Sizing Up an Attacker!

Even if a fight is a frantic affair from the outset, a trained martial artist will be aware of how the attacker is holding his body, and what that means. This article is about the process of discovery I used when I formulated a plan for handling attackers. The good news is that it is observable as workable in freestyle, so you don’t have to go out and get mugged to see if it works.

One of the earliest things I learned about sizing up an attacker was based on how he moved when you made a quick move towards him. If he moved towards you he was a fighter, if he moved back he was a runner, and if he blocked he was a blocker. This theory was attributed to Joe Lewis, but was supposedly figured out by Bruce Lee.

Time passed, and I came up with my own observations in this matter. My observations were not based upon feinting towards an opponent to make a response, for that means you have wasted a motion, and if he is not wasting motion you’re already in a fight. So I assumed that I was in a fight already, and that I better just get on with analyzing the attacker.

First, I judged such factors as speed and mass. If he was chunky and strong, he would be more likely to close and grapple, and if he was lean and quick he would be looking for speed and striking. And, of course, there was incredibly limited value in these generalities.

So I began to isolate whether he was left handed or right handed by observing which hand was forward. This was much better because it told me where the power was coming from, and even what angle it would from. Still, this observation only resulted in maybe a ten per cent edge in fighting, and I needed more than that.

Still, knowing which hand he was attacking with let me know whether he was setting up for a kick. I began to judge potential distances, and what effect this had on an opponent, and how I should angle my attack. The real key to all this was whether he shifted to free up a leg for kicking.

Having the hands and the feet analyzed, I began to separate the body in half. I would view it as two pieces, and estimate, from the angle he was facing me, what angle he would take on the attack, and what angle I should take on the defense. This proved to be invaluable, and the effectiveness of my defense in a situation went up 70% just from this simple observation.

There will always be a bit of mystery as to what is going to happen when you start fighting. Still, if you cut the body in half, top to bottom and side to side, you’re going to have a distinct plan and reduce the mystery. Try it, and feel free to send me your observations, good or bad, I’ll be very interested in your results and progress. 

Al Case has 40+ years in the martial arts. A professional writer for the MA magazines, he is the developer of Matrixing Technology. You can view his unique research at

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