The legality and ethics of pre-emptive striking

Discussion in 'Self Defence' started by Matt_Bernius, Dec 30, 2004.

  1. Matt_Bernius

    Matt_Bernius a student and a teacher

    This discussion is carried over from this previous thread. I will ask that for the sake of discussion we keep this restricted to interpersonal conflict rather than including international conflict.

    So... here's the big question. In most countries, if you have the right to defend yourself against an agressor. And that can include pre-emtively hitting a person who is threatening you with physical harm.

    But what are the ethical concerns? Is it ok to sucker punch someone who you think is going to punch you or worse?

    - Matt
  2. YODA

    YODA The Woofing Admin Supporter

    I think the essential issue here is in the word THINK in your final question....

    "Is it ok to sucker punch someone who you think is going to punch you or worse?"

    No - it is not.

    "Is it ok to sucker punch someone who you honestly believe is going to punch you or worse?"

  3. Wax

    Wax Valued Member

    In WT we are taught to strike before they do. I'm only a small fella and if I get hit by a big dude I will be struggleing to make any kind of defence to the follow up. As this may make us look like the aggressor we are taught to make at least one clear step bact before they enter strikeing range, to show any witnesses that we are on the defensive.

    As for the ethical questions, if I think I am about to be hit and I have no place to run I will strike without guilt.
  4. OBCT

    OBCT New Member

    I was out in town one night, lad pushed me (He wasn't around, in the toilet i guess, I saw a single girl which turned out to be his girlfriend if I could buy her a drink) said "You starting ?" etc, I appologised, I backed away, took the peaceful route and out of nowhere, I took a haymaker above my left eye, knees buckled a little, eyes juddered, it was horrible. Now I'll always strike first.

    It sounds so nice where I

    IMO, ethically just use common sense and deal with the situation accordingly.
    If it's a drunk mouthy teen, walk away. If he follows and keeps grabbing you, put him on the floor softly, O'Goshi, something none too dangerous.
    If you are genuinely affraid the attacker will damage you, then hit one of those buttons (knock him out).
    If you're stuck, about to be done in and in fear of your own mortality, anything goes, bite, scratch, biro, mobile, cred cards untill you create the space to escape.
  5. Matt_Bernius

    Matt_Bernius a student and a teacher

    A very wise and critical symmantic difference there Yoda. I'm writing that down and altering my vocabulary when I talk about this.

    - Matt
  6. old timer

    old timer Just well worn !

    A good way to "test" if someone is in your face, take one small step back, you will probably adjust your stance automatically, slowly raise your hands and slowly extend one arm out like a halt towards his chest this serves as a distance gauge, he will now make his decision to strike you or not, either way you already have the advantage of being in stance and hands up pretty close to the face, now if you think that your safety is about to be compromised hit him as hard and fast as you can, when the task is done, vanish, dont hang about for bouncers, police etc. As a word of caution from experience before you get in a situation be aware of any security cameras within that location, we even have them outside now in the town centres.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2004
  7. MarioBro

    MarioBro Banned Banned

    I agree with the above 95%. If they are in your face to the point that you honestly believe they are going to attack, then you have to defend yourself pre-emptively or chance serious harm. However, I would also feel OK striking first even if I only think they are about to attack.

    I look at it this way:

    The other guy may mean me great harm (heard of curbing? ) whereas I would only intend to defend myself. If I have to knock him out to do so then I know I will not continue attacking once he is down, whereas the other guy has happened way too many times (not to me personally). I have a family to look after and so I would never risk serious injury or death (as well as the simple survival instinct factor) in order to avoid hurting a guy who is in my face to a degree that I feel in danger.

    Don't get that close and aggressive and all will be fine.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2004
  8. mystererae

    mystererae Valued Member

    I'm mostly with Yoda - but then, I could probably see myself giving a good sucker punch even to someone who was harassing me (sexually, verbally, etc) if I was harassed enough. What woman has an ethical problem with slapping someone who is getting fresh? I'm not talking about actually causing harm, though.

    As Yoda said, if I honestly believed I was about to be attacked, I would attack first if I thought my chances better. If someone is in my face saying that he (or she) is going to hit me, I'll have to take them as a person of their word.
  9. madfrank

    madfrank Valued Member



    There are rituals of attacking which as martial artists we should all be aware of, if the aggressor is displaying these or some of them it is reasonable to assume he is going to attack, in which case in my opinion a pre emptive strike is warrented.

    If someone is in my face poking at me adjusting his stance getting monosylabic I'm gonna hit him.

    why give the bad guy the benefit of the doubt?

    if he connects you could lose your life!!!

  10. madfrank

    madfrank Valued Member


    Sorry i didnt address the legality issue.
    I have been told by policmen if you thought and can give reason as to why you thought your were in danger you are likely to not get prosecuted for hitting first.

