In today's day and age, defending yourself against another person could possibly land you in prison. This is why it is so important to have at least a basic understanding of the way the law works.
If ever you are in a situation where you defend yourself and harm another human being, you will have to justify your defense. Some questions that you may have to justify include: How far did you take your self-defense? Did you pin the attacker until help arrived? Did you break the attacker's arm? Did you permanently injure the attacker? Did you kill your attacker? And, was the level of force that you used required in this situation?
As a martial artist it is important to understand how much force to use on a potential threat. In a court of law, you will have to prove that the amount of force used was justified and that you had no other choice. Here are just a few points to consider: Intent, Means, Opportunity and Preclusion.
Intent: At what point was the intent to harm you recognized? Did they say "I'm going to kill you?" Did they flash a weapon or throw a punch?
Means: Did the person appear to have the means to carry out the threat? Were they large, angry and coming at you? Or, was it a young person making empty threats but not physically capable of harming you?
Opportunity: Was there immediate opportunity for them to harm you? Was the person able to get at you, without you being able to get away from the threat? For instance, if you are inside your home, behind a locked door, and they are outside making threats the opportunity for them to harm you is not there yet.
Preclusion: Could you have precluded the attack by getting away? Was there a way that you could have avoided the threat? Could you have walked or ran away and called the police?
Where things get messy is determining the difference between a "Fight" and and "Attack." In a fight, both people agreed to engage in violence. In an attack, one person chose the high road and was trying everything possible to avoid the threat of an attack. If you responded back verbally to a potential attacker with equal violent or rude words, then you helped start the fight. By responding back to the attacker in this way, you just initiated a fight and may no longer be able to claim self-defense. You could have just left the situation, rather than respond back to the threat.
Here are some other things to consider: Let's say your initial self defense to someone who lunges at you is to break their nose and pin them to the ground. In doing this, you have limited their means to attack. Their intent may still be there, though. You may still need to defend yourself. Now they attack again, you respond by dislocating their arm and taking out their knee. They are now crying out on the floor. Their intent appears to be gone and their means are severely limited. If you proceed to follow up with additional attacks, you could be charged with excessive force.
You can learn more about Self Defense Law and the Martial Artist with this link:http://ittendojo.org/articles/general-4.htm
In conclusion, you should have a basic understanding of your rights and your attacker's rights before you ever get into a self-defense situation. You don't want to hesitate or second guess your actions during the heat of an attack. Here is a short summary of important things to remember based on the article link listed above:
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Vashon Borich-Leach, Sensei teaches traditional karate and tai chi in Branson, Missouri. She considers herself a life-time student of the arts. Her blog is an open journal of lessons learned in the martial arts. If you are a martial artist and would like to contribute to her blog please contact her.
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