Verbal agility is key in today’s day and age. In the previous two articles we have gone over the criminal archetype and how to use a non-diagnostic approach to defending yourself from incoming blows. In this final installment we’ll go over how movement plays a major role in your survival, how to verbalize with these unknown individuals on the street as well as what pre-assault cues you can look for to hopefully remove yourself from a possible attack. Movement is something many don’t take into consideration when approached by someone you don’t know. Naturally, humans will move linearly backwards when approached by someone. Obviously this is due to our need to maintain distance and backing up is the most intuitive course of action. Unfortunately by doing this we’re putting ourselves in danger for a few reasons. The first is stepping backwards could unintentionally put us in the course of obstacles to trip over such as sidewalk curbs, trash cans, cars etc. We don’t have eyes in the back of our heads so fighting that desire to backstep must be thought about thoroughly. The second deals with the goal of the criminal.
As I talked about previously in this series, criminals usually work in pairs. The one who initially makes contact with you may be the one attempting to “funnel” you to their friend in the alleyway that you don’t see. By backstepping, your going right along with their gameplay. So the question is, how do we fix that? The concept is called arching, once again brought to the training community by Craig Douglas of Shivworks. By arching, I mean that instead of backstepping linearly, we should arch to the 3 or 9 o’clock. This is without a doubt counter-intuitive to what we do naturally but it’s necessary to so as to not be ambushed. By arching it gives us a clearer and broader field of vision and allows us to keep multiple individuals in our line of sight. Also, if another individual does appear we could potentially “stack” them on top of each other if we do decide to go on the offense. Again, this form of movement doesn’t come natural and will be need to be done with consistent practice.
So now that we have the movement piece dialed in, how should we verbalize with these unknown individuals? Just like with movement we should think pragmatically with how and what we are saying. It’s easy to allow emotion to get the better of us when we have nowhere to run and get into the “fight or flight” mindset. The counter to that is it’s also just as easy to get task fixated and unintentionally verbalize that we’re ok with these unknowns to come within extreme close distance of us. What I specifically mean is how often does someone approach us with the infamous, “Hey man” and our usual response is “What’s up?” or “How can I help you?” By using one of those simple statements we’re literally inviting them to close the gap and be within close distance of us. So as to not instigate a situation any further that it needs to be, especially with those heavily inebriated or on illicit substances, start with being respectful in your verbiage. “Hey man, I can help you out but do you mind just staying right there for me?” You could even add something onto the end of that such as, “I just got the flu a few days ago and don’t want to give it to you.” No one wants to get sick and by starting with being respectful you’re not pushing anyone’s buttons. Unfortunately those who have had a long night out drinking or those criminals who are persistent may try to push your envelope. We need to be able to bump our volume we’re using like the dial on a radio. Along with the concept of a radio dial, we should also think about using some form of profanity if we already regularly use it in our day to day life. Profanity is part of the criminal culture and vernacular, and they will be able to tell instantly if it is forced or fake. How you use profanity should also be taken into account. What I mean by this is there’s a stark difference between, “Back the F$$$ up!” and “Back up Motherf$$$$$!” With the latter, you’re unintentionally insulting the individual's mother, the former can just be viewed as an adjective. Regardless of using/not using profanity, we need to bump the volume if need be to either wake the drug/alcohol induced individual from their trance, or let the potential criminal know we’re not a soft target. Finally, as we’re verbalizing we need to fight the desire to actually listen to what the unknown’s are saying to us. If we do we have the potential to drop our hands from the high fence or stop arching entirely. We should have our verbal agility in a play loop like on a voice mail recording. We also shouldn’t allow them to get behind us if they’re showing us someone/something that needs help. An example would be, “Please you gotta help me! My wife stopped breathing in her car, it’s right up around the corner.” That’s when they usually end up behind you and you’re the one in front. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know what usually follows that. Think decisively at how to talk people you don’t know, it could mean the difference between a failed ambush or becoming another fatal statistic.
The final concept we’ll go into is basic pre-assault cues that many criminals commonly use. You can see it time and time again in CCTV footage from websites such as LiveLeak. It’s a great source of information to view and study real assaults. With that being said, these are not in chronological order, nor does it mean if you see one it instantly means you need to go on the offense. These are just a few things to think about if you see someone approach you that you get a bad feeling about and you see them start going through these cues. The first is what’s known as grooming cues. This can be anything from a pinch of the bride of the nose, rubbing of the neck, rubbing of the forehead, etc. The second usually happens simultaneously and is called target glancing. This is when the individual looks to their 3, 6, or 9 o’clock looking for witnesses, security cameras or just general eye avoidance because they’re lying. The third is called a definitive weight shift and usually happens immediately before an assault. It’s also an instant tell as to what the individuals dominate side is. By moving their dominant foot back, they’re pre-loading weight prior to the infamous “hay maker” or cross punch. It’s easy to spot in online video street assaults. The fourth and final cue is a movement of hands to the waist line. This should be an obvious one to gun owners because just like us, criminals carry tools on the same areas on the body as we do.
At the end of the day, think pragmatically about what information you’re presenting to people in your day to day life. By limiting our task fixation, having decent verbal agility, and hand/body movement we will therefore limit the ability for criminals to assault us. Street criminals have refined the way they choose their next victim, so don’t underestimate their cunningness and skill to meander their way into your circle and potentially take something of yours whether it be wallet or life.