Necessary and reasonable force


It is quite common to hear the argument today that if traditional fighting arts were "effective", they would be used in the MMA cage. The fact that they generally aren't is taken as proof positive that aren't "effective" (whether for their intended purpose or any other).

However as I have often previously argued, this sort of argument is fundamentally flawed. Why? Because it makes some assumptions that are manifestly false.

And be aware that countering these assumptions in no way denigrates skills useful in MMA (eg. BJJ), nor even their potential applicability in some civilian defence scenarios. It's simply that such scenarios involve much, much more than the two similarly skilled fighters purposefully slugging it out one-on-one in a cage or similar environment.

More importantly, what you can and can't do in these scenarios is significantly different from what you can and can't do in the cage. Sometimes it's a whole lot more, often a whole lot less. This article is about understanding what is permissible, and what is desirable/necessary, in a civilian defence context: in other words, its legal, ethical/moral and physical landscape, and how this differs from sport contests.

The false assumptions

By now it should be apparent that the first, and most basic, of the false assumptions is that cage fighting is "basically the same" as "street fighting" (whatever that is). The second false assumption relates to objectives and how these objectives can (or should) be met. The third ignores both law and ethics/morality, and how these will sometimes dictate similar tactics - but more often than not vastly different ones - from a combat sport.

So let us examine the first false assumption: that cage fighting and "street fighting" are basically equivalent.

Well, we know what that cage fighting is.

By contrast what is "street fighting"? If this term is intended to cover civilian defence, then it is manifestly inaccurate. The latter covers such a wide variety of scenarios that it is impossible even to make a presumptive list of them.

To begin with, they are (by definition) not "fights" but defences against attacks. These attacks range from a relatively harmless scuffle/wrestle to the most extreme violent crime.

In terms of the latter, my professional experience is that some people mean to take you out in the cruellest, most efficient way - not engage you in a "contest" or something similar (ie. a "fair fight"). Others don't know what they want; they are acting out of rage (whether emotional or drug-induced), psychosis (however induced), sociopathy/psychopathy or just ego/pride. Either way, they generally don't plan to "fight". They mean to hurt; and to do so in a way that is "not very sportsmanlike" (to quote Fezzik in "The Princess Bride").

Once you realise that that "civilian defence" is a much wider umbrella term than "cage fighting" could ever encapsulate, you should start to realise that the goals/objectives are fundamentally different. As I've previously stated, in a cage fight you win by "beating" your opponent. In a civilian defence encounter, you win if you don't get "beaten".

This is not a small difference. Indeed, it is critical. Papering over this difference by imagining worst case, one-on-one, unarmed scenarios - where your opponent must be killed or otherwise "totally disabled" (through MMA skills) in order for you to protect yourself - is not just simplistic; it is statistically inaccurate. Furthermore, it is likely to be plainly wrong by reference to not only our laws but by our society's ethical/moral standards (which the law generally reflects) and by the standards of logic itself. I'll explain what I mean by the latter shortly.

The difference in fighting scenarios

In a cage there are two combatants and one referee. The combatants have the same goal: to defeat the other combatant. The contest ends when the referee interrupts the action (due to a knockout, technical knockout or tap out). The rules allow certain blows and prohibit others.

What is a typical civilian defence scenario? There is none.

If it takes the form of two combatants in a circle fighting without interruption, then it is really indistinguishable from an MMA bout. And in those circumstances it is manifestly true that MMA fighters are supremely suited for the task and that pretty muchy no one else is.

But "civilian defence" doesn't often take this form. A scenario where the law would actually see this kind of fight as a genuine case of "defence" would have to resemble the storyline from B grade chop socky. That's what I think it might take to explain how an otherwise law-abiding citizen was "forced" to fight one-on-one in some sort of "contest".

In my former life as a prosecutor I never once saw a case involving a one-on-one fight similar to a cage match. Yes, such situations are prosecuted but they aren't the norm. And if they are prosecuted, the combatants generally share in the blame for allowing the scenario to unfold. Put simply, a "challenge match" is entirely different from a scenario where one is attacked in a civilian defence context. And it would be viewed as such under the law as well as our society's ethical/moral standards. In other words, rather than be viewed as one offender versus one defender, the law will consider that there are two offenders: two people who are committing assault against each other.

Stacking the odds

What are some things you might expect in a civilian defence scenario?

