Geoff Thompson Four "D"s

  • 2 April 2014
  • jim

The Four 'D's

There are four techniques often used by attackers, especially muggers and rapists, in preparing victims for attack. Although these are nearly always overlooked by self-defence writers, the four 'D's - dialogue, deception, distraction and destruction - are the most important element of self-protection to be aware of.


Dialogue designed to disarm and distract the targeted victim is the professional attacker's most common priming technique. An attacker will approach a potential victim in a non-threatening way and begin a conversation. Often, he will ask a question about directions, ask if you have the time, a light, or any spare change. His objective is to make you think about his question, so that you do not notice the weapon he is drawing or his accomplice coming round behind you. It only takes a second of distraction for you to get into deep trouble. Understanding this will make you more aware and keep you alert, which is the most important part of target hardening.


An attacker uses deception to make himself appear harmless. Dialogue and appearance are the most common methods used to deceive victims, to make them let down their guard. Do not expect dangerous people to stand out in a crowd.

Attacks may start with politeness, even with an ingratiating approach. Deception is the attacker's greatest asset. Every attack I have ever documented that was not a blind-side attack (the ones that happen when you do not use awareness) came through deception, the attacker using this as a window of opportunity.


Distraction is a part of deception and usually comes through dialogue. The attacker may ask his victim a question and then initiate attack while the victim is thinking about the answer. This distraction also switches off any instinctive, spontaneous physical response the victim may have. A man with twenty years of physical training in a fighting art can be stripped of his ability by this simple ploy. I have witnessed many trained fighters, who are monsters in the controlled arena, get beaten by a guy with only an ounce of their physical ability. How? They were distracted before the attack. Rob, a hardened street fighter and nightclub doorman, always told potential opponents that he didn't want to fight before he attacked them. Their first thought when recovering consciousness would be: 'I'm sure he said he didn't want to fight!'

If the distraction is submissive, 'I don't want any trouble, can we talk about it?' it will also take your assailant down from a state of fight or flight to one of low awareness, because your submissiveness tells him that the danger is over and he can relax into self-congratulation.

Brain engagement, via disarming/distracting dialogue, gives the victim a blind second. This is when the assailant strikes. The distraction is also used by the experienced attacker to take down any protective fences that may have been constructed by the victim (the 'fence' is dealt with in detail in a later chapter).


This is the final product of expert priming. Few people survive the first physical blow and most are out of the game before they even realise that they are in it. Even trained martial artists often get suckered by the four 'D's because these do not appear on their training curriculum. They do not understand the enemy they are facing. The attacker uses the techniques of deception and distraction to prime a victim that is only trained in 'physical response'.