How Body Language Impacts Personal Defense

posted on December 3, 2021
Sheriff Jim Wilson

Some years ago, we arrested an armed robber who, after getting his business straight with us, agreed to talk to us about the robbery craft as he knew it. In the course of that, I showed him a convenience store that, while I thought it would be a prime target, had never been robbed.

Our prisoner told me that he and his bunch had looked at it, but turned it down. He said it was because the night clerk was an older man. Unlike the younger people who clerked in most of the other stores, this man did not spend his time reading a magazine—this was long before smartphones became the center of attention. Instead, this particular clerk would make eye contact with his customers and greet them as they entered. Our crook said this was the kind of guy who could give the police a good description of a person. Further, our crook said that this was also the kind of guy who would keep a gun handy. As a matter of fact, I knew that this particular clerk kept a .45 under the counter.

The point is, whether or not we realize it, our demeanor and appearance gives messages to others, including criminals. If we are afraid and hesitant, our body language may tell a crook that we are a likely victim. If we wander around in public preoccupied and not paying attention, the crook may feel that he can get close to us and take control before we are aware that there is a threat.

When talking about awareness, we tell our students that it is important to walk erect, with our head on a swivel, constantly checking our surroundings. But this also gives a message to the criminal element that we cannot be easily snuck-up on. And, we might just be someone who is not afraid and might be difficult to control.

In addition, there is a good deal of confidence to be gained by getting good defensive training and practicing regularly with our defensive handgun. That self confidence translates to a body language that the crooks can recognize and will often avoid.  Those crooks may not be able to describe the various aspects of body language like a college professor could, but they sure know it when they see it.

How we dress in public is as important as how we act. I’m not suggesting that we all put on battle gear, nor am I suggesting that we adopt a demeanor like Wyatt Earp fixing to walk into the OK Corral. But we do need to think about how we look, act, and dress in public. Are you unintentionally telling the crook that you are a likely victim, or will he think that you are someone to leave alone?


Rifle with suppressor and scope facing right
Rifle with suppressor and scope facing right

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