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The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy,
but does not allow the enemy's will to be imposed on him.
                                  Sun Tzu

Effective vs. Lethal

Not too long ago Alain Buresse pointed out a "Hey wait a minute" issue. It is an idea that is a commonly accepted in certain circles, but when you stop and think about it, it really doesn't make sense. In so-called combat systems  -- ones that market themselves by claiming to be able to teach you to deatroy an opponent -- they both advertise and preach doing multiple lethal blows.

The question Alain had is "If the first strike is lethal, does he get any deader with the next five?"

Proponents of these killer-kung-fu-commando styles commonly respond to such questions with such sage and wise statements as, "Well, yeah, but...but... even if he's fatally wounded he won't stop attacking!" 

Oooooh ... have that happen a lot do you?  

The reason I ask that is because, I -- who have seen a lot of violence in my life -- haven't seen it happen that much. Yes, I've seen it happen, but only under specific circumstances. Other reactions are far more common.

It's been both my experience and observation that in an overwhelming majority of cases, people who are seriously wounded aren't trying to attack anymore. What they are usually doing is desperately trying to withdraw, protect themselves from further damage. Putting that in simple terms, they're either trying to run or curling up or collapsing.

The truth is yes, they still could be dangerous. But in general, they tend to have other things on their mind than attacking you, UNLESS you are still attacking them!

Think long and hard about what I just said. Because what I have seen a lot of is a wounded person who has to continue to fight because his opponent continues to attack. As such the wounded person has to keep on fighting to prevent further damage.

In these circumstances any potentially dangerous action on their part tends to be defensive in nature. That is to say more an attempt to ward you off. They're trying to keep you from inflicting further damage. As such, the reason you would be in danger isn't because he's still attacking you. But rather because you are putting yourself in range as you continue to attack him with your next five lethal blows.

The thing is if you mention the fact that a seriously wounded individual will usually attempt to retreat, most martial artists will look at you blankly. That's not in their training paradigm. According to their training: You HAVE to do those six lethal blows because he won't stop attacking.

That doesn't exactly gel with reality (1)

What I am saying here is while it is true that someone can indeed take a wound that will eventually prove fatal -- and continue to function for a short period of time -- there are many factors involved in that situation. Factors that extend far beyond the move itself (e.g. the preceding footnote). But both the idea of needing multiple death blows and the common response of why you have to go kung-fu-killer-commando on an attacker are based on a common misunderstanding. A misunderstanding that we want clear up with this page.

And here it is: 
There is difference between effective and lethal. Most people don't know this.

It is critical to separate these concepts in order to be effective. Failing to do is a major contributor to both the confusion of martial artists and the distrust of LEOs regarding their defensive tactics. The two are not synonymous. There is a massive difference between an effective move and a lethal move. Just because a move is lethal, doesn't mean it is effective.

And, just as salient of a point, just because a move is effective for ending a conflict, doesn't mean it is lethal.

Unfortunately, much of the crap that is taught out there is neither

This, more than anything else why that nonsense of you having to do six lethal moves on someone is commonly taught. There is a good chance that what you think will work, won't

 It is not uncommon for people who have been trained in non-effective techniques to think that the way to make them work is to do them harder. The whole lethal strike myth is this misconception taken to an extreme. It is the myth of doing an ineffective move so hard that it kills someone -- thereby compensating for its ineffectiveness.

Such an approach is literally a "We have to get out of this hole boys! Dig faster!" way of thinking. An ineffective move is still an ineffective move, no matter how hard you do it. Or how often.

Your goal in training needs to orient on becoming effective at neutralizing your opponent as quickly as possible. By neutralizing we don't mean kill, we mean making it so he cannot continue to attack you.

That's our definition of effective.

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1) More specifically, my question is: If the guy still attacking you is such a concern, what have you been up to? What have you been doing that someone would have that kind of commitment to die in order to get you? Because simply stated, most criminals don't have that kind of commitment to keep on attacking when severely wounded. It is important to realize that most crime isn't personal. You are a means to an end (e.g. a source of money), it has very little to do with who you are.
In order for someone to still keep on attacking you when grievously wounded, there -- almost universally -- has to be a very serious personal reason. This time it is you he's after. You've had to give him a reason to keep on attacking! And those reasons usually have occurred long before the violence erupted. (For example you burned him in a drug deal or slept with his wife.) Now, not to rain on any "surviving ragnorak" fantasies, that reason is going to come out in court and you will be held accountable for it. Return to Text

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