Forbidden Techniques in Self-Defense

Discussion in 'General Self Defense' started by Bill Mattocks, Dec 29, 2016.

  1. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    I was recently asked by a fellow student, a young man who has just started his martial arts journey, if there were any techniques that he should avoid using in the case of having to employ self defense techniques.

    I suspect he was thinking about certain techniques known to cause permanent, rather than temporary, damage to a person, or perhaps those which allegedly can cause death, the so-called 'dim mak' techniques.

    However, the approach I took to answering his question was based on a different philosophy. It took me some time to explain it to this young man. I thought I'd summarize it here, in hopes it might be useful for others, or at least spur some conversation.

    First, I told him that the only thing that is forbidden is to fight at all.

    There are two exceptions, and those are fighting in self-defense or the defense of others. If that should arise, then there are no forbidden techniques, but certain circumstances must be met first.

    First, if you can eliminate the danger by leaving, then do so. This is in line with the first rule of karate - don't get hit. You can't get hit if no punches are thrown at all. If you can leave, leave. If you can run away, run away. Don't leave others in danger in your place, but if you can end the issue by leaving, then do it. The highest moral imperative of self defense is defending your *life*. Not your honor, not your ego, not your machismo. Your life. If you fight for anything else, you fight for the wrong reasons, unless it is simply sport.

    Second, all techniques have the potential to be deadly. When you hit someone, using any technique at all, you may injure or even kill them. Unintended consequences sometimes happen; people have heart attacks, they fall down and hit their heads, they get pushed over the edges of precipices, etc. Rare? Yes, very rare. But it has and will continue to happen. In other words, be aware of the fact that if you engage in fighting at all, the risks dramatically rise that someone is going to be hurt, and it's even possible someone may be killed. That someone could also be yourself.

    Third, if you have to fight, you should fight for one purpose, and that is to end the danger to yourself or the person(s) you are defending. That means, in simple terms, get it done and leave. The longer you engage, the more chances that someone, again, will be seriously hurt or killed, and that person could be you.

    Believe it or not, luck plays a major role in many so-called 'street fights'. An unlucky step on uneven terrain, a slippery surface, a trip over an unseen obstacle. As time passes in a fight, crowds can gather, they may choose to interfere. The person whom you are fighting may decide to produce a weapon, or he or she may have friends that choose to intervene. Time is your enemy in a fight, as much as the person whom you are fighting. This is not a sparring match. Get in and get done. Engage if you must, and end it as quickly as you can.

    So what about techniques, forbidden and otherwise?

    Techniques will occur in the absence of conscious thought. In other words, when a real fight happens, we revert to the way we train, if we've trained well and long enough. We'll not be thinking about pressure point 4B and meridian 2C and chakra Sun-Six and dim mak hocus pocus. We'll be thinking 'there's an opening, hit now'! That's not to say that chakra ben gazi or meridian 4F won't be struck; it means we'll do what we trained, and generally in the simplest and most direct way possible. With few exceptions, most of us won't be playing a long game of strategy, give and take, hit and maneuver; we'll be blocking and countering as quickly and as powerfully as we can, with the goal to end the fight so we can leave.

    We will have the bitter taste of copper in our mouths, our vision will close down to a tunnel, we'll have diminished hearing. Our blood will be pumping, we'll have the urge to pee. Adrenalin and other chemicals will flood our bloodstream and we'll control those based on our training, our instincts, and our personal proclivities.

    Techniques, schmechniques. Get it done and leave. Forbidden? It is forbidden to fight at all unless you must. If you must, the only imperative is to defend yourself and end the threat, then leave.

    The reason I say these things is two-fold.

    One, I speak from a (very) small amount of experience. I've been in a couple 'real' fights, including with weapons. It's been a long time, but I remember how it works, or at least how it worked for me. I wasn't thinking about no five-finger-death-punch, let me assure you. I was thinking about continuing to live and what I had to do to ensure that happened.

