PINs (pre-incident indicators), PACs (pre-attack cues), pre-assault indicators, call them what you will, they’re body language signals that someone is about to throw a punch at you.
While there are many pre-incident indicators, there are 4 big ones according to Southnarc.
Touching his face
Ask a psychologist for more info about indicators of deception and self-consciousness, but touching your face more than normal is one of them.
The hand might stay glued to the face (e.g. rubbing a beard), or it may touch and stop repeatedly (e.g. fiddling with an earlobe or with glasses).
Looking around for witnesses. Try an experiment sometime – do something naughty in public, but without looking around to see who’s watching first. Put something small into your pocket at the shop (but them put it back afterwards – stealing is still wrong, even if it’s “for science” – temporary stealing with no intent … well, we’ll call it a grey-area for now).
Checking for witnesses serves two purposes. Firstly is pretty near a sub-conscious drive when doing something taboo. Secondly it’s probably a good idea. Who wants to:
– take a deep breathe,
– walk up to that stranger,
– ask them if that’s the new iPhone (to distract them),
– pull the knife (to mug them),
– get stomped (by the 5 cops you didn’t see standing right there)
Not fun. So people will look around before doing crime. They might look just before the crime, or 10 seconds earlier on the approach, but it’s common for someone to look around before crime. This is why one of the spot-a-Bad-Guy–from-far-away indicators is to look for someone who shows more situational awareness than most.
Quick fly in the ointment
The witness check, as the name implies, is more associated with crimes (hence why there might be witnesses to check for). Someone who hits you out of pure pissed-off hatred and fury doesn’t have witnesses to worry about, they have bystanders, and he might be so angry and focused on you that he doesn’t look around first. I’m hoping you are able to stop someone who’s that angry with you and realise you need to stop and walk away or you’re going to get hit (see the bonus tip later).
So Southnarc’s tips come from a criminal violence perspective, and the bonus tip is from an interpersonal violence perspective.
This one can be subtle and disguised, but it’s there. Few people have mastered the dropstep, so it’s very common for people to shift their weight backwards so they can get a longer swing when punch (it feels more powerful that way).
How is the weight shift disguised? Well there’s no disguising the fact that someone took a half step back, but the “reason” why they took that half a step can be disguised. You can turn away slightly to point at something, and this allows you to put one foot a bit behind you and put all your weight on that foot (to drive off of while punching). Or you can make it look like you’re changing orientation (e.g. you want to face slightly away while talking) – like in the video below:
Tony Blauer puts it nicely:
3 + 1
Southnarc calls this a 3 + 1 framework. If you see any of the first 3 cues above, then it’s time to prepare for getting hit, but if you see all 3 in a cluster, then it’s a near certainty that the guy’s going to hit you.
But the 4th cue below is the + 1. If you see this one, at all, ever, even by itself, then it’s “oh shit” time.
Reaching for the waistline
While you do get some weirdos that keep their phones in a pouch on a belt (I know, I’ve met one once), everybody else in the world reserves their waistlines for storing weapons. So aside from the odd case of someone having a good stretch and scratching their belly (not too often in polite company), anybody fiddling with their waistline, lifting their shirt, or otherwise has a hand going for someone on their waist – it’s a weapon.
Yes, this is the same video twice – but at different places in the video so you don’t have to watch the whole thing.
South African specific advice
I met a gentleman who grew up on a farm way back in the day, and he was kind enough to pass on advice from his father: If you’re talking to a farmhand who has his hand in his pocket, it’s because he’s holding his knife in there. And it’s already open.
I’m not sure about back then, but nowadays that tends to hold true in the city just as much as the farm.
And while someone can attack you without their hands being in their pockets, if someone is closing distance (a signal in and of itself) and their hand is in their pocket – danger Will Robertson.
I’m not sure how much this holds up outside of South Africa, but in the UK at least, where the Chavs walk around in tracksuit pants (i.e. no belt to hook things on) and with box cutters (mostly no clip to put onto a belt) then I think hands in pocket is probably a good indicator.
Maybe that’s why it holds true in South Africa – the most common BG tools are the Okapi knife (no clip to hook on a belt) and screwdrivers and other cheap options.
The bonus tip on “how to tell you’re about to get punched” comes from none other than Marc MacYoung himself.
He calls it the biggest pre-attack indicator of them all.
So what’s the best way to tell you’re about to get punched, according to Marc MacYoung?
You’re being an asshole.