Self-defense>Mental aspects>Posturing

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Posturing is an attitude or way of behaving to create an impression or to influence others, such as acting tough or trying to intimidate. If someone is posturing, it usually means they wish they were the type of person they are impersonating.

It starts with the eyes

Watch out for the eye contact challenge. In a volatile environment, eye contact can be construed as a challenge to fight. If you are aware, you can spot the signs of an eye contact challenge and avoid conflict. 

In a bar or club,  the posturer will stalk the dance floor with his or her elbows pushed out waiting for a bump and will probably be verbally aggressive to anyone that moves within a few feet of him or her, let alone those who make eye contact. If walking down the street, the posturer will have an over-confident, arrogant bounce. If in a group, he or she will be loud and make erratic movements. In either scenario, the posturer will be looking for eye contact. To the posturer, the first person to hold eye contact with him or her is looking for trouble.

During pre-fight posturing, the posturer will splay his or her arms and exhibit finger beckoning, eye-bulging, head nodding, neck pecking, and dropping of the eyebrows. He or she will usually stand in a threatening stance and, if an attack is the intent of the confrontation, he or she will try to get up close and personal, normally nose to nose.

Try to avoid these types of people, but if you cannot, walk tall and hold yourself confidently. Even if you do not feel brave, act as if you are. Confident people are very rarely chosen as victims of an attack. Whenever possible avoid eye contact when you sense aggression, but do not bow your head and look at the floor; this may be construed as a sign of weakness. Just make causal, passing eye contact.

If someone stares at you, do not hold eye contact. If you get caught off guard and your eyes lock, then smile, perhaps even nod politely, then break the eye contact and put as much distance as possible between yourself and the aggressor as soon as possible. If this doesn't work and aggressive words follow, do not retaliate, just walk away. A verbal counter could act as a catalyst. If you do all this and the person still approaches aggressively, be prepared to either talk you way out of the situation or fight.

Next comes the words

Most self-defense situations start with words. If the words become aggressive, start preparing yourself by assuming a ready stance, not an obvious stance but a small inconspicuous back stance at a 45-degree angle to the aggressor. Keep your hands inconspicuously between you and the aggressor; lightly fold them or assume a Jack Benny position with one arm folded across the midsection with the other elbow resting on the folded hand with its hand and fingers resting on the side of the face as if you were intently listening. If attacked be prepared to shove the attacker back, block, or counter-attack. Do not touch the assailant unless you are forced to, as it can trigger aggression and possibly a physical attack.

Do not permit a potential attacker to touch you at any time, even if he or she appears to be friendly. An experienced fighter will feign friendliness, even submission, to make an opening for an attack. Another common ploy is for an attacker to offer a handshake and then head-butt or knife you as soon as the grip is taken.

You will be afraid. Fear is a natural precursor to confrontation. Shaking legs, trembling voice, and goosebumps are natural by-products of adrenal release. Breathe deeply and try to stay relaxed and ready for anything.


Thompson, Geoff. [Online]. Available:

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