How to Be the Anti-Gray Man

January 15, 2021


  1. Switching Between Gray Man & Anti-Gray Man
  2. Escape After Discovery
  3. Engaging the Threat: Agonistic Behavior

We have done blogs in the past on being the Gray Man.  Hiding in plain sight, blending in, and becoming as invisible as possible is one way to survive your environment, but it isn’t always possible.  Sometimes your better option may be to become the Anti-Gray Man.  Your best option may be to stand out from the crowd and project that you are a threat not to be messed with.  If your Gray Man efforts are discovered, and you can’t navigate in secrecy anymore, projecting strength beyond the strength in opposition to you may be your best bet.

If you have no weapon, you can look like you do.  If you have no backup, you can give the impression that you do.  In this video, we will examine how to project force, go on the offense when you need to, and deploy the tactics you can deploy when staying hidden is no longer your best option.

1- Switching Between Gray Man & Anti-Gray Man

The Gray Man seeks to move unnoticed through their environment.  The Anti-Gray Man has been exposed to at least one or more observers.  They are no longer concealed and may be either pursued or engaged.  Your situational awareness will tip you off, and your instincts are what will keep you alive.  Always, your goal should be to return to Gray Man status, but when that is impossible, you need to display the capability of being a more significant threat to your adversary.

Situational awareness will be your indicator as to which status you should be in at any given moment.  In my videos on becoming a Gray Man, I go into great detail about remaining undiscovered and how to recognize when you have been discovered.  Not every observer is a threat, but every unobserved danger will threaten your safety.

In every situation, there are threat indicators.  Suppose you can pick up on these indicators. In that case, you can determine whether you need to engage in a fight, exhibit a display of agonistic behavior, which I will address later, or whether you can safely retreat to a gray man status after being initially observed.  Typically, when you are looking around for active observers when you are engaged as a Gray Man, it is not always an enemy.  It may be someone equally trying to remain unseen.  It may be someone who has merely caught your eye.  If you know that it is a person looking for you or pursuing you, you should consider your Gray Man status blown and move on to either the escape or display phases of action.  Your ability to accurately assess the threat is directly tied to your situational awareness and your observational skills.  You need to practice learning to read a room, scan crowds, and assess threats.

Assessing the threat and possibly defusing the danger can sometimes be accomplished by merely locking gazes and nodding the head.  This acknowledgment will either be met with a corresponding nod of the head that is typically just a greeting.  A nod in an upward direction is usually an acknowledgment of mutual strength, whereas a nod in a downward direction can be perceived as a submissive posture.  It’s that nuanced.  The non-verbal exchange from a distance is critical to the assessment of the threat.

As you are moving through as the Gray Man, you have to continually be assessing individuals that can pull you out of your cloaked status.  Secondarily, how much of a threat is the person.  Are they actively looking for you?  Are they just casually observing you?  Are they just curious about you?  Essentially, you need to know when to pull out of your Gray Man status to avoid prolonged observation or avoid an escalating threat from someone.  At this moment, you need to switch to the Anti-Gray Man.

You have a few options at this point.  You can seek to escape or engage in the fight process by threatening and posturing and possibly even physical engagement.  Escaping is always your best option, as I will explain later, but you need to know when full engagement or the threat of full engagement is a better hand to play.

2- Escape After Discovery

There are many escape methods after discovery when you know that your discovery is not just casual but intentional and ongoing.  That is to say when you know that the observer is fully aware of you and is intent on confronting you, you are no longer the Gray Man.  At this point, you may immediately choose one of the methods of escape I outline here if that is your most viable option.


Is there a method to create a diversion?  Pulling a fire alarm, which is likely against the law, by the way, starting a small fire, which is for sure against the law, tripping a car alarm or store alarm, or anything that will divert the attention of the crowds, are all methods of diversion.  This helps you isolate the threats against you because as the crowd focus turns to the triggered event, the eyes of your would-be assailants remain fixed on you as you move from the scene.  Be aware that anyone who witnessed you trigger the diversion will also likely be watching you now.  Picture the diversion tactic as the same as hiding in the woods.  If the enemy is approaching, throwing a rock far and away from you triggers a noise that they turn to investigate.  The same is true for an urban environment.  You want to be able to create that noise from as great a distance as possible to make your escape.


