Grooming is a pre-assault cue that can provide valuable information when assessing potential intentions. It refers to involuntary touching of the face, hair, or head. There is no specific and definitive consensus for grooming before an attack. But we hear a few physiological and psychological reasons.


A possible physiological explanation for why grooming is a form of self-soothing. Heightened stress, anxiety, deception, or fear can trigger an internal need for self-soothing to calm the individual. Another theory is that grooming may be related to the autonomic nervous system’s response to stress.

Shielding Gestures

A psychological reason for grooming is the idea of “shielding gestures.” People create a physical barrier between their bodies and the outside world by using their hands to touch their faces or hair. They form shields to protect or hide.

The Connection between Grooming and Imminent Physical Violence

Surf Youtube for assaults; you will often see grooming gestures before the attack. It is a relatively common indicator of imminent physical violence. Grooming alone does not justify force, but when clustered together with other cues, the potential need to be physical dramatically increases.

One of the most prominent displays of it is in a jiu-jitsu match. Spend time in any gym, and you will observe several athletes touch the tip of their nose with a finger, cover their mouth, manipulate their hair… then attempt a technique within the match (pass, attack, takedown, sweep…). Some athletes are so known for their “tell” that it can be used to develop effective game plans against them.

Grabbing onto the ear, a flick of the nose, pinching the bridge of the nose, wiping the eyebrows, fingers through the hair. Combined with other cues and it’s probably time to make a decision.