Laws of Combat

Congratulations! By now you know how to punch and kick someone in a dojo. Did you ever wonder what happens if you do it on the street?

Mr Miyagi once said the best way to dodge a punch is to not be there, which is great if you literally never talk to anyone ever, or can jump on a plane and fly overseas every time someone looks at you funny. The second-best way to dodge a punch? Prevent an attacker from wanting to punch you in the first place.

Renshi Drew and Tom
Renshi Drew and Tom (twin-flying-roundhouse-kick-to-the-face?)

So you’ve tried de-escalating the situation through using your words, or walking away, but it looks like you’re going to have to defend yourself. Before you whip out your twin-flying-roundhouse-kick-to-the-face, there’s some legal stuff that you should probably know if you want to stay out of jail.

According to Commonwealth and ACT law, you are only justified in defending yourself in the following situation:

  1. You believed that using force was necessary; and
  2. The force you used was reasonable; and
  3. You were protecting yourself, someone else, or property from being stolen or damaged. You can also use force to eject a trespasser.

Use of lethal force is not justified where you’re defending property or removing a trespasser. You also aren’t allowed to defend yourself against law-abiding conduct either.

So if there’s any other option open to you to resolve the situation but you choose to use violence, it’s no longer self-defense and you’re up for some fun jail time. Same for if you need to use force but use an excessive amount.

TomThis idea of unnecessary or unreasonable force is interesting because as a student of martial arts, you are trained in a variety of techniques. Some techniques will damage an attacker more than others. Since you know the difference, you need to make a greater judgment of what is reasonable in the circumstances.

For example, when you make it to Ai Ki class, you start learning how to neutralize a conflict situation without causing any damage to the attacker. If you knew how to do this, and were able in the circumstances, it would be very difficult to argue why you thought it was reasonable to instead break the attacker’s jaw and both knees. This might be the case even where a non-martial artist could get away with it. Your training therefore requires better judgment than the average person in the same situation.

Your training also teaches you techniques that can do a significant amount of damage with minimal effort, which could get you in trouble. It may be that there is no need to do that potentially lethal flying reverse vertical kick to the face, when a punch to the solar plexus is all you need to resolve the situation.

A significant amount of damage with minimal effort, which could get you in trouble.

However that said, if the situation is dire, you need to act quickly and decisively to properly protect yourself or another. Just keep in mind that you are accountable for your actions as a martial artist.

For this reason, if you try to punish your attacker, or continue a beat-down after the attacker has stopped, you are breaking not only the law, but the core ethical principles of martial arts.