If you are spotted in a crowd, you have the barrier of people between you and your would-be assailant.  That is a natural obstacle.  You can create more obstacles between you and your pursuers and slow their progress.  Is a delivery being made on a dolly?  What would happen if that got knocked over?  Someone carrying an arm full of items?  What would happen if they got knocked over.  This is often shown in the movies when one person is being chased, and they knock carts and file cabinets over behind them to impede their pursuer’s efforts.

Call Them Out

With your assailant’s eyes fixed on you, call them out to someone who is working in the area: a hostess, a security guard, a worker at a kiosk.  Make sure you make eye contact with your pursuer.  Make sure to give a short description to the person, and end it with a pointed finger right at them.  They will likely look away.  While they are looking away from their being outed, you can make your escape.  Don’t stick around and chat with the person you are talking to.  Say, “I think that person over there in the hat is following me,” for instance.  Say, “That person in the black jacket just stole a lady’s purse.”  End your conversation with the person by saying, “You should probably call the police.”  As they contemplate whether they should, they will also be keeping their eye on the person.  You should move as close to a straight line away from both the observer and your assailant.  This will require your assailant to have to go a long way around or right past your observer.  Your observer will be increasingly more panicked as your assailant approaches.  

Direct Confrontation

Do you hold the upper hand?  Can you flip the script on your would-be assailant and pursue the pursuer?  If that is your evaluation, you can turn directly toward the person, point at them, and then start making your way directly towards them through the crowd.  Pull people along with you where you can.  They don’t need to follow you, but even turning a stranger’s attention directly on your former pursuer can make it look like you are soliciting aid in the fight you are bringing.  Gently turning someone by the shoulder, pointing at your pursuer, and saying something as silly as, “See that guy with the sunglasses and hoodie?  Is that a monkey he has?”  That will be enough to have the stranger observed.  All the while you are heading to the person, if they don’t flinch or falter in your game of chicken, you will need to plan on bailing left, right, or down into a subway–anywhere that you can find an escape.  If you don’t escape, the confrontation will occur after further escalation once you reach your pursuer. 

3- Engaging the Threat: Agonistic Behavior

With other avenues no longer viable, your only remaining option at the moment may be engaging with your identified adversary.  Agonistic behavior is any behavior related to fighting, so it covers a wide range of actions.  It covers threats, displays, retreats, placation, and conciliation.  We understand agonistic behavior from our analysis of the animal kingdom.  Every animal fights for territory, resources, or mating rights.  So, too, you may be forced to fight, but fighting is always your last option to be implemented only when other options are no longer viable.  This is because conflict will lead to further exposure at the least and injury or death at the worst.  Though these behaviors reveal themselves throughout an active fight, they are most prevalent preceding the direct conflict.  Fighting and conflict are primal reactions tied to our fight or flight instincts.  Being a Gray Man is meant to keep you out of harm’s way, but if you are discovered, you either have to appear as a formidable threat, escape the area, or simultaneously do a little of both.

The adrenaline coursing through your body will help you make, hopefully, the best decision, but I suggest you do both: appear as a larger threat and eye your escape avenues.  I will discuss escape tactics later on, but for now, what you need to know is that physical altercations are relatively rare between humans. However, we see them prominently featured in the media.  Think of any conflict you witnessed after the fact on the news.  The chances are there were hundreds or perhaps thousands of people in the area who may have witnessed it but were not drawn into the melee themselves.  So, out of those many people, only a few were actually within the violent bubble.

The Assessment

In a typical agonistic behavior scenario, both people involved are assessing the acceptable cost of exposure, injury, or death.  Have you ever seen a movie where the bad guy is pursuing the hero but exposing themselves would mean the police would capture them?  That is the playing out of this risk assessment portion leading up to a potential altercation.  Unless a person is reasonably confident that they can win without injury, or the risk is worth the inevitable reward, they are most inclined to avoid an altercation.  The caveats here are when a person feels their life or the threat of injury is unavoidable, when the person is reacting from their primal mind and lashing out, when a person is no longer rational, or when a person has been trained to bull doggedly and determinedly engage the target.  A person must weigh the risks of the fight.  If the cost is too high, avoidance is favorable.

