Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Do know harm

This was a patch from one of the tactical medics I trained this week

Cool week at work. My entire 40 hour work week consisted of tactical training.  Shooting, close quarters combat, room clearing, and combatives.  Fun, very "modern samurai".  Wake up, work out, tactical training, sleep. One night we even went out for sushi.

We started this week of training with a review of department policy and state use of force laws.

We are at the tip of the spear, the high end of the use of force continuum.  SWAT Operators (all professionals) have to know
How to use force
When / Why force is justified
How to scale force (ever changing as circumstances dictate)
Articulate the force used

So as you can imagine I haven't had much spare time lately.
In fact as I am writing this I am on my way to Mankato for a high end use of force seminar for Law Enforcement and civilian martial artists.  I was prepping my notes on assessment, scaling force, and articulation when I took a break to check into facebook.

Every time I did that this week, I came across the sentiment that knowledge of use of force law is for pussies.

As of late facebook has become more of a pain than fun.  As I am training professionals in the aforementioned fields of study I am inundated with armatures spewing their fantasies of how force should be used with blatant disregard for the law or reality.

Strike first, strike hard, strike fast, no mercy!

Pretty much the opposite of what I am teaching professionals who are actually going to face dangerous situations and use high levels of force on violent criminals.

Here are some examples of what I mean

So my busy week of tactical training and a couple of social media posts all kind of came together to inspire this blog.

Perfect pre-emptive self defense strike
You saw the video, here are some of the responses to it

"6 feet rule, any one crosses it I drop them."

Really tough guy, you pre-emptivly attack anyone that gets within 6 feet of you?
So if you ever walk down a busy street, eat in a crowded restaurant, watch a movie, go to a football game etc. you are just dropping people left and right?

Not likely

Big dogs don't bark
What do I mean by that?

People who have experience with more than just play ground /  high school fight type social violence rarely make statements like that.

More importantly professionals avoid violence.  They understand that any time things go physical, there is a potential for things to go lethal.  So anything not worth killing or dying for is avoided.

Professionals don't go physical unless they have to.

Look at the video, anything there worth killing / dying for?
Just a social violence pissing match between two macho assholes.

However, when I suggest the whole situation could be solved by walking away, I’m told it’s that sentiment that has ruined America

Bottom line is, even though I use force professionally it doesn’t matter what I think self defense is.  It doesn’t matter what Internet tough guys think self defense is.  Self defense is a legal term, what matters is what the law says self defense is.

I am the law

Strong arm of the law

You are expected and required to use the minimum level of force that you reasonably believe will safely resolve the situation.

That small sentence can be the difference between going home and trying to avoid ass rape in county lock up, and every word in that sentence is loaded so let's break it down.

Expected and required

Duty to Act (Law Enforcement) - Preclusion (Civilian)
Cops have a responsibility to control / stop violent incidents. Civilians are expected to leave violent situations if they can

To make someone do what they do not wish or stop them from doing what they do wish

Generally ranked by level of intrusion. 
Presence, for instance influences the Threat to modify his or her own behavior. 
Verbal might hurt feelings. 
Pain is more intrusive than hurt feelings
Injury is more intrusive than pain. 
Deadly force is the most intrusive of all.

Minimum is the least intrusive

Reasonable belief
Totality of circumstances
As known to the officer at the time


You are not to turn it into a contest, but to win, safely. 
You have a responsibility to the citizens to stay healthy enough to do your job. 
No stupid chances
No fair fights

Re solve
End it, prevent the subject from further violence

Must be a legal use of force

In order for the situation to be a legal use of force you (or another) must reasonably believe you are at immediate risk of death or great bodily harm.

In order to be an immediate threat, an individual must display (and the officer must be able to clearly articulate how he knew) three things:
Preclusion (civilians)

Intent is the desire to do something bad, e.g. harm the officer, self or a third party; break a law; or refuse to comply with a lawful order.
We are very good at reading intent but many officers are very poor at articulating intent. 

