I am a big fan of comedy and particularly when it relates to my real life. Hot Fuzz is my favorite cop movie and of course, Master Ken of AmeridoTe is my favorite comedian in the world of martial arts. At this time, EnterTheDojoShow has 485,000 subscribers, almost 70 million views, and 293 videos produced. The flip side of that, the sad side, is that the reason there is so much comedic material available to him to work with, is our industry is just filled with bad practices, ridiculous claims and outright fraud.
The big thing I want to discuss, and well it will be more venting as usual which is basically what blogs are (therapy) because it is rare that anyone wants to respond to them……… is the LAW. I could sit and just randomly scroll through youtube and find a ton of martial arts training and demo videos that always have a big finish. The veritable money shot of martial arts. What I’m talking about is stomping the groin, breaking the arm, breaking the leg, stomping the head and all of these other big finishes you see in so many arts….particularly hard style arts. My favorite is the James Bond neck snap and all its variants. Why? Because it looks cool. One of my great martial arts training buddies has been training for decades in BJJ and his favorite saying when someone asks why we do something a certain way is, “Cause chicks dig it.” In other words, because it looks cool and makes us look cool……we think anyway.
Now I am not saying that these things may not have a time and a place, but we now live in a civilized, law-suit happy world. Taika Seiyu Oyata used to say that you fight two battles, the one on the street and the one in the court. I like to think of it as three fights as there are two court rooms you can land in. The civil case as well as the legal case.
So we like to think we are the good guys and gals. That we are not going to be the evil that starts a fight. That we will be defending ourselves or others. But what a lot of people don’t realize is that, depending where you live in this world, that thin line separating the good from the bad, can move.
Initial Physical Aggressor
Many years ago, most cops arriving on the scene of some fight would ask, “Who started it.” If they could clearly tell that, this person went to jail. In many jurisdictions both parties went to jail as there are ordinances where it is illegal to fight…period, end of story. Well this was the status quo for many years in law enforcement as well as once the case was brought to court.
Primary Physical Aggressor
Well then, as always, things change. New terms came out like Primary Physical Aggressor. Here is just an example of one such definition in a state statute.
The term "primary physical aggressor" is defined as the most significant, rather than the first, aggressor. The law enforcement officer shall consider any or all of the following in determining the primary physical aggressor:
(1) the intent of the law to protect victims of domestic violence from continuing abuse;
(2) the comparative extent of injuries inflicted or serious threats creating fear of physical injury; and
(3) the history of domestic violence between the persons involved.
Again, just in the United States alone, each State will have slightly different laws, each municipality or county may have little additions to it as well as the police themselves may have certain policies based on all of the above. Apologies to my International buddies, I don't know your divisional boundaries. To my friends in New Zealand, Canada, England and Japan.....sorry.
Turning to the Dark Side
Let’s just make up a hypothetical example. There you are, listening to your favorite band at the local bar. You are just minding your own business and some drunk bumps into you but perceives it the other way, that it is your fault. You apologize and attempt to de-escalate. He eventually goes away but keeps mean-mugging you (staring at you) from across the bar. Eventually you decide to head home and go out to the parking lot. The drunk follows you to the car. He throws a punch and you, with all your years of training, are no match for the intoxicated guy and simply parry it, throw an armbar on him. He lands on the ground.
He now is incapacitated by restraint.
He cannot throw another punch and since you are well trained he has no avenue of defense. He cannot even kick. You now decide to ‘finish him’ by breaking his arm so that he cannot attack you or anyone else further.
When the cops arrive, he was the INITIAL Physical Aggressor, but witnesses explain that the drunk guy took a swing and that you pinned him, whispered sweet nothings into his ear and after a few seconds, ‘snapped that arm like a twig’. Guess what, you are now quite possibly the PRIMARY Physical Aggressor. You did more damage, when you could have either let him up with a warning or waiting for the police to arrive. It is quite possible that you may be going to jail and even if that doesn’t happen, it is quite possible you may lose a lawsuit in court having quite significant impact on you and your family.
We ALL Need to Train Our Students for This
When our students first learn techniques, they don’t take armbars, tuite and other things to the ground. They are just learning the fundamental body mechanics, studying the human weaknesses, et cetera. About 6th kyu we introduce takedowns and pins. In with that, we add Decision Trees, De-Escalation and Scenario Based Training.
So let us repeat the same basic scenario with our students in the following manner;
We give the student a technique and they go to the ground with their peer in class. While they have their buddy pinned I ask them questions or just frame the situational training with a description of their environment, possibly similar to the above. I will use the above scenario as Scenario 1.
Scenario 1: Tavern Disturbance, Drunk Punch in the Parking Lot
- Ask the student to perform and armbar off of a punch
- Once pinned, ask the student what they do at this time.
o Possible Responses:
§ Explain to the opponent while pinned, that you can easily break his arm if he continues to resist. Say it loud enough that witnesses hear and explain that you don’t want to hurt him but you equally don’t want to get hurt.
§ Ask someone to call the police, keep him pinned till the police arrive.
Related Story: Taika was at a tavern one night with one of his students. It was a cold winter night in Missouri with ice in the lot and sidewalks outside, and a nearly identical situation to the one above occurred. A drunk decided to pick a fight with one of Taika’s students. Ego’s prevailed and they moved outside of the bar….onto the ice. His student slipped and fell to the ice, the drunk jumped on top of him and got a couple of punches in before Taika came up behind, grabbed the drunks arm and pinned him. Taika said that he told the drunk, “You want arm break? It’s ok, easy do. No problem for me. You want break or go away?” This was from a hospital conversation while I was sitting in Taika’s room about a year before he passed away. There were a lot more details in the story but suffice to say, Taika pinned the guy and de-escalated. They guy wholeheartedly agreed, even drunk, that he didn’t want his arm broken and agreed to leave.
Scenario 2: Public Park – Student is told they are out jogging in a public park but it is early morning and they have not seen anyone else at all until someone jumps out and attacks them, possibly trying to steal your wallet and phone.
- Ask the student to perform and armbar off of a punch.
- Once pinned, ask the student what they do at this time. Note: the nature of the armbar (in this manner) doesn’t allow a way to access and dial your phone without letting the suspect go.
o Possible Responses:
§ Explain that you can break their arm if they continue to resist.
§ They continue to resist.
§ Yell for help – No answer
§ In fear for your life, you may damage the opponent to prevent their continued efforts to harm you. You are in fear for your life.
Of course these are just a couple of examples to get the students thinking. We as instructors often claim to teach Self-Defense or Life Protection arts, but I feel we often forget this very important thing. In police training, when you go through the police academies worldwide, you are constantly checked and evaluated based on scenarios. These test your physical skill, legal knowledge, policy knowledge and checks how you hash it all out in a little more realistic way. Teaching your students how to survive an attack only to end up going bankrupt or serving time as a result of stomping the head, is a vast disservice to them.
It is of great importance that now we live in a society where people are more inclined to grab their cell phone and record your fight than help you. This stage of society has reached the point where everyone has a video camera in their pocket that takes great videos. These will be used for or against you in court. Of note, the first part of the confrontation will most likely not be recorded. So if the bad guy started the fight, the first moments captured by the time they get the phone out and started will be in mutual conflict.
Again, just my 2 ¥ but I think it is high time we ensure our students understand the legal ramification of what we do. That is why we teach in this manner and do not teach to injure, maim, and break, et cetera unless it is truly the only way to ensure the safety of ourselves or those we are protecting.