    Two, although I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice, my opinion is that considering, discussing, or describing particular techniques as 'deadly' or 'forbidden' or etc can have dangerous consequences when talking to police and attorneys, as you most likely will be doing should you engage in public fisticuffs and live to talk about it at all. If you describe a technique you used or avoided using, you may think you are being accurate and doing yourself a favor; you're not. My *opinion* is that you should avoid talking about anything except in the most general terms. "What happened?" "He raised his hands to hit me and I defended myself." "How did you do that?" "I don't recall specifics, but I wanted to avoid being hurt or killed."

    Describing yourself as a martial arts enthusiast, expert, a certain rank belt-holder, and so on, may be an ego boost, but they won't do you any good when you get sued for breaking Johnny's lower descending onomatopoeia and now he can't work and suffers from severe mopery. You're just a guy who had to defend himself and did whatever it was to end the fight and leave. A good prosecuting attorney may well discover that you're trained; it may be obvious by the way you broke Johnny's stacking swivel, but let them figure that out on their own, don't help them. You were attacked, you defended yourself. Leave it at that unless you're required by law to answer with specifics.

    So, in summary...

    Don't fight at all if you can leave safely.
    If you have to fight, fight to end the danger and leave.

    I don't think about techniques that might or might not be 'forbidden'. I think about ending the danger. How that happens can take many forms, and I leave that to the situation, my training, and random chance.
     
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  2. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Well said, Bill. If there was a technique I thought shouldn't be used, I simply wouldn't teach it. The only ones I've come up with, thus far, were ones I didn't think were effective enough in modern context.

    Every physical altercation is potentially deadly. Minimize the time spent in it, and you minimize the chances of you being the statistic. Zero is the lowest number you can get to in this, so avoiding the altercation entirely is your best odds of surviving it.

    Avoid.
    If you can't avoid, defend.
    If you must defend, do whatever you can to end it NOW.
    "He hit me, we tangled, he fell down."
     
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  3. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    With regard to the more deadly techniques, I might also say that to be truly effectively taught, a technique must be trained full speed and full power at some point. And to become part of the student's built-in responses, it must be trained many, many, times. It's difficult to find willing subjects that you can kill in order to learn to kill with a technique.

    Much more common are the more mundane techniques, which of course, can also kill, but generally do not. What we train to do, we do. Typically.
     
  4. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    True enough. Those that cannot be trained with something approaching reality get trained less often. I want them to be aware of them, and they occasionally even come out (safely simulated) in practice, but I'd expect the more fundamental techniques to be more commonly used. In fact, that's what I see with the most experienced students - they tend to tire of the flash (nearly every art has some) and revert to the basics for efficiency.
     
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  5. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    I love bunkai, not that I'm very good at it, but I do like to look for the applications which are less obvious, then test and train them. Lots of fun, inner exploration, all part of the journey, etc. But when the chips are down, an upper body block and a straight punch are bread-and-butter. Pretty much always going to be a go-to solution to the traditional American head-hunter fist-fight where the 'bad guy' steps in and throws a right haymaker to the noggin. Block the punch, bust out his teeth or break his nose, continue the movement into a throw if need be, stomp the groin. Restomp the groin and Bob's your uncle. :)
     
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  6. hoshin1600

    hoshin1600 Senior Master

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    Onomatopoea, ,,,, lol :) I had to look that up
     
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  7. MI_martialist

    MI_martialist Brown Belt

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    Avoid, check, hurt, maim, kill. The training should program appropriate action. The only forbidden thing is to do nothing at all.
     
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  8. Bill Mattocks

    Bill Mattocks Sr. Grandmaster

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    I do not disagree with your order of escalation. However, from a purely legalistic point of view (IANAL, this is not legal advice), I avoid even saying things like 'hurt', 'maim', and 'kill'. There's only avoid, and defend. "I avoided his attack by leaving the area." And, "I could not avoid his attack, so I defended myself."

    If you use terms like "I decided to use a 'maiming' technique," to a cop or an attorney, you're liable to go from victim to suspect in a hot second. In the case of civil lawsuits, even worse. Words mean things. When you say you employed a 'kill' technique, you're opening yourself up for some real badness in court. Not saying you would do that, just pointing it out.

