By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2014, All Rights Reserved
One of the most common questions I get asked is how do you know when to use force and how do you know how much force to use. These are perfectly good questions in our civil and litigious society. Most people in our society are so removed from violence they know it is something to be avoided but they also don’t know when it is appropriate to engage in it.
Most people are so focused on being civil and not wanting to risk doing the wrong thing they don’t know when it’s time to use force and they end up trying to reason with their attacker while their attacker is busy killing them. The same is true even with military and police officers. Many times a police officer is dealing with a suspect and they don’t realize when that person makes the jump “person to predator” or from “social to asocial” and they end up getting seriously injured or killed because of it.
In the military they teach you to develop a “kinetic trigger” or a “visual kinetic.” What these are is a trigger that you train your brain to recognize and when your brain sees it, just like the dog in Pavlov’s experiment, you know it’s time put all your social skills aside and engage in violence. What we are going to be talking about in this article is what “predator” or “asocial” is and how to turn them into a kinetic trigger.
I have found the easiest way to put forth these ideas is to first think of a large silver back gorilla fighting with another male. The gorilla will stand tall, make big motions such as flailing his arms, yell loudly, and making a big display of his teeth. This gorilla’s purpose is to show his strength in hopes of scaring off a rival and in doing so maintaining his status in his troop. The gorilla doesn’t really want to fight because that would risk both losing and also getting injured. If the gorilla does fight he doesn’t try to kill his rival but rather run him off. A fight between gorillas will often end with one walking off to sulk perhaps nursing some bruises and maybe bleeding but fights are not commonly fatal.
Now, think of a lion hunting for dinner. The lion creeps into an area he knows his prey is likely to be and he waits until he finds a prey he thinks is vulnerable to be taken. Then, he waits; he waits until just the right minute. He lowers his body and keeps his head low to the ground. His eyes are fixed on one thing and one thing only. He approaches trying not to spook his intended prey. He tries to move carefully with no unnecessary movement or noise. As he approaches there is no emotion to be had, no communication with his prey to be done. Finally he is ready to spring the trap and he charges giving 100% off his effort and catches his prey by surprise. The lion succeeds first through surprise and then by overwhelming and overpowering his prey. Throughout the encounter the lion is not concerned at all with what his prey will do; rather his complete focus is on what he will do to his prey. He never thinks about getting kicked or being on the wrong side of a horn because his focus is single minded on his task.
The two examples above describe the two paradigms of violence, “posturing/social” and “predatory/asocial.”
When people think about “fighting” what most people think about is “social violence.” Social violence is doing violence with the goal not being the violence itself but rather socializing and communication. Social violence can be broken into two categories: sporting and posturing. Boxing, kickboxing, wrestling, and other forms of organized fighting would fit under “sporting.” Here the goal isn’t to kill or seriously injure their opponent but rather best them in an evenly matched contest and improve their social standing.
Posturing occurs when someone wants to intimidate through a show of force. Here there is no sporting aspect but the aggressor isn’t trying to kill or seriously injure the other person but rather make them back down, run them off their turf, or make submit in some way. If physical violence does happen here the goal is not to kill but to “beat up” the other guy and send them home with a black eye, bloody lip, and loss of face.
Social violence is completely avoidable. You can avoid going into certain places, leave places when you feel something is about to happen, decide not to engage in the conflict, and of course comply or submit to someone else if necessary.
Asocial violence is the complete opposite of the above. Asocial is the lion stalking the prey. The goal is not to communicate something or to improve their social standing, rather the goal is to seriously injure or kill their prey. That is very important to realize. If someone is acting like the gorilla you are dealing with posturing, social violence, and the person (at least at that point in time) isn’t trying to seriously injure or kill you but rather communicate something with you. In this situation you should rely on social skills to get out of the situation because your aggressor wants a social response from you.
However, if someone is acting more like the lion then they are “going predator” and engaging in asocial violence. At that point social skills are useless because the other person wants to hurt you. Trying to reason with someone that is trying to stab you to death isn’t going to work. The only way to survive asocial violence is to engage in it yourself because it really is a fight for your life. Once someone “goes predator” you need to kill them or at the very least disable them before they kill you.
It is imperative that you learn how to recognize asocial behavior because if you don’t you will be caught off guard and you’ll be using social methods to deal with the person who is trying to kill you, which is like a gazelle trying to talk the lion out of killing him.
Fortunately if you’re paying attention to you can spot their body language. Before we get into the exact body language let’s talk about the two profiles you’ll probably encounter.
