Tool in a box – a tactical fallacy.


“Yhe good training. Another tool to add into my tool box”.


When it comes down to the conceptualism of tactical techniques, methods or skills - The tool box analogy is by far an analogy which represents a false and mostly unforgiven understanding of the relations between stress and performance. I chose the word unforgiven, because that's how it is – Unforgiven as it tends to be proven wrong just in the moment when things go out of the window and shit is splattered all over the wall.

Considering the fact that the majority of people aren't statistically going to get that far in terms of actually fighting a threat, the fundamentals and depth of understanding of this fallacy tend to simply fade away from the sight of the masses, leaving peoples certain that their imaginary box of solutions and tools for every problem or issue, will actually exist when the time comes.

But before we dive into the depths of this fallacy, let's look at the definition of the tool box.


The TB can be seen as a ”… accumulation of experiences, strategies, methods and ideas that can be drawn on to resolve issues using tried and true practices.” The toolbox is obviously only an image created in our mind rather than an actual physical toolbox, obviously. Supposedly the TB is often being sold as an “easy to carry, easy to access tool box” of solutions to any given problems within the box realm of relevance.


In order to better approach this fallacy, I took a rather simple approach. This approach consists of the following conditions which are required to conduct a decision, or the process of “choosing” a tool.

  1. Identifying the proper tool as being applicable to the problem at hand.
  2. Applying the tool.



Too much , too Less Time.

From a perspective of a violent, close distance based encounter the person in conflict is going through different levels of stress arousal and physical limitations which begins in the initial moment of a perceived stimulus. Commonly this stress is accompanied by several perceptual distortions, which are mostly visual and auditory related (Honig and Roland 1998, Klinger 2002). In addition, the environment driven effects, such as poor visibility for example or/and the complexity of such encounters and how they turn out, are very limited in nature and are commonly driven by three factors that affect greatly the ability of the person to coop with various stress levels. These factors are commonly fear, time and distance. Honig and Roland (1998) performed a solid study on the effects of combat stress upon the perception of officers.  Their study reports that of the 348 officers which survived a firefight, 90 percent had reported one or more types of perceptual distortions. The individual breakdown as to the rate of each type of distortion is as follows:


●        Experienced diminished sound - 51%

●        Experienced tunnel vision - 45%

●        Reported an increased attention to detail - 41%

●        Experienced slow motion - 41%

●        Experienced intensified sound 23%

●        Unable to remember parts of the incident - 22%

●        Felt as if time speed up - 20%


PS. – Several additional studies in the following years show an increasing consistency in the number above.

Physiological Limitations.

In 2001, an U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Beret) officer was working alongside of Dr. Morgan from the Yale Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and U.S. Army special operations psychologist Gary Hazlett, conducted a "heart rate variability research" on special forces soldiers. In this study, the soldiers went through several Force on Force CQB scenarios which were done in poorly lit environment and with standard assault gear. For the purpose of the exercise, the soldiers used paint ammunition. In addition, the soldiers were equipped with electrical shock to the upper body in order to simulate gunshot wounds from enemy fire. The idea behind the electrical shock was to generate feedback and the primary effect of a painful consequence. Although each soldier was capable to perform in a high level, the measured levels of heart rate that were reported were quite different to the “normal” and much higher than expected to such high performance capable soldiers. According to Grossman and Christensen (2008) “Soldiers that performed at the highest levels had maximum heart rates of 175 beats per minute while, some who performed at a slightly lower level averaged levels of 180 beats per minute.” Skills, requiring fine-motor abilities, were noticeably difficult for some soldiers, and in some cases couldn’t be carried out.

According to Thomson (2013), As part of the exercise, after the rooms were controlled, the Green berets were required to restrain role players that were simulating enemy combatants with "flex-cuffs" after either subduing them in hand-to-hand combat or shooting them with paint bullets in designated "kill" areas. Soldiers who had pre-threaded their flex-cuffs before the scenario took place, were able to quickly perform this task without issue while scanning the environment for other threats. Those who hadn't pre-threaded their flex-cuffs experienced a high level of difficulty in performing the skill and some were even visibly unable to perform the task at all.

With the information above, it is important to remark that essentially for the individual, combat related stress will result in being one foot beyond the optimal performance level or the ability to even perform in first place.

While there are more facts and numbers worth mentioning, we feel it is important to remark, that...

1. there is a difference in stress inoculation, the difference may varies from person to person (Donald Meichenbaum, 1979). Meichenbaum even goes a step further, insisting that "Like beauty, stress is in large part in the eye of the beholder.'"  

2. somewhat deliberate & rational thought process can still occur during low level arousal, while in high level of arousals the individual will become more “raw” and instinctive, more experiential.



With the information discussed above and with the basic understanding that most people (should) have about violence encounters in short distance, it should be agreed that being deliberate during high performance levels will be respectively not possible for most individuals at a certain point.  That means that the idea of opening, viewing and choosing a tool (as a metaphor to a cognitive process) will not take place due to inability of the individual to receive crucial environmental input due to certain perceptional distortions, physical limitations (fitness level, etc.) and environmental conditions as well as psychological changes.

In the next part, we will discuss the application of the tool, and in what conditions it will be possible, if at all.


To be continued in part 02.

1 Comment