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When an attacker confronts you, you have a choice.

Do you strike them first or do you wait to be attacked?

And this decision is important because if you do one and not the other, then the outcome could be very different for you.

The question is, how do you know which to do?

And in this article, we will look at how you can read the attackers mind.

Ready, let’s do this.

This Is Not A Legal Debate

First I should say this is not a legal debate about the use of pre-emptive attack in self-defence.

This is me a 17-year police and even longer Martial Arts veteran sharing my tips for how to spot if the attacker is going to attack you.

Not if you are legally able to use force, that is a whole different discussion.

But for now, let us get back to the discussion.

Impact Factors

When assessing if the attacker is going to ‘attack you,’ there is something we need to address.

This is known as impact factors.

An impact factor is in simple terms something that could affect the outcome of this encounter.

And the list can be never ending but here are a few:

Their size.

Your size compared with their size.

Their strength.

Your injuries/illnesses.

Your intoxication.

Their intoxication.




Signs of mental health problems.

Now there are loads more, but you get the idea.

Impact factors dictate a lot when it comes to trying to predict the behaviour of the aggressor.

In simple terms, if they are under the influence of drink or drugs or displaying signs of mental health issues, then their behaviour is in the unpredictable zone.

This makes your judgement tougher but still not impossible.

The Bladed Stance

When it comes to attacks, I have seen every kind, from the person that stands square on with their arms out wide to the man that jumps up and down.

But the bladed stance is the warning signal you should look out for.

A bladed stance can dictate that the person has some skill but is also actually how a lot of people try and generate power in their strikes.

This comes from years of being exposed to boxing/ martial arts etc. on TV, throwing balls in games and even from a naturally occurring way to generate power.

But when I see a bladed stance, I immediately think that they are gearing up to strike.

Watch out for this.

The Courage Builder

One of the signs that a person is really not wanting to attack you is the person that is building up the courage to do so.

They do this often by walking back and forth, pacing this way and that.

They often even ask you if you want to fight.

“Do you want a fight mate” is a typical response.

The easy way to kill this is to say ‘no’.

And yes you will be surprised how often this works.

Generally speaking, anyone that is looking to build courage can be talked out of things, this is because really they don’t want to attack you.

They feel aggrieved in some way, often it is merely a case of finding out what the issue is and seeking to resolve it verbally.

The Crowd Pleaser

And then we have the one that is fighting to gain status.

These are almost always people that end up talking themselves into a fight.

This type of attacker might start off by shouting abuse at you to which you then challenge their status by yelling something back.

The issue with this type of attacker is that they end up putting themselves in a position that if they don’t hit you, they lose such an amount of status within their friends that they have to attack you.

The Remover

This type of person is often aligned with robbery and sexual assaults, but it can also happen with physical attacks/ street fights.

They are planning to attack you, so they ask you to go to a specific location.

The reason behind this is that they have preplanned their attack in their mind or possibly in great detail.

So for example, if a man with a knife approaches a young woman and says ‘do as I say and you won’t get hurt’ and then follows up by saying ‘walk down this path with me’ or ‘get into this car’.

It is my advice that this person intends to inflict physical harm.

In a more traditional sense the old ‘let’s go outside to talk’ is often a precursor to an attack.

The Square Up

Our last of this mini serious is the square up.

You know, the ‘nose to nose’ aggressor who gets into your face.

This type of aggressor is on a short fuse, and personally, I would never let anyone get that close to me.

There is only one reason they do that, and it is because they prefer close up fighting, This can include head buts and biting.

The other tactic that they use it to go close up and they walk away before launching an attack.

This is how experienced street attackers work, they often walk away so that you feel safer and drop your guard, and when they see this, they jump back at you with a powerful attack.


As you have seen, the trick to reading the mind of the attacker is to look at what their body is doing.

This is not a complete guide, there exist many nuances in human behaviour, but I feel that the above is valuable information when trying to decide what action you should take.

But this brings us to the next step, your defensive and offensive capabilities will be a critical deciding factor in what action you take or can take.

And this is why self-defence training becomes so essential at Evolution Martial Arts and Fitness Academy

Thanks for reading.

Come along to Evolution Martial Arts and Fitness Academy and check out our classes…. 

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