Knowing how to speak, believe it or not, is an essential element of self-defense. I have written a number of articles on the general subjects of contact management and de-escalation. These skills are just as important as knowing how to draw your firearm. If you have not researched and trained in this skillset I would urge you to do so. Being able to manage unknown contacts serves two purposes: first, it can often prevent a situation from escalating to a use of force, though not always. Second, it allows you to control a situation so that if you must escalate to force to defend yourself you will be able to do so more effectively.
For those who have been living under the proverbial rock I have some news: criminals often work in groups. Like feral dogs they thrive when running with their own filth. It is exceedingly common for criminal assaults of all kinds to involve multiple attackers. This means that when you encounter “that guy” who you don’t like the looks of in a parking lot there very well may be other “that guys” lurking about that you have not yet noticed. This is a significant danger. The initial contact, bad guy one, may approach you and start a conversation in order to distract you.
Here I wish to speak directly to considerations regarding the entry of other criminal actors while you engage in dialog with the first potential threat. To learn more about how to manage a suspicious and threatening entity who encroaches on you read my article on verbal communication on USA Carry. With those considerations in mind, think about how to handle the possible approach of a second or more assailants into this situation. It is human nature to become fixated on the known possible threat. In this scenario the known is the guy who is uncomfortably encroaching on you and running his mouth. Criminals know that people tend to get tunnel vision on the known. He may be doing this precisely to distract you so that his partner can take you from behind or from the peripheral. So how do we deal with this?
The major complication is this: an encroaching possible threat demands your focus but you can’t afford to take your eyes off of the known for even a split second. You need to be watching his hands. Therefore, we can’t safely turn around to see what is behind us. There are two strategies that I suggest for mitigating this.
First, your situational awareness comes into play. If you are walking through a parking lot or parking garage, or any such location prone to such a criminal encroach, as soon as you notice the first “that guy” scan the environment for any associates. Depending on the environment this alone will buy you some time. If there is nowhere for another to instantly materialize from then you know it will take at least some time for a second attacker to take you by surprise. In parking lots, however, keep in mind that a second attacker can quickly emerge without your notice from behind or from inside of a parked car.
Second, when facing and managing the known threat, bear in mind that your back and peripheral, where you can’t currently see while maintaining visual on the known, is your vulnerability. To see this blind spot while maintaining constant visual of the known the best approach that I have seen is what is taught by trainer extraordinaire Craig Douglas. He suggests a circumference-like movement. Think of yourself as the tip of a clock hand and the known threat being the center of the clock. With your hands up in your non-confrontational stance move in a circular fashion to one side or the other of the known threat in a partial circle. This movement allows you to maintain focus on the threat but it also brings your unseen environment into your peripheral vision. This is the best tactic that I have come across and I learned it initially by reading an article penned by Douglas on this strategy and I have also seen it in other training in which the instructors ultimately derived the technique from him.
I have used this technique a couple of times when managing dealings with street people who aggressively encroached and I found that just by doing this movement the known entity became confused. They are not expecting this and are taken aback, they figure you have something up your sleeve and beyond the exceedingly important aspect of facilitating a view to your unknown back this maneuver can serve as a deterrent. Consider this and make it part of your skillset.