The Violence Gap: How to Handle a Wolf on a Sidewalk

by Warrior Poet Society

It's a truth universally acknowledged that predators are looking for an easy meal, but some are hungrier or crazier than others and willing to fight harder to subdue their prey. Martial arts master Alan Baker's "sidewalk test" trains defenders in how to negotiate, de-escalate, when to use force, how to neutralize an aggressor, and otherwise become a hard target for wolves.

Sometimes it's difficult to distinguish between a potential threat and a guy who's just passing you on a sidewalk. If you've ever been in situations that turned awkward or threatening while you're just trying to mind your own business, you understand this.

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Even the most situationally aware among us can miss a sign or two of approaching danger. Sometimes there aren't any warning signs before some guy is bearing down on you trying to ruin your day.

It's hard to know what triggers some people to make you their target–drugs, insanity, a general grudge against society, desperation, boredom looking for trouble.

Alan Baker teaches what you might call "sidewalk tactics" and what he refers to as mat-to-muzzle situations when your optimal safe distance is gone before the attack even begins. The optimal outcome is to make yourself a hard target and for the would-be attacker to think a little more clearly about what he's about to get himself into.

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Alan's knowledge and mastery–spanning 25 martial arts systems and decades of experience in real world tactics–has taught him skills that few people are teaching or learning in either the gun training or combatives training circles. For example, effectively using the gift of gab to de-escalate a situation while making you a hard target.

The Power of Words and Body Language

"There are three time zones in these situations," Alan says. "We're ahead of time, on time, or behind time."

Alan's "sidewalk drill" is like the verbal equivalent of rolling drills in jiujitsu--but you're objective is to make them tap verbally in order to avoid physicality.

"On the sidewalk we verbally spar. We hone our verbal tools to respond according to the threat level," Alan says. "If the threat starts to elevate the pressure, we call it ‘wolfing.’ Your attacker is putting social pressure on you to see if you'll give in. They're testing you. They want to know if you're going to be an easy meal today."

"Wolfing" implies exactly what he sounds like, they're acting like a wolf to see you're a sheep, sometimes with a simple encroachment on your space and a request for spare change in your pocket.

Maybe they're even smiling, but trying to intimidate you by moving closer and unrelenting in their request.

Hey man. Just check your pockets. I just need a couple of bucks. I've fallen on hard times.

Quashing their predatory instinct might be as quick and easy as putting your hands up and forward--a gesture and a defensive ready position--as you move around at a wide girth and with a few words: "I'm sorry man good luck. I gotta run."

At this point, you're "ahead of time."

All of this is occurring as you work through the OODA loop, paying attention for what Alan calls "the ghost in the room"--any other problem people who might surprise you.

"There's often a ghost in the room," Alan says.

Wolves rarely hunt alone.

When the Wolfing Escalates

A determined and hungry predator can be hard to shake, but usually they're also not interested in getting themselves hurt. So they'll typically just ramp things up a bit verbally to show you they're serious about trapping you.

"This is when they may start physically posturing on you, so you start to negotiate what we call critical distance, which is the space between us, and you have to negotiate that well so you can stay out of reach of a wild punch or something else."

That distance is what Alan refers to as being "on time." Any closer, and you're "behind time" because they can get to you without even shifting their weight toward you.

At that critical distance, you're returning their wolfing with de-escalating verbiage while still attempting to move past. If they're able to stall you and make you talk, they're at an advantage.

It's hard to imagine how quickly a situation can go from questionable to terrible. No matter how many hours you've spent at the range or how many hours you've spent on the jiujitsu mat, if you can't link the two together in a violent encounter, your gun might as well be a thousand miles away.

This is the primary objective of Mat to Muzzle, a holistic training approach that cohesively merges defensive tactics with firearms proficiency. Beyond just the physical techniques, this integration also deeply considers the legal implications of using such skills.

The sidewalk drill helps teach and reinforce some lifesaving skills that you can practice almost anywhere with friends and family. The more skilled you become at "verbal judo," hopefully throwing in a bit of humor and adapting it to your own personality, the less you'll have to use the physical, more violent tactics. This is just one of the critical lifesaving skills you'll learn from our friend Alan Baker's Mat to Muzzle course.

Train Hard. Train Smart. Live Free.