Tue. Dec 10th, 2019

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In Depth Tactical Solutions

Startle Reflex and Limited Penetration by Project Gecko

5 min read


…Is a question we receive quite often when presenting or talking about Limited Penetration tactics. Let us first be little bit less dogmatic and make this statement – the fatal funnel is not what you think it is. It simply does not really exist, as it is a changing reality that primarily depends on a perspective in relation to time and space. In this article, we aim to explain you one (of many) reasons for why we are basing our entire concept on fighting from the door.

Fighting from the door is not only geometrically efficient, but also ironically more tactical than most concepts, as it allows the individual(s) the ability to bail or extract until entry is absolutely necessary, which if it will be, probably 80% – 90% of the room (commonly) will be less probable to contain a threat. This is especially relevant to today´s LIC, that tends to involve quite a lot of IEDs.  The list of tactical advantages that Limited Penetration may offer in the broad spectrum of contextual encounters is long and interesting, but I will skip and take you to the point.


The startle reflex, or as people falsely identify as flight or fight, is a largely unconscious defensive response (directly linked to escape behavior) to sudden or threatening stimuli, such as sudden noise or sharp movement. It is associated with negative ques that the individual might pick up, as seen in the video above. Primarily, the reflex can be initiated through visual or auditory stimulus that is abnormal to the given context.  Commonly the startle reflex will cause the person to “flinch” away from what the person perceives as an active negative or threatening stimulus.  Such movement consists largely on big muscles movement with the head being the quickest in a movement. The neck almost simultaneously with a latency of 75 to 121 milliseconds follows up with the shoulder along with the arms at 125 to 195 milliseconds. Lastly the legs respond with a latency of 145 to 395 milliseconds. This type of cascading response correlates to how the synapses travel from the brain and down the spinal cord to activate each motor neuron.

In the video below, which was taken with experienced teams from both LE & MIL backgrounds during one of our close to public Scenarios workshop, we simulated a certain situation of which a resistance to a dynamic entry is being made. Note the human escape behavior and the reflex.

How does this help us?

Since the authentic Limited Penetration is a concept that consists heavily on working relatively close to walls & barricades, the Startle Reflex is acting often subconsciously as a” fail safe” that tend to put the person automatically (default escape behavior) away from the threat perspective.  In the video below for example, you may see a point man taking it into a L shape corner fed. As he moves with another 3 guys (out of perspective) he picks up the threat attention. What happens next is a pure but very raw reaction of a behavior compliant concept. Note the flagging.

Another great example is the following video, which took place in Australia several years ago. Note that soon as resistance is being made and despite the Hostage Rescue context, the entire fight is conducted from the door…without the concept. This is exactly where Limited Penetration prevail as it is designed for that very moment you are on the receiving end.


The issue with CQB is that when it comes down to engaging a threat commonly you will be on the reactive side. Fact in most cases. Low light, the need to see, identify and process are crucial principles that you won’t see in the movies and naturally gives a head start to a ready opponent to put you on the reactive side, which in most cases you can’t win. In such cases, which are probably the worst case scenarios as you can get, the startle reflex will allow you to naturally and behaviorally pull back into concealment. Think of it as a raw second chance driven by none deliberate behavior. Once you get that “second chance”, from there automatically you will be able to follow-up a behavior compliant concept, rather than improvising. Of course there is much more to that, but that is all in a nutshell.

To summarize it, the natural human responds coexists with the principles of LP, one which is a point of retreat or cover or anything immediate. The startle reflex is an important reflex that directly oppose most dynamic room clearing concepts from the approaching phase to the post entry. Any tactic that fails to coop with the startle reflex is essentially a tactic that is inferior has it is conducted against our natural instincts of survival and behavior in general.

Sure you *might* be able to overcome it through habituational process, but I have my doubts. I also have my doubts that most soldiers and officers have the required training time frame to do so.

Learn more about our friend Eli and Project Gecko:

Project Gecko is a company which specializes in the field of Tactical Training & consultant services. Their capabilities ranges from setting up Tactical courses & projects to consultant services. During their courses Gecko instructors give their participants the mental and physical tools for their personal success.

They offer a wide spectrum of programs that take place in one day classes, three-days-seminars, and events up to one week. All those programs are based and created on their knowledge which they unpack and repack in a way that will suit every participant. For Gecko the gear is just a tool and the will is the key. Gecko believes that every person who has the will, will find his place in their seminars and workshops.

The instructors behind Project Gecko are all former military personal with extended training’s and combat experience. Eliran founder of Project Gecko  was born in Israel. Before he moved to Germany he served in the IDF in one of the SF units.

Find out more about Project Gecko 



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