Your rank and self-defense?

Application of law is the great mystery in life gichen. My reply to those who ask is "do what is right," by that I mean what your moral/ethical conscience tells you to do. That advice is given only to reasonable people. We all know the psycho's who are unpredictable and unreliable to those I give a firm "I dunno".

I also encourage others to develop and explore the area of moral/ethical standards as an on going exercise in life. That is just me rambling on......
So as Dennis Miller says "I could be wrong."

There was a question on the Uechi-Ryu forum about a student's fear of attaining 'rank' for fear it could be used against him should he need to defend himself. I thought a general reply was needed. Here's what I wrote:

The reality of 'self-defense' must be explained to this person.

His 'actions' will be looked at not his rank.

Negligence is negligence.

Excessive force is excessive force.

It doesn't matter if you're a white belt or black belt.

The issue of self-control is an important one and certainly one of the reasons good training is important; the ability to walk away is crucial.

But this student [and many others] needs to understand some fundamentals about personal safety and the filter general self-defense laws view it through.

If danger is imminent then action is required. But what action??? Citizens are required to avoid not engage [as opposed to police or soldiers in specific cases].

This is often where a problem occurs because hours upon hours and years of training create a 'Pavlovian' trigger to stay and confront the problem.

*That is why I have physically taught fleeing in our simulations as a mandatory part of the simulation exercise. TALKING about it as an option is not enough - you must do it in training to make it real.

Can 'we' fight back? Yes of course. To what degree? Depends on the danger. This is where understanding applications of force is important and self-control again. Why? Because the Law in most cases demands that force must parallel danger [Don't ask me how to measure that in the heat of the moment!!] but ultimately on judgment day someone will ask 'why?'

So credible training for credible situations must involve escape, controls, subduing and incapacitating as part of the curriculum and then the individual must evaluate the danger and appropriately select the tools and level of force.

Whether you're a black belt or not or have no martial background will not matter if those basic guidelines are followed and understood. Someone's ' martial history' comes into play is when there is a gray area regarding the amount of force used and then we may be judged by a 'higher standard'...for example:

JUDGE: "But with your training, couldn't you have held the person rather then snap his neck and disembowel him Mr. Jones???"

YOU: "Er, I suppose..."

That would be bad.

More food for thought:

Someone who emphasizes grappling submissions may find themselves in a lot of trouble in a multiple assailant scenario or weapon confrontation.

A stand-up fighter might be overwhelmed if attacked while seated and the fight immediately goes to the ground.

The art of self-defense requires far more explanation and exploration than merely focusing on the physical. Aside from training the mental/ psychological and emotional arsenals, we must also learn how to apply, adapt and wield these tools in the real world which is both violent [at times] and litigious [most of the time].

Hope this helped.

Tony Blauer


Rank equals training and in some places a trained fighter is in SERIOUS trouble if he doesn't do things the way the local law enforcement folks think he should.

I spent about $5,000.00 in upstate NY to keep out of Jail when I interviened on a guy choking out his girl friend; then he returned with friends...

It was a mess.

The key is trained fighter. Those are words used in the law books.

There are some good books out there that deal with this issue.

Mr. Tripp, as a police officer, I feel interviened might be the key word in your post. I applaud people who get involved, but some officers/prosocuters/judges dont. Self-defense is self-defense and excessive force is excessive force regardless of training or lack of. The key in most police arrest reports is the phrase, "minimum amount of force needed to effect the arrest". This can be manipulated for a self-defense situation if in fact minimum is the case.


Sometimes the end result of a 'good Samaritan's' action is less than desirable, as in your case.

Allow me to make an observation about your post:

Your message creates a generalization about police and actions, legal fees and so on which I disagree with. It is crucial that we don't deter acts of bravery or de-motivate ourselves or others by creating generalizations or misinformation.

