Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Self Defence and Going to Far

Most martial artists have the attitude that on the streets, they will not go looking for trouble and only use there skills when there is no other option. Of course there are some which don’t follow this rule and all I can say to them is, what goes around comes around, but the majority keep themselves to themselves on the street. But when the unfortunate time of having to defend yourself comes around, how far must you go to defend yourself successfully.

In most countries, there are specific laws regarding defending oneself and going too far. If a thug in the street tries to strike you and you retaliate by striking him back then running away while he is dazed that’s one thing, but if that strike knocked him out, then you continue to hit him/her whilst they are on the ground unable to defend themselves, then that would make you the aggressor and you would probably get into trouble for it.

To some people the above is obvious, but to many new martial artists who are not familiar with there countries laws, it is always best to research them so as to know how far to go on the street without getting yourself into trouble.

Up until a few years ago in many countries if you held a black belt in a specific martial art, it was your duty to inform the police so they could register your hands as so called “lethal weapons”. Although this is not the norm now, some authorities still see martial artists as people with an edge over untrained people and when they are involved in any kind of street fight, defending themselves or not, the fact that they are martial artists is taken into account and if they have been seen as using unnecessary force during that fight, they could get into a lot trouble for it.

MMA is my favourite sport, I love MMA training and think it is the number one fighting sport in the world with some of the most well trained athletes, but the fact is when some people see kicks against someone on the floor or ground and pound in MMA, they may get the impression that in the street this is what you must aim to do. The aim is to defend yourself successfully. If there is no need to keep hitting someone on the floor, DON’T DO IT. If the person has a weapon and is intent on really hurting you, it may be necessary to use this kind of force. You must correctly judge yourself, how far to go. Defend yourself, but keep within the law.


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Anonymous said...

I think these laws are rather arbitrary: what is ‘excessive force’, how do they know wether or not it was your intent to injure him as much as you did? Fighting is a dynamic, unpredictable proces and while I agree it’s highly immoral to break someone’s neck just because he took a shot at your face there are alot of grey area’s (too many probably). If I put someone in an armbar with the intention of taking him down and controlling him but he resists and as a consequence I break his arm did I use excessive force or not? In theory it’s easy to describe what is acceptable in a given situation and what is not and hindsight is always 20/20 but at the moment you are confronted with an attacker (which is usually a very stressful, unexpected, and dangerous situation) you do not have the luxury of reflection: you just act, adapt and hope to survive. Most of the time there is so little information (who is your attacker? what does he know? Is he armed dor not? What are his intentions?) and only split-seconds to decide what to do.

With that in mind I think it’s only reasonable to use (alot) more force than you would in training or even in sparring/competition (on the street I’m not going to moderate the force of my blow: I’ll hit as hard as I can and if it results in his nose being broken that’s his problem), and maybe hit a few times more than I normally would, just to be on the safe side. People think just because someone practices a martial-art he is invincible and all knowing and this is simply bull. Sure, hopefully we are more prepared than the average person but since most of us are not professional combat-athletes, streetfighters or battle-hardened soldiers we usually have little actual combat-experience (people who are used to highly-stressful, violent encounters usually are quite clear-headed when they happen and thus more capable of rational thought than the uniniated/unexperienced) and in those situations you simply cannot afford to sympathise with your attacker or moderate your force hoping it will both save you and him. If you do not have a certain amount of killer-instinct and go all out you’ll most likely lose (unless you are really, really good and you simply cannot count on being that superior to every possible type of assailant) and god knows what he’ll do to you when you’re down and out.

I think this is another factor to consider: most street-fights may start with a punch but alot of times they end with one person on the ground being kicked in the head, back or ribs. It’s easy to say: well, you succesfully defended yourself but you used too much force and therefore you should suffer but maybe in relation to his intention you didn’t and if you failed (for example due too much pacifism in training) you might have ended up paying a much heavier price than he does now (losing your life in extreme cases). Better to be safe than sorry. If you do not take out an attacker (for example by kicking him when he’s down or mounting him and finishing with punches to the face) he may rise again and then you’ll be in even more trouble/danger (he’ll be more careful next time and maybe he’ll call his buddies or draw a weapon).

I think there is too much emphasis in the law on protecting the attacker and I think this is immoral. In my opinion you only enjoy rights aslong as your respect the rights of others: if you go out and pick fights just for the heck of it or for some other gain you basically forego your own right on safety and physical integrity. If you attack people without any provocation and consciously try to hurt them you shouldn’t go crying to a Judge if you broke a rib or your nose. It’s simply not right when the law offers more protection to criminals than to ordinary, law-abiding citizens. In the old days it was quite simple: most people were armed and usually a fight ended with the death of one of the participants hence the major emphasis in training being on lethal techniques which was the daily routine and certainly not frowned upon. Violence in itself is not immoral: it’s who uses it and for what purpose. In that respect there’s an old samurai-saying which, in my opinion, sums this up nicely: ‘the sword that cuts down evil is the sword that gives life’.

That being said certain actions are generally excessive and immoral (especially when they cause permanent damage) and alot does depend on the circumstances but given the reasons stated above (the unpredictable nature of fighting, the danger of moderation for the defender, the usually unknown intention/further actions of the attacker and the blatant immorality of iniation-of-force) in non black-and-white cases the benefit of the doubt should go to the defender.

On another note (and this might be more controversial, or less depending on your point-of-view): in situations where weapons are involved, especially unarmed against weapons, I cannot for the life of me understand what is so terribly wrong with using deadly or crippling force or using the weapon against him. When my life is in acute and immidiate danger (e.g a knife-thrust to the stomach or heart) it is my right and my duty to protect myself and the single best way to remove the danger is to kill or cripple him (someone whose neck is broken or trachea pierced will not lunge at you again, someone’s whose knee is destroyed will not be able to stand… of course there’s always the risk of him throwing the knife hence it is even better/safer to kill than to cripple). The law and the police should be congratulating me on my succesful defence and my sense of responsibility (I took the time and effort to learn to defend myself instead of just relying on state-protection 24/7), along with me preventing a murder (someone who carries a deadly weapon in public and actually has the balls to use it unprovoked can be safely considered a potential murderer and an attack with said weapon should always be regarded as meant to kill, irrespective of what he said afterwards) instead of summoning me to court to ‘justify’ myself and even risk a criminal-record or jail-time (thus effectively hampering my chances on employment, befouling my good name…).

The rule should be simply this: if you iniate deadly force unlawfully and unprovoked (and there are very few situations where it would be defensible to react in such an extreme manner) you basically gave up your right to live and anything that happens after that if your responsibility and yours alone. If the defender manages to take away the blade he has every right to use it on the attacker, even going as far as to cut his throat or pierce his heart. This is both in his self-interest (killing being the safest and sometimes the only way to end a life-or-death struggle) and in the interest of the state and the community/society in general. Murderers (potential or actual) are the scum-of-the-earth, they are predators who deserve no consideration whatsoever and it’s not right to wreck the life of an innocent person (the defender, the person didn’t iniate force) - who’ll have trouble enough dealing with the trauma of the encounter and the knowledge he took a life, however justified – just for an absurd principle or unattainable humanitarian ideal.



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