Ethics of Self Defense

A "fight" is an agreement between two or more people to try to harm each other. The person who inflicts the most damage on the other(s) is the winner. Our students at Lotus Dragon Authentic Chinese Tai Chi are forbidden to fight. Sifu Dug will not teach a person who abuses his/her martial arts skills.

Self-defense occurs when a person(s) is attacked by another individual(s) and therefore finds him or herself attempting to avoid, survive and escape from a violent incident with minimal injury to all parties involved. If the survivor should unavoidably harm his/her attacker while defending him or herself, this was an inevitable risk of the attacker's decision. However, once the attacker is unable or unwilling to continue his/her assault,  the survivor is morally obligated to de-escalate all violent response. If the defender fails to do this, he/she has become the attacker.

The responsibility of the survivor of a violent assault is to get away using the minimum force necessary and to try to escape unharmed. It is not their task to punish the assailant for his/her vicious violation of  one's person or safety. This is the responsibility of the police, the courts and whatever divine authority that you believe in. Once you're safe,the job of the survivor is finished.

While it is human nature and completely understandable to feel the need to lash out at someone who has tried to harm us or someone we love, we as martial artists are bound by the Wu Te to a higher moral code. There is an obligation that comes when we learn our martial skills, and it is our responsibility to control our emotions and not harm others because we are frightened and angry, even if "they deserve it".

It is also unsafe to stand toe to toe and engage your attacker. The longer you remain in a violent situation the greater your risk of injury. From this point of view all techniques that you use should be executed with the intention of stopping the attack and giving yourself an opportunity for escape. This is not a Kung fu movie--this is real life. Your health and your safety are at risk. If you live to tell your friends and family about the incident, then congratulations! You won!

Self-defense is not just limited to combat techniques applied after the assault has begun. There are 3 levels of self-defense technique:

  • Mental
  • Verbal
  • Physical

Each of these is applied as the situation escalates, without disengaging the previous levels.

Mental self-defense techniques consists of common sense, awareness and confidence. These are interdependent and all applied together. Avoid dangerous places, situations and people. Don't walk alone or park in dark, isolated locations; don't associate with criminals, people who abuse drugs and alcohol, or anyone who gives you the creeps. Be aware, raise your mental radar; make sure you can see everything in your general vicinity and watch to see who and what is around you. If something or someone make you uncomfortable leave and/or avoid it, even if you have to go out of your way. Be confident, don't act like a victim; walk with your head up and make sure people see that you see them. Know that it only takes a few simple techniques practiced regularly to give the advantage in a self-defense situation.

Verbal self-defense begins after someone has gotten past your mental radar. Use your voice to try to de-escalate the situation. But this will require that your mental self-defense techniques are operating at peak capacity. Demonstrate confidence--an attacker is not interested in being hurt. Be aware of the verbal and other signals the attacker is sending. Talk calmly or yell--only you can determine the appropriate verbal technique. You must also be aware of every move the attacker is making, your distance, the angle to you from them, and your advantages and disadvantages. You must be ready to act.

Finally, physical combat techniques must be applied if all the other levels of self-defense have failed to stop the attacker. However, the mental and verbal levels of self-defense must not be disengaged. Remember the attacker's intention and modus operandi are not predictable. You must be flexible; be ready to go directly from mental to physical self-defense swiftly in order to keep your advantage against the attacker. As long as your mental radar is engaged the attacker can't steal the advantage by surprising you. You continually must be aware of your surroundings, as well as your situation, and the attacker's position, condition and attitude. Use you voice to try to get help and scare the attacker away. Use your combat techniques to neutralize the attacker's ability to harm you and to get away as quickly as possible.

Self-defense is a legitimate use of your martial arts skills; needlessly harming other people is not. We must be aware of our intention and be sure that we are truly defending ourselves and not fighting or attacking another person because we are angry or frightened. If you must defend yourself, get out of harm's way as quickly as possible. Above all, put your well-being and safety first. I pray that you never have to use the information in this article.

If you know yourself and know your enemy you will never lose in a hundred battles. . .

The Art of War- Lao Tzu