VIDEO – De-escalation, Noticing Aggression, And Knowing When It’s Time to Go

Frequently physical fights begin with a verbal confrontation. De-escalation and avoidance are always preferable to the use of any physical force. Developing these skills is just as important, or perhaps even more important, than the ability to hit the ‘x' ring at 50 yards.

Breakdown of this violent confrontation —

The following video captured a confrontation that I think does a decent job of showing this principle.

I know nothing more about the men in the video or where the incident occurred.

Let's break down what we see in the video and pull out anything we can learn from it.

The video appears to come from a camera on a motorcyclist's helmet camera. He is photographing his parked motorcycle a few hundred yards off the highway. The location looks like an access road to unoccupied and undeveloped land overgrown with vegetation.

A second man, identified as ‘aggressor' for the rest of the post, confronts the motorcyclist. The aggressor angrily yells, “why are you on my property?” from about 40 feet away while quickly walking toward the motorcyclist.

What is awareness —

The motorcyclist seems to have a pretty good awareness of his surroundings as he notices the aggressor before he even begins yelling. A note here is understanding what hinders our situational awareness while in public.

He is wearing a motorcycle helmet, which is a wise safety protocol while riding, but limits hearing and vision to a degree. I'm not saying he should have removed his helmet; in fact, in this situation, it provided a few benefits, which I'll mention in a moment.

The point is, if we wear a motorcycle helmet or go running with headphones, we should do things like: visually scan the area more, pay attention to body position and the people in an even wider area surrounding us.

Thankful the motorcyclist kept his helmet on, or we wouldn't have this video to learn from.

The motorcyclist challenges the aggressor with a question of his own. He says, “huh,” at which the aggressor stops advancing about 20-25 feet away.

Breaking the aggressor's train of thought —

I like this tactic of engaging the persona verbally with a question as far out as possible for a few reasons.

First, it lets the person know you see them and also can alert others in the area to look to see what's going on. Witnesses to your use of force are good if you need help or bolster your self-defense claim. Challenging the aggressor with a question also makes them think of responding to your question, which mentally and sometimes physically stops them in their tracks.

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When dealing with aggressive suspects as a police officer, I always looked for ways to ‘pause' or slow down the escalation and action of the incident, providing time and additional response options. I found this technique very useful many times.

It's not fool-proof, but a challenging question can also help you gauge the person's level of aggression. For example, when someone yells from 40 feet away, they may sound aggressive. On the one hand, when hearing, “huh, sorry man, I didn't hear you,” a reasonable person might say, “I wanted to get your attention and let you know this is private property.”

On the other, an aggressive person may respond like the man in the video, aggressively yelling: “Why are you on my property doing this?”

In the video, the motorcyclist laughs and responds with, “it ain't your property, fool.” Indeed, we are free to say what we want but remember our words may escalate or de-escalate a situation. The motorcyclist turns, and it appears as though he will get on his motorcycle and leave.

Keep tabs on the aggressor —

For a moment, he turns his back to the aggressor as he mounts his motorcycle. If you've identified an aggressive person, don't give them your back unless it's because you're in an all-out sprint from the scene.

The aggressor uses this moment to close the distance to about 4 feet.

Still laughing, the motorcyclist says, “dude, you dress like a bum.” Using derogatory names or challenging the person is unproductive and usually stokes the fire. Not only that, but depending on the specifics of an incident, it could blur the line about who the aggressor really is.

The aggressor has used an aggressive tone, is clearly angry, and with a bit of observation, one can guess the person is under the influence of a drug or not mentally sound. In addition, he has closed the distance to about 5 feet and stands with one hand concealed behind a long jacket and the other at his side.

this video shows good de-escalation

I mentioned the motorcycle helmet may limit vision and hearing, but the helmet also provides protection against blunt force impact around your head and face. I'm not suggesting everyone walk around with a helmet, just point out it can help against certain types of attacks.

Indicators of aggression/assaultive behavior —

We should have picked up on the many indicators that this person is potentially assaultive and definitely non-compliant.

I want to point out that the motorcyclist is now straddling his motorcycle. Is this the ‘stance' typically trained on the range? Clearly, the answer is no. For this reason, I avoid using a particular ‘stance' as a fundamental of marksmanship. Sure, some positions afford better balance, but that optimal position may not happen.

Instead, let's apply the best footing we can get to prevail in a physical fight while adding the fundamentals of grip, aiming, and trigger manipulation if a gun is necessary.

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Escalation and de-escalation —

The aggressor and motorcyclist yell at each other for about 5 seconds before the aggressor steps closer. He removes an object that looks like a knife or stabbing instrument around 8 inches long. He raises the object near his head, holding it with an overhand, stabbing grip.

The aggressor repeatedly screams, “I will [expletive] you up!” as he keeps the stabbing object raised above his head.

Let's pause and think of the options the motorcyclist has at this moment.

The aggressor poses an imminent and objective threat of death or serious bodily harm. Therefore, the motorcyclist may defend himself with deadly force. However, can the motorcyclist draw his firearm and get shots at the aggressor? Maybe, maybe not.

The motorcyclist notices the dire situation and says, “Hey, I'm good, I'm good!” He puts up his hand in defense. As the aggressor gets closer and louder with his hand still holding the object in a stabbing motion, the motorcyclist realizes he is in a compromised position and dismounts his motorcycle on the opposite side from the aggressor.

Since the aggressor has a weapon that requires proximity to the motorcyclist to be effective, creating distance and using a physical barrier (the motorcycle) gives him time and options he didn't have while on the motorcycle.

The motorcyclist continues to say, “I'm good,” and when the aggressor tells him to leave “his property,” the motorcyclist says, “hell yeah, I'm getting off, dude, right now.”

Take the opportunity to disengage —

The aggressor turns to head back from where he came for whatever reason. The motorcyclist uses this opportunity to mount his bike and leave the area. Other than maybe his ego, the motorcyclist is unharmed.

However, as important is that the motorcyclist didn't need to use physical force against the aggressor. Therefore, the motorcyclist doesn't need to worry about defending his actions before the police, prosecutor, judge, or jury.

As the aggressor heads to his lair, he screams for the motorcyclist to leave his property. The motorcyclist does an excellent job of continuing his attempts to de-escalate by assuring he is leaving the area. The motorcyclist cackles as he rides off to safety, likely in response to averting any injury.

Here is the video in its entirety. I am unable to mute the expletives, so please use discretion.

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About Matthew Maruster

I follow my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ who is the eternal co-equal Son of God. I currently live in Columbus, Ohio with my wife and daughter. I served in the Marine Corps Infantry. I was a Staff Sergeant and served as a Platoon Sergeant during combat in Iraq. After I was a police officer at a municipal agency in San Diego County. I have a Bachelors's Degree in Criminal Justice from National University. MJ Maruster Defense.


  1. Clark Kent on April 13, 2022 at 4:51 pm

    The author obviously comes from the ‘customer service’ model of law enforcement. In other words, instead of having a command presence and loudly announcing ‘Stop right there’ to a threatening suspect he would ask ‘Is there anything I could do or say that would make you obey my lawful command?’. Unfortunately, adherence to this model is what gets police officers killed. It is very popular among PD upper management as their butts are never on the line and it curries favor with the politicians. Unless and until you have the attitude you are the ‘house’ and the ‘house ALWAYS wins’, you have no business being a street cop. You can’t ‘protect and serve’ if you are dead.

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