The threat must have the ability to carry out intent.
 A person threatening to shoot you must have a gun to be an immediate threat, for instance.

The threat must be able to reach you with the means.

In the officers arsenal, handcuffs are intended to limit or eliminate means; jails limit or eliminate opportunity.

If you do not have a duty to act, ask yourself:
Do I need to engage?
More often than not (unless you are protecting a 3rd party) if you have time to ask yourself that, then the answer is no.

If you do not, then you better be already engaging.

So,  let's take a look at the "perfect preemptive strike self defense video again.
Both parties show intent, they both have opportunity and means as well.

Here is where people need to be trained to look past macho bullshit.
Both of these guys could have left at any time.   Why did sucker punch need to engage?

But what if I try to leave and he follows me?

Then you have preclusion, then you have a legitimate claim of self defense.

That is where tough guy's 6 foot rule would actually make sense.   Confrontation, one guy leaves, the other guy follows,  if that guy tries to close distance, then striking him is justified. It's not preemptive, his attack began when he followed, and attempted to close distance.

So the 6 foot rule is a good tactic. However, tough guy's instructor (or whatever source he took that tactic from) failed to show when, where, how to use it legitimately.

Which brings me to - Sensei giri
The obligation of the teacher. If you are teaching self defense you owe it to your students to know and be able to teach force law as well.  Students, if you are being trained in self defense you better be damn sure your instructor knows what the fuck he is talking about.

How would you explain the force you used if you had to write it in a report?
How would you explain the force you used to the first responding officer?

Here is an example of what I mean.  A portion of Saturday's class (from lesson plan)

Over all Learning Goal
Students will show proficiency controlling aggressive subjects on the ground and mitigating their ability to continue fighting.

Specific Training Objectives
Students will demonstrate an understanding of the underlying principles of:
• Hold Downs
• Vascular restraints
• Joint locks

Students will be able to assess if ground work is the best tactical option for the circumstance.
Students will demonstrate knowledge of use of force law
Students will be able to scale force as appropriate and articulate the justification for the level of force they used to resolve a conflict

Saturday's class was heavy on the deep end of the use of force spectrum. You can’t give students the physical skills unless you teach assessment and force scaling to go with them.

The amount of force needed to safely control a situation is ever changing from moment to moment as the circumstances change.
Therefore the amount of force justified is also on a sliding scale.
The more control you have the less force is justified.  The less control you have the more force is justified to gain control.

How can you scale force if you don’t know what force is justified?  How do you know when to stop?

Professionals stop a subject’s ability to continue fighting.
Amateurs strike a downed opponent because they can’t control their emotions.
How much more so if their instructor has ingrained finishing blows through training?

Ending an attacker’s ability to continue fighting is legitimate.  But people must be trained how to assess if that is necessary.

The attitudes reflected in social media are a direct result of this lack of knowledge / training. If all you train is physical skills, physical skills will be your only option.  Every thing looks like a nail when all you have is a hammer.  Physical skills should be your last line of defense. Obviously you need skill in that area. But the attacker should have to work through several other layers of defense before you get there

Multiple layers

Let me use another post I saw on social media to set up different layers of defense.  The post (survey) asked when / where you are most likely to use self defense.

One reply was, “when I’m walking home drunk from the bar at 0300”


Better to avoid than run, better to run than to de-escalate, better to de-escalate than fight, better to fight than to die.

Avoidance the 1st line of defense.
Bad things happen in predictable places.  If you avoid the places you can avoid a huge percentage of the violence in the world.

n       Bars – Parties – Anywhere people get their minds altered
n       Private places
n       Anywhere that young men gather
n       Where territories are in dispute
n       Anywhere with limited mobility or escape routes

Kasey, are you saying I don’t have a right to go have a good time?  No, go pursue your happiness.  However, If you have to / choose to be at a place where there is a predictably higher risk of violence, you need to operate at a higher level of awareness.