You can tell a lot about a person’s intentions by how they stand. If a person is in front of you in sort of a “ready stance” posture (focused on you and probably talking to you but they have one side forwards and their hands are up, not necessarily in fists but making motions while they talk) then that person is most likely in a defensive mode. They probably do not want anything to happen but if it does their first response will probably be defensive. A person standing in that posture tends to have a defensive mindset and may even have a competitive mindset where if he was forced into action he would abide by the rules of whatever combative sport he practices. A person standing like this will be harder to hit but less likely to attack because they are focused on being attacked.
A person standing like mentioned above is focused on being attacked so a person doing the opposite (standing with their shoulders squared off to you) is focused on attacking. Someone who is standing with their shoulders totally squared off is not ready for anything; they are decided if or when to attack. There is nothing about standing in front of someone and exposing your entire body that is defensive, so someone doing this is more dangerous. They don’t have sporting mindset they won’t follow a set of rules and may, even if unintentionally, seriously injure you. They are usually quite easy to hit because while they are focusing on when or if they should attack you they are not focused on being attacked themselves. This is why it is important to get distance, at least 5 or 6 feet, between you and him because distance buys you reaction time.
Now, how do you recognize asocial? It is often not too hard. Are they a gorilla or a lion?
A gorilla tries to appear as big as possible because he’s trying to intimidate you while a lion tries to appear small as possible because they are trying to go unnoticed until it is too late.
A gorilla looks you in the eyes and makes scary faces because he’s trying to intimidate you while a lion looks through you because you’re just a piece of meat to tear apart.
A gorilla tries standing tall to appear bigger or taller than you; they may also raise their chin so they have to look down at you, because he’s trying to intimidate you while a lion does the opposite. A lion lowers his weight so he is stable and he lowers his chin to protect his throat.
A gorilla makes faces and is loud because he’s trying to intimidate you while a lion is perfectly silent because he is not trying to communicate with you and his face is blank because he is concentrating on his task at hand.
That is how you tell them apart and it is vital that you do. Someone who is posturing and trying to intimidate you is not trying to kill you so you should use social skills to deal with the situation; while someone who is exhibiting asocial traits should be dealt with with violence right away because they are trying to kill you and not intimidate you.
Earlier we talked about a kinetic trigger. I have two such triggers. The first one is if I get hit; not just hit lightly but hit with intent. If I’m minding my own business and suddenly I get hit I’ll turn to face what hit me and my body weight will lower, my chin will go down, and my mindset is “Ok, who is going to the hospital?” The reason I developed this one is because criminals like to attack by surprise and quite often a situation will start with you being hit, shot, or stabbed. So as soon as that happens by brain instantly says “Ok, this is an asocial situation, it is me or you, and I’m going to try to make it you.”
My second kinetic trigger is seeing someone “go predator” or recognizing asocial. A person might start out being perfectly social but as the altercation progresses you can see them change, suddenly their face goes blank and you can see that focus and right there all social responses are no longer appropriate. When I see that change to asocial then that person has my attention.
If someone is posturing and they put their hands on me depending on how much of a threat I feel I might use a joint lock or a pressure point to try to restrain them; but if I detect asocial body language then all restraining goes right out the window because he is going lethal right away so if I want to survive I have to go lethal right away too.
All over the internet you can see videos from police dashboard cameras as they make traffic stops and then get attacked and sometimes murdered. In many of those videos if you watch closely you can see the officer’s screw up. He’ll start talking to a guy who is perfectly social and then the guy will start posturing and may start to resist the officer and so the officer tries to restrain the individual and then suddenly you see the guy’s body language change and the officer isn’t trained to notice it. Suddenly they “go predator” and now it is an asocial situation where they guy is trying to kill the officer and the officer is still not responding with deadly force. The officer continues to use a lesser level of force and ends up dead. If the officer would have recognized it right away and responded in kind they probably would be alive now.
So the final question is, now that you know what asocial is and how to spot it how do you make it to be a kinetic trigger? The answer is simple: you train it. If you want to have a trigger being hit unexpectedly then first make a conscious decision where that is a trigger and then practice where a partner hits you with something from behind and you immediately turn and go into him. Do it over and over all sorts of different ways until your brain realizes “Ok, when this happens I respond with this.”
To recognize asocial and have that be a trigger just get used to seeing it in your training environment. That means take being social out of the classroom. In my classes as soon as a class starts there is no socializing. If I’m addressing the class and someone has a funny comment then that is fine, but when I pair them up and say “go” you could hear a pin drop. No one talks and no one smiles or tries to communicate with their partner. Anyone caught smiling or communicate immediately has to apologize to their partner for interfering with their training and has to do 20 knuckle pushups and ask to rejoin the class. It is very odd at first and people are uncomfortable but when you explain to them that this just could save their lives they start to embrace it. By the time they’ve been in my school a couple months doing anything else just seems odd.
When we take a break or when they walk off the mat they socialize all they want, but by being asocial during training their brain learns to recognize the signs of asocial and it starts to learn that asocial equals me going into action.