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How To Use Pre Attack Indicators as a Signal In Violent Situation

Updated: May 11

Since body language compromises 60% of all communication, prior to most violent attacks, there is going to be what's called pre-attack indicators. Pre Attack Indicators reveal people's true intentions.


Self Defense Pre Attack Indicators Signals

Pre-attack indicators are behavioral or situational clues that may precede a physical assault or confrontation in a self-defense situation.


While you don't want to take behaviors out of context- you should look for a series of behaviors not just one. The sum of behaviors increase the likelihood - Regardless you maintain your ready position.


Learn the most common pre-attack indicators and how to take appropriate actions to prevent or mitigate a potential threat.

How To Use Pre Attack Indicators as a Signal In Violent Situation
How To Use Pre Attack Indicators as a Signal In Violent Situation

Let's take a look at a few Self Defense Pre Attack Indicators;

  • Target Spotting. A quick, stealthy look at someone or something. Be alert for people who are looking at you and trying not to make it obvious. Head swiveling the area checking for security cameras, police, or anyone who might intervene in their plans.

  • Unable to explain or account for presence. People meandering around for no reason should be a red flag and deserves attention. Most people are walking with purpose, carrying stuff to and from somewhere. When someone is just drifting about you should start asking questions.

  • The quick change in the opponent's position. If the opponent is sitting on a park bench and the ONLY thing that changes is your distance near them and they suddenly change their position (were sitting, were laying down, were leaning on the wall) when you get closer to them.


  • Shadow Repositioning. You spot potential threat so you course correct your walk or reposition your location. Minutes later the potential threat reappears near you again.

  • Unnatural Movements Due To Concealed Hands. A potential threat is concealing their hands behind their leg, armpit, or pockets. Their walk or movement is asynchronous or “out of synch with typical movements.

Weapon Printing
Weapon Printing
  • Inappropriate clothing. Criminals use baggy clothing and/or heavy fabrics to prevent the shirt from "printing" the outline of a weapon. If they are wearing a fitted shirt it makes it difficult to conceal a weapon. If you see a suspicious character wearing a sweatshirt on a 70-degree evening it may be worth keeping an eye on.

  • Your Freedom to Move is Hindered. If someone impedes your movement they are a potential threat. Put at least 5 feet of space between you and the threat while you scan 360 degrees with your peripheral vision.

  • Attempts at conversation that is uninvited. Deliberately annoying or taunting someone to entice as prey. The predator will draw in the victim by initiating a conversation by saying something insulting about the victim that they would otherwise have ignored.

  • Weight Shifting- Weight shift with the goal of loading punches or kicks.

  • Grooming- The attacker closes the distance and raises their hands to their face pretending to touch their head, itch face, or run fingers thru hair. What they may be really concealing with hand repositioning is preparation for an attack.

  • Boundary Testing- An “offender” will actively and repeatedly encroach on personal boundary lines to check for solvency in their foundation. This is like testing the walls of a castle looking for weaknesses.

  • Closing Distance - Predators have also developed simple but surprisingly effective techniques for “closing the distance” — asking you if you know the time or if you can give them directions, all the while edging closer to you. In addition, while person #1 is asking a question you spot a 2nd person approaching you from your side (flanking) trying to establish a dominant position. Be aware of proximity and direction of people to prevent them from gaining an advantage.

  • Aggressive Body Language: Aggressors often display aggressive body language such as clenched fists, pacing, invading personal space, or adopting an aggressive stance.

  • Verbal Threats: Threatening language or verbal abuse can be an indicator of an impending attack. Pay attention to escalating verbal aggression.

  • Increased Heart Rate and Breathing: An attacker's physiological response may become more apparent as they become more agitated or excited.

  • Flanking or Surrounding: Attackers may strategically position themselves to encircle or corner their target, reducing the victim's escape options.

  • Grooming Behaviors: Some attackers engage in grooming behaviors, like adjusting clothing or repeatedly checking a concealed weapon.

  • Sudden Change in Behavior: A person who was previously calm or non-confrontational may suddenly become aggressive, agitated, or erratic.

  • Intense Staring or Glaring: Prolonged and intense eye contact can be a sign of aggression or confrontation.

  • Evasion or Avoidance: An individual might attempt to avoid eye contact, change their route, or cross the street to distance themselves from a potential threat.

  • Use of Distractions: Attackers may use distractions or accomplices to divert your attention while they prepare to strike.

  • Blocking or Cornering: Attackers may use their body to block your path or corner you, limiting your ability to escape.

  • Intoxication or Drug Use: People under the influence of drugs or alcohol may exhibit unpredictable and aggressive behavior.



Keep Alert For These Pre Attack Indicators Signals.

Don't be paranoid just mindful similarly to how you utilize a seat belt on a quick trip to the store. We take precautions in all areas of our lives, seatbelts in cars, locking our front doors. Consider if that's coincidental or not. If numbers 1 & 2 are happening as well you should take action.


It's essential to remember that pre-attack indicators are not foolproof, and situations can escalate rapidly. If you observe one or more of these signs, it's crucial to prioritize your safety:

  • Stay Alert: Maintain situational awareness and trust your instincts. If something doesn't feel right, take it seriously.

  • Create Distance: If possible, create distance between yourself and the potential threat. This can provide you with more time to react if necessary.

  • Seek Assistance: Move toward crowded areas or seek help from law enforcement, security personnel, or bystanders.

  • Use Verbal De-escalation: Attempt to verbally defuse the situation by remaining calm, speaking respectfully, and using de-escalation techniques.

  • Prepare to Defend Yourself: If you feel an attack is imminent and you cannot escape, be prepared to defend yourself using self-defense techniques or tools if you have them.



Remember that self-defense is about protecting yourself and ensuring your safety. Avoid escalating confrontations whenever possible and prioritize escape and evasion as your primary strategies.


Keep Alert For These Pre Attack Indicators Signals

Don't be paranoid just mindful similarly to how you utilize a seat belt on a quick trip to the store. We take precautions in all areas of our lives, seatbelts in cars, locking our front doors. Consider if that's coincidental or not. If numbers 1 & 2 are happening as well you should take action.


Violence Prevention and Conflict Management Resources

The Center for Violence Prevention and Self-Defense Training (CVPSD) is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing evidence-based training in violence prevention and self-defense. With a focus on unbiased program development, CVPSD offers customized programs to individuals and organizations, equipping them with the tools to enhance personal safety and contribute to violence prevention in their communities. The Center reaches individuals and communities through partnerships with schools and other nonprofits, community groups, as well as classes for the public.


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