You seem to confuse some important issues regarding the Law vs. justice; the legal system and Rules of Engagement. Your current 'belief', if embraced, can hinder you, your students and those less informed individuals who are reading this, from taking action if they believe it is too costly to 'help out' and that trained fighters are held to a higher standard.

The reality, like I wrote in my original post, is that 'judgment' really has little to do with your rank or your style. That perception would eventually lead to more convolutions of that logic and soon lawyers would argue that a Gracie black belt should be held more accountable than a black sash in Tai Chi just because the Gracie's have won the UFC.

In lay terms, the 'Rules of Engagement' are simple. You must be in danger. Avoidance cannot be an option. You can then defend yourself until the person is no longer a danger [at that time not permanently!!!] using a force that parallels the danger. Then you must stop.

Pretty dogmatic and certainly difficult to embrace during a very emotionally crisis but still, it is linear and fairly clear.

I suspect your problems in NY resulted in the second confrontation, the one that resulted after you stopped that 'tuff-guy' from choking his girlfriend. Had it ended after you stopped a guy from killing a woman, I don't think anyone would have said a thing.

Though I can appreciate your point [as you'll soon read] the bottom line is that there are legal 'rules' determined to create filters so that those in the legal profession can evaluate behavior in a more cut & dry fashion. Though there are many many limitations with this process, it is the process and anyone who studies fighting must also study how their craft may be viewed.

FYI: This happened in 1976 when I was 16 years old:

Some 17 jerk tried to sexually assault two friends of mine; they managed to flee.

I found out, was livid and then went to the guy's house, rang his bell, when he answered the door I really rang his 'bell'.

The result of my chivalrous act?

1.I broke my hand on his head during the fight.

2.The fight moved into his hallway...I was charged with B&E.

3.There was a dinner party going on, that I noticed only after I knocked the guy out, nano seconds later I was being chased by two of the guy's uncles.

4.I smashed the back end of my car during a high speed chase to escape the irate uncles [$600 damage].

5.I got home 2 hours later to a very hysterical mother who already had been interviewed by two detectives.

6.I was being charged with B&E, Assault & Battery, I had a broken hand and I was grounded from using the car J

Did I do the right thing? Ethically, morally legally? Answers vary. But, based on the rules of engagement for self-defense, I was completely wrong, I broke them all and paid for it. Was I emotionally right? Sure. But you cannot hope that everyone involved in the aftermath is sympathetic to your 'feelings'.

In my case, charges were dropped when the predator's father found out why I had done it and the two girls filed a police report [the next day]. But it was a huge mess for many weeks.

Bottom line: do what's right.



Excellent post Tony,

As both, a matial artist and a LEO, i respect the
concerns of the original post. However, without these
laws and rules of conduct, the area seperating Predator
from Prey would be blurred at best. Yes, we all have
right to protect ourselves when confronted with
potentially violent situations. However, once we have
succeeded in doing just that and continue to
adminster what is perceived as justice at the time, we
have just reversed the roles and have become the

As Coach Blauer had indicated above, it is the actions
of the individual that shall be evaluated at the end,
not his/her rank in a specific system/style. As LEO's
we are constantly questioned as to whether or not we
could have used different aspects of our training to
change the outcome of an incident. However, it was
through Coach Blauer that i gained one of the most
important tools to assist me in this area. Remeber,
it is the scenario, more specifically, the actions of
the subject that dictates what we will do to control
or end the scenario. Keep in mind however, that once
it is over, it is over!

I hope that some of this makes sense.

Stay Safe


I think you might have read too much into my point.

In point of fact I would do EXACTLY what I did again; even if I knew it would cost me jail time. The cost to my soul if I did nothing would been far worse.

My only point is that the law DOES speak of "trained fighters" as a different thing than "joe blow". As such we should know that and be aware of how it effects us in what State.

Black Belt has an excellent book and tape series on this subject and I think it would be good for people to read and understand the points made there.

No more and no less.

That's good. In defense of my post and the ones I inspired, remember, I can only read into what is written and your initial post implied a 'sour' taste regarding intervention.

