Monday, February 3, 2014

A Circumstantial Problem Of Perspective

One of the instructors at my local Krav Maga school has written an article titled Legal Issues Surrounding Use of Force and Krav Maga which is published on the East Texas Krav Maga school web page.  While generally well written and quite informative, in my judgement the piece suffers from a particularly dangerous failure of perspective as a result of the author's contextual assumptions.

As a former police officer, Paul Landreth-Smith appears to have approached his topic from the perspective of someone who enjoys benefit of the legal notion known as qualified immunity as well as the assumption that individuals interests are best served by providing all the information possible to law enforcement agents following involvement in a violent incident.  While this may in fact be the case for a member of law enforcement (and my reading shows that opinion is not universal), I believe that advice is a particular disservice to the vast majority of non-law enforcement Krav Maga students as well as all people who lawfully carry a firearm in their own right.

The wealth of detail Paul Landreth-Smith offers regarding recording the incident you were involved in is quite comprehensive and useful to your defense counsel.  And here we see how Paul's assumption based on Qualified Immunity misinforms his thesis; Paul is quite correct that all of the data he itemizes is necessary to a proper defense of the Krav Maga student, but the assumption that law enforcement is necessarily concerned with your defense is potentially a tragically mistaken one.

The other error of assumption the author makes is to base the choice of whether or not to engage the skills learned in Krav Maga from any other standpoint than, "Does this act meet the legal standard of self defense?"  Paul Landreth-Smith rightly dismisses the nonsense notion of there being any requirement to declare your martial arts training status (and more generally, that you are armed at all), but he fails to specify the legal requirements for an individuals actions to qualify as self defense.  This, especially combined with the other error cited above, makes his article very problematic.

In brief, a claim of self defense requires that a hypothetical other person would concur that your actions were both reasonable and proper in the circumstances in which they occurred.  In my judgement, every student of Krav Maga (most especially to include anyone who owns or carries a firearm on their person) must base there decision to engage in violence with another on this principle alone.  Unlike law enforcement, as a general rule people do not have any requirement to engage in violence with other people (as I understand it, the requirement for law enforcement to do so is the fundamental justification for Qualified Immunity).  Granted, in most US states people famously have the right to "Stand Your Ground", but all that really means is there is no lawful requirement to retreat from threat.  As Krav students, this means we don't have to try to "run away, run away", but that also doesn't obviate our requirement (just like every other reasonable and law abiding person) to avoid physical conflict whenever circumstance permits.

I commend Paul Landreth-Smith for extending this discussion to specifically include Krav Maga students.  I believe I have illustrated how my fellow students might further benefit from debate about possible refinement or expansion of this discussion as part of our Krav Maga training.  In that vein, I suggest that inclusion of legal experts on this specific topic might be of value.  For now, I encourage my fellow Krav students to adopt the Self Defense legal standard as their own metric by which to weigh their decision whether or not to use their Krav training, in addition to applying as much of Paul Landreth-Smiths advice in supplying their defense council with as much data as possible, should they ever have to choose to fight. 

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