I have been with the Institute of Krav Maga for around 7 years now. When I started I was employed as a baker and had to walk the mean streets of London during the early hours of the morning to get to work. I would regularly see people fighting or looking for a fight and I realised I kept asking myself the same question “What am I going to do if they try to attack me?”
I found the start of the answer to my question one Saturday Morning in Marylebone all those years ago standing in front of an extremely dangerous, but equally friendly man called Joe…
At the time all I really wanted from Krav Maga was to gain the confidence and ability to have the chance to really ruin the day for any potential attacker. About a year later a change in career made me look at Krav Maga in a completely different angle. I had joined the police and I now needed Krav Maga for more than just “Smash and go”. My Krav Maga had become a very important bit of kit whilst out on patrol. I found myself using its basic principles to keep me safe like “three heads in a row” when stopping people, scanning for threats, watching body language and when necessary the aggressive side of Krav Maga came out and it works!
Joe has asked me to write a blog on Krav Maga from the view of a law enforcer. Unlike 99% of the Krav Maga Law Enforcers you may have been trained by, talked to, read about or watched their dubious Youtube videos I am not part of an elite unit. I have no special forces back ground and my “war” stories usually involve rolling around on the ground trying to get an uncooperative drunk in to hand cuffs, not taking down a bunch of gate crashing terrorists in Nakatomi Plaza.
Since becoming a police officer I have become acutely aware that I am accountable whenever I have had to use force on another person. I have to prove that everything I did was proportionate to the situation, legal, accountable and necessary. When talking to fellow students I often get asked hypothetical questions about being attacked. The two top questions are “when can I hit them” and “Can I use a weapon” short answer to both is “it depends”. You have to be able to justify everything you do.
The law in England and Wales states, in short, a person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances for the purposes of self defence, defence of another, defence of property, prevention of crime and lawful arrest.
If you have ever found yourself in the situation of being attacked or even just the feeling that you are about to be attacked your adrenaline starts to flow, your heart rate is going through the roof and tunnel vision is setting in and the last thing on your mind is statutory definition of Common Law Self Defence and putting that in to practice. The saner persons amongst us are thinking fight or flight!
The basic principle of self defence was set out from case law “It is both good law and good sense that a man who is attacked may defend himself. It is both good law and good sense that he may do, but only do, what is reasonably necessary.” A person can defend themselves from being attacked but they can only use as much force as they honestly believed was necessary in that particular situation. If you are attacked by a drug fuelled psychopath with a weapon then you would justified using a lot of force to defend yourself and to stop the attack if the opportunity to escape was not there but the same use of force to stop an old lady attacking you with her handbag would not be justifiable.
Every violent confrontation will most likely have dozens of variables to the next which why it can be hard to give someone a straight answer to their questions of what they can or cannot do in a violent situation (size/age/health difference, the environment, being unable to escape, having to protect vulnerable people with you, threats they have made to you…. The list goes on and on). You have to be able to justify what you did and why you did it. Here are a few pointers to consider;
You do not have to wait to be attacked. If you honestly feel that a person is going to attack you there and then you can strike first. For instance if someone threatening you is making motion to pull something from a pocket and you honestly believe they are going to pull a weapon or something that can be used as a weapon out to use to attack you you could justify striking them first.
You cannot purposefully carry a weapon with the intention to use it for defending yourself. There are no such things as “Self defence” weapons/tools/gadgets they are weapons. You will be arrested for having/using them. There is however “Instant Arming” this is when you find something immediately next to you or about your person (as long as it is not an actual weapon) and you use it to defend yourself.
If you know you have the opportunity to safely escape the situation you have to take it. If the attacker has been knocked to the floor, you’ve defeated them and they’ve given up you cannot keep striking them. Once you’ve got out of the situation you cannot willingly put yourself back in it.Iif the attacker comes back then obviously you can still defend yourself and you’d be justified to use more force as the attacker is proving they are not willing to give up.
I know this may not have answered a multitude of “what if..” questions but I hope it has made things a bit clearer.
Bruce Lee in Enter The Dragon demonstrated one of the best pieces of self defence ever. “The art of fighting without fighting” He basically tricks a bully in to getting in to a small boat so he gets himself out of the situation of fighting the guy. If you can avoid the situation by doing something then do it, pride may be a bitter pill to swallow but it tastes better than hospital/prison food.
Trust in your training. Krav Maga works and if you do have to put it in to practice you will be thanking for all the stress training you once cursed your instructor for putting you through!
Take care of yourselves