Dave Turton 7th Dan Founder & Head of the SDF

"INTIMIDATION"... "To deter by threats", "to frighten into submission". Two dictionary definitions of the word. We've all faced it, used it and been influenced by it. We grew up with it and all our adult lives are continually being altered by it. But what exactly is it, and how do we conquer it?
Perhaps the first step is to try and understand a little about it, never forgetting that sometimes intimidation is so subtly hidden that we often miss it.

My old Sensei once said that intimidation works best when we allow it to. We can often refuse it, but most often, we don't. We experience many forms of intimidation from a very early age and it becomes the norm almost as soon as we understand language. "If you don't eat your dinner you wont get any ice cream" or "wait until dad gets home, he'll give you a good hiding". As children we face it daily, from this and other forms of intimidation from parents, teachers, peers, older children etc. It's not surprising then, that we become so used to being intimidated, often so much, that we actually come to expect it.
Animals (including us) use many forms of intimidation, with the hopeful result of this being more or less the same possibilities...

Man of course can be EITHER the hunter or the prey.
By beating their chests, gorillas intimidate others so they are no longer a threat.
Other animals use other forms of intimidation including visual : Some creatures mimic looking like more dangerous ones, simply to avoid being eaten. Others use sound, snarls, screams etc to intimidate would be predators. The list is endless but the object is always the same : to intimidate would be attackers from actually attacking. Human forms of intimidation are similarly diverse and include the visual, verbal and physical. There ARE others but for our purposes these three will suffice and we will take them in order showing how they affect us, and how we can best deal with them.

Hopefully, also in the process, you will be able to turn the tables on your aggressor.

1- Visual Intimidation

This takes the form of size and appearance, regardless of the truth or otherwise of the situation, size is invariably linked with hardness, "Bigger is harder". Terry O'Neill used to wear several sweaters under his other clothes to give the impression of being bigger, thus harder (he doesn't need to do that now).
Some men actually take up bodybuilding for the reason that they look bigger thus harder. Hoping that an increase in muscular size will act as a deterrent against threats, the truth of the matter is that big arms don't always make big punchers. I do admit that a guy in good muscular condition will probably be a bigger handful than one who is clearly right out of condition.
The large and muscular man who spreads his "lats", puffs out his chest and stretches himself to the tallest height and biggest size, is often doing so to hopefully intimidate a smaller would-be opponent. A broken nose, tattoos, scars, certain hair and clothing styles can all give certain visual impressions, thus a form of intimidation. Just think about the impression given by skinhead haircuts, leather jackets, uniforms, even Gi's and the colour of the belt.

2 - Verbal Intimidation
"Touch that again pal and I'll deck ya!". This is an obvious and direct from of verbal intimidation as is "Is it you who's drawn against our best fighter next round? Pity you mate!" - this is a slightly less direct threat. The final, subtler one is an actual true one, once said to me when I was on "the doors" : "Hit me pal and I bleed on you, you're dead, coz I've got AIDS". Simply put, Verbal Intimidation is used just to make you think...
3 - Covert/Subtle Intimidation
One common way would-be aggressors can try to intimidate you is through their reputation as "Hard men". Others use their reputations for being good at revenge "I do home visits", you know the sort, you may well be able to "Do them" in a real go, but they are the sort who turn up at your home and petrol bomb it or do the windows or simply come mob handed. Its not too easy to bring yourself to hammer the shit out of someone you know is perfectly capable of torching your house the next day. If you can't overcome and distance yourself from these forms of intimidation before you even start throwing punches, then your fighting ability will be well impaired. There's no doubt that if you are worried about the consequences of fighting, the pain, damage, injury or even death, then you've already given in to intimidation and your opponent has already won.
Even in a non-violent situation, FEAR of consequence can have serious repercussions. Consider the following, you have just passed your driving test just 6 weeks ago and you are a fairly mild 18 year old. Your older brother asks you to pick up his £100,000 Maserati from the garage. You on the other hand have only ever driven a Nova...

You would be so intimidated by the Maserati that even though theoretically you have all the abilities you need to drive ANY car, this one makes you shit scared. You worry about the consequences, what if I crash it, he'll kill me. The dreadful WHAT IF?... enters your mind, a state of mind recognisable and common to all who face danger. You see, before physical skills can be brought into play, the mental, emotional, psychological and other non-physical aspects of intimidation have first to be recognised then overcome. I'm sorry if I dragged you through all the previous, just to get to this point, but as I said earlier, the actual understanding of the problem is the first honest step in solving it.

