The attack cycle of a predator.

the Attack Cycle | This is how the Bad Guys do it

This how burglar's do it. Their attack cycle.

In the Intelligence community, it’s referred to as the Attack Cycle.

Look | Choose | Stalk | Close | Strike

It’s the bad guy’s blueprint.

Here’s where it matters to you and I (the good guy’s)… When you understand how it works, their nefarious script (the attack cycle) can be stopped dead in its tracks.

The following information is my summary of an article that I read in ShootingIllustrated titled “Bad Guy’s Blueprint” by Steve Tarani.

The concept fits with what we’ve talked about here on the blog when it comes to personal security.

The takeaway from this is to know that if you break ANY of the following steps in the attack cycle used by the bad guy, the attack will likely be foiled.

LOOK | Predators 1st Stalk their Prey

Logically, first, the ‘bad guy’s’ must look for their prey. The predator is looking for an easy target. Low hanging fruit, so to speak.

If you pass the test, he will move on to the next step.

How to avoid the Look phase?

Don’t be be there in the first place!

Don’t be in the environment where bad guy’s may be on the prowl.

A convenience store or gas station late at night. Bad areas known for crime. Pretty much anywhere late at night.

With that said, bad situations happen to good people in seemingly safe places, and during the day. Practice good situational awareness.

CHOOSE | The Victim is Chosen

So you’re in an environment with a ‘bad guy’. How or why might he choose you (or anyone) as their intended prey?

Maybe the target appears weak and/or unobservant. Most likely with their head down in their iPhone. An easy mark.

First he looked. Then he chose his intended victim (because the victim appeared as easy prey).

How NOT to be chosen as the intended victim?

Appear ‘aware’ and confident whenever you’re out and about.

Don’t do stupid things that may attract their attention. Like flashing a wad of cash. Headphones on. Walking while texting. A vulnerable unsecured purse. Engrossed in conversation oblivious of surroundings.

STALK | Observe, Decide, Plan the Strike

The bad guy has chosen. But now he will observe and decide if it’s worth the effort. Person ‘X’ is now being stalked and is under scrutiny as the potential victim.

Once it has been decided, the bad guy will figure out how to get close to you. Maybe he’ll use a verbal interaction trick. Or perhaps a sneak attack.

How to stop the stalk phase?

Don’t be an attractive victim. If you KNOW you’re in a bad environment, take a few seconds and look around. Anything that you do which appears situationally aware, will break the attack cycle. Even if you don’t see a threat! (But he might see you).

The important thing is, if and after you see a potential predator, know that you may be under scrutiny. Your own confident appearance and any actions that you take next which indicate awareness will reflect that you will not be easy prey.

CLOSE | Close the distance to Strike

It has been decided. Person ‘X’ is going to be the target. This step is the time between when the bad guy begins to close the distance and when he gets to the victim.

What if the bad guy is coming towards you?

If you are aware, and see a potential bad guy beginning to close the distance between you:

Look him directly in the eye for a moment. Non-confrontational. He sees you looking at him. The element of surprise is gone. This will probably break the attack cycle. There’s easier prey out there…

STRIKE | After 4 Steps, Attack Executed

If you have been chosen and failed to recognize the impending attack, it will be too late after the predator has taken his first 4 steps.

I don’t know where they came up with 4 steps. However I believe it may reference that their decision has been made with certainty and commitment to execute the attack. The wheels are in motion so to speak.

The point is, don’t let it get to this phase. Otherwise you fight or give up what the attacker is after.

Continue reading: Situational Awareness Tips
Cooper Color Code for Readiness


  1. For me it is hard not to look at some and make them feel that I will choke them out or do some cray sh_t to them if they mess with me.

    I am always scanning and when a see a potential threat I just visualize how I can kill them within 5 seconds and prepare.

    The stare I give them must be enough to most to disengage if they were even thinking about an attack on me.

    1. I might add it keeps the vagrants and panhandlers at bay too.

  2. The post shows a man at an ATM.
    We seldom use an ATM, but when we do, wife does the transaction, I stand watching the area with gun at ready, but concealed.

    Always be aware–

  3. Don’t look down when walking. Show confidence in your walk, speech and manners. It also makes you more attractive.
    Head outta your phone, leave distance between your vehicle and the next at the drive thru, stop light and slow moving construction zones.
    If attacked act aggressively well above what you think is needed. Prior to be vocal even if you think no one else is there. Don’t be afraid to use bad language because it’s what they understand and react to.
    People Watch. You will begin to see the wolves stalk the sheeple.
    The hardest is training with your spouse as a team. It’s difficult but necessary for success.

  4. First Rule of Winning a Fight: Don’t Show Up For It

    You see someone closing in on you – reach into your pocket or behind your back as if you’re reaching for something back there, while looking directly at him and assuming a fight stance. This will suggest you’re armed with some weapon and likely break his attack commitment.

