When it all boils down to it, if you seem intimidating to others, you will be left alone. Attackers want an easy target. If a mark seems like they'll give too much fight then they will move on to a new target. Desperation, however, can lead to blurred lines in this area. Someone simply looking to start a fight or grab a wallet will always have another target to move on to, but someone starving, looking for food or resources, or even someone who is only after money - but has already come too far to turn back (as with a home invasion) will fixate more on their selected target and will require significantly more intimidation to repel.
So, how intimidating you need to look depends on the situation. In many, lighter scenarios ones poise and demeanour can be all that is required to deter a would-be attacker. Before attempting to mug someone, attackers will perform an "interview" on their victim, visually sizing them up to discern whether they'd be an easy mark or not. If the target looks like too much work, they'll simply move on to another target. After all, there are plenty more available in an urban setting. Your every-day attacker will avoid people displaying features such as:
- Shoulders pulled back.
- Standing straight.
- Emphasizing height if they have it.
- Walking with a purposeful stride.
- Making and maintaining eye contact.
- Holding a 'poker face'.
- Speaking clearly.
All of these can make the difference between you being targetted by an attacker or being left alone. It's largely about working with what you've got. If you're tall, emphasize your size. If you're short, emphasize your power. Look the part, even if it's an act. Practice will make perfect, similar to The Grey Man principle we've discussed before.
In the event of an attack happening anyway (perhaps there is a group of them, and numbers have given them courage) you will need to rely on more overt methods of intimidation. In this scenario, confidence - even feigned confidence - can be the difference between you being attacked and walking away from it.
- Watch where you're standing. Don't let them corner you.
- Emphasize your size, even if you don't have it.
- Don't show fear. Project confidence, even if it is false.
- Use high ground where possible to gain a height advantage.
- Only speak if you have to. Let your actions do the talking.
- If you must speak, speak clearly and boldly.
It is in scenarios such as the one mentioned above - with a group - where the use of a 'force multiplier' can come into its own. A force multiplier is a device used to extend the reach of your personal power to multiple times its normal force. For example, a knife, baton, firearm or can of pepper spray. These make you far deadlier than a single unarmed person. Choosing the right force multiplier for you comes down to many factors - not to mention local laws - and is another topic entirely, but assuming you CAN carry something, consider its intimidation value. Certain portable self defense weapons can pose an incredible intimidation factor when deployed, such as a folding Kukri or extendable baton. The loud, harsh, deployment sound coupled with the visual of a confident wielder stalking towards you is enough to turn most attackers bowels to water. However, never forget the rule of being utterly confident in the handling and use of any weapon you may carry, even if it is just a knife. If you're not 100% confident in its use, and 100% willing to use it if it comes down to the wire, then don't carry it. It's as simple as that.
But what about an attack you plan for? What if there are roaming gangs in your area? What if there are regular break-ins and home invasions in your vicinity? What if it is an SHTF scenario and you know these people mean business? That calls for maximum intimidation. That calls for going past intimidation and inspiring fear into your opressor. This can be done in various ways.
- Use lighting and shadow to your advantage.
- Use 'shock and awe' tactics such as pyrotechnics.
- Make use of intimidating looking weapons.
- Seem as inhuman as possible in appearance and actions.
This may seem excessive, but how far are you willing to go to protect your supplies, your home and the lives of your loved ones? All it takes is something as simple as a natural disaster to make civilized life go completely to hell, and you may need to be on guard 24/7 to protect what you have.
When all is said and done, it becomes a game. If you are more intimidating than your assailant, then you'll more than likely be left alone. If the assailant is desperate, then you need to up the ante on your intimidation. There is no such thing as too extreme. A hoodie and a cold stare may be enough to dissuade a lone mugger from attacking you, but what about a gang of 6 looters trying to get into your house? How would you out-intimidate them? While requiring extreme measures, it's not impossible.
Think of your intimidation levels in one of five tiers, with each tier being appropriate to varying levels of threat:
Tier 1 - The Easy MarkYou have no plans to defend yourself and plan to simply hand over your wallet. At this point a person with a glib tongue could talk you out of your money.
The Tier 1 intimidator couldn't dissuade even one attacker from marking them as a target. Avoid falling into this category at all costs.
Tier 2 - The Standard FareA confident looking person in modern dress. Obviously a bit more conscious of other people looking at them, and thus are likely to be a little more aware of their surroundings than the Tier 1 intimidator.
See how they stand? Confident, yet relaxed. While their confidence is probably an act of bravado built on top of a more cowardly interior, it may actually be genuine. As a potential mark, this would require further thinking and potential use of a force multiplier. An unarmed assailant may provoke this target to fight back, but they may just be meek enough that a knife flashed at them will make them part with their wallet easily.
Tier 3 - More Effort RequiredThe lone wolf, lurking in the shadows. This target is likely to be packing themselves, or even used to performing muggings of their own, and thus would be treated with caution by any potential attacker.
It is fairly clear that the use of a force multiplier or even an accomplice would be needed, as this mark exhibits a high level of intimidation of their own. Just by sight one can tell that they can expect at least some retaliation from this individual.
Tier 4 - Looking for TroubleAnyone wearing a uniform - even like our Skinhead fellow shown below - is highly likely to have friends nearby. Someone dressed like this is likely out looking for trouble of some kind - or, if they're not - they're certainly ready for it to come at them.
This type of individual rarely is made a mark as it is simply too risky. You pick a fight with one and you pick a fight with the lot of them. They're also likely - depending on their affiliated group - to give any would-be attacker a very hard time of it as they are clearly used to roughhousing and not to be trifled with. An assailant determined to take on a mark like this would need multiple accomplices with force multipliers. Not likely to happen, but if the times become desperate enough the chances of that happening increase drastically, until you get to the extreme level of things, seen in Tier 5 below.
Tier 5 - Trained and Willing to Shed BloodI won't pretend that this isn't taking it to an absolute extreme, but for the sake of demonstration, we've gone there for you. This is what extreme intimidation looks like. This is what it takes to out-intimidate a group of motivated, organized individuals intent on entering your home to harm or kill you. Even then, it's a gamble. At the very least you will gain the advantage of putting your assailants extremely on-edge, which can help greatly in a combat scenario:
Heavy boots, gloves, body armour, towering over you - imagine breaking into a house and being confronted with something like this coming at you out of the darkness with a hatchet or similarly brutal weapon...
Note the way no skin shows - no eyes - no mouth. All human-like features are obscured, making this 'creature' seem to be no longer human, like some kind of monster. The use of a "brutal" style of weapon is important, too, as it forces the assailant to imagine their death at the hands of it. It's difficult to disassociate from the reality of it. But combine the two and you have a potent mix. Watching someone savagely hack your buddy's head in with a hatchet is one thing - you can see the attacker's face, see the raw emotion as they commit the act - but seeing it happen at the hands of some "thing" with no face, no expression, nothing but cold, calm, expressionless sockets makes the act seem all the more horrifying. It's the terror which comes from that automatic disassociation reaction which has inspired many of the world's special forces to disguise their faces during combat, either through masks, balaclavas or the like, as it is impossible to calmly combat something which seems to be unaffected by fear, empathy or even anger. It is this level of terror which can make even a group of several people turn tail and run. It is this level of intimidation which lets people know that THIS house is simply too much effort.
So hopefully this has given you an appreciation for the importance of intimidation when confronting an enemy - be it in the street or in your own home. Assess your gear, your weapons (if you can carry them) and see how intimidating you are. What tier do you fall into? Try and see yourself through the eyes of a potential attacker and see if you would mug you.
But above all, be prepared, not scared.