Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Road to Hell (or Jail)

As I've mentioned before, I've been reading a lot about the legalities of self defense.  In fact, I just finished - and highly recommend - "The Law of Self Defense" by Andrew Branca.  This book is aimed for at the person who uses firearms for self defense, but it's still very useful for all of us who train in the martial arts and live in the United States.

It's just as important to spend time here as in the training hall.

I am unaware of similar books for other countries, but if you know of one, please do recommend it in the comments. I'd like to compile a reference list to keep here on the blog for everybody's future reference.

I believe it's important to understand the legalities and ethics of what we do.  My art, originally developed in a very different cultural and legal context than my own, has to be somewhat modified in practice (at least in its self defense applications) to fit the legal environment in which I live.

I believe it's my obligation, as a teacher, to understand this, and to make sure that my students are well versed in this information too.  I'd be negligent if I do not understand and teach this information.

But too many of us do not teach this.  In fact, many of us teach or condone attitudes and techniques that will get one sent to jail for a very, very long time.

Self defense is only that in a legal sense in very limited, specific situations.  If you claim to teach self defense, you better understand and communicate what those are in the area in which you live and teach.  Outside of those specific circumstances, what you are doing could be assault, battery, assault with a deadly weapon, manslaughter, or outright murder!

Not a lot of space for one-steps here.

To my knowledge, there are no exceptions if you are a veteran or an off duty police officer or a short old woman like me.   You don't get to escalate to lethal force at the first hint of trouble. You do not get to "finish" a prone opponent on the ground. You do not get to use a weapon automatically against just anybody in any circumstance. If there is an opportunity to escape or disengage, you should take it.

"I'd rather be tried by twelve than carried by six" is a dangerous attitude, said by somebody who's never been through a criminal system that is absolutely wanting to convict you - that's how they justify their existence!  I hope you have the hundreds of thousands of dollars it may take to keep your butt out of jail, the several years of free time to have the legal system have its way with you, and oh, yes, the temerity to find a new job because your old one is gone.

Thanks, Sensei!
The rules for self defense are not the same as the rules of combat or the rules that police officers must operate by (guess what - you do NOT have the same latitude police officers do in the law).  Yet so many of us teach exactly that!

Luckily, most of us will not actually be in a violent, life-or-death conflict in our normal, daily lives (and the chance of that happening to us is decreasing every year, for the most part), so we'll never put it to the test.

I think you can open yourself to that risk of fighting for your life outside of prison - start saving your pennies now! - or, you can educate yourself on the reality of self defense, and train accordingly, based on the law where you live.

It is an incredible risk, as a teacher, to allow your students to go into the world with the capability to do great harm to others but without this basic knowledge.

Speaking for myself, I will not allow students I am responsible for to go out into the world without this information. They may still get in trouble but it won't be because they were ignorant of the law.

Are you teaching this information in your program?  If not, why not?  If so, what have you learned about teaching it?  I'd love to know!