The Thousand Yard Stare

As I sit down to write I on an overcast and drizzly day here in the  
Tyrol, I cast my mind back to a much sunnier holiday years back in  
Tenerife, not my favourite Canarian destination, I prefer Puerto  
Blanca in Lazaretto or a particular hotel in Fuerteventura, but we  
decided to sample the delights of the main island. After a few days 
we decided a family walk of a couple of miles from our out of town 
resort to the hob of Playa Las Americas was in order to see what the  
Blackpoolisation of the island looked like, we did not like it. Not  
our cup of tea on so many levels. The worst part was all the touts  
pestering you ever five yards for trips, timeshare and sundry other  
rubbish we were not interested in. Eventually we about turned and  
headed for home, passing as we had already done once a particularly  
abrasive tout who offered me his unwanted attention again although I  
had already declined. I ignored him but several yards past in a busy  
are I said to my wife 'do I look like a Muppet'? She was beaten to 
the reply by the tout who assured me that I did. Oh dear.

Monkey brain engaged immediately I turned and began the monkey dance.  

NO, NOT THAT ONE. We squared off and he mouthed off, my assessment 
was that was all he had so I head pecked him a couple of times and 
nodding towards the back of the cafes and bars suggested a walk to 
a nice quiet spot instead of doing him in front of the several 
hundred people watchers, (witnesses), now enjoying the prospect of a 
little impromptu entertainment. He declined, I laughed at him then 
walked away the big monkey, he called me a few names, there was 
nothing to be gained from giving him a pasting but a family row, 
arrest and deportation on the cards if the police arrived. On the 
way back I paused and had to physical resist the monkey urge to go 
back and administer what Rory Miller calls an educational beat down. 
It was hard but I did it, I got the monkey brain under control and 
got back in control and back on holiday.

Austria is such a relaxing break compared to the hustle and bustle of  
some of the Mediterranean resorts, especially those where mass 
tourism has taken over and all but eradicated any trace of local 
culture and identity. It is gentler here, much more civilised and 
relaxing, you are surrounded by beauty and tranquillity and it 
permeates your senses so quickly and easily. Yesterday after a 
lovely breakfast my wife and I took the gondola, that is less than 
100m from our hotel door, up the hill and through the cloud clinging 
to the upper parts of the mountain, to arrive on a sunny, grassy 
ridge for the start of our days walk. The views were tremendous, the 
weather very warm and you could actually watch the last of the cloud, 
that hung as a curtain to one side, burning away and rising as if 
through an invisible chimney to dissolve somewhere above us. We 
walked up some very steep slopes over pieces of rough ground to 
reach after a few subsidiary tops, our goal for the day, the 
Rosskopf, which a 1731m above sea level dominates the area and there 
is a fantastic 360 degree vista of snow capped mountains deep into 
Austria and Germany in the north west, somewhere there lies 
Hitler's Eagles Nest. The view was stunning as the cloud had now 
dissolved and we snacked and drank water before beginning the 
descent. My wife likes going down less than going up, especially  
through a steep woodland descent with thousands of roots seemingly  
competing to trip the unwary. We had the same old discussion re her  
buying and using some poles but instead, as usual, she held onto my  
rucksack for balance. A few times I went ahead an watched how she  
walked, I then pointed out a couple of ways to make things easier,  
little things and what they we did not matter. The interesting point  
was that because she was worried about tripping or slipping she was  
looking at her feet all the time and not a couple of yards in front  
and picking up her feet in her peripheral vision. I explained how 
this worked and she asked me how I knew, I explained it was both 
from experience and reading up on theory and testing it out.

So on the side of a mountain top in Austria I explained a drill we 
did with Rory Miller just over a week ago back in Sheffield. 
Practising the Dempsey Drop with an elbow strike we were teaching 
people to step off centre and once the got that to not look at the 
target, especially not eye contact, but off to the side to where we 
were about to step. The first part of the strike would then appear 
to the target as an attempt to dodge past them to something else we 
were focused upon. The strike then could drive home undefended and 
to maximum effect. Job done. Ok but what is the theory behind this. 
Well once again it is explained excellently in Bruce K. Siddles, 
'Improving the Warrior's Edge', where he looks (sorry) at the 
mechanics of our binocular vision and explains how the brain picks 
up movement much quicker from the periphery of our vision more 
easily than on the object we are focussed upon. Once again, if you 
want the detail read the book. If we focus too hard on the object, 
an opponents eyes for instance, or a tree in the distance too hard 
we lose some of our peripheral vision, just like, and especially 
if when we are adrenalised.

Lt Colonel Lloyd Grossmann talks about the effectiveness of the  
thousand yard stare, a phenomena often talked about in GI's 
returning from Vietnam, those guys who's life depended on detecting 
the slightest movement or clue in often near impossible conditions 
had learned to reply on what appeared to others to be a kind of 
vacant stare, the thousand yard stare, a survival instinct driven 
stare that allowed their peripheral vision to dominate and detect 
movement or change in a much wider field of vision.

Back to Austria then Tenerife, When walking down steep, uneven,  
unpredictable terrain, the looking a few yards in front helps your  
overall vision, it is a reduced version of the thousand yard stare 
but the effect is the same, improved information from eye to brain
and better coordinated and balanced movement as a result, it helped 
my wife descend the rough, steep mountainside more confidently. Back 
in Tenerife, well you all know I did everything wrong, so do I now 
and hindsight is a wonderful thing, but I knew some of this stuff 
then if not so well. So what went wrong, well firstly the monkey 
brain came to the for and prevented a rational response, i.e., 
keep walking and ignore the tosser, go back to the hotel, dine, 
sleep in the sun and swim and just reflect that you have not sunk so
low as to have to spend your days trying to con holidaymakers into 
engaging into financially disastrous arrangements. However, if in a 
confrontation, disengage, de-escalate then walk away, if this is not 
an option, then off centre, avoid eye contact, look away over their 
shoulder, adopt a thousand yard stare, so there will be no clues in 
your eyes, but you will see their slightest movement and using the 
lowest level of force possible, make it over quickly, make it 

The cloud is lifting here in Niederau, we are off walking soon, our  
packed lunch is ready and we are itching to go. There are no touts  
here, Austria is clean in many ways but the clouds are still 
clinging a little around the hills, I hope we can see a thousand 
yards soon and that today I use that stare to pick up movements of 
the wildlife like the Greater Spotted Woodpecker we saw and watched 
yesterday or the native Black Squirrel, the unknown raptor that 
soared below us and the beautiful yellow little birds I will 
identify from my book when I get home. The thousand yard stare is 
helpful in combat and in seeking beauty. Weidersehen.

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