  11. YODA

    YODA The Woofing Admin Supporter

    Don't tell a Policeman you THOUGHT he was gonna hit you. Tell him you were scared and you BELIEVED he was gonna hit you.
  12. Timmy Boy

    Timmy Boy Man on a Mission

    I think that if people don't want to get punched they shouldn't go around trying to intimidate and/or harm others. I don't feel bad about it when I hit people who give me aggro, they should have left me well alone.
  13. Hannibal

    Hannibal Cry HAVOC and let slip the Dogs of War!!! Supporter

    We are a bit flexible on semantics you know!
  14. Nick K

    Nick K Sometimes a Valued Member

    I'm pretty sure YODA is legally more or less correct. The other variable is what is 'reasonable force'. There is I think a different standard applied for different situations, so (for the sake of argument, let's not get too caught up in these particular examples) if you are an able-bodied man in a minor road rage incident where there was pushing and shoving, use of a weapon would not be regarded as reasonable, whereas if you were a pensioner attacked by a knife weilding assailant it might be. My better half (who is a lawyer) tells me that the courts generally make a gender distinction as well, and that use of weapons or more marked violence by women is more likely to be regarded as reasonable. This may simply be anecdotal, however.
  15. Hannibal

    Hannibal Cry HAVOC and let slip the Dogs of War!!! Supporter

    Reasonable is dictated by what are referred to as "Impact Factors" - I am sure this has been covered adequately elsewhere, but as a quick refresher it can be things like:

    Number of attackers
    Relative size of attacker/defender
    Relative Skill levels
    Any Weapon?
    Positive mind set of attacker
    Intoxication level (=higher pain threshold)

    You get the gist.

    Contrary to popular belief, we (as in "The Police") will not lock you up for defending yourself. You have to do something pretty serious to the attacker OR say something damn stupid in interview!

    I have said it before and I'll repeat it here again:


    I am not advocating killing another, but you may one day have to to preserve your own life.

    For those who would never throw a first shot I wish you well, but I hope you never have to realise that it is not practicable.

    A scenario to mull over; you are out with your partner and leave to get an ice cream. As you come back you see they are getting hassle off an aggressive drunk. The drunk is shouting and splaying their arms and your partner is terrified. They have tried to talk the drunk down and failed and the drunk suddenly raise their handback in a threatening manner.

    What do you do?

    In particular I am interested in responses from the "pacifists" (group term, not a character criticism)
  16. OBCT

    OBCT New Member

    Sorry, i'm a non-pacifist, but my 2p:
    By grabbing my partners handbag, the drunk has attempted theft, and by first invading her personal space, and second grabbing her it's virtually sexual assault.
    I'd step between, my partner and drunk, obtain handbag, and push drunk away whilst stepping back (giving me a moment to take in the situation, and check my partner is okay)
    If the drunk persisted i'd like to say i'd go for a lock, or a sweep or a takedown, place them under citizens arrest for 'attempted theft' being 'drunk and disorderly'and 'sexual assault' and asking partner to call the Police.

    However, somebody doing that to my partner is something i'd feel fairly passionate about and i think i'd end up popping out a jab jab hook (i know it's wrong, but the drunk would hopefully learn their lesson)
  17. YODA

    YODA The Woofing Admin Supporter

    I'm not a pacifist either - I'd drop him like a bog seat :woo:
  18. Thomas

    Thomas Combat Hapkido/Taekwondo

    Great thread (and tough, too)

    In my opinion, I will do everything I can to avoid a physical confrontation (walk away, de-escalate, avoid those situations, etc.) and if I have to fight... then I will be as quick and efficient as possible.

    To do this, if I am sure (Yoda's "honestly believe") that it will become physical, then I have no problem with striking first and then getting out of there. As much as I trust the police, I would rather not wait around and risk further escalation of a situation (especially if there are other "bad guys" there).

    Hannibal's scenario: Bam! I'd drop the guy and get out out of there.

    My primary concern is protecting the safety and freedom of myself and the people I care for. Beyond that... they're on their own.

    For another scenario... as a teacher I sometimes encounter students who are going to fight or who are threatening me. I always use the de-escalation technqiues and give them a chance to back down and walk away (or I myself do, unless I am protecting another student or faculty member). So far I have not had to become physical yet with a student... but I would not hesitate to strike first if I had to. HOWEVER, with a student I would use an open hand strike or something to stun them without leaving marks... then go into a lock or escort technique. Each situation must be balanced by the level of threat and/or repercussions of what you do. I can probably get away with knocking out some drunk guy on the street but I couldn't get away with that on a student!

    (On a side note, I believe in being verbal... and would yell "Get your hands off me" or "Don't hit me again" as I pre-emptively strike... that's for the witnesses)
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2004
  19. kiaiki

    kiaiki Valued Member

    Pre-emptive striking is one area where a female has a definite advantage. She has the threat of violence and sexual assault from a male aggressor who will usually be larger and stronger, so her actions may be easier to defend as she may need to act earlier and hit harder than a male.

    On a second point, I was taught that there is a fine distinction in UK law:
    Assault does not have to include physical attack, which is 'battery'.
    Assault may include shouting threats of violence and/or blocking your escape and therefore your pre-emptive strike may be a defence against an existing assault, preventing it becoming worse.
    The sort of wording I recall was that if you believe a physical assault to be imminent, you may take physical action proportionate to the threat. Of course, you may need evidence, but if no witnesses are present, make sure your version is plausible - and get that in pre-emptively as well!
  20. Pastyti

    Pastyti Banned Banned

    Hey Yoda. Happy new year. Could you explain please, the difference between the two? Is it perhaps a matter of perception?

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