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Legal Aspects

The most crucial difference between self-defence training for civilian application in a society under rule of law to military combatives is the necessity to self-defence extent of force permitted in a given situation under the self-defence laws of the applicable jurisdiction.

The self-defence laws of modern legislation build on the Roman Law principle of dominium where any attack on the members of the family or the property it owned was a personal attack on the paterfamilias. In Leviathan (1651), Hobbes argues that although some may be stronger or more intelligent than others in their natural state, none are so strong as to be beyond a fear of violent death, which justifies self-defence as the highest necessity. In his 1918 speech Politik also Beruf (Politics as a Vocation), Max Weber defined a state as an authority having the monopoly of the legitimate means of organised violence within defined territorial boundaries. Modern libertarianism characterizes the majority of laws as intrusive to personal autonomy and, in particular, argues that the right of self-defence from coercion (including violence) is a fundamental human right. In this context, note that Article 12 Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:

No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.

Combined with the principle of the state’s monopoly of violence, this means that those authorized by the state to defend the law (in practice, the police) are charged with the use of necessary force to protect such rights. The right to self-defence is limited to situations where the immediate threat of violence cannot be prevented by those authorized to do so (in practice because no police force is present at the moment of the threat). The right to self-defence granted by law to the private citizen is strictly limited. Use of force that goes beyond what is necessary to dispel the immediate threat of violence is known as an excessive self-defence (also self-defence with excessive force, excessive self-defence). The civil law systems have a theory of “abuse of right” to explain denial of justification in such cases. Thus, in English law, the general common law principle is stated in Beckford v R (1988) 1 AC 130:

“A defendant is entitled to use reasonable force to protect himself, others for whom he is responsible and his property. It must be reasonable.”

Similar clauses are found in the legislation throughout the western world. They derive historically from article 6 of the French Penal Code of 1791, which ruled that “manslaughter is legitimate if it is indispensably dictated by the present necessity of legitimate defence of oneself or others”. The modern French penal code further specifies that excessive self-defence is punishable due to “disproportion between the means of defence used and the gravity of the attack” defended against.

The evaluation of whether a use of force was excessive in a given case can be a difficult task. The British Law Commission Report on Partial Defences to Murder (2004) Part 4 (pp78/86) recommends a redefinition of provocation to cover situations where a person acts lethally out of fear. This reflects the present view of psychiatrists that most people act in violent situations with a combination of fear and anger in their minds, and to separate these two types of affect is not legally constructive. In practice, self-defence laws still do make this distinction. German criminal law (§ 33) distinguishes “asthenic affect” (fear) from “sthenic affect” (anger). Excessive self-defence out of asthenic affect is not punishable. Outside of the western world, justifiable self-defence tends to be interpreted more loosely, including the right to defend against any criminal act, without limitations to the reasonable or proportionate use of force. Thus, the Intermediate People’s Court of Foshan, the People’s Republic of China in a 2009 case ruled as justifiable self-defence the killing of a robber who was trying to escape, because “the robbery was still in progress” at this time.

Safety Tips

Common Sense Rules

Wake up! Who’s watching you? Look around, is someone giving you a hard look? Or alternately, does someone quickly avoid your gaze?

Watch people’s hands as you are walking, don’t look away when you pass. Cross the street if you have to avoid a group of punks. Or are you doing something stupid like hitting on someone’s girlfriend at the bar? Or are you in the habit of getting hammered or boasting about your fancy watch, car, apartment?

It’s always easier to stay out of trouble than to get out of trouble.

Second of all, keep from getting hit in a vital area:

  1. Get your hands up in front of your face to protect your head;
  2. Keep your mouth closed with your teeth clenched. When your mouth is open you are ripe to get your jaw was broken (which means you should forget about ‘talking trash’);
  3. Circle away from his power side (circle to the right if he has his right hand cocked back, circle to the left if he has his left hand cocked back);

You need to be either two arms lengths away from him (outside of his kicking range) or all the way in tight against him (holding him in a boxing clinch). Anything in between puts you in range for his punches and kicks.

Third, Use your strongest weapons against his weakest targets:

  1. Kick him in the knee, groin or lower abdomen. Kick straight ahead using the bottom of your foot like you would kick in a door. Or kick straight back like a mule using your heel. If you are untrained, resist the urge to kick with the top of your foot like you are punting a football, you will probably use too much of your toes instead of your shin (ouch!);
  2. Use the proverbial knee to the groin when you are clinching;
  3. Smash him with your elbows in the face, throat and neck.
  4. Finally, get a barrier between you, yell for help, use a weapon, and make your escape.
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