It is a difficult subject in this day and age. Many martial art classes are filled with young children whose parents are enthusiastic for them to acquire this mystical discipline from our practice of Taekwondo. These are people have no idea about the realities of violence nor the idea that learning 'a little self defence' may fill their child with a false sense of confidence.
Before he has begun his class, the instructor is already caught between the difficulties of verbalising his way through difficult issues, and an enamoured audience who doesn't really know what their children are getting from martial arts training.
So let's just train martial arts to the best of our ability then. We do this with impunity: going to full extension on strikes, aiming one or two inches behind to make boards break, nodding at the right instances when the instructor tells us a particular technique is lethal, getting our game on during sparring until our bout has to be stopped, thinking that we've taken the moral high ground because we don't lurk in dark alleyways to pounce on unsuspecting passersby, and lastly, because protective gear and soft mats prevents us from knowing the full extent of our martial skills.
All of which seems 'legit' because we are told to avoid fights and practice self-control.
Yet all of which would contribute to getting yourself jailed because you weren't trained to use reasonable force. In fact you have no idea when physical self defence is warranted. Nor did you think you have a moral obligation to defuse a situation and back away. Think about it, the smart phones are out and what do the witnesses record? They might have first seen some people shouting at each other but they've got video of you using your karate chop sockey and dropping someone to the ground. You did what you do just like you did in class. Excellent, slick technique, but how does that really look on video? It would look like you were the aggressor.
I train Traditional Taekwondo in a garage dojang. However lethal I think I am, if I really do want to hurt someone, it would be far easier for me to reach for the spade and use that against my opponents. That of course has never been my intent. If possible, I want to use the system to eschew unfairness and injustice, to protect the weak and defenceless, and to protect my family and myself. The practice allows me to gain insight into the human condition, I enjoy the physical exercise, and my little school gives me fulfilment.
However courteous and morally upright I go about my life, when things go wrong, I need to be able to think clearly despite any emotional turmoil. I must seek to defuse the situation. I must sincerely attempt to de-escalate to the best of my ability. I know that no one wins in an altercation. So I'm constantly reading the situation - I may already have my fence up with palms facing outward, and I may be slowly backing away.
If things go south, I still attempt to disconnect and distance - putting objects in the path of my oncoming aggressor. I want to make sure I'm safe, so I scan the environment and perhaps look for equipment or weapons on the attacker that he might use on me. I also shout for the attacker to stop and to seek help or attention. A great idea is to ask the attacker some nonsensical question so the guy is forced to process my ludicrous logic.
If however, this fails, then I get my cover up and to start to move tactically. I might attempt to slow him down. Or deflect the strikes. Or gap close, go for limb control or a hair grab. Or do a safe takedown and immobilisation. All this while still trying to talk him out of it.
If your sincere deescalation attempts fail. If you could not control him with a lock or takedown, and you feel your life is in imminent danger ... this is when you go for your striking tools. It's not appropriate to strike someone if they looked aggressive and are walking away. It's not a great look to cross the threshold and king hit the bikie who's talking trash about your girl. Even if the person is holding a knife, but he's eyeing the door, not making a move toward your person, and is thinking of making an escape - you cannot use 'self defence' (read lethal martial arts) techniques on them.
You also have to use reasonable force to only stop the threat. If your attacker is on the floor with a brain haemorrhage from the fall to the ground (you didn't think to hold him up), broken elbow from your arm break, collapsed trachea from the neck strike, and a subluxation of the knee from your low side kick ... well, your 'self defence' (read lethal martial arts) training did stop the attacker but the overkill will fail to protect you from the jury.
Don't fake yourself to think that people use self defence everyday and are wrongly convicted by the legal system. Don't fake yourself to believe it is better to be judged by twelve than carried by six. It is your obligation to understand how best to manage your own training. You cannot practice lethal martial arts with impunity. The training message must be clear - dangerous techniques must be used with caution, with awareness that they are to be used only when you feel your life is under imminent threat. To put it in physical terms, and I know this must be difficult to hear - the knife must literally be coming for you if you aim to shut down his airway.
If you are interested in self defence skills you lastly need to train with awareness. It's not all about the absolute speed you can throw that kick. You need to be sensitive and you have to be able to read your opponent. Spar slowly. Take off the gloves. Get close and personal. Mix it up and practice in a multiple opponent environment. You practice so you should be able to answer this one question - what did the opponent do? In a court of law, other practitioners will testify that your Taekwondo or martial art training helps you become more observant whilst under duress. You can use this to make better reasonable choices. You can decide when enough is enough on your part. You can use this to justify your actions when it comes time to.
Please research, seek guidance or legal advice on the use of force continuum.
Please visit the One Punch Can Kill website at http://opck.qhvsg.org.au/ and support their community service message.
- Self-Defence, Aggression, and De-escalation of Violence
- Distance and Reach
- Self Defence - A Basic Taekwondo Perspective on How to be Effective when Fear Strikes
Note: This article was submitted to Totally Taekwondo in August 2017.
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