As martial artists, we train in a discipline that is primarily concerned with bettering and protecting ourselves. We also understand that protecting ourselves doesn’t end in the studio. It is important for every martial artist to understand the legal consequences if they ever have to use their skills to defend themselves.
ARE A MARTIAL ARTIST’S HANDS DEADLY WEAPONS?
We’re going to do our part to debunk one of the most outlandish beliefs in martial arts lore. Since there is no government agency tasked with overseeing the registration of martial artists, we can quickly dispel this myth. Regardless of your training, any force that is capable of killing can be considered deadly force in the eyes of the law.
WHEN ARE YOU SUPPOSED TO RUN AWAY?
Martial artists should understand that laws vary by state. You should know whether you live in a stand your ground state, and how that law is applied. In some states, you are required to run away if possible before resorting to violence to defend yourself. Do you live in a stand your ground state?
WHEN IS THERE A JUSTIFIED USE OF FORCE?
According to Florida statute section 776.012(2) “A person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.” Every martial artist should familiarize himself with the definition of a justified use of force in their state.
Another definition you should familiarize yourself with is assault. According to this article, “Assault is defined as threatening bodily harm in a way that causes a victim to fear for their safety. With assault, there is usually no physical impact (or attempted physical impact) to the victim.” It is good to be aware of what assault is exactly so that you know what boundaries to not cross.
WHAT IS PROPORTIONALITY?
Martial artists should be aware of the concept of proportionality in self-defense. Proportionality is the concept that you are only allowed to defend yourself with an equal measure of force. You don’t bring a bazooka to a fist fight!
HOW CAN YOU PROTECT YOURSELF?
The best way to safeguard yourself against criminal consequences in the event that you must protect yourself is to attempt to avoid or de-escalate dangerous situations before they start, and to protect yourself while doing minimal harm to the aggressor in the event that you can’t.
Remember that as a martial artist, although you might have the ability to hurt another person, recklessly harming someone, even an attacker, can leave you in a precarious legal predicament. It’s important for you to be familiar with your state laws. Protect yourself, but don’t ruin your life in the process.