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Updated: May 10, 2022

‘Hey, what are you looking at?!’

A major danger with threatening violence is where the assailant is not only looking to seek status or gains by ‘winning’ a social monkey dance or by getting your possessions, but is actually intending to seriously hurt you or cause severe damage to you as part of the process.

When this happens, the aggressors are often looking for ‘excuses’ to do this. Something to justify their reprehensible actions in their own twisted minds. Something you said. Or didn’t say. Something you did. Or didn’t do.

These ‘excuses’ are used by the criminal as something to psychologically enable their own actions or even as a part of the ‘story’ they can tell about the violence to make it interesting or justified.

In these situations, let‘s first kill off a common misconception: Do not approach this conflict situation as a value or ethics problem. That is, you try to state logic, to rationalise or reason your way out of it by ‘converting’ the predator to your point of view. This is not a work meeting, debate class or a board room discussion. You’re already on different ethical platforms. Don’t try to find a common one. It’s too difficult and the cost of failure too big.

Don’t argue. Act reasonable. Be relaxed. Don’t deny or attack anything. Your way out of this can be verbal. If you play it right.

What do we mean by this? Let’s play some tips out in a constructed conversation:

‘Hey, what are you looking at?!’

(Do not say: ‘Nothing’. Next will be: ‘BS. You looked at me!’ Are you calling me a liar?! I’ll beat the sh*t out of you!’ The aggression and excuse is now set up).

Say: ‘Very sorry. Didn’t realise I was staring. Just a bit tired. Are you ok?’

(No anger, no fear, no disagreement, no defensiveness. Even a bit concern for the other guy).

‘F*ck off. Don’t stare because you’re f*cking tired!‘

(The bad guy persists. He’s still singled you out as the punch bag for tonight).

‘Yeah, you’re right. No reason to. But it can happen to the best of us, yeah? What do you think?’

(Dragging a conversation out, especially with questions serves a dual purpose. Firstly, male adrenaline peaks dissipate quickly so talking, dragging out time, is to your advantage. Secondly, questions stimulates different thought processes than just anger, forcing the brain to engage somewhere else).

‘Not to me. What’s wrong with you? Want a fight?’

(Not giving up, this guy. It’s still you in the cross-hairs).

‘You sound angry. What’s wrong?’

(Keep him talking and thinking. Time is your friend, if you can’t leave the situation and get away. That’s always your Plan A, isn’t it?).

‘I just don’t like the look of you, motherf*cker!’

(Persistent attacks on you are designed to trigger the response to be used as the justification for violence. Don’t fall for it. You’re still in control - as long as your monkey brain is taken care of and silenced).

‘Hmmm. Doesn’t sound right. I’m not important enough to make you angry. Maybe it’s something else? Tell me about it?’

(The conversation flows. No aggression. No excuses to act given. Time is still on your side).

‘Just don’t like your ugly face...’

(Look after your monkey brain. Don’t react’).

‘I can see you want me to get angry. Not an angry person, really. Why do want me angry?’

(Play the time, engage the brain. Make the other person think).

And so on.

These tactics do not work with the predator already in assault mode, for example in a sexual assault situation or other serious bodily harm or murder scenarios.

They only work where there is an audience present, which is part of the purpose for the ‘game’ played out. There’s no need to build up a justification where there’s no audience to validate it.

Remember, your intellect, acting abilities and emotional self-control are all key parts of your self defence repertoire.

Use them wisely. Where you can. And as your first layer. That’s smart self-defence, when you can‘t evade or run. For everything else, there’s your physical skills - or Plan B, should your calm, collected and clever approach fail, from no fault of your own.

Just like your prep for Plan B, you should prepare for the emotional and intellectual impact of the aggressive looking-for-a-fight predator.

This means playing out situations and conversations in your head. See yourself mentally staying in control and remaining calm.

Visualise the tone, pinch and volume your speak with. Sense the emotional command you have. Feel the authority of your presence. This type of psychological preparation will help you to instinctively return to this state of mind when needed. You can also practice this out in your training, with imaginative scenarios put on by your training partners.

Real-life violence isn’t like the safer, non-threatening, even friendly atmosphere of the dojo. It has a mental shock element to it, producing a shock to the psychological state to those not familiar with it.

To help prepare for it, you should act out criminal behaviour as part of your self defence training, including the verbal assault and how to block and manage this.

Will you change your approach to your training, if you haven’t already done so?

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