‘Taking your personal safety personally,’ is paramount in today’s pre-assault world, says retired police officer

The clenching of the fist is a body language sign that can be connected to aggressive behavior. If a person has their fists clenched in front of you, it is a good indication that a physical attack could be imminent.

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By Justin K. Thomas

April 4, 2018

Protecting yourself from a physical attack by an aggressor is much more than applying self-defense techniques such as Krav Maga or Boxing because, during the moment of the threat, your body can be preoccupied with adrenaline, making the right decision difficult.

However, being cognizant of an opposing individual’s body language before the attack can prepare you, even more, said Larry Faulkner, a retired Dayton, Ohio, police major with an extensive background in community policing, undercover operations and teaches free seminars for organizations on personal safety.

“Learning the signs in which a potential assailant can give off is key to your personal safety,” Faulkner said. “As a police officer, I can’t tell you how many times my ‘radar’ pinged in certain situations that saved my life.”

According to Faulkner, during a request for service check at a local drinking establishment, he and his partner noticed numerous individuals conversing and drinking. But, what stood out the most to Faulkner was a gentleman that started walking towards his direction, he said.

“His body language was all wrong,” Faulkner said. “He walks past me towards a jukebox, but he’s still in my peripheral vision. And suddenly, he drops something on the floor. He goes to reach for the object, and I’m thinking to myself: ‘Nope, not going to happen.’ So, I step on his hand, and it turned out to be an open knife.”

Faulkner said that the outcome of the situation could have been a lot different for himself or his partner if he had not picked up on the suspected perpetrator’s actions.


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For the most part, victims of violent attacks are women because aggressors believe that they are weaker and easier targets, according to Science Daily. However, anyone can be a victim of physical attacks, including men like Caleb Cooper, a U.S. Navy veteran and photographer-for-higher in the Nashville, Tennessee-area.

“I was in a moderately sized movie theater by myself,” Cooper said. “There wasn’t a lot of people in the theater. But, one guy drew my attention due to the fact he kept moving closer and closer to me. Eventually, he was sitting in the row directly in front of me.”

“The whole situation was getting weird, so I got up to go to the restroom to see if I was being too paranoid. When I started to go back into the theater, the guy in question was as standing outside in the hallway with his back to me and on the phone. As I passed by, he stopped talking and came back into the theater shortly after that. I sat in a way so that I couldn’t be approached from behind. Again, he moved closer and closer until he was in the same row about four seats away from me. Finally, I had enough, walked out and hailed a cab. He didn’t follow me out outside. Whatever he was there for, he wanted to accomplish it inside the darkened theater.”

In today’s American society, groups of people can be considered “soft targets” in places such as places of worship, office buildings, and restaurants, according to Faulkner. But the most important lesson—if circumstances permit—is to work as a team and expect the unexpected, he said.

“Remember, not everyone you meet will have nefarious intentions as we’ve seen in news broadcasts,” Faulkner said. “When teaching practical solutions to staff members of churches, for example, one greeter at the entrance needs to be the ‘engager,’ and the other greeter needs to be the ‘watcher.’ Allow the engager to introduce themselves and make small talk with the visitor. The watcher can observe the visitor’s body language, eye movement, listen for inconsistent responses as to why they are there. If a level of concern comes up, you can always have someone sit near or behind the individual and maintain a watchful eye. Using these simple tools can possibly minimize any unfortunate outcomes, and that can mean life or death.”