I’ve been a fan of Marc MacYoung for a while. He’s someone who’s been there, got the t-shirt, and actually bothers to think about violence and self defense. He’s a former bouncer, a court recognized expert on self defense and violence, and instructor in both communications and martial arts/self defense. I’m currently reading one of his newer books, What You Don’t Know Can Kill You: How most self defense training will put you into prison or the ground, written with Jenna Meeks.
In it, they quote Martin Cooper, a retired UK police officer and security consultant. I really like the definition of “winning” in a self defense situation presented:
- You must be be able to act,
- You must stop the attacker,
- You must be cleared of all charges,
- You must “win” in civil court,
- You must be able to emotionally handle the aftermath.
This is what these criteria mean to me -- in brief.
Able to act: All the techniques in the world are useless to you if you can’t use them in the real world. As my teacher Joe Manley would say “It’s not what you can think of -- it’s what you can think of IN TIME.” You have to practice and train in a way that will let you apply those skills under pressure, in the real world.
Stop the attacker: If the techniques aren’t effective in ending the attack, they’re no good. This is why so many people say martial arts don’t work in the street… They don’t do the job. They’ve practiced missing, they’ve listened to “lies to children” that say that a shot to the nose or groin will stop an attacker, that they skills are ‘too deadly to compete with…”
Cleared of all charges: If you defend yourself successfully, especially if you’ve hurt someone badly, there’s a good chance that the police may file charges on you. You need to understand the laws and rules of the use of force where you live and travel and spend time so that your use of force is reasonable and appropriate, and so that you can articulate that to the police (at an appropriate time and place) and in the courtroom. Soundbites aren’t enough; saying “I was in fear for my life” is useless if that fear isn’t reasonable… Another of Grandmaster Manley’s teachings comes to mind… “By the time a fool learns the rules, the players have left the field.” You just might want someone (an attorney) on your side who knows the rules… well. In fact, a conversation or training on the legal issues BEFORE you need to protect yourself is even smarter...
Win in civil court: Guess what? It doesn’t end if the criminal charges are dismissed (or even better, never filed…) -- you can still face a civil trial. And the rules are different… so what you do when you defend yourself needs to meet those standards, too…
Handle the emotional aftermath: Being the victim of a violent attack leaves marks -- physically and emotionally. The ER can stitch up the cuts and bandage the scrapes… but the emotional impact of defending yourself -- especially if you’ve done serious harm to your assailant -- can be a lot harder to cope with. The stress of dealing with police and courts doesn’t help, either. But you can learn things that you can be ready to use to help you cope more successfully… and you can get help.
There are other ways to measure success in self defense -- but what I like about this approach is that it deals with both the moment of self defense, and what follows.