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Three Degrees Of Bad Guy Behavior

ALL confrontational behavior is NOT created equal.

 There are different degrees of threatening and violent behavior… and knowing the difference will allow you to respond in the most effective, morally appropriate and legally justified way possible.

Just how bad is that bad guy behaving?  How much of a threat is he to you or someone you care about?  What should you do about it?

One of the four criteria required to justified your force in a self-defense situation is the fact that your actions were made necessary by the violent or predatory actions of your assailant. It is the assailant that determines the need for and amount of force that you need to protect yourself.

In law enforcement, the measurement of threatening or aggressive behavior is achieved through the use of continuums or situational models that organize recognizable forms of behavior on a scale, model or continuum to assist in selecting the most appropriate response option.

In self-defense we needn’t be so elaborate but there is merit to a similar system of measurement to help us get our head around and evaluate threatening behavior.

Intimidating Behavior

Intimidating behavior includes words or gestures that indicate an assailant’s willingness or ability to carry out an assaultive or violent act. It may include actions such as glaring at you, swearing or insulting you, demanding your money or commanding you to comply to something that he has no lawful right to tell you to do.

Assaultive Behavior

Assaultive behavior occurs when your assailant(s) physically attack you.  The key point here is that you have nothing to suggest, at this point, that you are in danger of death or a very serious injury.  In these types of encounters, the attacker will throw punches and kicks, push, pull, grapple and wrestle with you.  Even though street fights are extremely unpredictable and can escalate quickly, potential injuries include bruises, abrasions, even fractures but your injuries are unlikely to be life threatening.

Deadly Assault

A deadly assault invovles actions taken that are intended or likely to kill or seriously injure you.  A weapon may or may not be involved in these types of attacks.  Keep in mind that someone doesn’t necessarily need a physical object or weapon to pose a deadly threat.  It is the potential for injury that must be assessed.

Deadly attacks include attacks with guns, knives, clubs and weapons of opportunity.  Or it could involve being confronted by a very large, strong, or skilled adversary.  It could involve an assault by multiple attackers or some other situation that would lead you to believe that your attacker is intent on taking our life or injuring you as badly as possible.

I don’t have to tell you that human behavior doesn’t happen in any kind of order or sequence. During the same encounter, the assailant could “flip flop” back and forth between each of these behaviors.

The value in this evaluation process is that it can be  used to point the way to appropriate self-defense response strategies and tactics.

In addition to these “levels of aggression” there is also value to understand the concept of “Threat Assessment.”

Threat Assessment is the ability to determine if the behavior of a potential assailant possesses an imminent and legitimate threat.  There are three criteria that need to be present in order to consider a threat imminent and legitimate and therefore justify a self-defense fighting response.

1.  Ability – ability involves a physical means of carrying out an act of violence.  It is essentially the “weapon,” whether bodily weapons such as fists, feet, and teeth or objects such as a gun, knife or club.  What is the weapon that the assailant has at his disposal to carry out the threat?

2.  Intention – intention is established by the verbal and behavioral indicators that lead to the reasonable belieft that the assailant intends to carry out an act of aggression.  It may be based on what he’s doing, something he just did, or something he told you he was going to do?  Its the reasonable and educated prediction that you make based on his body language, positioning and behavior.

3.  Opportunity – opportunity usually refers to, but is not limited to distance.  Based on the assailant’s capacity, a threat with a firearm versus a knife for example, the assailant is more or less “dangerous” at different ranges.

For example, a person sitting in a chair across the room tell you he’s about to kick your ass does not pose a serious or imminent threat.  However, if he gets out of the chair, walks across the room and says the same thing within a range of six feet or so, that’s a different matter.

When making a response decision or when justifying it after the fact, Threat Assessment will be at the crux of your justification.

Combining the “levels of aggression,” “Reasonably Perceived Vulnerability” and “Threat Assessment” will allow  you to quickly and accurately assess much of your situation and adopt a good sense of what you have to do to gain control of or escape from it.

About the Author:

Randy LaHaie is a trainer, consultant and author of the ” Toughen Up Combative Training Guide Series.” He has been studying and teaching self-defense for over 30 years and has instructed thousands of people in dealing with dangerous, volatile and violent situations.


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About Randy LaHaie

I’m the founder of “Protective Strategies,” a training and consulting company providing self-defense and combative fitness solutions to law enforcement, high-risk professionals and private citizens since 1994. I am a retired police officer, court-declared expert in use-of-force and critical incident performance, and a life-long student of self-defense and combative fitness. “My Thing” is to help people incorporate functional and minimalist workout strategies to improve their health, fitness and personal safety.

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