Self Defense and the Law

by Johnny Pain

This article is in response to a comment I received on my last post, Newton’s Laws of Violence: Part One, regarding my methods, and the legal concept of excessive force. 

It’s difficult to imagine the horror of finding yourself in a situation where the application of the methods taught through our courses at the Greyskull Academy of Combat Sciences would be applicable and warranted. It is even more horrific to imagine acting to save your own life or that of another, and then being arrested and prosecuted for doing so. This fear of prosecution actually prevents a lot of people from ever learning the type of information that I teach for fear that they knowledge increases the likelihood that they will end up in jail should they find themselves in a violent situation.

This article is written to provide some clarity to those for whom these concerns may apply.

“It’s better to be judged by twelve than carried by six”.

This age old bit of wisdom referencing the notion that standing trial for your actions in the face of danger is preferable to being killed and carried to your burial plot by six pal bearers is common in some self defense circles, particularly in those where carrying handguns is the accepted norm. While I certainly don’t disagree with the base notion, I also understand what it feels like to be locked in a cell, not knowing if anyone will post your bail, and if you will be spending the next year in jail while awaiting trial to find out if you’re to be shipped off to prison or not.

That’s certainly not a spot that you want to find yourself in either.

Let’s look at how we can eliminate a lot of the legal concerns that accompany the topic of the appropriate use of violence.

Would it be appropriate to shoot someone in this situation?

Let’s revisit the quote from above regarding being judged in court as opposed to being buried in a cemetery. Like I said, this saying is common with the pro-gun crowd (which to set the record straight, I am a part of). This notion arises from the idea that you are carrying a deadly weapon, which only has one true purpose; killing. Sure there are instances where the would be attacker flees upon seeing the gun, and there is no need for shots fired, but depending on this to happen can be a grave mistake.

If you are intent on carrying a gun, you absolutely have to be prepared to draw the weapon, squeeze the trigger, and fire a round into your target. Please, if you are not wiling to do this then leave the gun at home (where you need to be willing to do the same thing). Carrying a weapon that you are not prepared or willing to use is an absolute waste of time, and presents an additional danger to any situation in which you might choose to draw the weapon; namely my promise to you that he will not share your lack of will to pull the trigger of your weapon after he snatches it from you upon realization that your heart is not there.

If you do meet the criteria for carrying a firearm however, then it is important to understand what type of situation warrants the use of lethal force.

In order for lethal force to be justified, one must be in under serious threat of death or grievous bodily harm to himself or herself or a third party. If the situation does not meet those criteria, then there is a very good chance that you could be prosecuted for using, or even drawing the firearm.

With this in mind, ask yourself this question when wondering if the use of lethal force would be applicable with your hands, or any other sort of weapon:

“Would I be justified in shooting this man?”

If the answer is no, then you are not facing the type of situation where killing or crippling a man or men is going to be deemed appropriate by law.

Likewise, if you couldn’t end a story about the situation with;

“Then I compressed his neck into his chest to break his spine, and then stomped on his throat with everything I had to ensure that he was going to die”

You are more than likely not describing an asocially violent situation in which an asocially violent response would be appropriate.

For instance:

“Upon exiting the bar, the loud guy who argued his place at the bar next to the girl I was talking to was waiting for me in the parking lot. He told me he wasn’t done with me, and tore his shirt up over his head. He approached me, shoved me, spat in the face of the girl I was leaving with, and then took a swing at me….

Then I compressed his neck into his chest to break his spine, and then stomped on his throat with everything I had to ensure that he was going to die

Can you see how that isn’t going to fly with the police, the District Attorney, or the Judge?

If that sentence doesn’t work in your story, you are not justified in using lethal force.

Now that brings us to another common concern,

Can the information that I teach with the Greyskull ACS materials be used in a situation where lethal force is not justified?

The answer is yes and no.

Is it possible to guarantee that someone will not die as a result of any physical action that you take against them?

Absolutely not.

The man you strike in the lateral neck to produce a parasympathetic nervous system knockout might have a bad heart and drop dead from the strike, or may hit his head upon falling on the hard ground and suffer a subdural hematoma which might go unnoticed, but kill him days later.

Are these situations likely? No.

Do they happen? Yes.

In later posts I will highlight many stories of so-called “social conflicts” (violence that can be avoided but is chosen not to be; think road rage skirmish, or bar fight) end with one person dead, and one person in jail who never had any intention of killing the other person. For this article however, focus on the idea that there are no guarantees that you will not kill a man in any situation in which you strike or otherwise put your hands on him.

Remember this when you are deciding whether or not to slug the obnoxious drunk bothering you or your date.

Now, back to the “Yes” part of my answer.

Once you understand precisely how to go about killing a man with your hands, I promise that you will never do it by accident. You are actually more at risk of an accidental homicide if you do not know what it takes to cause one.

Take for instance the idea that many people shy away from even learning the type of information that I teach for fear that it will increase the likelihood of them accidentally killing someone, or being prosecuted for their actions. In this case perhaps the person in question decides to take up MMA training instead. Since it is a competitive sport, and teaches people to fight, it will more than likely cover him in any situation he’s likely to find himself in.

And best of all: it’s a sport, nobody dies!

