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  • Writer's pictureJackie Bradbury

Stopping the Good Man

With a few exceptions, martial artists are the least aggressive people you're going to meet. At least, they are unlikely to initiate conflict and they are not usually the type of people who want to actually hurt another person with malicious intent.

Accordingly, most of our self defense scenarios depend on some bad guy initiating force against us, and we respond.  Now, there are always exceptions to this, especially in our more combative martial arts, but generally speaking, training scenarios typically go, "Attacker attacks, you defend."

Part of our martial arts training is to assume the attacker has the intent to harm you, and is doing so for malicious reasons, to the point of being willing and able to kill you or loved ones.

Thus, the default training attitude is generally to damage the attacker as much as you can get away with (that being defined by a bunch of different factors, including strategy, legality, ethics, and ability).  I think this is prudent, and wise, and absolutely the correct approach.


One thing we don't train enough is what to do when the attacker is not exactly a bad guy.

It could be...

✔ Uncle Joe, who drank too much at the family barbecue and got violent

✔ Aunt Rachelle, the one who struggles with anger issues

✔ Cousin Steve, a teenager caught up in a hormonal rage

Because my art is more weapons-y, and we have a higher risk of lethal results, it's something we actually do discuss from time to time in class. I would like to see more of us in the martial arts world consider this possibility.

Let's take Uncle Joe, the drunk guy, above.  Uncle Joe's judgement is impaired by alcohol.  It is absolutely possible that Joe will hurt you or other around you, maybe even to the point of permanent injury or death.  He's a big guy, and may even train in boxing down at the local gym to keep in shape.

Now, we love old Uncle Joe - he's mom's brother and he's always been good to his family and neighbors, he volunteers at the food bank, and donates blood as often as they'll let him.

He is a good man.  He's behaving badly at the moment, but he's a good man.

So what are the goals here?  Sure, we want to prevent Uncle Joe from hurting or killing people around him. But a secondary concern - one many of us would have and is pretty important - is that we don't want to seriously injure or kill Uncle Joe, either.

He doesn't necessarily deserve that, even if in the moment he's dangerous.

Some things to consider:

✔ If we knock Joe down, it's very possible he'll hit his head and could end up being brain damaged or killed (he probably won't know or think to tuck his chin)

✔ Ditto punches/kicks to the head or other vital points - additionally, it may have no effect for someone impaired by alcohol or drugs

✔ Use of a weapon, unless you're very skilled, has a lot of risk

This is where learning strategies and techniques to pin down and hold someone immobilized while help is called is probably very wise - in this case, the additional attackers problem becomes less likely to be a problem.

Additionally, understanding improvised weapons (what if Uncle Joe starts swinging around a golf club?) and how to neutralize or disarm them is also a good idea.

Finally, learning how to use words to deescalate situations might be helpful - sure, he's not rational, but he might be talked out of violence.

So, in the situation with Uncle Joe, I think study of some grappling arts, weapons arts that do disarms, and verbal techniques are three things I can think of that might be useful off the top of my head.

Think about Aunt Rachelle and Cousin Steve, and some of those similar skill sets come to mind again.

So, in your martial arts training, do you know how to stop the good man?  I'd love to know what you do, and what  your strategies are in the comments!

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