Situational Timing vs. Technique Timing

They say timing is everything and I have to agree: Timing of what you do is important, but timing of when you do something is even MORE important. Techniques are more tangible and much easier to practice than situational timing so many people simply forget about its importance. This not only happens in martial arts and tactical training but also in everything in life, such as sales, management, teaching, business, parenting, dodging cars and capturing dogs.

Take sales for instance. There is good sales technique. It might look something like this:

The approach
The Introduction
Building Rapport
Ask Questions
The pitch
Overcoming Objections
The close

However good your sales technique is, your timing is even more important:

It's easier to sell dessert AFTER dinner. 

It's easier to sell gasoline to cars with empty gas tanks.

It's easier selling mortgages to couples who are LOOKING to buy a house, rather than AFTER they've already bought one.

Now if you have someone who is really good at their sales technique, but their timing sucks, the result is usually no sale. But it is easier to teach sales techniques than it is teaching timing, which is why most training focus on that. Not to mention if you know WHEN to sell you can get by with little to no technique. We saw this in the mortgage industry during the 1990's and 2000's leading up to the big economic crash in 2008. Anyone who could walk and chew gum could sell mortgages, because the timing was right.

I think you get the idea.

During a recent Krav Maga training session Rob Ford told me a great story. 

A dog gets loose and runs into a warehouse where there are three men working; two younger guys and an older gentleman. The young men want to help get the dog, so they very enthusiastically try every technique they know to get the dog to come to them, once that approach doesn't work they begin chasing it, trying to corner it, or flank it. The dog thinks this is a very fun game and continues to run around just out of reach of the two men. The young guys have a lot of energy, so they start to chase the dog more in earnest. They continue to try harder and run faster to get their techniques to work. However no matter how hard or fast they are, the dog still gets away. 

After the young men tire themselves out trying to catch the exuberant dog, the old man asks if he could give it a shot. The two young men chuckling agree, thinking that there is no way this old guy is going to be able to move fast enough to catch this dog. 

The old man reaches in his lunch box, takes out his ham sandwich his wife packed for him, takes the meat out and waves it around so the dog can see and smell it. The dog doing what dogs do best, eat, comes right to the old man, who gives the meat to him as he grabs its collar. 

That story has many lessons in it, but lets just focus on a few: A few posts ago I wrote an article called: Keeping It Playful & Light I talk about working smarter not harder. This story is a good example of that as well as situational timing.

This story also shows the difference between technique timing and, in this case controlling the situational engagement. The old man changed the engagement and thus controlled the situational timing. The young guys were trying to catch the timing of the dog, the old man inspired the dog to match HIS timing.

I heard a great quote from Dr. George Thompson creator of Verbal Judo: If they have something to gain or lose you have something to use. In this case, dogs are always inspired by food, thus the old man had something to use when it came to changing the situation. 

Ok, I know you are dieing to know about dodging cars, so here it is:

When is it easier to avoid getting hit by a car coming toward you in reverse?

1) When it is already coming toward you.

2) Before it is moving toward you.

Hopefully you said before it is moving toward you...

Soooooooooo, how can you tell? What are the warning signs?

Easy, in order for the vehicle to move toward you typically a few things have to be present so if we look for some signs we'll be ahead of the curve to situational timing:

1) Someone in the vehicle (usually...)
2) It has a reason to back up (usually...)
3) When the vehicle shift into reverse the transmission makes a distinct sound.
4) The reverse lights come on.
5) The vehicle typically rocks for a second in a very particular way before the driver begins to roll backward.

If you know what to look for you can (usually) easily avoid getting hit, or you can practice your dodging skills trying to move faster than the retreating car, or maybe do some body toughing exercises preparing you for the impact. Unfortunately most martial arts and tactical training practice "car dodging and conditioning" or technique timing skills rather than situational timing skills. Although much can be trained on this, the situational timing skills are difficult to explain well and typically come from hard earned experience.

Things typically don't happen in isolation, without warning. But if you know what to look for - the Situational Timing - you are much better off and way ahead of the game.

One example of this in a tactical situation would be what we call PCI's or Pre-Contact Indicators. PCI's are behaviors that preempt physically violent action. So if you are dealing with someone and the situation is tense here is a list of some things that might tip you off that they are going to get physically violent.

  • Thousand mile stare.
  • Tensing muscles - fists, arms, jaw, neck, pecks, etc.
  • Peacock posturing.
  • Change in voice level, pitch or speed (low to high, high to low)
  • Chambering to strike.
  • Shifting stance to strike.
  • Turn away (then back around).
  • Change in demeanor from overly nice to overly aggressive or the opposite.
  • Veins "popping out" on neck, face, head, etc.
  • Getting "In your face."
  • There are many more, but you get the idea.

PCI's along with your spacial proximity (how close you are from them and in what position you are in) can make all the difference between getting hit or not during a confrontation.

Here's another tactical situation:

When we train Krav Maga, we work on a fair amount of pistol disarms. That said, if you HAD to physically intercept the pistol (Meaning there was no other solution. You've tried walking away, talking your way out of it, and giving up property, but you felt the threat was still going to shoot you and your only chance for survival was to attempt to physically disarm the person). When do you think would be the best time to make the attempt to physically engage with the threat?

1) When he was looking right at you waiting for you to move so he could blow you away.

2) When he was distracted, disoriented, in transition, moving you or in some other way preoccupied with something other than you for a split second.

I hope you said #2.

Situational timing is no excuse for your tactics, techniques and technique timing to suck. Keep training on those as well so you can perform as best as you can when the time is right. Just keep in mind that it isn't as much about technique as people would like you to believe.

Last analogy:

Question: Who will win in a race between a Ferrari and an old beat up pick-up truck?

Answer: The one who decides WHERE the race will be held (controlling the situational engagement).

Most people choose the Ferrari because it is overtly faster, however it is only faster under certain conditions. If the driver of the truck gets the Ferrari to race in sand dunes, her truck has the advantage.

It's not as much about the vehicle as the conditions of the race. If you learn how to control the situation better you can succeed more often and with much greater ease.

We have a maxim at our academy:

Train your body like a SOLDIER.
Your brain like a GENERAL.
And your mouth like a Diplomat.

As always...

Keep going,


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