As for a book form Rainbow regarding the law, as enlightening as it may be, I'm not sure it is mandatory reading at Harvard Law School or cited much inc ourts {I'm being facetious, bear with me].

The points of my post and the police officers who posted who represent those who will arrest and/or interview us, are simply that the scenario and the circumstances and the AMOUNT of force used in relation to the AMOUNT of danger presented is what is looked at, not whether you are trained or not. DOes that mean the term doesn't appear in legal jargon? No. It just means its contextual.

Any lawyers lurking??


Interesting post.

Makes one think about the consequesnces following the actuall event.

Well all the best.

I feel training for Over kill is a good thing in the case of a drug crazed pyscho, because you never know.

I guess the saying
"it is better to be judged by 12 than to be carried by 6"
comes into it then.

How though can one justify themselves after the situation when at the time It feels so real and life threatening even if it wasn't.

Your perception was this and you honestly felt it yet
the "evidence" was that so you are charged for using excessive force. Even though intially you were the victim, what a funny world we have.

It is hard prove if you are telling the truth, afterall truth is merely perception.

Kym Robinson, Australia

Yes, Tony, I'm lurking.

And I did some of the research that found its way into THE LAW AND THE TRAINED FIGHTER. The author is a law school graduate and formerly a practicing attorney. I don't agree with him on everything in the book.

I don't have time at this minute to address this thoroughly, but when I do I'll post my thoughts here and on the Uechi-Ryu-Forums.



It seems to me that that this thread is missing something.

What we choose is what we choose!

I have a whole collection of Black Belts and I earned every one. But I've done lots of other things that make me a bigger liability to a bad guy.

Let me offer one of my own "stories" about getting arrested.

Many years ago I had a student who was especially promising and who worked for me at a restaurant. He was a great kid and I owed him a lot of favors for all the extra shifts that he covered, etc. He called in one of those favors by asking me to come to a big party his fraternity was giving (if you knew what I thought of the "Frat" culture, you'd know what a big favor this was!)

At the party there was a your woman who got very drunk and I over heard four guys "plans" for her when she came out of the bathroom. (One would get her upstairs, the others would join him.... It didn't sound like anyone was interested in getting her consent and one of the guys even said "she's so hammered, nobody will believe her if she says anything."

I intervened and it got ugly. Six people (including myself) went to the hospital. About sunrise I was charged with assault (2 counts).

I was a bad guy long before I was a good guy and so I knew how the system worked, I also new that I choose to do what I choose to do.

When I finally got in front of the judge I told him the truth. I said, " I did, what I did, it was a good thing, I saved a young lady from a world of misery. I did it the only way I knew how at the time when action was necessary and if there is a punishment that comes with that – I'm ready to take it. Before you tell me you decision, think about how happy you would be today if the girl I saved from a gang rape was your daughter.

The case "went away", even the arrest record was expunged.

Granted, I was lucky. But my message is this....

Tony Blauer teaches us to decide IN ADVANCE if we are going to defend ourselves. My advice is to also decide if you will defend others and accept the results.

For lots of us, it's how we choose to live.

When you see me at the next PDR – ask me about some of these types of insodents that are

Be safe !


I have been a Police Officer in NYC for 18 years. Some body correct me if I am wrong, But according to the NYS Penal Law their is no reference to a "trained fighter" What is important in the use of force is to determine whether it was necessary, minimal and reasonable. Also in NYS a civilian has a "Duty to retreat" That pretty much insures that force will be used in self defense. If you could demonstrate that you could not flee that would be an argument in your defense. As far as coming to the aide of another the best thing for untrained and well meaning civilian to do is call 911 and provide an accurate description of the event and participants. So the Police could perform their job more effectivly. This is coming to someones aide and not placing your self in jeopardy of physical,criminal and civil liability.

Mr. Stagner, welcome back to the Mental Edge. Good post. And thanks to the others for their thoughts.