Well, your attacker is almost certainly going to stack the odds in his or her favour. I add "her" not just to avoid sexist language (the overwhelming majority of violent assaults are perpetrated by men) but because, in our State at least, there has been a disturbing increase in muggings and other assaults by female gangs on sole females – usually at train stations.

How do attackers "stack the odds"?

First, they use surprise. Now this doesn't always mean something obvious like a strike from behind. Rather, "surprise" might take the form of a strike to which you are forced to respond, ie. a blow that has come "out of the blue" and in relation to which a "pre-emption" has been simply impossible (for legal and ethical/moral reasons, never mind logical ones – more on that in a minute). I discuss these sorts of attacks in my previous article.

Second they use numbers: During my prosecuting years I can't recall a case of an assault where the offender wasn't in company – company that was prepared (and usually did) step in – particularly if the "playing field needed further levelling". (In my brother's recent experience, the attacker had an accomplice who came at him with a wooden post while he was restraining the first attacker. In a recent case of my own, I was accosted by 2 large young men, as I describe a bit later.)

Third, they go armed. In our State this is unlikely to include a firearm but it will very likely be something else that is nasty. A student of mine confronted a car thief who was armed with a sharpened screwdriver; a former colleague confronted a man with a sharpened car aerial; a friend was attacked in his home by a man wielding a hammer; I was once accosted by a man armed with a heavy torch). People go armed with blades of all kinds. Some use pepper spray. In the US you're very likely to be facing a firearm.

Different techniques for different situations

For obvious reasons this "stacking of the odds" combined with the legal, ethical/moral and logical constraints jointly require very different tactics depending on the exact nature of the circumstances. In some respects, practically every traditional fighting method has its time and place – however "absurd" or "ineffective" those techniques might seem within the confines of a one-on-one cage fight.

Nowhere has the above been explained better than in Lloyd Irvin's the video below.

As he describes, civilian defence situations require a very wide variety of possible responses and accordingly a wide variety of techniques – most of which are utterly out of place in a cage. And virtually every traditional civilian defence art deals with a specific manifestation of civilian defence needs; from societies where grabbing hands was common (to prevent a sword being drawn – eg. traditional jujutsu/qin-na) to societies where fighting often involves knives and batons (Filipino arnis/escrima/kali) to societies where fights occur in close quarters in crowded streets (wing chun/Naha te karate) etc.

Lloyd relates a scenario of his own where he successfully diffused an armed home invasion using qin-na and aikido-like skills, among other non-cage related tactics. As he puts it, his cherished BJJ skill (which is considerable) never came into play. My brother fought and restrained an intruder in his home using a variety of techniques, ultimately choosing ones that had little to do with punching his opponent (which he found he could easily do). My own experiences in civilian defence have utilised techniques - or simply psychology - vastly different from the ring.

That first punch...

In my previous article I dealt with one common assault that occurs in civilian defence scenarios, namely the "sucker punch".

In that article I discuss ways in which you might "see it coming", how to avoid it and, if necessary, how to deal with it. You'll notice that I am hesitant to advocate a "pre-emptive strike" as a simple (yet effective) recipe for resolving any such situation "before it arises". This is very deliberate.

By contrast, many of the responses I've had to that article comprised a statement along these lines:
    "I'd never let him near me in the first place. I'd... [insert destructive technique here]."
But there is a big problem with this sort of response: try it and you'll very likely find yourself with a criminal record – if not behind bars.

"Ah," comes the inevitable response: "I'd rather be judged by 12 than carried by six."

The "12 and 6" cliché

Well I'll refrain from noting how clichéd, simplistic and foolhardy this statement is. Rather, I'll let Marc Macyoung and Rory Miller flesh this out for you. No, I'll just note briefly that if you decide to "clock" every person who comes into your personal space in a suspicious or argumentative manner – or even just push them - you'll quickly gather a rap sheet longer than your arm. I've lost count of the number of times where I've had no choice but to let someone hostile into my personal space – and I'm not even including argumentative relatives and friends, etc.

Yes, it is a very good idea to keep your personal space (as I discuss in my previous essay) and there are instances in which you can and should strike someone before they enter that space (as shown in the "karate instructor vs. pimp" video embedded further on). But to think you'll be able to adopt a "one size fits all" solution to civilian defence – and a violent one at that – is blatant nonsense.

Some examples of "overkill" tactics often taught in some modern martial art schools. In the unlikely event that you actually executed such a sequence, and did so successfully, in most cases you would be facing a very lengthy jail term. The circumstances in which it would be both "necessary" and "reasonable" to be stomping and re-stomping the head, groin and other vital regions would be very rare, in my professional (legal) opinion.

