Monday, October 08, 2012

SELF-DEFENSE: Lee Aldridge - Handling "Stranger" Confrontations: A 12Step Plan to Success

With kind permission of Lee Aldridge, I'm posting this great article of his which goes hand-in-hand with an article I posted earlier by Craig Douglas aka SouthNarc - Managing Unknown Contacts.

Handling "Stranger" Confrontations: A 12Step Plan to Success
By Lee Aldridge

While we spend most of our time discussing and practicing "fighting skills", another area of focus which greatly affects the outcome of a confrontation is addressed far less frequently. I'm speaking of the "progression" of a street encounter from the beginning, and how it unfolds BEFORE THE FIGHT BEGINS.

The vast majority of "encounters" on the streets never turn into a "real fight". However, the uneasiness and uncertainty that fills the atmosphere during those tense moments as a stranger approaches are quite real. The tension generated also affects your performance in the coming moments. Wouldn't it be great if we could figure out how to reduce the apprehension and create a way of dealing more effectively with these situations? :idea:

Look no further.

Just as we drill incessantly on H2H combinations, we can also put into action a solid, logical plan to handle the unpleasant moments where we are approached, and are not sure what the future holds.

I suggest a simple progression which allows you to get ready for the possibility of violence, yet allows the other individual the chance to disengage before any "conflict" occurs. The outlined information here is merely an example for you to follow and compare to what you may have already adopted. For those who've not considered this part of encountering unknown folks, please think through how these steps allow you to keep control of things.

Here's the steps:
  • 1. ASSESSMENT: You notice someone coming. You don't know them, or their intentions. Your internal "alert" activates, and you keep watching to determine if they intend to approach you. Of course, there has been much written on appearance and expression of approaching persons, and something here may escalate you to physical action: running away or fighting immediately. Also, there may be an obvious attack coming, in which case your response is also obvious. However, things usually aren't that "cut and dry"!
  • 2. THE "FENCE": They are approaching you. You still don't know what they want. You put your hands up in front of your face, creating a psychological "barrier" while you prepare even more for the possibility of physical violence. Your fingertips are at eye level, with your palms facing the "intruder". You have previously determined how far your "personal space" extends, within which you are uncomfortable with a stranger. Depending on your training, etc., this distance will still be similar for most folks. Your goal with the fence is to passively create a "do-not-cross" line for this person to respect. You might say "Whoa, there buddy! Do I know you?" etc. etc. to give legitimacy to the fence AND BE APPARENTLY HARMLESS. Having your hands up at this level protects your head and lets you strike with less chance of being "out-sped".
    (credit for the term "fence": Geoff Thompson)
  • 3. VERBAL QUESTIONING: You ask what the individual wants. You are still in the fence stance, and possibly creating a bit more distance by moving backward or sideways (not enough to trip over something!!) This part of the "conversation" can be pleasant enough, with you simply trying to identify this person and what they want with you. Your readiness to fight is still increasing, as long as they continue the engagement/encroachment.
  • 4. VERBAL COMMANDS: Now, he hasn't responded to your questioning satisfactorily. You now issue stern commands: "Back Off! Leave me alone!", etc. This is similar to the prison term "Gimme five feet!" which establishes a "comfort zone" for guards when near unrestrained prisoners. You prepare to enforce your orders, as you've already made the RULES clear to yourself previously, and now to him. You're watching his hands carefully, and maintaining the distance between you if possible.
  • 5. ACTION: Well, this guy just didn't get the hint! Here's where all your training comes in.

Please understand that this "sequence" may be aborted at any time if the stranger gives you reason to escalate the situation sooner. You may feel that "something's not right" and prepare earlier to strike/draw as a pre-emptive measure. Notice that having some "steps" to cover during the "encounter phase" removes a great deal of the trepidation from the setting. You are evaluating the guy's response to each step of this process. Remember that this whole process may only take a few seconds! But having this structure in place gives you a springboard to take action.... you'll have already made the decision to act at any point that this process sounds your "alarm"! Most folks have simply not given attention to how they will handle these moments, resulting in continual stress and worry due to indecision. (result=poor performance)

You have given this individual every reasonable chance to respect your wish for distance. A "good" citizen WILL respect your "orders", and there will be no problem. However, as each step of the plan above goes unheeded, you certainly know that something's going on! The truth is that most "potential confrontations" never become physically violent. Having a good safety plan that allows you to handle these situations, without shooting everyone who wants some spare change, will assist you in remaining calm under the pressure of an unknown individual's approach.

To the onlooker, you have behaved like a perfectly fine citizen, appearing non-confrontational and "pleading" (remember the fence and how it looks?) with the guy to leave you alone. Legally, this is not a bad position to be in. ;) You will appear to have acted as a last resort (truly, you did... but you were prepared much sooner).

Finally, the "bad guy" may accelerate this scenario so that most of the steps are skipped. In that case, the default positions and fighting from a disadvantaged "onset" that are discussed here on TPI will serve you well.

Having a series of "gates" through which impending confrontation proceeds allows you the luxury of not getting caught off-guard as easily. Learning to carefully watch an opponent as you progress through these steps will enhance your ability to effectively defend yourself, whether that defense is verbal or physical. You'll become more aware of when the "fight" is imminent, and thus get a bigger jump on the opponent (or be less behind!)

Try practicing a sequence such as this in your training sessions, and see how it allows you to address uncertain scenarios with more confidence.


You can contact Lee Aldridge care of his site:



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