USE YOUR EYES TO SAVE YOUR ASSETS
By Loren W. Christensen
Knowing where to look when standing face-to-face with a hostile person is critical, though it’s rarely addressed in training. This is a glaring omission because knowing how to use your eyes the right way can save you from getting your nose shoved over a couple inches.
Before we proceed with where and how you should look, it’s important that you keep this in mind: “Face-to-face,” does not mean nose-to-nose. Develop a habit of maintaining a safe distance, at least a little more than arm’s reach, from anyone you perceive to be a threat.
In America it’s customary to look into the eyes of the person you are talking with, because to do otherwise, you might be thought of as sneaky or dishonest. However, when confronting a hostile person, someone right on the verge of exploding, focusing on his eyes might prevent you from recognizing certain telegraphic signals that he is about to spring.
There is a better place to look. It’s socially acceptable and it provides you with advanced notice of a hostile person’s intention.
Look at yourself in a mirror and imagine two lines running from the point of your chin to the outer edge of each shoulder, and a single line stretching from one shoulder to the other. These three lines form a triangle over that place you want to look at frequently when you talk to a hostile person. What makes the triangle so important is that any movement inside of it communicates to you that the person is on the verge of taking some kind of action.
Check it out in the mirror. Cock your fist back and see what your shoulders do within the triangle. Lift any foot to see what happens with your shoulders. Move to your right or left just a little and watch what happens within your triangle. Whatever movement you make, you can see it happen in that space. Even highly trained boxers and martial artists signal with their shoulders as they begin to move in some fashion.
Does this mean you should just stare at the person’s shoulders and chin area during your entire contact? No, that would look a little odd. Instead, move your eyes back and forth from his eyes to his triangle and then back to his eyes again. Even when you are looking at his eyes, use your peripheral to monitor movement within his triangle. This is important because that movement is telling you something.
How to read the triangle
Here are a few possibilities that a person might do when moving in a particular way.
To reiterate, these movements are all detectable by looking at the triangle.
- When his shoulders and chest rotate counterclockwise a little, he is probably going to launch a right punch to your upper body or head.
- When his chest rotates counterclockwise and his shoulders dip forward, he is probably going to deliver a right-hand technique to your midsection.
- When his chest rotates either way with very little shoulder movement, he can punch with either hand.
- When his shoulder angles backward and his chest rotates counterclockwise, look for a right kick.
- When his chest rotates clockwise and his shoulders angle back, look for a left kick.
- If his upper body suddenly lifts, he is preparing to lunge forward with a push or tackle.
Watch his breathing
Watching a person’s breathing pattern, his inhalation and exhalation, is admittedly harder than looking for bold movement in his shoulder area. With practice, though, you will develop the ability to see it within the triangle and detect when he is at his weakest.
An attack will most often occur during or right after a person inhales, a moment when he is at his strongest. Expressing it another way, it’s difficult for an assailant to launch a hard attack after he has exhaled because that is when he is weakest.
Let’s say that a situation with a person has deteriorated to where you believe your best option is to lunge forward and grab him. Time your move to his breathing. This is especially easy when the person is breathing hard from running, fighting or from being emotionally agitated. Watch his triangle for the expansion of his chest when he inhales and its collapse when he exhales. Make your move when he exhales.
A good street fighter knows how to use his eyes to deceive. He suddenly looks up at your forehead to distract you, so that he can more easily slam his foot into your groin. Or, he might do the reverse: He looks sharply at your groin and then punches you in the head. It’s an easy fake since we have a tendency to focus our attention on where a person looks. When slight-of-hand magicians do this they call it misdirection. Good street fighters call it a set-up to a sucker punch.
To avoid becoming a victim of this tactic, keep your eyes moving back and forth from his eyes to his triangle. You don’t want to completely avoid his eyes because you will miss a change in his attitude or any eye darting that telegraphs his plan to move in some fashion. He may still attempt to fake you, but you will be more alert to the possibility.
The average street thug’s face reveals his intent to attack or run off (as opposed to the face of a trained or experienced street fighter who may be better at concealing). When he makes a sharp inhalation, squints his eyes, hardens his face or bares his teeth, he is preparing to move. A person whose eyes are darting about is either looking for an avenue of escape or for an available weapon to use against you.