So instead of walking dark alleys late at night while you are drunk, try getting a cab and be delivered safely to your door.  Granted I can’t charge you $800 for a killer self defense what to do if…seminar if you use that free advice, but it has a higher chance of being successful than purposefully putting yourself in a shitty situation and hoping your kung fu is strong enough to get you out of it.

Escape and Evade the 2nd line of defense
Ambushes work best when:
n       When the victim can be distracted

n       When mobility is limited

n       When the threat can safely get close enough.

n       When escape routes are limited

I can’t give you a list of things to look for.  If you look for every thing you won’t see anything.

Instead of looking at every place where you could be attacked, look at places you could use to set up an attack if you were a predator.

-On your daily route where would you wait to mug yourself? 
•If you were a process predator (enjoy the act) where would you set up to make a quick snatch? 
•How would you break into your own home?   
•Where would you come into your office on a shooting spree?

If something odd is happening at one of those places – RUN!

n       NOT just away from danger

What does that mean?
n       Where are the exits
n       How could I get out of this place?

n       Have an escape plan / exit strategy

De-escalation the 3rd line of defense
If you don’t ever practice it you are not giving your students permission to do it.  Whether purposefully or not you are conditioning your students to ignore anything but fighting as a solution.

Martial Arts vs. Social Violence
n       This is the type of violence most young men experience
        Unfortunately many instructors then extrapolate that all violence can be dealt with by what works for social violence
n       This type is the easiest to avoid
n       This type of violence is a crime for both parties

Do I need to engage?
If you don’t have time to ask the question you better be engaging

        Operant Conditioning

        Counter Assault
n       Finding your core concept

Operant Conditioning
n       Stimulus
        A surprise attack
n       Response
        A technique or core concept that:
n       Improves your position
n       Worsens their position
n       Protects you from damage
n       Allows you to damage them

It feels like maybe I have written this blog 100 times before.  That’s fine maybe someone else will start thinking about self defense differently because they read this one.  Every time I write it the concepts become clearer for me too, so it becomes a form of self training. 

The folks that need a different perspective are the ones most substantially invested (financially, identity, or both) in physical skills training only, especially to resolve simple social violence situations.

These people mask their ignorance in flawed information / marketing being passed off as knowledge.

Examples include but are not limited to:
"There are no rules in a fight"
"I'd rather be judged by 12 than carried by 6"
"90% of all fights go to the ground"
"We don't train for social violence"
"The stick is an average weapon"
"Flinch response"
"MMA is the closest you can get to streetfighting"
Reality Based Self-Defense
"In a real fight..."

So if you are training for self defense make sure your trainer knows what he/she is talking about, and not hiding behind cliches.  Make sure they do KNOW harm, and that they do no harm to you by giving you no, or blatantly wrong information on the actual use of force.  Bottom line, it is you who is going to have to live with the decisions you make and their consequences not your Sensei.

Ok, Ok rant over.  I should really quit my bitching.  I had a great week and it was wrapped up in a very cool seminar.  I got to teach with my Judo Sensei and my Karate Sensei, and I feel I got a lot of good information out to some good people.

Train hard, Train SMART , Be safe


  1. Excellent post - thank you for sharing!

  2. Just pointing out a spelling mistake.

    "Students will be able to asses if ground work is the best tactical option for the circumstance.
    Students will demonstrate knowledge of use of force law"

    "assess" not "asses"!

  3. The Dredd badge is awesome, I was going to ask where you got it but then I used internet magic to find it myself, and they have the Irish one from 1992! I'm in Nerd heaven.

    On the core concept; I understand that you may not like to give an example for fear of that example being taken as dogma, but a couple of examples would help all the same, of only to get an idea of how specific or general a core concept needs to be.

  4. Sorry, my question is vague because I'm not sure what I'm asking exactly.
    Is a core concept something like these:
    "cover, move to the outside, strike"
    or "get inside, take his balance and counter"

    or is it likely to be something more specific ?
    Apologies if I'm being pedantic/incomprehensible.