LOTUS SELF-DEFENSE

 

 

THE MARTIAL ARTIST'S GUIDE TO "USE OF FORCE"

 

  


 

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.

Many martial 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 adversary.”

Since the 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 Engagement."

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

LEVEL 1

OFFICER PRESENCE

NEAT, PHYSICALLY FIT

LEVEL 2

VERBAL COMMANDS

FIRM, SIMPLE

LEVEL 3

SOFT TECHNIQUES

PEPPER SPRAY, WRISTLOCKS, ESCORT HOLDS

LEVEL 4

HARD TECHNIQUES

STRIKES, TAKEDOWNS, BATON

LEVEL 5

DEADLY FORCE

FIREARMS, STRIKES TO VITAL AREAS

 

1.  Presence:  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.

2.  Verbalization:  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.

3.  Soft 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 gain compliance.

4.  Hard 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.

5.  Deadly 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.

Why should 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 have done.”

Let us examine how we can apply the Use of Force Continuum to martial artist:.

 Table 2: Use of Force Guide for Martial Artists:

LEVEL 1

MERE PRESENCE

CONFIDENCE, PHYSICALLY FIT, AWARE

LEVEL 2

VERBAL COMMANDS

CLEAR, ASSERTIVE, SIMPLE

LEVEL 3

SOFT TECHNIQUES

PRESSURE POINTS, CONTROLLING WRISTLOCKS

LEVEL 4

HARD TECHNIQUES

STRIKES, TAKEDOWNS, JUDO THROWS

LEVEL 5

DEADLY FORCE

STRIKES TO 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 martial arts.

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 surface.

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.

Remember that 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 considered reasonable.

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 class.

Written by: Tucker Axum III