Those who have been in the game long enough know a suspect’s hands are what hurt or kill you. How well you understand this has a huge impact in a critical incident.
Narrowing in on the details
You have been taught to keep your head on a swivel, always be aware of your surroundings, but have you been taught what to look for or how to prioritize possible threats. If you don’t have a system or at the very least an idea then you take in to much information and by the time you have processed it all it may be too late. While you cannot dismiss possible threats so easily, you do have to get on with your life and more importantly you have to do this as part of your everyday routine. If someone were to ask you to perform something so intricate or detailed it may as a result of the complexity not become routine then it does you little good in the real world.
Defining a threat
As part of the target discrimination process we teach to look for patterns or more importantly things that don’t belong. As an example, in a sea of moving people the one standing still staring at you from a far should warrant greater scrutiny. From there, how do you know they are a threat, there is the obvious weapon they present, but what if things are not so obvious. If they are concealing their hands out of mere principle it should elevate the risk right way and call for action of some sort on your part. Adjust your route, put something between you and them or stop and see what they do. This is the easy part, when you cannot see their hands the risk is greater to you for the simple reason you have no idea if they are holding a weapon or object that could cause you harm.
Holding something back
The hard part is recognizing the other not so obvious indicators such as clasping of the hands. While there are volumes of body language cues this is one you should pay more attention to in the real world. This gesture is often associated with individuals need to exercise self restraint. They are in an essence holding something back. What are they holding back is not known, but the fact they are focused on you while holding this gesture should be considered a priority in the sea of people around you. The positioning of their hands whether in front or even behind should not be misconstrued as friendly.
The last hand position is probably a pretty obvious one, but still overlooked by many. The clenching of the hands to form a fist. As you look more closely at the person of interest and recognize they have clenched fist ask yourself why would they 1.) be looking at you and 2.) have clenched fists? The answer: it really doesn’t matter. For whatever reason they have narrowed in on you and escalated the situation by clenching their fists and perhaps even their jaw. All pre-fight indicators you cannot afford to ignore. While all of these gestures are dangerous the most dangerous is concealing the hands. If while maintaining situational awareness you pick up something out of the norm, focus in and observe their hands are not visible be very leery.
It doesn’t take much to help increase your situational game, but observing the hands is a part of any good technique. Until of course you come across someone who can force choke you, then all bets are off.