In This Hub:
Who Commits Violent Crime?
Anger and Self-Defense
An Intro to Self-Defense
Assertive or Aggressive?
Are Martial Arts Self-Defense? Boundaries
Crime ISN'T a Fight
Finding Good SD Training
Five Stages of Crime
Legalities of SD
Mental Preparation
Nature of Violence
Personal Safety Pyramid
SD ISN'T Cut and Dried
Self-Esteem and SD

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“Anyone who clings to the historically untrue -- and -- thoroughly
immoral  doctrine that violence never solves anything I would advise
to conjure up the ghosts of Napoleon Bonaparte and the Duke
of Wellington and let them debate it. The ghost of Hitler
would referee. Violence, naked force, has settled more issues
in history than has any other factor; and the contrary opinion
is wishful thinking at its worst. Breeds that forget this basic
truth have always paid for it with their lives and their freedoms.”
                      Robert A Heinlein

Goals of Violent Crime

On this page:
Gaining Control | Why This is NOT a fight 

One of the biggest misconceptions -- and one promoted by martial art schools -- is that you can 'fight' a criminal. Short of putting the gun to your own head and pulling the trigger, we cannot think of a more reliable way to get your head blown off.

Now this is not to say that you cannot 'fight off' a criminal attack. Nor is it to say you cannot defend yourself using techniques common to martial arts training. Nor are we saying that martial arts training is useless.

What we are saying is: You cannot engage in a stand up, mano y mano sparring match with a criminal.

A criminal assault is not a fight. The criminal's intended goals are light years away from a fight. As such, using the strategies that you would use in a fight  (or a sporting match) isn't going to work. In fact, the strategies and tactics he is going to be using are designed to prevent you from being able to effectively resist.

So what are his goals and strategies?

Gaining Control
The words 'dominance and submission' are commonly bantered about in mixed martial arts circles. Another set of words that are over used by rape advocates is 'power and control'  -- especially in regard to the rapist's deeper motivations. While they have application in both the sports and psychological context, the usage of these words as related to criminal violence clouds the issue.

Putting it simply, the criminal must immediately gain control over your options or he risks getting his head blown off.

That puts a different spin on it doesn't it? If he does not immediately deploy overwhelming force to neutralize possible resistance the life on the line is his! Therefore the criminal must position himself to either offer you limited choices (comply or die) or no ability to resist at all (e.g. shooting you in the back of the head).

That's because anytime someone engages in physical violence the threat of damage goes both ways.

This is not going to be a violent encounter that escalates to violence in hopes of driving away a threat, abolishing or punishing unacceptable behavior or establishing social status. Nor is it going to be a drunken, drug, emotional, hormone fueled spiral that eventually erupts into violence. These kinds of motivations, behaviors and strategies are common to fights and assaults

Where fighting strategies do not work is when violence (or the immediate threat of violence is being use as a tool to achieve a condition where target has no chance to resist. Then the criminal can move onto achieving his next goal.

Why this is NOT a Fight
After the ability to resist is removed -- and a big part of removing the ability is removing the will to resist -- the violent criminal can move onto achieving his overall goal. The intention of the act determines what this overall goal is. Whether it be financial profit (robbery/mugging), homicide (whether retaliation or murder) or pathological gratification (serial rape/murder) the violent criminal can move onto his goal.

Common perception of a fight is two individuals striving against one another. That is the last thing a violent criminal wants to engage in. He wants what he wants from using violence and he wants to be done with you.

Although violence is always a tool to achieve an end, with a violent criminal there is not the gradual build up and escalation common to fights. He has come to the situation mentally prepared to do violence. This doesn't allow the average person to mentally shift gears and prepare to effectively defend themselves, much less work him or herself up into a rage where the normal inhibitions about committing violence are overwhelmed by anger and emotion.

Understanding the difference between criminal violence and fighting will help you understand why 'self-defense' cannot be simplistically framed in either context.

On one hand, there is no such thing as justifiable lethal force in an argument. While an argument can escalate to where lethal force is used, you must be careful that you are not the one doing the escalation. That's not self-defense, it's manslaughter. The same goes for going ballistic on someone and beating him to a bloody pulp. If the situation turns physical, a lesser degree of force must be deployed in order for it to be considered self-defense.

On the other hand, the same strategy that would successfully end a 'fight' will fail miserably against the level of force used in criminal assaults.

When one is trying to devise an effective self-defense strategy, there is no response that applies to both defending against criminal assault and victory in the sports ring. We know this is contrary to what the salesmen told you, but as the problem is varied, so too must be your response.


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