Bigger Picture

Originally written on Oct 2018. Updated Nov 2023.

Our lives are all about perception. The problems thrown at us can be perceived as unsolvable, or as an opportunity to change a thing for the better. What one person sees as reality may be completely different from what another person in the same situation may see. It all depends on how we perceive the world, our own experiences, and our own (usually self-made) limitations.

If we take a step back and pay attention to the details, looking at the bigger picture, we can learn much more about the situation, and what would be the best way to react. When we are able to see the big picture and realize what is actually going on, we can calmly make better decisions and manipulate the effects. Our thoughts and how we react to a situation will change and adapt to better suit the problem at hand, factoring in all the details.

There is always something else that you don’t see. There are always details that need to be collected and pieced together in order to make sense of the situation. The sooner we realize this, the sooner we can begin successfully attacking the problem. The solution is in the problem, but we need to see the whole picture to be able to find that.

It’s how you approach a situation that will dictate the outcome. Never neglect looking at the whole picture. Do not make a decision until you have all the facts and have looked at all the possible moves an opponent can make. Identify one or two things that will give you the advantage. Make it a habit to stack the advantages and make chaos work for you.

The Case For This

Standing in the middle of the circle, I felt the eyes of the 20 guys surrounding me. By now, this had become a common scene in the mornings and evenings during the hand-to-hand combat part of our training. 20 guys around one of us, and then the instructor would say “go!” and they would all descend on the person in the center of the circle, punching and kicking.

The exercise was designed to get the person used to violence. It would provide us with a way to apply controlled violence, and get used to being punched. Stress inoculation to violence was key to our jobs, and the earlier you learned to both tame and master it, the easier the rest of the course, and your job, would be.

There was no way to win the game. The person in the middle was always beaten. There were too many people to take care of, to defend against, to be aware of. Too many.

I had been there, in the center of that circle three times already, and I was not looking forward to what was coming. Everyone was on top of me in no time. I blocked some punches and kicks, delivered some of mine to people in front of me, but people came from the back, and from all sides. I found myself on the floor, protecting my head with my arms, unable to do anything but take it.

When it was done, the instructor came, checked me out, and proceeded to continue with the day’s lesson. Today was close quarter hand-to-hand combat, what to do if you were inside a room and couldn’t use your primary or secondary weapon. After all that beating, it was hard to focus, but I pushed through.

The following morning, another guy in the unit took the center of the circle. It was carnage again. I needed to do something, I didn’t want to get beaten up again.

One evening, as I was walking to the showers after a particularly hard day, I ran into one of the more senior Sergeants in the unit. He was assigned as one of the instructors for the second phase of the training. We chatted for a few minutes. I expressed my frustration with trying to find a solution so I wouldn’t get beaten up. He smiled. He said: you are approaching this wrong. You know this is designed to teach you how to endure being punched, however, this doesn’t mean you can’t take any advantages you find and stack them in your favor... Look at the whole picture.

Those words stayed in my head as I was showering, and, as it’s often the case during showers, a solution began to form in my head.

A few days later, it was my turn to be back in the middle of the circle. I looked at all the guys, I knew them well, and I knew who among them was the biggest threat. My strategy was simple, I needed to identify the guys that were the biggest possible threat and move straight toward one of them. I kept on assessing everyone, looking at their hands and subtle movements. I focused on the body position, stance, and expression in their eyes. There... There was one guy... He was ready to jump... Good, that was my target.

When the “go!” came, I ran to that guy, punching him in the stomach as I approached. As he doubled down, mostly in surprise, I pushed him out of the way and continued to move. The rest of the guys began to run after me. I found a corner and turned around. Now no one could come from behind me or from the sides. They needed to attack me from the front. I gained some control! The first few guys were easy, then it became harder as more and more people began to descend on me. As it was expected, I soon was on the floor, protecting my head. But I had done it, for a few seconds, I had the upper hand, the way out. It was there that I realized that there is always a way out, and to find it, you needed to look at the bigger picture, look at the whole situation, and stack the advantages.

From the floor, once it was done, I caught a glimpse of the Sergeant, on the side, smiling.

© 2023 Modern Adversary