Puffing and Looming
Dealing with Two Basic Types of Confrontational Aggression
In my guide to assessing the fighting potential of adversaries I presented a check list. However, in the more important behavioral assessment section—which is the bulk of the urban survivor’s art—we will proceed behavior by behavior.
Over all confrontational aggression is less serious than predatory aggression. Beyond that, confrontational aggression initiated by larger aggressors is usually less serious than that initiated by smaller aggressors, as the smaller man is more apt to seek the injury, maiming or death of the target, than the larger aggressor who is usually operating based upon dominance. For instance, a chimp is more likely to try and kill you than the more powerful gorilla.
The first and most innocuous aggressive behavior is “puffing,” which in its least obnoxious form simply consists of crowding a person by stepping in and restricting their movements by the sheer presence of the body. Most people do not recognize this as aggressive behavior. This is why private security persons use it extensively. Usually, the only necessary action to save one person from the bad intentions of another is to get in the way. Likewise, to be a good accomplice to a mugging, a big man simply needs to block egress, or, line of sight to any potential witnesses.
The more aggressive but less effective type of puffing is quite literally the puffing out of an aggressor’s chest, sometimes evolving into actual chest bumping. This is common behavior among emasculated but aggressive males, particularly big, or muscular males who have been raised by women or sissy fathers.
In the late 1980s, a young lightweight boxer I trained, named Dante was walking down the hall of Parkville Senior High School in Baltimore County, when the captain of the wrestling team, greeted him with a classic chest to chest bump. This is an aggressive dominance tactic so old in the primate line that chimps have abandoned it largely in favor of rending; now it is primarily the province of the gorilla. Dante punched the larger youth in the chest with the exact sneaky right hand punch used by the older boxer in the video below. Being a genetic freak, who once KO’d his 300 pound uncle in his father’s living room at the age of 8 and a mere 70 pounds, Dante cracked the wrestler’s sternum in half.
Looming is a dominance behavior used by bigger taller men to cow smaller men, which conveniently leaves their jaw open as a target. And, for the big man, his jaw is like that gap in Smaug’s armor. The looming man normally juts his jaw forward as he seeks the submission of his prey.
The most obvious instance of looming I can recall was from a photo on the inside cover of Grand Funk Railroad’s Live album, in which the muscular lead guitarist and vocalist, Mark Farner, loomed over a cop jutting his lantern jaw out at the officer like a pointer of flaws. At age 14, when I bought this album, I was deep into studying body language, and the image impressed me as one of blatant social aggression.
If the looming man decides to go physical it typically involves using his lead hand to grab the shoulder sleeve, back of the head, the neck, or the hood of a sweat shirt and pulling the target down into a punch or slap or stab. If he is looming and hiding his right hand, then beware of the stab.
Old Man Knocks Out Two Muggers
The video below presents an excellent example of the subject matter at hand. The older, smaller man here uses boxing body mechanics to counter simple aggressive behavior of the mild and moderate varieties.
This case of boxer on thug justice is an excellent example of puffing and looming, and a good illustration of how to dispose of each of these reviled types of posers.
To the left we have the accomplice, who simply stands, and then, when things heats up, witlessly walks forward, square, without his chest significantly projected.
Ahead of the much smaller, older man—older than both of these thugs added together, it seems—is the more dangerous, more aggressive, and just as easily disposed of “looming” antagonist.
Given the choice of which to strike first the boxer chooses proximity, and threat, making the no brainer choice that virtually all boxers and karate guys could agree on.
The cross armed position is good as it keeps his hands and elbows in line with his hips and knees, since he is going to have to use his weight and strength to drop these fools. The lead punch is an uppercut, a favorite of boxers dealing with taller men, but not—contrary to layman opinion—a KO blow. The upper cut is a set up punch that lifts the chin of the foe to give hook or straight punch access. The angular blow is powered by a bend in the knee. The hip drop and knee flexion is seen at 43-44 seconds. There is also a push off with the rear foot which is not apparent, but is there.
Boxing is a fundamentally simple but highly nuanced art with a lot of power potentialities built in. Since it is easily frustrated by grappling countermeasures—as all boxers subjected to a clinch are well aware of—it is best to hide the fact that you are a trained boxer with some posture gambit such as this crossed arm position. Notice also that the boxer is looking at the body, which is great for tracking leg and arm movement.
He did not try and KO the first man, but just hit him to get the ball rolling, which is now just a lurching tangle of leverage points which he can easily intersect with his punches. The art of punching—boxing aside—is just an exercise in ballistic weight transfer. Thus it is best that he is between them as he can shift weight from target to target.
A grappler or weapon man would be better served keeping one foe behind the other.
Now to the posing chest puffer, who literally advances with the thought that his sheer size would end the encounter. He may even have been a peace maker. Oh well, stretch him out. This is not a case of exaggerated chest puffing, but of dominant body positioning. If this fellow would have puffed his chest out, as many large teens and aggressive women do, leveling him would have been even easier as he would be tensed and experience greater shock, and would also leave the option of opening his solar plexus for a punch or even sinking palm slap (one of the empty hand techniques that will be covered in the training portion of this book).
The punch used to dispatch the standing puffer is a classic high line Philly style left hook that uses a left foot pivot action to transfer the weight that has been shifted to that side of his body through the act of throwing the sneaky right hand forward. The left hook is the highest probability KO punch, but carries significant danger to the puncher’s hand. On the street, I usually recommend throwing this as a choppy slap, which will be covered in the tactical training section.
To return to the looming aggressor, note that this type of aggressor, when untrained, reaches forward with a rear hand clubbing punch, in poor position to follow up, with his chin just as exposed as when he was running his mouth. The boxer throws what is called a sneaky right, a straight short punch with the thumb side of the fist up, which is ideal for sliding between hands and breaking noses. The KO is a nervous system KO, complete with mild seizure indicated by the momentarily rigid limbs of the fallen man.
Training Reference: Boxing for Survival