So when I hear someone tell me all about some formulaic approach I can only shake my head wearily. A recent example is where someone told me:
    "Normally, I give the guy fair warning. Then I tell him to BACK OFF. And if he doesn't listen, I... [insert violent method here]."
To begin with I'm more than a little suspicious of anyone telling me what they "normally" do in such situations (when they probably haven't had anything more than a verbal stoush with their neighbour over the fence). But trying to fit such narrow and violent wish-fulfilment fantasy to real life is absurd and, frankly, farcical.

And it is also guaranteed to get you in serious trouble (assuming you ever do carry out this fantasy – which you probably, and thankfully, won't). If this leads you to back to the "12 and 6" cliché, do me a favour: don't. Because you'll not only be in trouble with the law:
    You'll also be wrong.
You'll be wrong both ethically/morally and you'll be wrong logically.

I'll try to explain what I mean below:

De-escalation, avoidance and the need for a calm mind

What most people are voicing when they utter the "12 and 6" cliché is anger: anger born out of fear, anger born out of impatience, anger born out of frustration and anger born out of righteous indignation. But it is anger just the same.

Most of the time, I've found anger to be utterly unproductive to resolving conflict. You have to act calmly and dispassionately – even if you are striking your opponent with full force. Because it is only when you are calm and focused that you can be in the best position to make split-second choices as wisely as you can. The available time might not be much – but you'd be surprised how a cool mind can avert disaster; for you, for your attacker, for your family, your attacker's family, for everybody.

By contrast, anger can and does cloud your judgment. And I'm not just talking about going too far in defending yourself and getting in trouble with the law. I'm talking about escalating situations unnecessarily – situations that needn't ever have developed into a physical altercation (like the fellow who joined the Traditional Fighting Arts Forums only to announce that he might get physical with a shop assistant if he/she were rude). And I'm talking about leaving openings and making disastrous errors during the course of combat.

These are all lessons I've learned the hard way. As a younger man I had a nasty temper. I know only too well the pitfalls of letting that temper lead me into a brawl, then being hit so that my temper flared even more, then throwing all my effort into a stupid attack (with absolutely no regard for defence) only to find myself walking into painful and humiliating blows. Thankfully I escaped my own youthful altercations largely intact. But then again, as my training progressed, I found I was less and less likely to get into any altercation. Studying violence has that potential.

A personal example

In an article a while back, I wrote about how my wife and I were once accosted by two young men after a particular St Patrick's Day concert in Northbridge (a nightclub district adjacent to the city centre). I had seen the men before, clowning around in front of the stage where the band was playing. They were big, well-muscled and had enough drink in them to make them volatile, but not enough to dull their reflexes to any significant extent. Despite disrupting the band severely with their antics, no one had been willing to do anything to stop them – due to their obvious physicality, no doubt. So, as we were exiting the venue, I made a mental note to steer clear of them. I noted that one in particular, the alpha male of the two, reminded me a bit of one of a brother-in-law who is about the same age and build.

We had been walking for some time when I became aware that the two trouble-makers were just behind us, making some derogatory remarks about my wife. You can imagine my inward reaction. But even as I turned to look at them, I knew that it would be folly to engage them in a brawl. Not only did they stand a foot taller than I – there were 2 of them.

So I did something more sensible. I said to the alpha male (with a smile): "You know, you look just like my brother-in-law! It's amazing. You guys could be brothers!" From my reaction, I could tell he assumed that I hadn't heard the nature of their comments – or at least he wasn't sure (from my perspective this uncertainty was actually a better manipulating tool; I'll discuss this sort of thing in a future article). The alpha male abruptly changed his demeanour from a sneering, antagonistic one to one of puzzlement.

"Really? What's your brother-in-law's name?"

And so it went. Within 5 minutes we were swapping mobile numbers and having a laugh.

There is no formula

I don't relay this story to say that this tactic will work every time. Of course it won't. There is no one recipe for every situation. Instead, I used the information available to me. The fact that I put anger out of my mind let me react with a great deal more calmness and composure than I might otherwise. And one thing is for certain. Giving him "fair warning", then telling him to BACK OFF, etc. (according to the modus operandi of the previously-mentioned correspondent) would have spelled absolute disaster. As my good mate Dave says, in the best case scenario I would have occasioned a "whole lot of bother" – and my wife "wouldn't have thanked me for it".

