Every person has the potential to find a solution to a threat using his mental and physical sources. But the ideal would be to make them the most efficient and improved, not to turn them into unrelated theater production showing the sweat hard work and forces of life.
Is it safe to say that instructors that do not teach reaction time try to keep the secret to themselves and need to teach something/anything during classes just to fill the time and keep the student busy?
Perhaps not all the time as perhaps some instructor are aware of the reaction time subconsciously and some of the students are aware of it subconsciously as well. But what amount of trial and effort, broken bones and sore shins and pain punishment by training partners and instructors alike is required to the subconscious mind to learn.
Again, anyone can learn how to fight with trial and error. Why even teach techniques. You could just facilitate an endless trial and error class and people at some point will figure out what is the best solution.
Few will, few will not and few will even figure the reaction time concept. But remember that in reality things could move much faster in a surprise attack without escalation and signs of warning. Well sings of warning might exist to the suspicious person.
If you try to keep people busy, set up a technique based curriculum telling people to practice punching kicking grappling, throwing, choking, leveraging an arm or a leg bar, blocking and deflecting.
Combine various combination, or Katas and imaginary scenario, using all the techniques, and that will keep your students busy trying to achieve the perfect looking kick, punch, release, deflection etc.
But every person has a different artistic perception. You can even add light sparring allowing your students to try and apply the techniques they have mastered to control their opponent as they progress.
With limiting rules, you can make anything happen. You can make someone that knows how to punch fast and accurately and timely lose a sparring or a fight if you limit punching. You can make a good grappler lose if you limit grappling in your sparring.
Keep them busy, they need muscles; warm up for the class is essential. Why not burning hot warm up? They will be exhausted and you would not get a chance to teach your “techniques.” Give them a fitness challenge at the end of the class more pushups, more abs, squats, stretching and techniques.
Thousand kicks, punches, why not. They can learn how to count. It is good for the brain. Are you teaching someone how to defend himself? If your student would have known self defense he would not come to you.
Well he knows some of it subconsciously and is looking for a way to get rid of his fear and bring it to the conscious level and deal with it by gradually getting the same sensations he gets in a life threatening scenario but on the winning side.
Do not instill bad habits in him and do not let him practice senseless moves and drills that he will attempt to execute in a real life threat because he would be wasting his time or wasting his reaction time.