The Display

The agonistic ritual’s display phase is where a person would try to project greater strength than their opponent, an unwillingness to be deterred, a possible retaliatory threat, or the appearance of more significant numbers.  These ritualistic displays can be subtle, like not breaking eye contact and staring down your enemy.  They can be implied like reaching your hand inside your jacket and leaving it there, indicating you have a concealed weapon.  They can be aggressive, as in the puffing of the chest with a “Come at me, bro” attitude.  The agonistic ritual display can also be thought-provoking, even looking solidly to the right or left, then back at your pursuer, then back to the same spot, can give the impression that you are not alone.  It would be natural for your pursuer to assess the threat you are alluding to with your long glance.  If you choose this option at the moment, be sure the direction you are looking is not the same as your projected escape route.  The seconds looking away from your actual path that your pursuer spends evaluating the invisible threat will buy you steps along your escape route.

Whatever display you make, you should be continually assessing whether becoming the Gray Man again and escaping into the crowd is a viable option.  The second you make that choice, however, you have given up the charade of the display.  Your enemy will know that they hold the upper hand and will re-engage with the pursuit, and will not be swayed by any further subtle displays.  Only an actual force display will force another pause in your enemy. 

The display phase is also an assessment phase.  Here you are forecasting your enemy’s willingness to fight.  Many are observing but with orders not to engage or unwilling to engage when it comes down to it because of the more extensive attention they may draw upon themselves.  You need to be making these determinations.  There are just a few outcomes of the display phase.  Either it leads to even more pronounced displays, it leads to an actual engagement, or one or both sides stand down and retreat.  Though you are posturing as if you will bring down the lightning and hammers upon your enemy, you should be simultaneously planning your escape even if you lack the means to do so.  

Every engagement throughout history reveals the consequences of wrong assumptions about an enemy’s willingness to engage or an incorrect assessment of an enemy’s strength.  Do not hesitate and evaluate.  Only evaluate while you are engaged in action, and channel stress, anxiety, and adrenaline into focused action on your part.  That is the key to winning the display phase of agonistic behavior.

The Fight

As we mentioned earlier, you may be forced to fight, but fighting is always your last option to be implemented only when other options are no longer viable.  This is because conflict will lead to further exposure at the least and injury or death at the worst.  Even in the fight itself, choosing between potentially lethal tactics and maiming tactics have to be made.  Causing non-life-threatening injuries to your opponent may result in buying you the critical moments you need to survive and escape.  Engaging in a fight will bring others observing and potentially also engaging against you.  This could be your enemy’s comrades, people trying to break it up, random strangers, or controlling professional forces.  If you are continually assessing your opportunity to escape back to the Gray Man, you may be able to cast your enemy into the chaos and retract yourself from it.

If you have exhausted all other options and must engage in a fight, leverage the surprise element with a sudden strike.  Strike with the intent of ending the fight immediately by incapacitating your enemy, and don’t hold back.  In martial arts, they teach you to strike the spot behind your enemy when you throw a punch.  So, too, must you strike with force enough to give your enemy pause.  A first strike is also a form of agonistic display.  It should be of significant strength and shock that it gives your enemy pause about further engagement.


There are volumes and volumes of materials written on tactics, engagement, developing situational awareness, and threat assessment.  Theoretical works like Sun Tzu’s Art of War, Clausewitz’s On War, or Musashi’s The Book of Five Rings are good starting points, but they are theories to be contemplated.  Raise your understanding of these works but make sure to enhance your skills with practical exercises, tactical training, and an understanding of human behavior and tactics.  The topic area is so voluminous that it would be challenging to cover in any single video.  What we have done here is to focus on understanding the moment when you need to switch between the Gray Man and the Anti-Gray Man.  Becoming situationally aware that you are being observed and the observer’s intent determine which side of the Gray Man spectrum you are on, and it should illuminate your next steps.  Returning to Gray Man status is always preferable for your continued safety. Still, if that isn’t possible, you either need to escape, project greater or hidden strengths, or engage in conflict.  Leverage your awareness and your surroundings with any course of action you take.

What do you think?  What’s your tactic for knowing when you are being observed?  What’s your best tactic for appearing to have hidden or superior strength?  

As always, please stay safe out there.

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Marty Barton
Marty Barton
2 years ago

Very good information. I spent 22 years in the military and this is the kind of training they should give all Soldiers and not just the elite forces. Thanks again

Kasey Dell
Kasey Dell
2 years ago

After I watched the video and read this I thought it was funny I’ve always been a grey man thank you DAD

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