Rather, each case must be determined according to its own circumstances. Are there situations where I would pre-emptively strike with all my might and in such a manner as to permanently disable or kill? Yes – I can imagine quite a few. But this doesn't mean that the next time I'm accosted by some young men, this scenario is likely. In my experience with criminal law, it just isn't.

As a further example of "wu-wei in action" I must point you to the blog post of my good friend and colleague Jo Roman, relating his recent experience on a train. It was his post that prompted me to write this essay in the first place!

Talking about public transport incidents, note also this charming story.

The two-pronged test for your actions

So what would I have done had the 2 trouble-causers not been deterred from violence via "mentalism" (a concept which I'll be discussing soon in a martial context)? Well, depending on what they did, I might well have had to do something physical. What would that be? Put simply:
    I would try to do that which was reasonably necessary.
That, and no more. It is important to note the term "reasonably necessary". There are 2 components to this term: necessity and reasonableness.

What I did would have to be necessary in the sense that it was an act clearly taken in defence and for no other reason. Pre-emptively striking someone always faces this potential obstacle: how can you satisfy a jury that your pre-emptive strike was calculated to deter an inevitable attack and was accordingly necessary? Sometimes it is clear from the circumstances. But in most people's violent "wish-fulfilment fantasies" I suspect that it isn't.

A video in which I think pre-emption is clearly a case of self-defence. Note however that the karate instructor is quite obviously about to be physically attacked (there is no doubt at all from the precedeing events/words) and note also that he does no more than is necessary to the pimp (a simple, single, seiyruto uchi or "ox jaw strike" - a traditional eastern martial technique I plan to showcase in an article later on).

Secondly, what I did would have to be reasonable in the sense that it was proportionate to the threat. Gouging a young alpha male's eye out or biting off his nose just because he'd said some insulting remarks would not be in any sense excusable, never mind legally. (In terms of the latter, I remember one bar room brawl where one fellow did exactly that – and he was the one we were prosecuting.)
As you can probably tell, this test doesn't yield exact results. It is always highly dependent on the circumstances. What is reasonable or necessary in one instance might not be in another. In other words, you can't plug your scenario into the test and get a formula for action.

Civilian arts techniques contemplate everything from pain submissions, which work in fairly low-aggression/adrenaline environments, to the nastiest, most drastic tactics - simply because they cover the widest possible field. Yes, those drastic measures such as eye gouges are options, but the circumstances in which you can and should use those options are going to be very limited by reference to this test.

The "reactive" vs. "proactive" nature of civilian defence

It is because of this 2 pronged test for civilian defence that the tactics (as opposed to the techniques/skills and conditioning) of the cage, where attack is the very aim, are (generally speaking) unsuited to civilian defence. While this is especially true of the first punch (where pre-empting is very problematic) it also extends to the rest of the confrontation.

Violence enacted in a civilian defence context is, and always has been (at least in the modern era), seen as necessary and reasonable only if it is enacted as a response. In other words, civilian defence is required by law to be inherently reactive - not proactive - at least in the sense of "permissible attack".

Now there are cases where pre-emption or some other "proactivity" is going to be justified; as I said, I can imagine more than a few cases. Sadly, most of them are, once again, straight out of a B-grade movie. The scenarios you are likely to encounter in real life are far more subtle and complex than "I'm holding your wife and kids hostage and I'll kill them unless you get in that cage and fight to the death with Attila." They are far more subtle and complex than a deranged criminal who, despite having his firearm taken from him, doggedly insists on trying to kill you anyway (even as he is bleeding to death on the ground, his bloodied hands creeping for the poker while your back is turned as you tend to your shocked family).

Back to Lloyd Irvin

If we go back to Lloyd Irvin for a moment, I'm fairly certain that after he disarmed his attacker, he didn't break the guy's neck, then stalk the rest of the gang through the house, taking each one out systematically so that by the time the police arrived they said: "Did you leave anything for us?"

We can laugh at this fantasy and even indulge it in idle moments but we can't confuse it with reality. Because at the moment he did the disarm and during the succeeding events, Lloyd wasn't a BJJ practitioner, martial arts teacher, or practitioner of more than 3 decades. He was a husband. And a father. He was a civilian. He certainly wasn't Rambo/Chuck Norris/[insert lethal killer here].

