Overlooked Self-Defense Elements 3: Pre-Fight Indicators/Pre-Fight Rituals

This is part three of a series of articles where I look at the elements needed for a self defense or self-protection course to be of real use. In a previous article I listed the required elements as follows:

  • Awareness
  • Avoidance
  • Pre fight indicators (pre-fight rituals)
  • De-escalation
  • Adrenaline effects
  • And last, actual physical skills

Pre-fight indicators (pre-fight rituals)

Throughout the world there are a series of easily identified behaviors that serve as pre-fight indicators. I got the terms pre-fight indicators and pre-fight rituals from the Conflict Communications website, and much of the information that follows is from them as well. I in no way intend to pass myself off as an expert in this field of study. I am a student, and a relatively new student to this aspect of self-protection.

The basic idea behind this study is that, cross-culturally, there are some behaviors that can serve as a warning to those who are able to identify them, that a fight is about to occur. One must remember that these rituals are in a very real sense hard-wired into our brain. MacYoung points out that these conflicts scripts are wired into our brain and are designed for the survival of the group, not the individual.

One of the first is usually called posturing. It is a method used by many species in an attempt to seem larger and show dominance. Interestingly, this posturing includes the shouts, loud talking and profanity used before a fight starts. Included also are a puffing of the chest, and in many cases a lowering of the neck and head. The entire process is an attempt to intimidate, and I have read that much of it is unconscious, and not at all planned.

The soon-to-be-attacker may angle their body, both narrowing the target you see, and at the same time, bracing their body to launch or receive an attack.

Another thing that can indicate that things are about to get really bad is when the person is shaking or trembling. This could be fear, but more than likely it is the result of adrenalin. Never assume that they are afraid of you, and even if they are afraid of you, never assume that is a good thing.

The basic outline of a fight follows the same general pattern. There are many variables, but we are speaking in generalities.

  • The Verbal Argument. This is the stage where nothing has happened, and if one of you is in the right mindset, it can be relatively easy to extricate yourself from the situation without it turning physical.
  • Posturing. In this stage, you and the other guy will begin puffing out your chests, talking loudly, and the profanities will probably be getting a thorough use. It can still be possible to get out of the fight, but it is getting harder to do it. One of you has to swallow your pride and back down if there is to be any hope of getting out of the fight at this point.
  • The Man-Kiss and Chest Bumping. I know there is probably a better name for it, but this is what I call it. This is the stage where the two soon to be combatants get right in each other’s face. It really looks like they are about to start kissing. Back when I was in school, two boys were about to get in a fight one day. When they got to this stage, my ever mischievous self started a chant to them of, “Kiss! Kiss! Kiss! Kiss!” Unfortunately, they both turned their attention toward me…There is still some verbal exchange going on. As this is the last (partially) non-physical point of the pre-fight, this is a very tricky stage. The chest bumping will start around this time. And I have seen people trying to back out of the fight at this time and get shoved down as they back away.
  • Shoving. Things are turning physical, and you have missed all of the off ramps. Chances are probably pretty low that you will be able to escape the situation without fighting. You have had several chances prior to this, and if you missed them, your mindset is probably going to be all wrong for getting out of the fight. At this point adrenalin is surging and you are less and less your normal self.

It is very important to know the pre-fight indicators. These should be taught, understood, and drilled until you know them on sight, and can extricate yourself from the potential fight in the earliest possible stages. One thing to keep in mind about this list – it is not written in stone. Much as the boy in the movie A Christmas Story committed a faux pas in skipping to the “triple-dog dare”, your adversary can skip to any point on the list at any time. This is why you need to understand the list, and get out of the situation as quickly as possible. If they jump from verbal to shove, you are in deep. Again, I refer you to the Conflict Communications website, read and re-read.