Krav Maga Swindon examines the old adage and how preparation and training can mean it’s a choice you don’t need to make.
There’s an old adage in the martial arts world. “It’s better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6.” It’s been around a long time, that saying, and with good reason. The practice of functional, real-world self defence is all about balance. Not balance as in falling over or standing up; balance as in walking the fine line between six undertakers or 12 jurors.
When violence comes to take you, certain strategies work and others do not. We know, statistically, that pre-emptive striking is essential to street survival. The numbers leave no room for argument. Some ninety-odd percent of people hit by an attacker’s first punch go on to lose the fight and succumb to the assault. In short, to survive an assault by even one attacker, you need to hit first. And you need to do this early enough that you are still in control of the situation. If you leave it too late, even if you take the first attacker down with your first strike, the subsequent attackers might be close enough to you to finish the job the first one failed to finish.
But here’s the balance: Throw that first strike too early, and without proper justification, and you could be looking at prison time.
There’s a phrase used to describe what can happen when you hit someone once and unlawfully. One Punch Manslaughter.
So here’s the balance stated again: You must hit early enough to give yourself a tactical advantage so that you can survive the oncoming assault. You must hit late enough that you can show, morally and legally, that you did everything you could to avoid conflict, that your actions were justified.
Remember, you need to demonstrate that the situation was such that any reasonable person would have been in fear for their life because of the actions of the aggressors, and that the force you used was reasonable, proportionate and necessary in that situation.
Sometimes it can feel like a no-win situation, which is why the old saying came into being. Better to find yourself in court than in the ground. But we train specifically to avoid this terrible dilemma. Our practice with conflict de-escalation, the Fence, the Back Away drill, are designed not only to give you a tactical framework for your defence, but to set up a legal defence for your actions.
Remember that the justifications for force in legal terms are the same justifications we use in tactical terms. If you can make the decision making process conscious, you can simply explain why you did what you did in terms of the threat you saw. You can build a legal defence, an explanation of your decision to use force, even as you use that force.
Of course, real self defence goes beyond these desperate measures. Our first principle is avoidance. This is at the top of the Hierarchy of Responses for a reason. As Miller says: “It is better to avoid than to run. Better to run than to de-escalate. Better to de-escalate than to fight. Better to fight than to die.”
And if you do fight, be sure, absolutely sure, that you are fighting to defend life – yours or another’s – and not to defend ego. Sometimes, in the heat of it, you may not be able to tell the difference, but there is a difference. And it’s a difference that could see you in prison for a long, long time.
One man couldn’t tell the difference, one night in Swindon. And he went away for 8 years for One Punch Manslaughter. Wait another year and there’ll be ten more in the papers across the nation. It’s common. And utterly unnecessary.
Fortunately, there’s something that tends to happen to people who train in Krav Maga. The longer they do it, the less likely they are to find themselves in a fight. There’s a bunch of reasons for this. The first is that your awareness will keep you out of trouble. The second is that, with a confident bearing, you are less likely to be selected as a victim of violent crime. The last, and perhaps most important, is that you will be far less likely to engage in risk-taking violence for reasons of ego. Once you have confidence in your ability to fight, you just don’t need to fight. There’s nothing left to prove.
Will Bayley – Graduate Instructor, BKMA. Krav Maga Swindon, Krav Maga North Bristol, Bristol University Krav Maga Society