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Trainer Talk

Elements of an Attack

Elements of an Attack


The very foundation of defensive tactics is knowing what constitutes an attack in the first place. There are three elements that contribute to an attack—intent, weapon, and delivery system—and all three need to be present for an assault to succeed. If you remove one of these elements, an attack can be mitigated. Let’s take a closer look at each of the component parts:


Intent is the driving force or motivation to do something. The catalyst. The kindling that fuels the fire. When an assailant is intent on acting and the time and opportunity are right, an attack may occur. Intent may be pre-planned or spontaneous. Either way, it involves identifying the target, method, timing, location and the type of force (weapon or weaponless). In other words, intent includes determining the “who, how, when, where and what” of an attack.

Intent is a thought process, and therefore the way we mitigate intent is to change the way someone thinks. Mike Tyson famously said "everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face,” and impact can certainly change a thought process. But so can a display of force without contact—such as an officer dynamically opening an ASP baton to the sky, with loud verbal commands.


A weapon is something that is used to inflict harm during an attack. It can be a gun, knife, club or a tool of some sort. It can also be the personal “weapons” (hands, feet, knees, teeth) of the attacker. The tactics of countering a weapon vary depending on the situation. For example, an interior door will stop a knife but not a bullet. The swing of a wild punch (the fist being the weapon) is initially addressed by ensuring the weapon doesn’t reach the target. This may be accomplished with natural reactions, such as moving away from the attacker's punch, or learning specific defensive skills to create and maintain safe separation. 

Delivery System:

Most weapons by themselves are not inherently dangerous—a knife sitting on a table generally can’t hurt anyone. In order to play a role in an attack, it needs a delivery system. That would be the person picking up the knife and swinging it at you—or more specifically, the arm that is swinging the knife and sending it toward its target. Similarly, with a wild haymaker attack, the arms and torso are the delivery system. While both delivery systems are roughly the same, in the case of the knife, lethal defense may be warranted. Against the empty-handed attack, the baton is an ideal mitigation choice. Strikes to the center mass of the attacking limb can disrupt and disable the subject's ability to complete his attack. 

When we teach ASP Instructor Certification courses, we simulate the elements of an attack using a Trainer in a RedMan suit as an assailant, swinging wild punches, kicking, closing distance and creating a lot of stress. We start with command presence and verbal commands as a show of force to change intent, then progress to employing the baton to stop the weapon (punches, kicks etc.) from reaching its intended target. We do all of this while creating and maintaining distance. In training and on the street, officers learn that taking one or more elements out of the fight, stops the fight.

Jim Klauba

Chicago Police Department (Ret.)

ASP Trainer since 2011