    With 16 million people being concealed carriers and many more knife carriers, criminals should be aware of the risk these days.

    And if your local laws allow, you should be carrying some weapon, even if nothing more than pepper spray.

    1. On the rare occasion that I’ve felt threatened I reach into my right front pocket while watching the person who is making me uncomfortable. It has always been enough to make him change direction.

      Also I frequently walk with a solid wood cane. I don’t need a cane. If necessary squat and swing full force to connect with the lower leg just above the ankle. Little muscle there to absorb the blow and if hit hard enough you will break the leg. He will not follow you if he has a fractured tibia. You can’t be accused of trying to kill him if you hit him in the leg, not so if you whack him up the side of the head.

      1. or aim for the side of the knee or even the femoral nerve bundle given a solid enough strike there they will drop like a bad habit i know it works because ive used it

  5. As part of situation awareness identify possible defensive weapons or places you might escape to or through. For example, yesterday I was walking in a crime ridden area of a city in South America, with little more than my wits to protect me. As I walked, I noted location of beer bottles, sticks, rocks, nd other items I might have to grab if confronted by a goblin, even if it meant retreating a few yards to pick it up it. Bottom line: situational awareness is key, as per Ken’s writeup above.

  6. Ladies or anyone feeling threatened, if you don’t have a conceal carry. keep your car key fob with it’s horn alarm at the ready.

    Actually have done myself a time or two. Don’t be shy, blow that sucker at the first hint of trouble…easy to shut and who gives a rip what’s one else thinks if it’s just a false alarm.

  7. I bought a trucker’s tire thumper and slipped it into a collapsible umbrella cover.

    I can stroll along with it dangling from my wrist and people assume it is an umbrella. If it is a sunny day it is small enough to put in a large purse or backpack.

    The thumper is hard rubber with a steel rod in its center. Truckers use it to test the air pressure in their tires. Doesn’t cost much.

    Trucker Tire Thumpers on Amzn

  8. It goes the other way too. As a potential victim: Awareness that a threat is possible, identification of a potential threat, change attitude or direction (glare or otherwise let the predator know you’re aware), decide to engage, strike. If you’re in a place where such a thing is likely, be prepared to strike without hesitation.

  9. When I was younger and looked more naive, I did some undercover/plainclothes work. As I grew older and spent more time driving a beat in a marked patrol unit, I no longer could do that type of work.

    These days, people trying to multitask with smart phone while walking changes the equation all to heck.

    School of hard knocks seems to be the only sure way to learn. At 57, I still got the scars to prove it.

    This is a test post as I have had trouble trying to post anything in the past month.

  10. Hey, my test post worked!

    It was my wife that pointed out that I walked and talked like a cop when we first started dating years ago. Her observations were as follows:

    I always look at my surroundings as I walk with occasional glance at my 6 o’clock. (via turning around or looking into reflection of store window.).

    When talking to a person, my eyes look at their eyes but they also glance down at the person’s hands to check for not only weapons but other signs like Parkinson’s tremor, etc. ( possible indicator of psychotropic drugs or medications.)

    My feet are spaced shoulders width apart and I am never off-balanced. Years of practice doing foot patrol with gun belt and vest.

    I will walk right up and talk to most anybody about the weather, their funny T-shirt or simply to ask directions or find a good place to eat. I call this the pre-emptive attack and it tends to throw some people off-balance. ( like predators.)

    I do not carry a firearm on my person most of the time though I do carry a small sharp knife on my person in most locations including the bathroom.

  11. If you can, go check out Dr. William Aprill’s “Unthinkable” courses. He has interviewed hundreds of Violent Criminal Actors and has some of the best information going for learning how to identify and gain some level of understanding what the defensive minded individual NEEDS to know regarding predatory criminals. I have attended one of his courses and the information was very eye opening and I learned a lot more than I thought I would.

  12. One thing. Remember. If you do need to defend yourself.
    And you hurt the person. And he is on the ground when 5-0 comes.
    NEVER. NEVER talk to the police until you have a lawyer with you.
    You may just talk yourself into jail. Have a lawyer with you when you talk to the police. Just say I was in fear for my life. I want a lawyer. Then shut up.
    Until you have one with you. If you start talking, you can talk yourself right into jail. Real fast. Have a lawyer with you, when you talk to 5-0.
    Just saying.

  13. I have been taught to avoid eye contact with the crazy/drugged out homeless people who lurk around our local store. I keep an eye on them, but if they look at me I usually glance away and walk purposefully past them. Should I be making eye contact? It seems like the people who make eye contact with them are more likely to be hit upon for money. And if they do ask for money, what do you do?

    1. LMT— tough one…First try to make sure you subtly watch them/hands/eyes, so you can try to tell if they may be about to jump you etc…

      — Myself, we sort of have a “saying”. NEVER MAKE EYE CONTACT….we sort of agree with you that making eye contact seems to be an invitation for them to pursue things further.

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