Get Curious About Body Language, It Could Save Your Life
Have you ever found yourself witnessing a conflict where the impending physical assault was evident to you through visual cues and body language yet seemed to be invisible to the person about to receive the assault?
Admittedly, being the bystander without the adrenaline rush, fear, and chaos makes it much easier to pick up on those cues. Still, we can pick up on the body language cues, whether small or large, if we get curious about learning them, particularly if we adopt training drills that incorporate these cues realistically.
Let’s look at some of those cues, remembering that many may happen simultaneously; resolution or avoidance should always be the primary goal when possible.
Stance & Posture: Several indications of physical violence can be construed from the stance and posture of the person in front of you. Do they blade or angle their body to minimize their chances of being hit while setting up their strike to be effective? Are they bouncing side to side, shifting their body, and working themselves up to get physical?
Are they puffing up their chest to intimidate and appear more threatening?
Are their hands opening and closing, making a fist or when they blade their body, do they make a fist with their dominant hand?
Do they attempt to get closer in proximity to their intended targets?
Some of these cues may be nuanced, but typically, when the whole body moves as one, they are more evident if you know them.
Facial Expressions & Head Movement:
Are they clenching their teeth or extending their jaw?
Do they stare you down with a menacing, threatening look, trying to hypnotize you into freezing or cause you to get tunnel vision, or do they look away to distract you from them? Looking away is also a cue they are looking to see if there are any witnesses.
Do you notice their nostrils flaring or taking air in and out more rapidly?
Do they tighten their mouth and lips, getting more aggressive? Tightening of any muscles is a cue they are about to strike.
Perhaps less noticeable, but are their pupils enlarging as they assess their best course of action?
Do their eyebrows lower, revealing expanded anger?
Does their face express anger, disgust or their escalation in aggression?
You hear a lot these days about microexpressions and the value in learning them to pick up cues, but one should focus on the more obvious ones that tend to last longer. Now, your intuition will pick up those microexpressions quite well, but for most people, it will be more challenging to understand their message in these high-stress moments but know your gut feeling may be picking up on them.
This is a short list of possible cues to violence, but the primary ones. This is where the value of being able to diffuse your vision can assist you in picking up more cues, not only to their body language but to possible weapons they might be carrying.
We have yet to address the use of words and their tone, which give a complete picture of their intent in conjunction with the body language.
And there are exceptions, of course, particularly those who are skilled at the use of violence, knowing how to hide many of these cues in an attempt to conceal their intent, catching you off guard.
You might be interested in our Rich & Roberts Knife Defence Drills videos as we discuss the importance of understanding body language.