nose, and the like. Up one more rung on the scale is a permanent injury which would include such horrific results as blindness, paralysis, or maiming for life. The last and final step in the Scale of Injury is a fatal injury—death—your worst case scenario.

Scale of Injury 2

Your goal in managing any physical altercation is to keep your injuries as low on the scale as possible – preferably at the lowest. Anything greater on the Scale of Injury than a minor injury makes you combat ineffective and a detriment to anyone with you.

The amount of physical distance between yourself and an adversary is a critical factor impacting your Scale of Injury. A guy in New York City with a shovel in his hand trying to smack you in the face with it will have a heck of a time if you’re located in Los Angeles. The distance is too great and there’s no way he could physically reach you.

Now put that same guy with his shovel, swinging at you with both hands, right across the street from you and, although it may take him a step or two he still can’t reach you.

Now bring him and his shovel to the distance where you could hold a normal conversation. It is at this conversational distance—let’s call this “contact distance”, where you could potentially incur injury, as all he needs to do is reach out with that shovel and smash you.

In fact, if he takes one step closer to you and takes away even more distance, instead of scraping your hand he’s now close enough to break your elbow—a recoverable injury which is the next rung up on the Scale of Injury. If he steps even closer and smashes it full force against the side of your head just above your ear, this could raise your Scale of Injury to fatal. Although a somewhat graphic example, it clearly illustrates the direct and immediate relationship between distance and injury or the Distance-Injury Relationship – the closer the physical threat, the greater your potential for incurring physical injury.

Aside from a firearm, which can reach out and hit you from well over a thousand yards with accuracy—depending the operator and the weapon system, any other non-ballistic weapon requires close-distance contact to be effective in raising your Scale of Injury.

Referencing any non-ballistic weapon, the relationship between distance and Scale of Injury is similar to the relationship between distance and time to react. The less the space between you and the threat, the less time you have to respond; conversely the greater the space, the greater the amount of response time.

To further illustrate this principle, consider a baseball player at center field who observes that the batter has hit the ball. He watches the ball’s trajectory from the point of impact up and over the field toward his location. Because of this greater amount of space he has plenty of time to react and may even need to wait patiently for the ball to come down before catching it in his glove.

big pitch

The very next play, however, the pitcher may have only a split second to duck out of the way of a ball the batter has drilled straight at him.

Demonstrating the relationship between space and time, because the ball traveled over a great distance, the outfielder had plenty of time to react to the ball and catch it—whereas the pitcher, due to the tremendous speed of the incoming projectile over such a short distance, had very little time to react.

The more space you have, the more time you have to react; the less space available the less time you have to react. This is known as the Reactionary Gap.

The instant an adversary is positioned at a distance where they can make physical contact with your body—Contact Distance—is the same instant that your potential for injury increases. Given the Reactionary Gap, his new position has significantly decreased your reactionary time and placed you at a tactical disadvantage.

The split second someone moves physically closer to you, even if to engage in casual conversation, they have made three tactical changes in the playing field of which you should take note:

  1. He closed the Reactionary Gap
  2. He positioned himself at Contact Distance
  3. He increased the potential for raising your Scale of Injury

As usual I’m not preaching paranoia here, but if you get the vibe that this may soon turn into a physical altercation, it’s far better to be prepared and remain in control, or at least situationally aware, of your distance, reaction time, and Scale of Injury.

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