I don't know exactly what happened to Lloyd after he disarmed his attacker, but I do know this: he's not in jail and they aren't making a Hollywood movie out of it. I suspect the attacker capitulated (or Lloyd made him capitulate). Or Lloyd let him and the other attackers escape. I don't know. All I know is that the latter (letting the attackers go) isn't quite so "daft" as it might seem. My brother ended up letting his intruders go after they emptied their pockets. Another friend of mine who fought savagely with a home invader ended up hitting (and being hit) with a hammer. Eventually when there was a pause, he pointed to the exit and the criminal ran. It seems the criminal had only stayed to fight because he'd become disoriented and thought my friend was blocking his only exit. The criminal was later identified from the blood splattered on my friend's lounge room wall, and then arrested, charged and convicted.

[By contrast, I recall a case where a man detained and tied up a burglar. When the police arrived it was clear that the home owner had given the burglar quite a sustained beating. While the home owner wasn't prosecuted, he did however have his house mysteriously burnt down though some months later...]

Letting a criminal go in such a case might not be consistent with Hollywood endings. But it is far more consistent with what people do and, more importantly, what they sometimes ought to do in the interests of safety, the law and basic common sense.

The "proactive" vs. "reactive" nature of cage fighting

Sport fighting is, by contrast, inherently proactive in the sense of "permissible attack" - not reactive. In the cage your whole purpose is to "beat" your opponent. You can't "let him go" and you can't "run away" either. That is totally contrary to the very concept.

Rather, your main purpose in the ring is to hurt your opponent – within the confines of the rules, of course. Whatever the rules are, they don't affect your proactivity. You must go out and try to punch/kick/submit your opponent. It is, by definition, your objective.

As I have discussed, some "proactivity" is going to be allowed in civilian defence, but when this involves "pre-empting" an attack with your own, you're always going to be treading a very fine and dangerous line. In the end, a "pre-emptive attack" of the kind justifiable in civilian defence is a world away from that seen in cage fighting.

The necessity of learning reactive skills

Learning how to be "reactive" - and how to do it successfully - is diametrically opposed to cage/ring craft. And yet it is exactly what the law (and our prevailing ethical/moral standards) require for civilian defence. This is not to say that cage fighters aren't effective against civilian attackers - to the contrary! It's just that if you want to stay out of jail, you have to have a very different mindset in a civilian defence context. And this mindset principally affects how and when you can attack (and how and when you can't).

In this article I have given the example of Lloyd Irvin's home invasion. In my previous article I discussed how Guy Mezger clearly shifted his own approach significantly from that used in the cage when defending a woman from her partner. His entire approach (reacting, only doing as much as he had to do, etc.) was not only legally but ethically/morally defensible (especially when you consider that he could have literally destroyed his attacker the first time). I salute him.

And in this article I wish to give a special salute to Lloyd Irvin, not only for his courageous and effective defence of his family, but also for his inspiring words of wisdom. If you watch one Youtube video this year, let it be this one.


I have previously argued strenuously against "attack-centric" methodologies and their inappropriateness for civilian defence. However my previous essays (eg. my most recent one and my articles on "Surviving the surprise attack" and "The flinch reflex") have been based on the limitations of such methodologies in developing the skills necessary for civilian defence.

In this essay I have tried to explain that ethical/moral, legal and logical factors play an equally important part in making "attack-centric" methodologies inappropriate in many civilian defence scenarios.

In future articles I hope to address specific reactive skills – skills that are spectacularly unsuited to cage tactics but which are intended for a civilian context. To those who still argue that reactive skills "don't work" remember Lloyd's and Guy's examples. And try to think outside the narrow confines of your own (flawed) assumptions about what happens in the "real world".

Whatever your martial art or system, I sincerely hope you never have to use these or any other defence methods. But if you do, I counsel you to remember the dual tenets: let your actions be limited to what is necessary and what is reasonable in the circumstances. Don't confuse Hollywood fantasy for real life. I certainly never saw cases that remotely resembled such fantasy. Lloyd Irvin's and Guy Mezger's are pretty much as close as it gets.

Copyright © 2012 Dejan Djurdjevic


  1. Fantastic article. I'm sharing it.

    Also, brilliant self-defence there with the two big blokes. Kudos.

  2. A lot of MMA ring fighting relies upon reflexes. It is not proactive as described here. The attacks that do exist are for the greater part uncommitted attacks. People are gauging the other guy's response and waiting for them to make a mistake. Or attacking them to test their defenses and see if they will make a mistake then.

    Many of the fight finishing attacks only happened when the MMA winner knew for an absolute fact that the other guy couldn't defend or counter attack afterwards. It is visually noticeable how long it takes them to think about this and made a decision. It is not proactive or pre-emptive, but a direct result of the reactive nature of the competitive ring. While this response cycle is much faster than what normal civilians would be like, it is still much slower than taking the initiative and forcing an engagement based upon a favored tactical doctrine.

