I have just finished an article for our newsletter answering the question "When can you use MA in self defence" as it is one of the most frequently asked questions.
I would appreciate your opinions, on how clear it is, how responsible (or not) as an instructor and (from those who know UK law only) how accurate it is.
When reading, please bear in mind that it will be read by adults and children of all levels of ability. Here goes:
This is a very grey area to say the least. Basically the law states that a person may use “reasonable force” to defend themselves against an attack against their person or their property or to defend another person who is unable to defend themselves. The problem lies is the fact that one person’s idea of reasonable force may be very different to another persons (and judges and juries are people too). In order to use a self defence plea in court, you have to prove that you had good reason to believe that your personal safety or your personal property or the safety of another was at risk and that you did not use more force than was necessary.
Put simply, this means that if somebody attacked you and you could stop them without hitting them at all, then that is what you should do . If you believe you are in grave danger, and have to strike them you should only use as much force as necessary to stop them. If they end up on the floor, there is no need to beat them senseless. On the other hand, the amount of force deemed necessary is in proportion to the severity of the attack or the perceived threat of attack. If you have an honestly held belief that an attacker means to kill you or do you serious harm, it is reasonable to use extreme measures to save yourself. You do not have to wait to be attacked before taking action, but can take pre-emptive action if the threat or perceived threat is severe.
Carrying anything that could be described as an offensive weapon is illegal, but if you are attacked and pick up something to use against your attacker that is a different matter. This is called a weapon of opportunity and is allowed in law as long as the above criteria are met.
You should always report any attack, even if you are unhurt and nothing is stolen. Children should obviously tell a teacher if it happens in school and should tell their parents whether it is in or out of school. Adults should always report it to the police. This is because if your attacker feels aggrieved that you have defeated them, they may make a report about you.
As martial artists, we have a huge responsibility to use our training wisely. The best form of defence is to avoid physical confrontation entirely. If confrontation is truly unavoidable, escaping unhurt and reporting the incident is far more important than “winning” a fight.
In conlusion, I must make it clear to all students that whilst I want you all to be safe and would be pleased if the training I have given you saved you from being hurt, I can not and will not condone misuse of your martial arts skills. Any student found to be using martial arts in a dangerous or inappropriate manner would be asked to leave the club. If anyone is unclear about any of the foregoing information please ask me about it.
That's all, please be frank but constructive.