Understanding Body Language & Pre-Attack Indicators

A large part of our awareness training focuses on attack recognition. Your personal security plan should include the ability to recognize body language, trusting your instincts and reacting decisively when your life is on the line. By being able to recognize the pre-attack signals that the body engages in involuntarily, you will increase your reaction time to avoid and or escape an attack.

Attack recognition is the ability to be mentally prepared to react to an attack. When you are able to recognize pre-attack indicators, you are able to kick in your pre-planned avoidance maneuvers to escape and hopefully avoid a violent confrontation altogether.

Most predators want to "verify" that their targets are appropriate. Therefore, they will approach you and engage in innocent small talk to be able to size you up. This is were your intuition comes into play. You need to be on full alert when something starts to feel "wrong."

Predators will also exhibit unconscious body language cues prior to a full attack. When you see any of these, kick up your awareness and start looking for a safe exit while mentally preparing to defend yourself if needed.

  • Scanning - You'll see signs of agitation and fidgeting as they are constantly checking out the surrounding area to see if it is safe for them to continue. You may also see signs of paranoia or defensiveness.

  • Clenching - They may rock back and forth, hands and jaw clenching and unclenching. You may also see bulging veins, erratic or increased breathing.

  • Target Glance - They are checking to see whether or not you are armed or may even be telegraphing where they will strike (chin, gut). You'll may also notice erratic eye & head movements.

  • Fighting Stance - Their stance isn't conversational. Think boxer stance. One foot will be back and hands will be held up at the waist or chest level. They may also start removing glasses or a hat.

  • Hesitation in Responses - Contrary to popular thought, the human brain cannot successfully multi-task. If you start seeing hesitations to questions, it is because their brain is involved in trying to determine where and when they are going to strike. You may also see a contradiction between their actual words and their body language.

    The most important piece of information here is to TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS. If you start seeing these unconscious verbal cues and your gut is telling you something is wrong, activate your self defense plan and get distance between you and a potential predator.

    Remember, the more time you spend on honing your awareness, the quicker you will be able to remove yourself from a potentially dangerous situation.


    **Angie M. Tarighi is the CEO & Founder of Women’s Self-Defense Institute providing self defense training, education awareness & personal protection products empowering women to fight back against crime.