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Self Defense

Luis Santana Triangle’s Best Karate April, 2008

Self Defense

What is self defense? One definition of the term is, “actions taken by a person to prevent another person from causing harm to one's self, one's property or one's home”. Another is, “Using whatever means necessary to quickly end a situation that offers you grievous bodily

injury”. While sounding relatively simple and straightforward, there is a very fine line between what is considered self defense, or simply

fighting. Knocking out the closest assailant of a group of 4 or 5 so you run away is self defense. Shooting a knife wielding assailant is self defense. Talking yourself out of a confrontation is self defense. However, the best self defense is to never put yourself in a bad situation to begin with.

With a general idea of what self defense is, it would be helpful to

discuss what fighting is. Fighting is a participatory event. As defined in a legal context, it is "mutually agreed upon combat." That means you are actively engaged in the conflict and you are half the reason that it escalated. Fighting is illegal, self defense is legal. If you are

walking down the street and are unexpectedly assaulted by six thugs who demand your money and then attack, defending yourself is self defense. Standing there, nose-to-nose, calling the guy all kinds of nasty things so he takes a shot at you is NOT self defense. It is

fighting. Here is another interesting scenario that I came across that helps to define this further:


“If you are honestly trying to withdraw from physical danger and -without provocation -- you are assaulted, that is self-defense. However -- and this is a big however -- backing away, while

proclaiming that the guy has an amazing resemblance to various

anatomical items, is *not* looked upon as being attacked ‘without

provocation’. That is still participating and escalating the problem.

Your may have been backing up, but your words were still attacking.

In fact, some states have laws that state you cannot say certain things and then claim he attacked you for no reason”.

I went back to our assignment from December 2006, “Martial Arts & The Law”, and found the following:

Self-defense: It is generally a legal defense to a charge of homicide, assault, or battery to show that you had reason to believe that you were about to become the victim of serious bodily harm. However, you must simultaneously prove that you tried every other reasonable way of avoiding the situation. This includes running away and calling 911. You also lose this right to self-defense if you started the fight, chose to engage in mutual combat, or committed the defense solely in the protection of property. Errors in judgment don't count, either. So if you get into a fight on behalf of someone else, and that person is later found to have been the legal aggressor, then you become the aggressor's accomplice, and risk conviction for assault, battery, or manslaughter, as appropriate.

Deadly force: In North American jurisprudence, deadly force is defined as being an amount of force that can be expected to cause death or serious bodily harm. This includes the use of improvised weapons such as skillets and hammers as well as the use of obvious weapons such as firearms and knives. Attacks by boxers and other trained martial artists are generally construed as being sufficient to cause death or serious


bodily harm. Courts usually allow people to use deadly force in self-defense when all three of the following conditions are met: • All means of non-violent and non-lethal means of self-defense have failed. • Death or serious bodily harm will result if you do nothing. • The use of deadly force does not significantly increase the risk of injury for innocent bystanders. This third requirement usually precludes the use of firearms.

Excessive force: Excessive force refers to the use of more force than a judge decides was necessary to have caused an altercation to end. While this involves considerable armchair-quarterbacking, most judges consider it excessive if you keep hitting someone after he or she has fallen to the ground, or if you use weapons or unarmed combat skills in response to simple assaults. And as most criminal trials are ultimately tried by a judge without recourse to jury, the judges' opinions matter a great deal.

As an addition to our assignment, we were asked to take the 5

characteristics of an athlete and list them in our personal order of proficiency. The characteristics (in no particular order) are:

• Speed

• Strength • Balance

• Endurance • Flexibility


For myself, I would rank these in the following order: • Strength – For the last two years, Sensei Robinson has been

training me resistance and weight exercises that have resulted

in a very noticeable increase in overall strength and power.

• Balance – This used to be number one for me before beginning training as I’ve always had a natural sense of balance. However, as fatigue sets in, balance becomes more difficult.

• Speed – My hand speed and reaction time is faster than my

whole body propulsion speed, but I’m aware of it and try to use it to my advantage during kumite.

• Endurance – This one is a close tie with speed and for me is dependant on the activity. For aerobic type activity, I have

definitely improved over the last several weeks because of the addition of cardio training outside of karate. For upper body

exercises, my endurance is pretty good but as soon as my legs

become involved, I tire quickly. It is because of this that I rank this as number 4 and I attribute some of this to my weight, which is currently 210lbs.

• Flexibility – This is the one that I continue to struggle with as I continue my training. It is definitely MUCH improved from when I first started training, but needs much more work.


This self assessment would have been impossible without the benefit of training on a daily basis and discovering these strengths and

weaknesses. I believe that effective self defense incorporates the

knowledge (and repetitive training) of effective techniques, along with the awareness of the situation and finally, knowledge of what our personal abilities and strengths are to quickly determine the best course of action in any given situation.

Luis Santana

Triangle’s Best Karate April, 2008


Self Defense