How to not get attacked – OR – The Shadow Dance

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How do you make sure you don’t get attacked if a BG’s trying to flank you? The BG was watching you from a little ways off (distance Interview), and you were distracted by the kids, so he didn’t get to see you looking around and over your shoulder like you usually do. So he figured you’re a soft target and he starts closing in. Maybe he walks up behind you, or maybe he goes with the reasonable request Interview and asks you for some directions. But he doesn’t ask from a comfortable 3 m away. Instead he’s walking closer. Someone you don’t know is coming closer than the usual distance* without a good reason? This means he’s try to get into attack range. So what do you do? Hit him because he came to close? What about if you could let him know that you know exactly what he’s doing? And do it in such a way that he gets the distinct impression that maybe he’s picked on the wrong person? And manage this without actually saying anything. Sound like a decent way to deter him? Good, then let’s Shadow Dance.


* – Note: “usual” or “comfortable” distance changes with crowded mall and buses etc., but the overwhelming majority of the time you’ll notice an uncomfortable feeling, like something’s off, if someone is coming to close (more likely if he’s directly in front of you) – so program yourself to react to that uncomfortable feeling, it’s called instinct. Don’t rely on this alone, but make absolutely certain you listen when it speaks.


Shadow dancing is a term Marc MacYoung uses. It means that when the Bad Guy starts closing in, you move to re-establish some distance and orientate your body to handle an incoming attack. So he walks up to you on a 45o angle, you step away and turn to face him. You do not act scared. You do not look like a scared rabbit turning and staring at the fox coming to eat you while you quiver, rooted to the spot. Instead you are calm. You create distance and get your body ready to attack the BG and drop him on the spot, but you cover your movement with casualness. Anybody watching won’t notice anything out of place – but the BG will most likely notice that the easy target he picked has created distance (removing his ability to attack at leisure) and is now completely prepared to not only defend an attack, but to launch an attack himself. And this formerly “easy” target looks as calm as if dealing with muggers is no big deal. Nobody’s said anything, but you both know exactly what’s going on.


Enter the Dragon Chalk Game

The Chalk Game comes from Rory Miller’s very good and very cool book “Drills”. It’s the single most effective way to teach yourself to pick up on people’s body language, to  teach yourself how to Shadow Dance, and teach yourself situational awareness.

The Chalk Game – The drill itself is simple enough, the benefits are huge. Possibly the single best don’t-get-mugged drill ever. You need a couple friends or colleagues who are willing to help/earn a chocolate. You need some of that super thick chalk (look in kid’s toy stores). You give each of the participants a piece of chalk, and if they can get you with it, you’ll buy them a chocolate/a dinner/give them enough money that you really don’t want them to get you with it. The cost of losing to you must be painful or else it’s too easy to just laugh off losing. Your limitations are that you can only dodge or block, no follow-ups (or your partners won’t want to play for long). Their limitations are few. They can give the chalk to a good looking woman in a bikini, they can hide behind your office door. They can even wait till you’re playing soccer with them after lectures. This game is easier to implement in a varsity/school/relaxed environment more than a stodgy office, but the chalk usually brushes/washes off with a cloth pretty well and will only leave a faint residue on your fancy work clothes for the rest of the day. Although I never did try a touch of vinegar.

Now imagine that you’re hanging around making coffee in the office kitchen and Bob walks up. Knowing that you gave Bob a chalk last week and he’s already nailed you twice (which cost you 50 bucks each time thank you very much), just how do you think you’ll act when he walks up near you to also make himself a cup of coffee? Think you might keep your distance? Maybe turn to keep him in front of you somewhat? Keep a beady fucking eye on his hands? All aspects of Shadow Dancing and Control Presence. Now swap Bob and the office kitchen for a night-time ATM and a stranger walking up too close. How do you think you should act? Think you might keep your distance? Maybe turn to keep him in front of you somewhat? Keep a beady fucking eye on his hands? All aspects of Shadow Dancing and Control Presence.


So, summary time:

– Someone asking directions/for a light will do so from a socially comfortable distance (e.g. 3 – 5 m depending)

– BG’s need to get close to attack/rob/mug you. They usually prefer your flank or behind you – where your weapon bearing limbs don’t reach so well. Keeping them in front of you (i.e. in front of your weapon bearing limbs) is a good idea.

– BG’s are quick to notice when they can’t pull the wool over someone’s eyes – it’s safer for them to pick up on it when someone is perfectly aware of what they’re doing, and is calm about it and prepared. In fact, this is the purpose of interviewing people for the role of victim (a.k.a. volunteering to be tonight’s ATM).

– Shadow Dancing is also a great way to build up your list of articulable reasons why you had to hit first (or whatever you end up having to do to get home intact). “Yup, you see, he came closer than what people usually do in this type of situation (Why just last week this gentleman stood four metres away to ask me for directions). So I turned to keep him in front of me and moved to get some distance from him while telling him I wasn’t able to help him. Then he moved back into a range that he could attack me from (e.g. a punch to the head). So I moved out of his attack range again while explaining (again) that I couldn’t help him, and this time I asked him to stay back. At his point he looked around us as if he might be checking for witnesses and he started balling and un-balling his hands into fists while he continued to come closer.” Etc.

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