Our training benefits us every day of our lives, in many ways. Health, stamina, strength, flexibility, confidence and focus are ours, continually. The self-defense model of training is very useful because it gives a sense of immediacy and urgency to the way we move and think, which can be more intense than some games or sports. It also gives us practical self-defense skills.

Hopefully it will never happen, but anyone may encounter someone or a group who will try to do us harm. They may use words, physical intimidation, threats, controlling physical contact, or aggressive violence.

In my article The Point of Contact I pointed out a critical self-defense issue which is missing in martial arts training: tactical decision-making. 

Tactical decision-making refers to deciding when and how to react to an imminent threat. Do we wait to see what they do? Do we wait till they throw a punch or try to grab us? Do we ignore them as long as we can? Do we use words? Do we evade? Do we challenge them? Confront them? Do we attack first? Where is the line we will not permit them to cross? How far do we go, how much force do we use, to make sure we are out of danger?

It may be useful to look at the legal as well as the tactical aspect of a possible assault. 

In common usage an assault might be:

A violent physical attack, as with blows.

A military attack, such as one launched against a fortified area or place.

The legal definition of assault is different. 

Under North Carolina General Statue 14-33 Simple Assault is:

An intentional application of force, no matter how slight, directly or indirectly, to the body of another person without their consent.

An intentional, offensive touching of another person without consent.

Self-defense: In North Carolina, it is legal to defend yourself against assault and against assault and battery. A self-defense response is limited to the use of force reasonably necessary to defend yourself from harm or injury. The fear of immediate bodily harm or injury must also be reasonable, in responding to being put in fear of imminent phyical harm.

Defense of Others: It is legal to defend others if there exists legal reason to do so. The extent of force necessary to defend others must also be reasonable.

Consent: Voluntary consent to an act that would otherwise constitute a Simple Assault Involving Physical Contact is a valid Common Law defense. 

Battery: Battery is actually harming or committing an unwanted touching of the victim, and can include touching something they’re holding.

Martial arts training can be limited to an inward frame of reference – what we do, how we do it, what my teacher says to do to get the next rank, and so on. It is possible for martial arts to drift away from practical demands, and a genuine self-defense frame of reference. That is a not always bad. It is possible for people to enjoy sport martial arts or inner martial arts or health martial arts. Those are good things to do. There is a problem when people with little or no experience in combatives outside the dojo refer to “a street fight,” “a real situation,” or some technique that would ot would not “work on the street.” They may not know but just have heard or have deduced. That is not so reliable. More importantly it conveys a sense that there is such a thing as a generic street fight or real situation. Threats and violent interactions are endless in variety, unpredictable, and occur on a scale of intensity, quality and duration which depends on many factors which are not replicated in the dojo. By preparing properly we can make ourselves more alert, more responsive and more effective across the full spectrum of possibilities.

Note: None of this is legal advice.  It is a look at some of the issues that may come up in a self-defense encounter, and to consider in training. 


Post by Jeffrey Brooks Copyright© 2022 Mountain Karate Dojo, LLC, Yamabayashi Ryu Honbu, in Saluda, NC

Photo by Zeeshaan Shabbir via Pexels

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