Resposible use of force…

Posted: May 23, 2013 by beforethefire in Discussion Topics
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I believe there’s a lot of pressure nowadays for martial artists to feel like they’re effective. There was a time, perhaps some twenty to thirty years ago, when having a black belt in Karate meant you were a good fighter. Now it’s not so simple. With the rise of family-oriented martial art centers, which focus more on promoting self-esteem and hard work rather than martial prowess, we’ve seen a depreciation of the value of the black belt when it comes to actual fighting. This made room for a new kind of martial art, a genre which characterizes itself with phrases like “reality-based” and “street proven”. These include arts like Krav Maga, the Keisi Fighting Method, and pretty much anything else with the words “tactical” or “combative” tacked onto the title. These are the arts that try to instill martial skills in people without the fluff of philosophy, tradition, and artistic form.

Typical modern self-defense mindset...

Typical modern self-defense mindset…

But are they effective? And by “effective”, I don’t mean “dangerous”. My concern is this: many martial artists: feeling the pressure to be seen as “effective”, have adopted a brutal, uncompromising mindset based on the need to fight off aggressive, armed opponents with intent to kill. I call this mindset “The Hammer”, as in “I am the hammer that hits the nail!” This mindset encourages you to  dispose of your opponent as quickly as possible in as few moves as possible. They basically train to fight against murderers, muggers, and rapists. Is this wrong? I don’t think so. But are these the only kinds of people we will be fighting? Are we so much more likely to be attacked by a terrorist than by a drunk friend or a mentally handicapped person with no control over their own anger? I have my doubts…

This is why I’m a big fan of the responsible use of force. Put simply, the responsible use of force dictates that we use the least amount of force possible to meet our objective in a fight. Legally speaking, it means one should only use the same level of force to protect themselves as their attacker. It means that gouging someone’s eye out just because he shoved you during a heated argument is inappropriate and possibly punishable by law. Even the US Marines, who actually do fight terrorists and enemy soldiers, are expected to follow this rule. After all, arresting a terror suspect instead of killing him often leads to preventing terrorism in the future. Police officers are also obligated to observe the appropriate use of force, especially since they want to make arrests, not executions.

A police officer making an arrest has rules he must follow, even if his suspect doesn't...

A police officer making an arrest has rules he must follow, even if his suspect doesn’t…

It’s one of the things I appreciate about Jiu-jitsu. Though the grappling arts can be as brutal and deadly as any martial art could require, they also are easily adjusted to control instead of maim, and to disable instead of kill. How much more peacefully can you end a fight than by simply exhausting your opponent until they can no longer continue their assault?

I think there is an underexplored aspect of self protection that includes defending yourself from inappropriate contact, whether it’s an unwanted hug, a shove, or just someone violating your personal space. In my own experiences teaching young women martial arts, these are the lessons that seem to make sense to them most. I would be very interested in seeing those techniques on a first belt test!

How does your training center teach the responsible use of force?

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