    Because every nation's laws provides no details or doctrine on the tactics people can or should use, it is up to the user. In such cases, the law itself becomes very much a useless brick because no matter how much a person knows the law, they cannot transfer that knowledge into practical, everyday, wisdom or know how. If such was the case, we would be seeing lawyers being the top level trainers of H2H. And police would always obey the law and never abuse it, neither under reacting or over reacting. The real world puts a large premium on the difference between what looks good in theory and what happens on the field. Because laws do not dictate tactics, only the people engaging in a conflict dictate tactics, learning about laws does nothing to increase a person's tactical abilities during a fight, before a fight, or after a fight.

    I've had some experience with this MMA vs street fighting argument at YA. It mostly comes out as something useless in the end because there is too much theory crafting on both sides.

    Two things I've noticed is that Dan focuses overly much on the things he had to deal with when young and stepping out the bounds of that fine line in society. The same is true of Marc MacYoung. He focuses much of his rhetoric aimed against that type of person he was. The thing is, most people are much older and less reckless. Their issue isn't being an uber super Marc MacYoung at the age of 18-20, their issue is the entire opposite of the spectrum.

    Because the law has near zero impact on the tactical field and its outcome, when people wish to learn about how to resolve conflicts, the law is something they need to be aware of, but not prioritize. If people need to learn how to not live life like a 20 year old gang banger from LA or a young guy looking to prove his bonafides through fights, that's a little bit different strategically than what many people in their adult phase wish to obtain from Hand to hand training.

  3. The human language is composed of 90% of meaning in body language and voice, and 10% in the words we actually use.

    That means on the internet we are communicating via bandwidth transfer, 10% of what we mean. And what we communicate with our meanings is only a fraction of the full understanding of hand to hand conflict and human violence.

    What this turns out is that there is a limited amount of benefit anyone can get from stories of people that don't act like they act, look like they look, live where they live, talk like they talk, or move like they move. Those stories apply to the people in it. They don't necessarily apply at all to the people watching it. There are certain fundamental principles that apply to all of humanity, but those are like golden eggs: few and far between.

    It is more efficient to look at the tool and problem model, where you have a problem and seek out a tool to solve it. Once you emphasize that pre-emptive attack is this or not, you move away from a problem and tool model into a subjective, individualistic, based interpretation of tactics. Where some tactics work better depending on who the user is. And many trainers wish to get better results by changing the kind of person that is going to be using it: their students.

    Violent conflict is too chaotic as it is for most people to comprehend. They should not have to deal with the various individual quirks and personality issues from the 6.5 billion humans on this planet on top of it.

    "you'll quickly gather a rap sheet longer than your arm."

    None of this applies to anyone else other than the people it actually does apply to. Young Marc MacYoung skirting the law, getting shot at, perhaps shooting and attacking others in return. Youths doing similar things in their neighborhoods.

    The only things people interested in self defense actually need to know is 1. what is the exact nature of the problem they are facing or could potentially face in their lives


    2. what tools are available to them to use to solve that problem.

    There cannot be and there is not, a natural limit on what tools can be used for what. It's up to human imagination, since tools can be created if there are none. There is no predetermined outcome either. Marc MacYoung lived a life more violent than 98% of the people on this blog, yet he's somehow lucky enough to pass through the fire and tell other people not to be like him. Yet that's very redundant because people are already not like him. The only thing these intimidation attempts at using the law does is basically frighten socialized civilians who are already afraid of villains. The villains aren't afraid. And neither are the hunters of villains afraid. All it does is make people who are uncomfortable around human violence even more insecure. This insecurity, as Dan has noted, creates fear, and fear creates anger.

  4. "A lot of MMA ring fighting relies upon reflexes. It is not proactive as described here."

    You mistake what I mean by "proactive". You seem to imply that I mean "aggressively attacking without regard for your own safety". But that is not what I mean.

    By "proactive" I mean having attack as your primary objective. Gauging responses, waiting for mistakes etc. are all part of an intelligent attack plan.

    But in civilian defence your goal isn't to attack. It is not to be attacked, or if you can't avoid that, not to be hurt, and if you can't help it, only then to hurt. Hurting is not your primary objective. Yes, you might have to do it - but you won't be proactively seeking to hurt. You will be doing so reactively. This is consistent with the requirements of the law in most countries today.

