How to Stop an Attack Before it Happens

by Erich

Part of preventing a physical confrontation is understanding the signs that proceed one. This article shows you what to look for.

attackI recently posted an article about The Color Code of Awareness which when followed, heightens your awareness and allows you to see potential threats to your safety ahead of time. This provides a window of opportunity to prepare for or prevent potential conflict.

In any conflict situation, the more knowledge you have in reading the other person the greater your chances are of threat detection and avoidance, which makes the awareness color code all the more effective. For example, law enforcement officers are trained to look for specific physical cues that indicate when a person is in an aggressive state of mind. These cues serve as early warning signals that indicate that an attack is imminent.

As a civilian, being able to identify these “pre-assault indicators” can give you just enough time to, at best, leave the scene, or if necessary give you the edge in preempting any physical attack with a defensive response of your own.

Pre-Assault Indicators

Before a physical attack occurs, the aggressor typically threatens an attack by displaying what is known as “pre-assualt indicators”. These are involuntary physiological “tells” that project from a person when they are in fight or flight mode. While the following list is not all-inclusive it includes the primary indicators you should be aware of.

  • Blading: Body ‘blading’ happens when the aggressor puts his strong foot slightly behind him so that his torso is facing around 45 degrees to the right or left of you. It is an indication that he is settling his stance in preparation for an attack.
  • Fist Clenching or Pumping: One of the side-effects of the fight-or-flight response is that blood is pulled from the extremities into the large muscle groups and major organs. Due to vasoconstriction in the hands and fingers, a natural response is to pump or clench them.
  • Trembling: Due to adrenaline, you may notice trembling of the hands or knees. It’s just another indicator that the aggressor is in an agitated state.
  • Rapid Shallow Breathing: Again, this is another indication of agitation and stress.
  • Avoiding Eye Contact: This could mean a few different things or a combination of them. When a person is trying to mentally process the situation in an agitated state, it is difficult to multitask (hold your attention and think of a plan and psyche himself up). It could also be an attempt to lull you into a sucker punch.
  • Posturing: Surprisingly enough this in many cases is also an involuntary act. It is common among many animal species as well as us humans and indicates a display of dominance and threat of attack. One of the main indicators is puffing up the chest to make one appear larger or lowering the head as if ready to charge.
  • Bobbing and Rocking: This is similar to trembling and fist clenching above. With the combination of adrenaline and oxygen getting pumped into their systems, the aggressor may display odd movements. He may bounce up and down, rock back and forth, or start pacing. This provides a release of extra oxygen and indicates a subconscious preparation for action.
  • Hiding the Face: An aggressor on the verge of attacking may attempt to conceal their stress and excitement by turning their head or hiding their faces. This may also be seen when an aggressor wipes his face, slicks back his hair, scratches his nose, etc.
  • Focused Attention: When you’ve recognized many of the previous indicators and you begin to see focused attention on you they are essentially made a lock on their target. This also includes focused attention on a particular body part such as the chin or groin showing where they will probably strike.
  • Thousand Yard Stare: This is the opposite of focused attention. Here the person isn’t so much focusing on you but looking through you. What this tells you is that he is mentally shutting down and is ready to go on aggressive autopilot. Gain some distance, fast.

The whole point of the above list is not to get freaked out just because you see someone slick back their hair or look away from you. What you need to do is look at the entire situation and try to find groupings or ‘clusters’ of the above behaviors. If you see these indicators it’s time to act! The best option is to run away if possible, but if you can’t ‘beat feet’ then you better get ready.

Some Examples

Check out the following video. This gives a great overview of what some of these pre-assault indicators may look like:


This next video is a real life example. Try to see if you can notice the following: Blading, Avoiding Eye Contact, Posturing, Bobbing and Rocking, Facial Wipes and Hiding the Face. Be aware that this contains graphic footage and strong language:

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Comment by keith lecounte
2011-04-11 08:57:56

I am in instructor training and would like to have permission to use the video treat indicators by tgace334, as a training guide on how to identify potential threat indicators. your prompt response to this matter wll be greatly appriciated.

Comment by TacticalIntelligence
2011-04-11 09:38:33


That video is currently open to the public (via Youtube or embedding). If you are looking to use it for any other purpose, please contact the owner of the video (tgace334).

Comment by tgace
2011-08-01 17:25:14

Glad you guys liked my/our video project on threat indicators. It was intended to be an introduction to a more lengthly presentation covering awareness/21 foot rule/use of force response etc. but that was as far as we got.


2011-08-01 20:45:54


Thanks again for a well put-together video. We’d love to see more so be sure to stop by and let us know if you put out another.

2013-07-01 14:51:32

Effective. I agree.

Comment by Barbara
2014-02-18 23:53:47

That’s all very manly man, but neither men or women come at women that way. Men threaten us very differently, and for different purposes. What do you have for us?

Comment by linda
2014-04-05 17:50:57

Thank-you for the video. I work in a mental hospital and am exposed to this type of behavior on a regular basis with the patients. I have also witnessed this type of behavior with gang members. Keep up the great work!

Comment by linda
2014-04-05 17:52:43

I have been approached in this manner and as a female you need to learn how to protect yourself because if they are mentally unstable they won’t care if you are a female.

Comment by john mcneil
2014-04-24 15:24:23

Bad guys don’t play fair. “Fair” for defending self is to expect the worst to come and be at least a step ahead of it when/if it does.

Comment by Bill
2017-06-08 05:39:31

How about just the ‘bad guy’ moving too close to you. There is no reason anyone should get super close to you, especially if they do this when you are backing away.

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