I know there are a number of touring experts “out there” of late, advising people on what to do when encountering, or being confronted by an angry or suspicious person. “Managing” them. Clever marketing term. So many newer folks in fact that people ignorantly assume the advice is…new. Invented by these genius youngsters. Well, allow me to resurrect a 31 year-old article (with some newer photos) I wrote on the subject that I have been teaching for decades, that I did not invent either…
You walk up to trouble, or trouble walks up to you! So, if it’s not a stone-cold, surprise, physical ambush, you are in a developing encounter with someone who-
is picking a fight with you for whatever the reason, yelling and arguing with you,
is probably about to commit some sort of a crime upon you,
You might still say it is an “interview” of sorts, and things may go physically “south” very fast. How will you stand before and around this person? What will you say?
Things can be learned about this problem for civilians (and searching and patrolling soldiers) from the best aspects of police work. Even if someone is screaming at your face? It is still an “interview,” and you have to somehow remain cool, calm and collect. This is professionalism at the police level, and maturity at the civilian level. It’s hard. I know. It’s physically and mentally situational.
Thus, the “interview stance” is a ready position, but not too, too “ready-looking” because it might psychologically escalate the situation, or cause any possible witnesses to think YOU were escalating the situation into violence.
In this regard, I would like to say that in all my decades of police work I had a trick in this pre-fight instance. If a situation was percolating into physical trouble, my body/feet would be bladed somewhat from that person, but not too far! Not like a sideways karate-kick stance! We call it just somewhat “bladed.” Somewhat, which could be one foot an inch off the straight line. Simple walking creates bladed hip positions. It happens. When you move, it happens. The fight itself will change the push-pull of the footwork, your feet will be bladed or you’ll fall over. You push a disabled car by a :walking-bladed” motion, or charge off a football line this way. Stepping makes for moving hips and makes for-creates power. Don’t overthink this, it’s situational and positional. Same with putting your weapon-carry side back and away to draw. It’s situational and positional. Just be athletic. And remember the phrase – a fighting stance is balance and power in motion.
But in a dangerous moment, I would, inside my pant’s legs, unbeknownst to anyone, bend slightly at the knees. This was a more springboard, athletic position. This “switch” turned on the “juices” in my body that trouble was brewing.
I am sure by now you have heard the many experiments where body chemicals were sort of, reverse engineered in this manner. The same is true for other physical responses and body chemicals. I “have made it so,” that when I slightly bend at the knees, I have made myself….”ready.” Ready? Ready to move. Ready to do something physical.
On the flip side of your concealed knee bend is his knee bend. If it’s visible? If you have a person confronting/standing before you, and he suddenly crouches down? This crouch is a natural athletic move. This is NOT good for you. It is a positive indication that he is about to get physical. Look at the bent knees and the hands up in this picture above. This is a fighting “stance” for when the fight starts. If they “spear” up their hands? Crouch and or, start twisting their torso which is a high percentage, common precursor for a sucker punch, you must act according and prepare for trouble. (Inside my book Fightin’ Words and Training Mission One you will find all those pre-fight tips I’ve been collecting since 1973.) Remember all these cues when you must later articulate why you did what you did.
And, as I have taught and written about constantly, pre-fight cues are different than pre-crime cues.
But, if you jump into a fighting stance, “before” the actual fight, which might make good, pre-emptied sense sometimes, be aware that your “action-guy” pose could be perceived as an escalation to violence. This may spur on the other guy, or look like the actual fight-starter to ignorant witnesses –
“Two guys were just arguing, officer and then, the guy in the suit squared off like he was going to fight. Then the other guy did too. Then the fight started.”
You inadvertently “started” the fight by just getting ready to fight.
Notes on the Pre-Emptive. Part of many self defense repertoires is the “re-emptive” strike, taught void of legal traps and complications. I mean, they are smart and great in many ways. You know this physical fight is going to happen, so you strike first. This is your own little ambush to thwart his escalation, best and usually delivered from a non-fighting, “sucker punch stance, huh? Could be a strike or a kick. This is why all unarmed, self defense systems must practice all their strikes and kicks from the typical non-fight stances, all which we will review later, along with the fighting ready performance stances/positions, moving and non-moving. But, this same witnessing of a pre-emptive strike can make you look like the “fight-starter.” Nearby witnesses may tattle:
“Two guys were just arguing, officer, and then the guy in the suit hauled off and smacked the other guy in the head!”
Like so much in life, anything within a certain spectrum of events, good or bad, can happen. May work. May not work. In this particular “stand-off, heated interview” moment, here are some common, even natural responses in the script of life.
1: Leaving, fast or slowly.
2: Cowering, “collapsing” of some facial and physical sort.
3: Automatic anger.
4: Ignoring, in some situations.
5: Command presence of some sort, as in not collapsing.
6: Fighting ready pose.
7: Maneuver a distance from the problem person or persons (see below on distances).
8: Sometimes you can just keep walking.
9: Get something between you. Car? Table? Whatever? Be aware of the “stuff” all around you.
10: Maneuver near an exit, for a sudden escape.
11: Maneuver over into the sight of witnesses.
12: Maneuver to something that can be grabbed as a weapon or a shield.
13: Realize a person or persons may be maneuvering YOU by crowding you, distracting you and getting you into a inescapable position, a no-witness situation. (A pre-meditated ambush is full of these factors.)
14: Orderly retreat as defined in another essay, or even running. But how far and fast can you run?
15: Keep developing this list…
New Police interview Distance Advice. Of late, officers are advised to remain “two giant steps and a lunge” from a suspicious person. Citizens are not required to stay and interview-talk, but some situations may cause them to remain. This sounds like a reasonable distance but an attacker can fly-spring right through that space. Keep that in mind.
And a Quick Note on Verbal De-Escalators While on this initial confrontation topic, a quick “side step” here from physical movement over to verbal skills. As to all the verbal, de-escalator experts out there? There are many courses available on de-escalation, run by lots of intellectual folks who have never had such attacks and confrontations forced on them, and they imagine, over-value their ideas that great, practiced orations will interrupt a fight.
You will hear advice from all sorts of people. Remember that de-escalation for cops is different than for guards, different for door men, for soldiers, for citizens on a parking lot, family members in a domestic, or road rage encounters, etc. Process their advice through your Who, What, Where, When, How and WhyQuestions filter.
While remaining within a spectrum of outcomes, many encounters are quite situational for you in the moment, but still within a spectrum. Not all advice helps you all the time. Never forget this guy drawn below. All your non-aggressive, micro-expressions and rehearsed non-aggressive wordings and steps won’t stop the guy who likes to fight on Friday night. And it’s getting late. He has his own negative script. He follows an antithesis to your script.