    Yes, I do deal with the young "male dominance displays" in this article and my previous one. For good reason: it is the mileu where most fights occur. But my articles covers a much broader field than that. The fellows who accosted me were in their 30s. I'm in my mid-40s. Lloyd's case was not a "young man" issue. Neither was Guy Mezger's.

  5. Great article, Dan! It covers every point I have always been taught about civilian defense, but with actual examples and experience. Thank you for that: I have luckily never been involved in any of these situations, and your accounts of your own experiences are very useful to me :)

    Besides, this article emphasizes the importance of the "do" aspect of traditional martial arts, in which mental cultivation is maybe more important than physical and technical prowess.

    Kind regards

  6. Thank you Pablo.

    Too many people ignore - or ridicule - the "Do/Dao" aspect. To me, it is central. They use the straw man argument of "martial arts doesn't make you a more peaceful person" instead of noting that it should be about making you a more peaceful person. Whether it does or does not will always depend on the individual. I'm certainly one of those who is at least trying to follow the Dao!

  7. Excellent article. I particularly like what you add about "overkill" techniques.

    As for my most recent (almost a year ago) encounter... While shopping my wife and I were being hailed and approached by a homeless man who apparently wanted to sell us something. He continued to quickly approach even after two "no thank you" statements.

    Finally, when he got too close for my liking (roughly 10 ft) I pulled my wife behind me, put authority in my voice, and told him to "stop right there". He called me an A-hole, told me I wouldn't be able to "beat a wet fly", and meandered off.

    This wouldn't have worked on the two big guys you described, and I wouldn't have worked in a barroom alpha-male encounter. But it is exactly like you said "there is no formula".

    1. @The Strongest Karate - thanks for your feedback and input.

  8. How many components of a one-step sparring response should there be in order for a person to be ok legally? I'd like to teach students (and to practice myself) responses that are both effective and legal.

    Is, in response to a single punch---the typical one-step attack---let's say
    a) block
    b) one counter strike
    c) throw/sweep
    d) stomp/finishing blow not intended to kill, only to daze or stun

    Is it ok to do steps a-c? All for steps a-d? Only step a? Only step a-b?

    What works from a legal standpoint? Will conforming to the legal standpoint protect you from harm?

  9. @Cecil
    Whether you can stomp always depends on whether it is reasonable and necessary in the circumstances. Put another way, your response must be proportionate to the threat.

    Will confirming to the law protect you? This question is ill-formed. Doing nothing conforms with the law - but against an assault it clearly won't protect you.

    Doing that which is necessary and reasonable to secure your safety conforms with the law and might (or might not) achieve your goal - much depends on your skill.

    But, to take an extreme case, a defender's lack of skill in preventing a push wouldn't entitle the defender to shoot the attacker.

    Accordingly, it always depends on the circumstances. There is no formula 'for when you are entitled by law to stomp someone.' Anyone telling you otherwise is being simplistic.

    Conforming with the law is not the determining factor in whether you will protect yourself from harm. Your skill is. You are certainly entitled to do that which is reasonably necessary (and accordingly, sufficient). The question for anyone is, can you?

    Thanks for your query.

  10. It's hard to imagine you as a young man with a "nasty temper". It gives hope to me that you can describe yourself as such! Hope that young men, however idiotic, can overcome their tendencies to puff up their chests and pick fights with one another for no good reason.

    One day, I hope I grow as experienced and peaceful as you are (through a long and diligent effort to follow the Tao).

  11. Fantastic article. Really sobering to read.Great video by Loydd Irvin. Well done.

  12. Any stomp can and will kill, even if the intent is not there. Well, any fall can do the same thing too.

    So even if a person does everything right, they can still kill someone accidentally and get in trouble with the law.

    The point is, putting your hands on someone means you can kill them. They can kill you if they put their hands on you. Or vice a versa. So if you didn't participate in your own murder or suicide, you really shouldn't let people put their hands on you. But if they really really want to, it probably means they're taking a risk with your own life, if you let it. Not a risk I personally would tolerate.

    Scrolling back to the youth fights, H2H is not a particularly flexible tool to use in solving social problems, fights, insults, or any thing else of that nature. Not for the reasons of law explained incredibly well before by others, but for simple reasons of survival and practicality. I don't need to survive by socializing with freaks and wannabe suicide gank squads. However, if they force their way into somehow endangering my life, their life is forfeit to me. The fact that it takes an incredible amount of effort on their part to force their way into that situation, is a testament to the defender's desire to survive, not win.

