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Emerson Combatives: The Signals You Will See Before You Are Attacked

Ernest Emerson Contributor
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He’s telling you loud and clear what he’s going to do.

You’ve just come out of Home Depot and you’re going to get into your car when you hear a crunch and you feel your car jolt. Looking up, you see that a guy has just run a lumber cart into the back fender of your vehicle. The guy doesn’t even look up from loading his lumber into a beat-up truck, as you come around to his side. “Hey, man. You ran your cart into my car.” “No, I didn’t,” he replies as you look at the cart still resting against your fender. “I just touched it.”

“Well, you touched it hard enough to chip the paint.”

“If you hadn’t parked so close, I wouldn’t have hit it.”

“Well, your spot was empty when I parked here and I’m between the lines. You explain.”

“Fuck off, asshole. What are you going to do about it?” as he steps toward you. The next five seconds can go a number of ways. You can back off and say, “Okay. Never mind.” You can call the cops, they’ll be there in 20 minutes. You could demand his license, as this is technically an accident with property damage. Or, if you are like a lot of guys I know you fire back, “You’re going to pay for this damage, asshole.”

This has now escalated to an aggressive reaction by the idiot and an aggressive response by you. Will this be a fight? I don’t know, but here are some signs to give you a clue. There are pre-attack actions that you should be able to recognize in any interpersonal confrontation. If you don’t, you might not be aware that the bad guy is escalating and that you are not. And you don’t want to be caught unaware by a Saturday night sucker punch.

Precursor attack signals:

  1. Single syllable challenge. As the aggressor spins up inside his head, it becomes difficult to speak in long sentences or even use multi-syllable words. Words often become enjoined and the frequency of profanity definitely increases. For example, “If you ordered a boxcar full of assholes and when the train showed up, I was the only one in the car. You could consider that order filled,” is not what a spun up bad guy is going to be able to say. “Fuck off. Fuck you. Go fuck yourself,” is about all you’re going to get, followed by, “Whachoo gonna to do bout it?”
  2. Arm splay. Many times, the bad guy will start splaying his arms, in and out from his sides, often in conjunction with steps both forward and backward.
  3. Finger beckoning. Often they will start pointing at you or pointing directly into your face, often accompanied by those single syllable challenges.
  4. Fist clenching. As the anger climbs, the hands will almost always ball up into fists, sometimes opening and closing repeatedly.
  5. Head nodding. In some individuals, you will see a notable nodding of the head, up and down, the affirmative nod. Accompanied by a pursing of the lips. This is a psychological build-up to, “Yes, I’m going to act (to fight in this case),” that some individuals cannot control.
  6. Neck pecking. This is just like a rooster pecking his head, forward and back, jutting the chin forward then back. Just picture Mick Jagger strutting across the stage at a Rolling Stones concert to get the picture. This seems to be some holdout from our genetic past, probably controlled by the lizard brain.
  7. Eye bulge. You may notice the eyes open wider and bulge forward. This may be more subtle to notice, but picture it as an intense, harsh stare.
  8. Deep, heavy breaths. You will see a pronounced increase in frequency and depth of the breaths that the aggressor is taking. This is almost the same as when you breathe in and let out an exasperated sigh.
  9. Dropped eyebrows. This is the act of dropping the eyebrows furrowing the brow and it is usually accompanied by a clenched jaw. You can think of this as the same as a stern stare you give your 16 year old.
  10. Stancing up. This is the classic posture move we all have seen since the third grade on the playground, where two young stallions puff up their chests and try to extend their height by stretching their neck and chin upward.
  11. Distance close-down. This is where the bad guy starts to close the gap between him and you. This is a direct threat or challenge, and of course, definitely escalates the immediacy of the threat. This can be direct steps or it can be a series of sliding or shuffle steps, where the lead foot keeps stepping forward and the rear foot drags from behind.

Now bear in mind, that sometimes all of these things exist, sometimes none exist, and sometimes some of them exist. It all depends on the personal psychology of the individual you face. A two or three fights in his life guy, may have all of them manifest. A U. S. Marine or a professional boxer, probably none at all. So in any escalating confrontation, you need to know these things before it comes to violence. Remember, violence is the last resort of the ignorant. I was young and dumb for quite a while, so I know of what I speak.

Getting into a fight is the absolute last thing you would ever want to do, unless it is the last resort and you have no other choice. Be aware that the bad guy could pull out a knife or maybe pull out a gun and shoot you. I’m not here to tell you how to resolve a conflict issue. I’m here to tell you how to recognize an attack about to be perpetrated on your person, and how to recognize it, and take the necessary steps to stop that from happening before it even starts.

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Ernest Emerson is the owner of Emerson Knives, Inc. He is a tier one Combatives instructor, Master at Arms, noted author and lecturer, Black Belt Hall of Fame member and a connoisseur of fine whiskey.

Click here to visit Mr. Emerson offers a 10% discount on his knives to Daily Caller readers. Use the discount code – tdc (all lower case). Click here to visit the Emerson Training Center.