Reality is relative, who knows which way the chips what is right for you, but understanding self-defense theory is critical in this day & age.

Bottom-line: This is a good thread, it educated and maked 'us' think, what else it there?


From my perspective as a leo and defensive tactics trainer I'll give my thoughts.

The law enforcement standard for use of force is OBJECTIVE REASONABLENESS, (in the United States), this standard is found in Graham v. Conner 490 U.S. 386, 109 S.Ct.1865.

In my state reasonableness is the key for both law enforcement and civilian use of force. As is the case in most places an officer makes his decision regarding arrest, and then a prosecuter will decide if he will go forward. There is no duty to retreat.

First of all the best technique of all is the "tactical retreat." If your not there you don't get hurt, period. The more difficult is the moral/ethical decision making. It is a fine line between victim and assailant in a physical confrontation. You may begin as a victim and end up in a 6x9 cell talking to bubba, if yourn actions are not reasonable.

This is an area that will always be clear as mud and need evaluation on an individual basis. In my state martial arts training would only be of investigative importance in regards to the actions taken. Those actions will be evaluated based upon the reasonableness of what occured.

Thanks Mongo.


"Clear as mud" so true. Unfortunatly I do not think the application of the law is so objective, thanks to social and political pressures. I guess a person must act reasonably and let the chips fall where they may. Plus a good liar for hire, oops! I mean lawyer.

This is fantastic!

I am not so sure morals as law would be the answer. Whos morals? remember the Spanish inquistion.. and numerous other examples. As far as intervening before a crime takes place, you just have to be able to articulate why you took a course action. It should be what a reasonable man who do in those circumstances. As far as martial arts expeirence gos and the law. If you were arrested and charged it could be an issue at trial. But at least in NYS it would not increase the seriousness of the offense. Only your actions can do that.

Question for Tony not meant to derail the discussion.What would you have done differently, if anything, when you were 16, if you knew then what you know now?Doing the impulsive right thing versus the smartest right thing is what I'm asking ?And my own story.When I was 19 my mother's boyfriend assaulted her. He gave her a black eye and a fractured cheekbone and orbital bone. I found out about it about 36 hours after it happened and was unsuccesful in hunting him down. I planned on hurting him really bad and paying no heed to possible consequences. I searched for him a solid 10 hours before I came down from my rage. I convinced my mother to file a police report. I never felt before or after such anger. I remember feeling numb for the first couple of hours, then crying while I was searching and finally just drained before I gave up and went home at about 5 AM. Once I was drained I started thinking about jail, legal expenses and remotely about being hurt myself. Had I found him in the first couple of hours It would have been bad for both of us. I felt like I was running on autopilot for a little while although "I planned on hurting him really bad ".I'll never know how finding him or not finding him affected my life or changed who I am today, 27 married and a father. I've competed in exactly 35 amateur matches (Grappling,Shootfighting,MMA and Full Contact Freestyle Kickboxing) without ever calling upon anger (fear occasionally, anger never) or specifically conjuring the above memory. I'd like to think I'm me because of the choices I make above all other factors. gichen - thanks for the NY info. I've been in NJ for life and never thought about "duty to retreat" obligation laws. However I will look into for my own state. See you on the mat,Eddy Rolon 1999 NAGA Intermediate Super Heavyweight Champion2000 ISFA Northeast Regional Shootfighting Heavyweight Eddy Rolon's (nhbnj) Mixed Martial Arts

Great thread...what it REALLY comes down to is this: how will it be played out in Court? I say we need a "Common Sense Doctrine" to law; that is if a defendant tries to get off by claiming he was (pick one) drunk, abused as a child, high on drugs, didn't aim at a specific person, or any other B.S. reason, the Prosecutor should be able to claim: Your Honor, the State invokes the Common Sense Doctrine, therby throwing out the B.S. defense by the defendant! Would'nt that be great?!