    Personally, I would never use H2H, at all, including what are called non-lethal throws or holding locks, unless someone had made a situation where my life would be endangered if I didn't respond in force.

    Too many people are too comfortable with using physical or verbal violence to deal with social issues. A lot of this comes from the "if you don't want to kill someone, just throw a few punches and run, you'll be okay". Actually, that's not the case. Not only can you kill them easily without intending to, They Can Kill YOu just as easily without intending to.

    Any time anyone puts their hands on you, you can immediately die in the next 1-3 seconds. But since people don't believe this, they like to play around with the let's bounce chests challenge act cause it feels good or something. They wouldn't be so easy going with a .50 caliber handgun pointed at their eye.

    While I believe Dan is correct that this issue is a human problem, not something exclusive to youths or reckless individuals, I still don't see the all critical point being framed. Instead, what I often see is the appeal to law (by MacYoung) or the appeal to personal experience (I had stupid fights in my youth, don't do it) or something of the nature of (if you fight for stupid reasons, you can accidentally kill someone; close not quite).

    To recompile everything and make it a bit tidier. Unless your socialization or relationship is important enough to kill your target or be killed by your target (as in worth dying for), then don't let the target engage you physically or even verbally. Make it non-existent, and make yourself non-existent to the target. Someone puts their hand on you, death within 1-3 seconds. Someone starts using verbal violence on you, the option is there to die within the next 30+ seconds (human emotions takes some time to ramp up hormone wise). From all evidence, humans don't believe this, because I never hear them think or talk about it besides a segmented few.

    There are a lot of exceptions and judgments people make as individual (I had a drunk uncle, I had to use my lock pin on him otherwise he would hurt himself/us); all that is something up to them and beyond the basic rule.

    This descriptive rule of mine is just something I personally use, but I prefer it over a lot of the other advice I've seen people give, because I don't like leaving bases uncovered. I also don't like one size fits all solutions. Just because something is worth dying or killing for, for me, doesn't really mean anything when it comes to anyone else. People can be very strange in that way.

  13. Thus I take issue with the methodology of telling people to act wisely and with their own judgment, when one has already prejudged certain decisions as sub-optimal. It's mixing personal views with objective truths that is the problem. Not any specific person or personal experience. If a man or woman believes it is worth killing or dying for, to respond to insults, that is their choice. And it is their Way of living. It doesn't Matter if You or I or We think it's foolish or reckless. That becomes something of a philosophical, cultural, ethical, spiritual, societal issue if one speaks of it as good or bad.

    As another example of that, the very idea that something is an "attack" when it is centered on winning social victories is a misaligned idea in the context of human life/death. To attack is to seek the destruction of the enemy above all else. Samurai, double death, considered a victory in draw. For civilian defense, defense is considered top priority, thus it doesn't matter if you kill them, you still haven't won if you aren't alive and safe at the end. In MMA, thus, they are neither "attack" nor "defense" centered. They're just there to fight for fun, profit, and fame. It's also why I said TMA vs MMA arguments get nowhere. It was designed to get nowhere because they aren't talking about anything I would deem important to military attack or civilian defense objectives.

    Lethal force techniques are so easy to use and teach that any day old MMA or TMA fighter can get it. It's that easy. Forbidden techniques were forbidden not because they were "Hard" to learn but because they would have negative side effects. Ostensibly also because they were real easy to use too. A better way to frame effective vs ineffective attacks/defenses is to actually use examples of effective methods. Take the diluted version of karate vs the potent form. That's a lot more beneficial to human self defense. I wouldn't say MMA is not good for self defense. I would say that the entire issue doesn't even exist on the spectrum to me, of life and death, attack and defense, destruction and creation.

    Dan has done the good comparisons before, but I don't know why he used the example of MMA for this one. Perhaps because Lloyd had a good vid. But then again, I look at that as an individual figuring stuff out, and not as an MMA identity vs TMA identity or whatever else people like to go on about with their belonging to their "group identities" that seem more important than life and death.

    People claim to value life and care about tragic deaths. Yet, they are as blowing dust when you query their real knowledge concerning life and death. I don't think we can do much to alleviate that by using current modern methods of education. If anyone, including reckless youths and idiot soccer gangs, actually knew the potential consequences of their actions, they might make wiser decisions. Then again, they might not too, and I'll respond accordingly. But life is not something so valuable to me, that I would prefer people to live as slaves to avoid death.


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