    When I was a Marine MP, we were taught exactly what cops are mostly still taught - if we have to shoot someone, we must be a) legally in the right to do so, and b) aim for center mass. Not 'shoot to injure' or 'shoot to kill' but aim center mass. We have one goal only - to stop the person. Not hurt, not maim, not kill. Just stop. If they happen to get really dead because of that, oh well. We shot to stop, we aimed center mass.

    I would say the same in any self-defense scenario where I had to use my skills to defend myself. I defended myself. I tried to stop the attack so I could escape. Period. However that happens is how it happens.
     
  9. MI_martialist

    MI_martialist Brown Belt

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    All I did is state the escalation of violence. I in no way indicated that we would instruct a "hurt technique" or a "maim technique". The appropriate action is programmed in during training.
     
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  10. MI_martialist

    MI_martialist Brown Belt

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    When I was a Marine MP, we were taught exactly what cops are mostly still taught - if we have to shoot someone, we must be a) legally in the right to do so, and b) aim for center mass. Not 'shoot to injure' or 'shoot to kill' but aim center mass. We have one goal only - to stop the person. Not hurt, not maim, not kill. Just stop. If they happen to get really dead because of that, oh well. We shot to stop, we aimed center mass.

    I agree...the goal is to neutralize the threat. The end result of doing that is what it is...
     
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  11. Buka

    Buka Grandmaster

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    If you do break Johnny's lower descending onomatopoeia, just don't do it with an Omoplata.

    They could tack on additional charges of Aggravated Aliteration, with malapropism aforethought, even. :)
     
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  12. Kung Fu Wang

    Kung Fu Wang Grandmaster

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    My students asked me a similar question the other day, "What kind of technique should I used to deal with unfriendly challengers?"

    In CMA, there is a set of techniques called "black hand" that's used to deal with "unfriendly challenger". When you use it to cause "permanent damage" on your opponent, it will scare away all the other potential challengers in the future. The only way to stop any new challengers from knocking on your front door every day. For example, one technique is to pop out your opponent's knee joint and he will need a knee replacement after that.

    As far as the legal issue, if someone knocks on your front door, fights you in your living room, and gets hurt, at least in Texas, he won't be able to sue you.
     
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2016
  13. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Agreed, and as you (I think) pointed out recently, we do what we train. Getting into the habit of saying the more defensible things makes it less likely we say in key moments of stress the things that make us look more liable or criminal.

    And in this internet age, posts on the internet, if tracked back to you, can probably be used to show frame of mind. I wouldn't be surprised if my frame of mind could be used against my students if they ended up in court, too.
     
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  14. Midnight-shadow

    Midnight-shadow 3rd Black Belt

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    The only techniques I wouldn't use in self-defence are ones that put undue risk to myself in order to perform. For example, I wouldn't use a jumping back spinning kick in a real fight because I consider it a very risky technique that is more likely to end up with you flat on the floor than your opponent.
     
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  15. gpseymour

    gpseymour MT Moderator Staff Member

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    Man you will NEVER beat a movie ninja without that!
     
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  16. drop bear

    drop bear Sr. Grandmaster

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    The bulk of effective fighting is not the sinister kill move. But a whole bunch of non sinister techniques like defending well and positions that place yourself at at least risk as possible. Get that element right and you can choose how much you need to escalate a fight.

    And that reduces the risk of you killing someone and turning a bad day into a very bad day.
     
  17. Kung Fu Wang

    Kung Fu Wang Grandmaster

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    Agree! If you can

    - control your opponent's arms,
    - show your skill and grip strength, and
    - ask him if there can be peace between him and you,

    a fight may not start.

     
  18. Paul_D

    Paul_D Master Black Belt

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    Depending on the law in your part of the world, I would define a forbidden technique as any technique used after you had created to opportunity to escape. Once you decide that rather than escape, you are going to stay inflict further damage you are no longer defending yourself.
     
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  19. MI_martialist

    MI_martialist Brown Belt

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    No longer "self defense" if you have no need to "defend" yourself.
     
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  20. Paul_D

    Paul_D Master Black Belt

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    That's what I'm saying.123
     
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