In the book
Living the Martial Way, Forrest Morgan comments, “Warriors are special
people. Since they understand the concept of honor, they set their ethical
standards above most of the rest of society.” A warrior lives his life and
carries out his duties based on a high set of principles. It is this
adherence to a code of honor that makes him conscious of the appropriate
level of force he uses in a situation. This article explains how and when
modern day warriors use force and how you can adopt the same guideline.
artists today don’t consider themselves warriors. I credit that to our
increasingly politically-correct society, as well as many martial arts
schools catering specifically to after-school programs for children.
Teaching warriorhood skills and principles may be perceived as too intense
and archaic for today’s parents. Also, many martial artists don’t train to
rely on their martial arts skills to save their life, but view it as a
competitive sport or means to improve health. But let’s not fool ourselves,
there is a reason why it's called "martial" arts. In Martial Arts,
Peter Lewis remarked, “Many of today’s martial arts were once battlefield
skills devised for the sole purpose of causing death or injury to an
warrior prides himself on adhering to a noble code, how can the modern day
martial artist learn the code of warfare he should adopt? Let’s not
reinvent the wheel, but use what our modern day warriors (police) use as
their code of conduct relating to the use of force. I exclude military
since their objective is different and thus they use the "Rules of
The “Use of
Force Continuum” displays the degree of force that is appropriate to with a
resisting subject. The list starts from the least amount of force (mere
presence) to the greatest (deadly force).
Table 1: Use of Force Guide for Police Officers
NEAT, PHYSICALLY FIT
PEPPER SPRAY, WRISTLOCKS, ESCORT HOLDS
STRIKES, TAKEDOWNS, BATON
FIREARMS, STRIKES TO VITAL AREAS
A police officer’s uniform is recognized as sanctioned authority. That
alone should command authority from a subject since society collectively has
empowered police with that authority in order to do their job. His uniform
should be clean, and he should be in good physical condition.
If the uniform does not wield the authority the officer requires in order to
carry out his duty, then he should use verbal commands. His commands should
be professional, firm, and simple.
Techniques: When lawful verbal commands fail, the officer may escalate
to soft techniques; such as pressure points, wristlocks (for controlling a
subject, not for breaking joints), escort holds, pepper spray, and TASER to
Techniques: When soft techniques fail, the officer may lawfully escalate
to hard techniques; such as strikes from hands, feet, knees, and other parts
of the body. In addition, judo throws, take-down sweeps, and impact weapons
like the baton are okay.
Force: Deadly force is described as the amount of force that is likely
to cause death or serious physical injury, and includes: discharging a
firearm, using an edged weapon, strangulation, and any kind of strike—to
include impact weapons.
Although the Use
of Force Continuum is used by police, it also benefits martial artists.
Police are held to a higher standard in court with regards to use of force
since they are trained for confrontation. The martial arts train you for
confrontation. So if you use the following guidelines, you have a better
chance of having your use of force being considered legally reasonable. As
martial arts, we should pride ourselves in maintaining a higher standard of
conduct, even if society doesn’t necessarily require it.
The basic concept is that whatever
force is used must be reasonable. The United States
constitutional standard for using any force is the Fourth Amendment standard
of “objective reasonableness.” The Supreme Court explained in Graham v.
Connor (1989) that the decision by police to use force must be analyzed by a
“totality of the circumstances,” and judged from the perspective of a
reasonable officer on that scene, rather than 20/20 hindsight.
The Supreme Court stated
in Tennessee v. Garner (1985) that an officer may use deadly force when he
has probable cause (facts that lead a reasonable person to believe that
something is more likely to happen than not) to believe that the suspect
poses a threat of serious bodily harm to the officer or others.
martial artists learn and adopt the same use of force policy? Taekwondo
Master Richard Chun said, “The power we learn is awesome, and it carries
with it an awesome responsibility which cannot be taken lightly. Remember,
if you harm someone, you will have to answer for it—and live with what you
Let us examine how we can
apply the Use of Force Continuum to martial artist:.
2: Use of Force Guide for Martial Artists:
PHYSICALLY FIT, AWARE
POINTS, CONTROLLING WRISTLOCKS
TAKEDOWNS, JUDO THROWS
VITAL AREAS, STRANGULATION TECHNIQUES
1. Presence: How you
appear to others may determine whether there is even a conflict. You should
train to strengthen yourself mentally and physically. Confidence should
show in your body language. “Your posture tells people about your physical
condition and your spiritual strength. Keeping your head up centers your
field of vision, and keeping your back straight enables you to pivot quickly
and deliver more force with less muscular effort.” (excerpt from Living
the Martial Way). Criminals look for “soft targets.” Let your
appearance exemplify the quote from Chinese Strategist Sun Tzu: “To win a
hundred victories in a hundred battles is not the highest skill; to subdue
the enemy without fighting, that is the highest skill.” Your body language
reveals confidence and focus just as easily as fear and confusion.
2. Verbal Commands:
The ability to communicate effectively is important. “Respond to people;
never react. The word react suggests that you’re being controlled from the
outside. When you are responding, you are in control. You want to be like
the willow tree that bends in the heaviest windstorm but does not break.”
(excerpt from Verbal Judo) We hold ourselves to a higher standard of
conduct because we train for and welcome the discipline that comes from the
3. Soft Techniques:
When you must resort to soft techniques, do it with the mindset that only
the necessary force will be used for defense, and that you’ll cease when you
have succeeded. Otherwise, you become the aggressor and lose any legal
protection afforded under the "self-defense clause." Soft techniques
include pressure points, wristlocks (for controlling your opponent, not for
dislocating or breaking joints), and open hand strikes to non-deadly parts
of the body, such as the torso.
4. Hard Techniques:
You may escalate to hard techniques when soft techniques are not working or
when the scenario dictates it an appropriate level of force for
self-defense. You may use elbow, knee, and closed-fist strikes to the body
(including the groin, but not to areas of high probability for serious
injury or death, like the temple of the head or throat). You may also use
judo throws and take-downs, which are classified in this section because
serious injury may occur when the attacker is thrown or swept onto a hard
5. Deadly Force:
Ideally you will never have to use deadly force, but hopefully you will if
absolutely necessary to protect yourself or loved one from being killed.
Deadly force techniques for the martial artist include strangulation and all
strikes, including those directed to the throat, eyes, and temples of the
head. In addition, you may use any weapons available until such force from
the aggressor has stopped.
the Use of Force Continuum is only a guide. In a situation that involves
deadly force, you don’t have to advance sequentially from “mere presence”
all the way to “deadly force.” You may rapidly escalate or de-escalate
through the Use of Force Continuum depending on the “totality of
circumstances.” For example, if somebody is attacking you with a knife, you
can skip pressure point techniques and use a strike to the throat. On the
same note, if somebody grabs you in a bear hug, you shouldn’t immediately
gouge their eyes. However, you may be able to articulate that it was
necessary after lesser levels of force failed. After examining the
“totality of the circumstances,” the eye gouge technique would likely be
I encourage you to adopt and practice the Use of Force Continuum in your
martial arts training. I would never give somebody a firearm without
teaching them how to use it. The same goes for martial arts instruction.
Both are potentially deadly and it is only responsible to teach the proper
application of each. If for no other reason, remember there are laws
governing the use of force in our country. Let us uphold the honor,
discipline, and integrity that come from being a member of the warrior
Tucker Axum III