Thread: Pre-Assaultive indicators
10/02/2009 7:42pm, #1
A topic that get's discussed in Law Enforcement circles is the detection of something called "pre-assaultive threat indicators".
The theory is that as a person is placed under the stress of considering launching a physical attack (or fleeing) his body is undergoing certain changes like dumping adrenalin, blood flow restrictions/redirection, elevated oxygenation etc. Combine these physical effects with the psychological pressure of the situation and the person is bound to "leak" indicators that this process is going on.
Some of the indicators are:
Avoiding Eye Contact
The Chest Puff
Averting the Face
Clenching of Fists
Thousand Yard Stare
If you are in LE or Security and have to deal with people in these situations; when you see these indicators it is time to act! Put some distance between yourselves and start issuing commands for compliance. I would be getting my OC or taser limbered up and/or tightening the laces on my running shoes. If you are a civilian and you see these cues...leave...if possible. If leaving is not an option, get ready.
The attached video is a clip from a project put together by a close friend who is a martial arts instructor, a local film artist and myself. It's a project in progress. The idea was to film a series showing a cop not seeing the cues and getting pounded, another where he sees them just in time to react and a third where they are noticed early and the cop acts by deploying OC and issuing commands. Only this part managed to get finished.
Another thing. We know the "fight" here is lame and unrealistic. The threat indicators were the focus of the piece and we were not willing to roll around on the hot summer pavement for a more realistic "fight".
YouTube - Threat Indicators
I'm not saying you should freak just because some guy wipes his face. The idea behind these cues is to take the entire situation into account and look for clusters of behavior. In reality, you will be unlikely to see ALL of these indicators in a person and they will probably not be as blatant or easy to see. The idea here was to show all of the indicators and make them recognizable for instructional purposes.
I can see the value of this stuff for law enforcement, but some people have argued that for non-LE personnel the common "self defense scenario" is the sudden ambush attack where you wouldn't have the opportunity to see this stuff.
While they have a point, I think that it doesn't hurt to be aware of this anyway. One never knows what sort of situation they could find themselves in. Being able to identify body language that indicates an imminent attack could give you the opportunity to, at best, "beat feet". Or at worst, allow you to preempt the attack with a defensive measure.
Last edited by tgace; 10/02/2009 7:52pm at .
10/02/2009 8:00pm, #2
Wow, I'm pretty sure I do every single one of those at some point in the day when we're stuck in the office."No. Listen to me because I know what I'm talking about here." -- Hannibal
10/02/2009 8:35pm, #3
- Join Date
- Aug 2009
I would tend to agree with you. Considering the frequency and damage caused by domestic violence situations, through drunk frat boy situations, most people are going to encounter violence from somebody interested in more than a basic mugging or purse snatching. Learning warning signs can help identify when a situation is escalating to the point of violence. Further, as we become more and more service oriented, we have to deal with disgruntled customers. It's nice to know who's blowing off steam and who's getting ready to blow.
10/02/2009 10:28pm, #4
Some further reading by Darren Laur, by way of Ari Bolden (Submissions 101):
[warning: long post ahead!]
Is He Ready to Attack?
'Pain is inevitable; Suffering is optional'.
- 'Explosive Fight Wear' motto
Ask any reality-based combat specialist and they'll all say the
same thing with regards to violent confrontation. The vast majority
of the time, you will be able to read signs - both verbal and
non-verbal - that tell you that an attack is on its way. You just
have to train yourself to notice the signs.
One such specialist is Darren Laur, who has written fifty articles
on combat-related material. In one such article - 'Street 101' -
Mr. Laur describes the pre-cursors to violent behavior. I have
reprinted them here for you to study:
'Assault Not Imminent But Possible':
- Head, neck, shoulders go back (person making themselves look
- Face is red, twitching, jerking
- Lips pushed forward, baring teeth (you see the same things in
dogs before attack)
- Breathing is fast and shallow (oxygenating the body, preparing
for 'fight or flight', hyper vigilance)
- Beads of sweat appear about the face and neck
- 'Thousand-mile glare'
- Exaggerated movements
- Finger pointing/ head pecking
- Totally ignores you
- Gives you excessive attention during normal conversation, such as
direct, uninterrupted eye contact
- Goes from totally un-cooperative to totally cooperative (people
do not go from hot to cold, they de-escalate over time)
- Acts stoned or drunk
- Directs anger towards other inanimate items such as tables,
If you find yourself confronted by a subject presenting these
signs, awareness/self-protection strategies should go up, and
distance should be created. Your body language should be
assertive, but not threatening and don't be afraid to allow the
person to vent verbally.
