Should You Follow the Bad Guy's Instructions?

Some of my earliest memories are from when my parents and I lived in a small duplex apartment in East Gadsden. Our neighbors in the adjoining apartment had a daughter the same age as me. So Jane (name changed to protect the innocent) and I had known each other since we were 3 or 4 years old.

Over the years, we would see each other sporadically due to moving here or there, losing touch, getting back in touch, and so on.

Fast forward to 1996. At this point I had been training in Bujinkan martial arts for 4 years. We were both 19 years old. I was living in Birmingham at the time and Jane was living in Gadsden. I was in Gadsden to attend a funeral for a couple of days and we decided to meet and catch up.

Jane, a few of her friends, and I went to hang out at her house to watch a movie. At one point about 30-45 minutes into the movie, one of her male friends who was standing in the kitchen called out to me, “Hey Michael. Can you come in here for a second?”

I got up and walked into the kitchen and said, “Hey. What’s up?”

The guy said with clear malicious intent, “You’ve got about thirty seconds to get outta here.” In shock and confusion, I asked, “What? What’s the problem?” And to this day, I still don’t what the hell he meant by what he said next: “Look…I’m a drunk and I’ve got a promise to keep.”

Instructions from the Bad Guy

Often a potential threat will tell you precisely the behavior he wants or needs from you. These instructions are always to best serve himself. Depending on the instructions, they may also serve to benefit you…or they may put you at greater risk. The trick is to know which.

The general guidelines are this:

  • If the bad guy’s instructions make you more safe…follow them
  • If the bad guy’s instructions make you less safe…don’t follow them

Instructions in Social Violence

Often in the context of social violence, your adversary’s instructions to you are a way for him to get what he wants without physical violence. He may be willing to use physical force if you don’t do what he says, but for the moment he has given you an option. If that option makes you more safe…take it.

For example: You walk into a pub, take a stool at the bar, and order a beer. A couple of minutes later a big man walks up to you and says, “You need to get the fuck off my seat and then you need to get the fuck out of my bar. You ain’t welcome here.”


The difficult part here is not getting hijacked by your own ego. Ego can put you at great risk when it’s completely unnecessary. After all, this is a free country and you have a right to be in that pub. But in real violence, it doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong. All that matters is who’s not in the hospital or jail. Your ego can land you in one of those places.

The bad guy has given you a non-violent way out of the situation. Swallow your ego and take the out. Is this stranger worth bleeding or going to prison for? Be the bigger man and leave. It’s a wiser strategy.

If the bad guy’s instructions make you more safe…follow them!

Sometimes his instructions make you less safe. You’ve likely seen this or even been in the situation where the opponent dares you to “do something, motherfucker!” He doesn’t want to commit to violence just yet, but at the same time his ego won’t allow him to back down or let it go.  He wants you to commit to violence first so that in his mind, he’s justified in fighting back.

If the bad guy’s instructions make you less safe…don’t follow them!

Instructions in Asocial Violence

First of all, in asocial violence situations (robbery, kidnapping, rape, murder, etc.) any verbal exchange is almost certainly with the goal of making you less safe. Know that criminals often lie. You’ve got to keep your critical thinking cap on at all times. His instructions may sound like they will make you safe, but actually will make you less safe. For example: He holds you at gunpoint or knifepoint and says, “Do what I say and you won’t get hurt. Now walk over to that van.”


Do you see the contradictions?

He points a gun in your face and tells you that you’ll be just fine. What makes this bad guy seem trustworthy? That part is the lie. Then he tells you to walk towards his van. Know that the van likely is the means to move you to the infamous secondary location (or more aptly: the criminal’s “location of comfort”) where the bad guy intends to rape, torture, or murder you. Sometimes the van itself is the location of comfort.

In this example the instructions lead you to having less safety. So what should you do with his instructions? That’s right. Don’t follow them! Fight. Run. Resist!

If the bad guy’s instructions make you less safe…don’t follow them!

Be wary of the “interview.” The interview is a method criminals often use to bypass your alarm signals to get close. Infamous serial killer Ted Bundy often used his good looks, charm, and a fake injury to appeal to women’s helpful nature and lure them into helping him. This type of interview served to get the women close enough to grab and abduct them before eventually murdering them. So, his “request for help” instructions made his victims less safe. For more information on these types of bad guy tactics, read Gavin de Becker’s book, “The Gift of Fear.”

Back to the Story

So there I was…this asshole has just ordered me to leave my friend’s house. Mind you, the guy was a little smaller than me and I had been training in martial arts for 4 years. I was quite confident that I could handle whatever he might try to do to me.

What should I do? Leave or fight?

Right. I should just leave.

This was a social violence situation. The guy was trying to prove that his dick was bigger than mine. He gave me a non-violent option, so I took that option and left.

What was I gonna do? Start a fight inside my friend’s house? Break her stuff? Get the cops called to the house? Possibly go to the hospital or jail? I knew my dick was bigger than his. Although part of me wanted to prove it, I didn’t need to prove it. And that is an important distinction. Don’t let ego dictate your tactics.

I know I’ve said it like 3 times in this article, but it’s worth repeating.

  • If the bad guy’s instructions make you more safe…follow them
  • If the bad guy’s instructions make you less safe…don’t follow them

Have you ever been in a situation where a bad guy gave you instructions? Did you follow them or not follow them – for better or for worse? Please leave your story in the comments.

1 thought on “Should You Follow the Bad Guy's Instructions?”

  1. Pingback: Social vs. Asocial Violence: A Quick & Dirty Introduction | Magic City Dojo

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