Now imagine our guy here getting into a scuffle in a parking lot. He’s got neither concerns about nor intentions of killing the man; he just wants to teach him a lesson. He relies on his training, shoots a double, scoops the guys legs out from under him, and Fedor slams his ass on the blacktop.

Win right?

Not if his opponent bashes the back of his head on the ground because, unlike his MMA training partners, he does not know how to fall correctly, and, more importantly, this particular parking lot is not lined with Resilite wrestling mats.

Now imagine this guy pleading his second-degree murder, or manslaughter case to the judge. How well do you think this will work out for him?

Think about “Reality Based” self defense programs that teach people to “strike the throat” because it is one of the body’s weak points, neglecting to mention (out of ignorance) the critical difference between striking the trachea at the suprasternal notch (the little hollow where the collarbones come together), and striking the Adam’s apple head on. One is a kill, one isn’t. The instructor’s ignorance has been passed on to the student, and the student’s ignorance may have killed a man that he may not have been justified in doing so.

Ignorance is perhaps the shittiest defense one can offer up in the courtroom.

Like I said, no one, I mean no one that trains with my organization will ever “accidentally” kill a man as a result of ignorance. If he or she chooses to apply their skills to another human with a non-lethal intent, they will certainly be capable of doing so.

Are they subject to the same risks that anyone else is in terms of freak heart conditions, head injuries, and the like?

Absolutely.

This is why we teach to use violence as an absolute last resort, and only in the type of scenario where prosecution is highly unlikely (read: use of lethal force would be justified). If someone does however choose to engage the disrespectful idiot in the parking lot (who am I kidding, I’d be the world’s largest hypocrite if I lead you to believe that I have never done this), he or she will certainly have the knowledge to decimate the other person using tactics that are very unlikely to produce death or even lasting injury (a prime example of this in action is the work I do with bouncers who have not only personal liability to worry about, but that of their place of employment).

The choice is always theirs.

Ignore the information that I present, and when faced with an asocially violent situation your life will be in the hands of the other person and whatever higher power you believe in.

Understand and become proficient in the ideas, and the other guy’s life will always be in your hands.

If you learn to kill you can always choose not to. If you need to but do not possess the knowledge and skills necessary, then you are shit out of luck.

Johnny Pain is the man behind StrengthVillain.com as well as the East Coast’s notorious Greyskull Barbell Club, the newly launched Greyskull Academy of Combat Sciences, and several other ventures. He is the author of several books on subjects pertaining to strength and conditioning. He can be found comically entertaining questions on his Q and A forum at StrengthVillain.com or can be reached for consultations, training seminars, or speaking engagements at john@villainintl.com.

Also, you can follow him on Twitter: @thejohnnypain

 

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4 Responses

  1. kev

    Laws are up for interpretation, ask Zimmerman..a man cleared by the police and then later arrested over media bias and fabricated racial outrage.

    Act without malice and get a good lawyer, but do what needs to be done to not get dead.

    June 24, 2013 at 11:01 pm

    • Very true Kev.

      The laws have an inherent volatility to them, and can be influenced by a variety of factors. All we can do is understand the guidelines, and be informed.

      A good lawyer is always a good thing to have regardless, and one piece of advice that I’ve taught for years and frankly have seen work when it honestly shouldn’t have is:

      “the victim is the first one to the phone”.

      June 24, 2013 at 11:27 pm

  2. Dr.Bombay

    “Once you understand precisely how to go about killing a man with your hands, I promise that you will never do it by accident.”

    That promise is simply unrealistic. Just as there is no technique that is _guaranteed_ to stop any opponent,

    _there is no technique that is effective and at the same time is guaranteed not to kill (or seriously injure) the opponent_.

    People have been known to die from a ‘simple’ punch; or by hitting their head on the ground when they fall. The only way you could ‘prevent’ that would be not striking at all – thus laying your life on the line, as there is similarly no guarantee that YOU will not be killed by a ‘simple punch’.

    Once punches start flying, one must accept that one of the participant might die. Any other presumption is deluding yourself.

    September 22, 2013 at 10:46 pm

    • Bombay,

      Did you by chance read this passage that lead into that one: ?

      “Is it possible to guarantee that someone will not die as a result of any physical action that you take against them?

      Absolutely not.

      The man you strike in the lateral neck to produce a parasympathetic nervous system knockout might have a bad heart and drop dead from the strike, or may hit his head upon falling on the hard ground and suffer a subdural hematoma which might go unnoticed, but kill him days later.

      Are these situations likely? No.

      Do they happen? Yes.

      In later posts I will highlight many stories of so-called “social conflicts” (violence that can be avoided but is chosen not to be; think road rage skirmish, or bar fight) end with one person dead, and one person in jail who never had any intention of killing the other person. For this article however, focus on the idea that there are no guarantees that you will not kill a man in any situation in which you strike or otherwise put your hands on him.

      Remember this when you are deciding whether or not to slug the obnoxious drunk bothering you or your date.

      Now, back to the “Yes” part of my answer.”

      Hopefully that clears up your concern.

      Love your name btw, I’m a Bombay man myself. I’m taking a wild guess that you’re a Marcinko reader as well?

      September 23, 2013 at 4:14 pm

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