Upon observing any of these strong indicators, don’t freeze your gaze on his eyes. This is easy to say but hard to do, since it’s a natural place to look. But keep this thought in mind: While his eyes may communicate that he is up to no good, it’s the movement inside his triangle that tells you what that “no good” is going to be.
The German Shepherd stare
Sometimes this is called “the thousand-yard stare.” It refers to the way a person either looks through you or the way he fixes his eyes off to your side.
Anyone who has worked with dogs, especially German Shepherds, knows that when the dog stares hard to the side of someone or stares seemingly through them, that person is just moments away from having their rear end chewed to a bloody pulp.
When a hostile person stares in this manner, it almost always precedes physical violence. Experienced police officers say that a person with a German Shepherd stare is in an impenetrable mental state and all the violence diffusing techniques they try usually fail. They concur that when you see that stare, expect a fight.
The blank look
Say you are talking with a dangerous person when suddenly - suddenly is the keyword here - his eyes flatten like those of a fish, the life drains from his face and his body slumps a little as if relaxing. You are now talking to a person primed and ready to explode. His fight or flight instinct has just slipped into high gear as adrenaline floods his muscles. He may still be talking to you, but he is preparing to attack.
If he is standing, you will see his shoulders relax and his arms go limp at his sides. He might blade his body and drop his chin a little. If he is sitting, he will move his rear to the edge of his chair in your direction, and he will place his hand on the table top so that he can push off it toward you.
A slight twitch of his body is another indicator he is moving into a fight or flight mode. Say you have been talking with a person when suddenly you detect - because you have been cognizant of his triangle - that twitch. Be on guard because he has just had an adrenaline dump, and he is primed to fight.
When he ignores you
Be very cautious of a person who ignores you. Let’s say that as you approach your car in a parking garage, you see broken glass on the ground and a man climbing inside. He sees you but continues to go through your glove box as if you are no matter to him. Or let’s say that he gets out of the car and as you confront him verbally, he looks all around as if you were not there. More times than not, this kind of odd behavior is a precursor to an attack. Your best option is to not be placed in this situation in the first place. It’s better to back off when you first see him and call 9-1-1.
Using your eyes effectively
Then there is the person who stares right through you all the way to your soul. This can be disconcerting or at least distracting to you, no matter what your skill. You might look away for a second in attempt to get him to look in the same direction and thus break the intensity of the moment. Let’s say you try that but when you look back, you find that the person didn’t fall for it, and he is now staring even more intensely at you. He might even think that you looked away because you are weak and afraid. Sending that message to this person will only fortify his courage and his sense of power over you.
Rather than looking away from his piercing Charles Manson stare, look between his eyes, at his nose, his eyebrows or even his cheekbones. Or try looking through his eyes, as if looking at a spot beyond him. This will keep you emotionless and unaffected by his hard eyes. It also keeps your face blank, giving the person nothing to feed upon.
The sudden look
Here is a simple technique that is especially effective for bouncers, store security, anyone making a citizen’s arrest, and police officers. As you talk to the person, look off to the side, though carefully monitoring him in your peripheral vision, then abruptly turn your head toward him and look hard into his eyes. For example, look off to his side, and say, “Let me explain it to you this way.” Then snap your head back and look penetratingly into his eyes, and say, “You are going with me.” Some people, though not all, are frozen for a moment by this technique, a moment which provides an opportunity to move in and take control of him.
When you move toward him to take his arm, avoid looking at it. You might even look off to the side first, always keeping him in your peripheral, and then step toward him. Another way is to use the fingers of your closest hand to give him a “come here” gesture. When his eyes look toward the motion of your fingers, grasp his arm with your other hand.
Don’t look where you hit
This is the subject of another article but for now, give this tid bit some thought. A savvy street fighter watches your eyes to see where you look prior to throwing your technique so that he can move out of the way or block your blow. Train so that you don’t look where you’re about to kick, punch or grapple. Look at his triangle and use your peripheral vision to see his torso, arms and legs. Even if your peripheral vision is poor and you can’t see, say, his closest knee, you can logically assume that it’s about half way down his leg. With practice, you will be able to kick it without first looking at it.
The other advantage of looking at his triangle as you strike is that if you miss him for whatever reason, you can perceive any counterattack he throws. If, however, you were looking at his knee the entire time, he could easily counterpunch you in the head.
Knowing how and where to look at a hostile person can save you embarrassment, pain and even save your life. Incorporate these ideas into your training and soon they will be second nature to you.