Hi, Al Bargen Here. When you’re faced with danger it seems obvious that you should be able to defend yourself. However, it’s important to know the laws of the land regarding self-defense so that you can stay out of hot water in a defensive situation.
There are a few things you need to remember when it comes to self-defense. These rules of thumb will help you to stay out of trouble with the law and still be able to protect yourself.
At the front of this post, I must inform you that I am not a lawyer, and to not rely on my information here as legal advice. I make no such claims so please know how people who defend themselves are treated by the legal system that you would have to answer to. This is just good information to have, and if you instruct self-defense, it is your duty to know these things to inform your students. Be proactive in your self-defense.
First, you should never use more force than needed to defend yourself against a threat. This rule requires interpretation. Basically if you feel that someone is going to harm you physically, you have the right to use force to defend yourself.
Excessive force is force that is applied after it is no longer necessary to apply force. Usually the law can be interpreted in favor of the victim. Don’t think twice, use your self-defense skills to disarm or incapacitate the assailant. When in doubt, strike again and be ready to strike your attacker if they continue to rise.
If at all possible you should avoid deadly force. However, if you feel that your life is in danger or that a crime is going to be committed such as rape, you may be justified to use deadly force as required. Most of the people I train with are familiar with the expression that goes something like this… “I would rather be judged by twelve than carried by six.”
Once you feel that the threat is over, you need to stop using force. For example, you can’t seek revenge on an assailant hours or days later, but you don’t have to retreat if you’re in your own home or if you still feel threatened.
You should also remember that self-defense means that you are not the original aggressor. When you initiate an altercation you’ll be responsible for any harm that you visit on someone else. Self-defense only protects the person being attacked, not the attacker.
Of course, if you can’t get away from someone who has convinced you beyond a reasonable doubt that they are definitely going to attack you, (they haven’t struck you yet) you may be justified to initiate your self-defense. Stated another way, it is not always the person who strikes the first blow that is the aggressor. If you can’t get out of a building, or other confined space for instance, because someone is blocking your way, and their words, actions of other ways of communicating indicate an imminent threat, (that they intend harm to you) you may be able to strike first.
This can be a sticky situation, but a good rule of thumb is the idea that if a reasonable person, under the same circumstances would have acted the same way that you did, you are OK in the eyes of the law. (see my disclaimer again – I am not giving you legal advice)
If you have to use force on someone, it’s important for you to be able to provide an account of what happened to law enforcement. You’ll need to be able to describe the situation, location, time, and any signs that you felt you were being threatened.
This is one reason that we keep our hands open when faced with a possible threat as it appears from a distance to be defensive. Imagine the scene as it would appear if you held closed fists. You wouldn’t be able to tell immediately who the aggressor was. You may look like a willing combatant, and not an innocent trying to defend yourself.
This brings up another great point. Are there potential witnesses? Immediately afterwards, ask any bystanders questions like… “Did you just see that guy attack me?” If they say “yah I did, what was his problem?” you get their phone number. If they respond with something more like “no, all I saw was you knock him unconscious” then perhaps look for a different witness.
You’ll need to provide details about the movements of the attacker and your movements for self-defense. You may also want to evaluate whether or not you think the assailant is using some type of mind altering substance.
In general, self-defense is your legal right. But if you take force too far you could be the one in trouble with the law. Understand your local laws and abide by them as much as possible. However, when you’re in a life or death situation do whatever possible to protect yourself. You are in the right.
Standing United We Pack A Punch
Please comment with any self-defense tips you have for your fellow martial arts enthusiasts/Modern Samurai. Thanks.by