Craning to Pushing
The Confrontational Aggression Trajectory
Before continuing in the same vein with confrontational aggressions, we should define them and place them on a rough escalation trajectory. Keep in mind that this is not a graduated behavioral scale, and that some behaviors will not necessarily be engaged in by an individual who engages in certain other behaviors. There may be a certain amount of slide here, but in some cases a confrontational act is a set up for a predatory act, which will then put behavior on a different, more dangerous, scale. Roughly, taken in order from least to most threatening, the behaviors we will be covering over the next month are listed on the scale below.
Confrontational Aggression Trajectory
Warning: The use of multiple behaviors, by the same individual or his associates, is a warning flag. While advancing to a more aggressive behavior is an escalation, each behavior itself can be escalated, as illustrated by number 3, which is amplified in the second presentation of the scale farther below, and has been covered somewhat in the previous volume.
- Puffing, posing, crowding, chest bumping, pinning against vertical surface with shoulder or even forehead
- Agitated gesturing
- The measuring hand
- The checking hand
- The push
The push is both at the top of the confrontational aggression scale and at the bottom of the combat scale. The predatory version of this tactic, I will call a “shove,” and cover in a later section.
Aggressor Check List
Caution: Let us not mistake the defender for the primary actor in the aggressive situation. The basic flaw with most martial arts and self-defense geared toward survival is that the assumption is made that the defender always has potential initiative, as if they can stop the hand of time and insert themselves in the process of their own demise to turn it around.
At some point prior to the confrontation, or during the confrontation, the aggressor may decide—and probably has—that they would like to use force against you. This does not mean that it will happen, and you should do nothing to precipitate it. Please keep in mind that aggression is a matter of agency, of attempting to impose our little apish wills on the world, and is not caused by some unseen force like poverty, addiction, listening to bad music, etc.
A normal aggressor only requires that he answer yes to three basic questions:
1. Can I do this? Really, will I prevail and not get burned by the law or his psychotic uncle? This has both a bio-mechanical and a social element, and is the reason for our deterrence-based legal system (including civil litigation) and the currency of gangs. For instance, you may decide that you could knockout a biker who is arguing with you, but at what potential cost? Even more terrifying, imagine punching out a lawyer in front of witnesses. In covering each of the 13 behaviors listed above, I will discuss non physical and physical means for diffusing the situation with minimal mess.
2. Will people respect me, or revile me, for doing this? Obviously, punching out Mike Tyson has more potential social approval and ego-stroking benefit than would stomping some kid with MS on the Oprah show while he attempts to achieve a fetal position in his powered chair. This may seem an unimportant consideration for most, as it touches on the now dead tradition of honor. However, I guarantee you that the most dangerous men on this planet operate according to a code of honor of some kind. Gang members and dominant males all have some form of social break on their behavior.
3. Am I close enough to do this? In many cases, simply denying the realization of this precondition will be enough to stifle the blooming act of stupidity.
Our study sections will be 1-5, 6-9, and 10-13. Before working through these over the next three weeks let me define the 13 terms briefly:
1. Craning: This person is looking at you in an obvious wide-eyed manner from a distance. This is often used to gauge your purpose. Are you here to buy drugs, buy pussy or to cause trouble? Are you stupid and vulnerable and likely to misread this as a friendly sign that I am the most trustworthy fellow in sight?
2. Asking: Will you go into your pocket for him, look at your watch or phone for him? If you are such a person than perhaps all that was wanted was your time, or perhaps you have been selected for your distracted nature to aid in his commission of any number of crimes against you.
3. Puffing: Posing, crowding, chest bumping, pinning against vertical surface with shoulder or even forehead can range from mere support of another aggressor’s activity to a savage confrontation in a men’s room with some hyper-aggressive human bulldozer. Once one advances to crowding, this may be charged as “assault” in some municipalities if the police are called to come and sort this out. When you are working security, minimal tolerance for people crowding your subject is the rule, and calls for physical intervention, with crowding often being the option chosen by the bodyguard in less serious encounters. As a grocery store manager I used to crowd men who I caught threatening my staff as a matter of course, just walking them away without laying hand on them, as they knew touching me would bring police or security who would side with me. When I escorted card players at a convention where thugs gathered to beat them down and take their winnings, simply crowding, as a statement of commitment, was almost always enough to dissuade aggression.
4. Pleading: Pleading often seems like the last hope of the panhandler, and often is, but is sometimes the self-debasing prequel to more serious behavior, and may be a disarming ploy on the part of the set-up element of an aggressive pair of criminals.
5. Looming: Looming ranges from straight up dominance posturin—usually by a taller man—to a tactical invasion of your space by a predator or a raging person hoping to illicit a trigger word or action that will justify such vaunted goals as the knocking out of your teeth.
6. Wolfing: Threatening and name-calling from a distance is an invitation to respond. Most wolfing males—this is a female activity—will fade away if you do not verbally respond. This is a clutch behavior in the ghetto and will be explored in detail.
7. Agitated gesturing: This is an indication that the person is having a difficult time controlling their urge to attack you.
8. Threatening: Threatening is an art among successful felons and vigilantes. Take all threats at face value, immediately defaulting to actionable intelligence—verbal, postural, and combative—in order to resolve or diffuse this situation.
9. Raging: Raging is troubling to the calm, frightening to the skittish, and an opportunity for the dangerous predator to set his man up. Do not rage. Managing rage is simple, and will be covered in detail.
10. Scanning: Scanning is when a person who is using aggressive body language and is nearing or within striking range, begins looking around for witnesses, cops, helicopter gunships that might take him out after he unloads his banana clip into you, etc. Beware of scanning aggressors.
11. The measuring hand: This is a confrontational gambit that serves the cause of the defender using it, the aggressor using it, and may also serve to enable and limit actual combat, and absolutely must be learned.
12. The checking hand: This is often called “the light touch” in private security, and is used as a minimal force measure to avoid the ugliness of grappling, chasing and cuffing shoplifters, beating down rowdy bar patrons, or opening the door with the face of a douche bag feeling up the girl giving them a lap dance, etc. It is also a coaching and fathering tool, and has wide application in social interactions between men of varying status and age.
13. The push: The push can take one of three forms: “get away you psycho,” “let’s engage in stupid pointless brawling,” or “please fall down so that I can jump up and down on your big pumpkin head.”
Note: At any time an aggressor can jump from the confrontational to the predatory behavior scale, which is a ways off, so let’s concentrate on keeping aggression on the confrontational scale for now.