When two boxers meet to sign the contract for their fight, it is almost common practise to have a stare out or to rant and rave, insult each other and generally show how violent/tough/unstable they are. When they meet in the ring, they use the ritual of the STARE OUT to continue their intimidation. The Sumo-Tori do the same, there is the build up via staring, glaring and posturing. These are mental intimidating weapons and are as crucial to the actual CLASH. In fact the fight is often won and lost at the face off!
So when you face opponents, in competition, in training or for real your first dual priorities are to refuse THEIR intimidation and inflict your own. If you accept theirs you have already lost, what then can you do to turn the tables?
We all follow certain "Rules" when in a confrontational situation, we generally begin by trying to win verbal points, he challenges you and you respond. This is often a mistake, by batting the metaphorical verbal ball back to your opponent you have entered the game using HIS ball and playing by HIS rules.

But if you were to choose to ignore him totally or use an answer totally opposite of the conversation, then he would have to rapidly alter his challenge, because his conscious or even subconscious thought out plan isn't going his way. You see, whether he knows it or not, he WILL have worked out a game plan, but when the plans go wrong so does his confidence and control. So, even by just altering the plan slightly you have already tipped the scales in your favour.

In the animal kingdom a predator expects two things from his quarry, one is to freeze the other is to run, predators rarely expect or can deal with aggression turned back on them. So it is with us, those scum who mug the elderly and defenceless do so in the knowledge that their quarry will act as victims not aggressors. The assailant expects cringing submission not your size ten in his nuts. Refuse his challenges, don't argue with him, you are NOT there to enter into dialogue you owe him absolutely NOTHING. Don't argue, he expects that, don't beg, he wants that, ignore him and walk away (keeping a good eye on him) or change the subject. Getting him to have to think about what's said or done takes his mind from the physical aggression for the moment, enough time for you to plan and execute your escape or better still, your OWN attack. A very common form of early "In the fight" aggression and intimidation comes in the guise of the "Tough Walk" up to about hand shaking distance, sometimes (especially if he is taller), the chest to chest downwards glare at you often accompanied by some form of very loud verbal extras. You know the sort of thing, he shouts at you, waves his hands a lot, strides towards you (remember, hard men don't just walk they have to stride) loudly proclaiming just what he intends to do to you (often he doesn't intend this one iota, he just likes shouting it).

As I said earlier, play his game by his rules and you have lost. If he stops right in front of you, and a reasonable non-cringing escape isn't possible then take first verbal control, answering ANY of his questions puts you in HIS territory.

"You effing staring at my girl?" a subtle opener isn't it? Rather than start with "I don't know what you mean, what's up mate? Etc". Say instead "I'm bursting mate, see you in a minute" A form of escape via YOUR verbal control has just presented itself, take it. He is now left standing there feeling a bit of a lemon. If you can't get away then don't stare into his eyes, it's a form of challenge, instead look at the spot on his forehead known as "the third eye", then he can't read your eyes. Don't attempt to touch him just yet, it may trigger his attack, we don't want violence (yet). Adopt a non-belligerent, yet non-compliant stance such as using one hand to scratch your chin whilst resting on the other arm which is across your chest, or work out your own. These forms of posture give body language indications to the subconscious of your opponent and their message is "I'm not arguing, I'm not obeying, but I'm ready".

Often just checking that you have an escape route and saying "Excuse me" and walk past him, then GO is enough. If all else fails and the possibility of violence is imminent think only this ONLY 3 THINGS CAN HAPPEN IN A FIGHT :

1 - You do NOTHING and get the shit kicked out of you.
2 - You put up a miserable defence and get the shit kicked out of you.
3 - You fight back like a maniac and maybe STILL get the shit kicked out of you.


When you go, turn your fear into hate, turn your worries into madness.

Hit, Bite, Scratch, Push, Pull etc GO BERSERK!


Remember, ignore how he dresses, clothes may maketh the man but they do sod all for a fighter.
Roy Shaw in a nappy is STILL Roy Shaw...
Dale Winton in a GI is STILL not intimidating.
Concentrate simply on how best to hurt him NOTHING ELSE, because pain is a great leveller. Your objective is to refuse all and any form of intimidation that he tries to serve on you, you can have a meal put in front of you but you don't bloody well have to eat it!
Refuse to accept his intimidation and it doesn't work.
There is of course, more to it than just this, I'm here if you need to ask questions.

Keep Safe - Dave Turton 7th Dan (Self Defence Federation Head)

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