'Assault Is Imminent':
- Face goes from red to white (during a physical confrontation the
blood will leave the surface of the body and pool to the big
muscles and internal organs of the body needed for survival). In my
job as a police officer I see this all the time and when I do, one
of two things is going to happen: the suspect is either going to
fight or run.
- Lips tighten over teeth
- Breathing is fast and deep
- Change of stance, their body blades and shoulder drops
- Hands closed into a fist (not uncommon to see the whites of
knuckles due to hands being so tight)
- Bobbing up and down or rocking back and forth on feet (this is
the body's way to hide/ mask the initial movement of a first strike)
- Target glance (here you will see your opponent look to where he
is going to hit, or where he is going to run/escape)
- Putting head and shin down (body wants to protect the airway,
this action does so to a degree)
- Eyebrows brought forward into a frown (again the body wants to
naturally protect the visual system, this action does so to a degree)
- Stops all movements/ freezes in place
- Dropping center or lowering of body (no different than a cat or
dog getting ready to pounce)
- Shedding clothes (very common, you will see your attacker take
his hat, coat, shirt or bag off just prior to the assault)
- One syllable replies (go from full sentences to one syllable
replies - reptilian brain is clicking in)
With this group of signs, you have about 1 to 1.5 seconds to act
before your attacker either strikes or runs. If walking and
talking your way out is inappropriate or unreasonable, then I teach
"First Strike" philosophy and continue on with a compound attack
until your attacker is no longer a threat.
In both the 'Assault Not Imminent' and 'Assault Imminent' phases, I
often teach my students (in some situations) to bring to the
attention of the attacker what they are seeing and why:
1) The attacker may not know what they are doing. A lot of these
signs are automatic in nature, meaning they happen without
2) More importantly, most attackers will only attack you if they
believe they have the element of surprise. By sharing with them
what you see, you take this primary tactic away from them.
IT IS ALSO IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THAT THERE ARE TIMES WHEN YOU
SHOULD NOT LET THE PERSON KNOW WHAT YOU ARE SEEING, THUS USING THE
ELEMENT OF SURPRISE TO YOUR ADVANTAGE!!!!!!!!!!
(Special thanks to Darren Laur and Personal Protection Systems for
permission to reprint this excerpt).
10/02/2009 10:59pm, #5
- Join Date
- Aug 2007
- Tulsa, OK
When I was on legal hold towards the end of my naval career, I did prisoner escorts to/from the brig. One thing we were taught by a couple senior MA's and brig staff was to look for some kind of visible pulsing of the neck veins prior to an attack.
I never understood how a person could possibly notice something like that.
10/03/2009 12:34pm, #6
- Join Date
- Dec 2007
- Sao Paulo (BJJ Motherland!)
I suggest you can also watch chimpanzees intimidating and before fight, they don't bother to hide their body language and you can find a great resemblance in humans. Again, don't focus on single little tales but try to see the big picture. Always, if possible, keep distance and try to remain distance, if your "counter part" closes the distance, warn him and if he proceeds to come towards you, act.
For civilians, try to use downward facing open palms with a sort of boxing stance, this is the least aggressive, yet save option. For LEO, I don't know, thus I leave the field to the ones who do.
A friend and SD instructor of mine, who worked as part of the riot police in my home town (nice solid hooligan scene) told me, if you warn them, an show signs of being fight ready and they still come towards you, you can go because their brain is not working at that time, there is no point in talking, prepare and protect yourself.
10/03/2009 1:53pm, #7
- Join Date
- Dec 2007
10/03/2009 2:19pm, #8
As the parent of a child with autism, some of these indicators jump out at me as being common traits of people on the autistic spectrum:
I know many other parents whose children act similarly. The recent surge of kids on the Autism Spectrum means that soon we will have more adults on the Autism Spectrum.
10/03/2009 2:26pm, #9
One thing that I had heard from a study (sorry, don't have the source) was that someone who is about to commit an assault is more likely to have their arms hang straight from the sides rather than swinging in a normal walking motion. I think this was in relation to video surveillance.
Anyone hear anything about this?Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices.
10/03/2009 4:05pm, #10
Well thought-out and put together thread. The whole "target indicators" and "target glances" is actually something that many police are trained to look out for and to take action before a fight begins or a situation can escalate.