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Avoidance & Escape

In Avoidance is 100% Effective, I wrote about how avoiding a physical conflict is the only way to be 100% safe. Any Karate technique can fail, and even if it works, you could be injured. Even the best fighter can get caught with a punch. I was watching MMA with my sons this afternoon. In the main event, this point was illustrated. The champion won, but only barely and near the end of the fifth round.

So we should try our best to avoid the use of Karate techniques. We should use Karate techniques only as a last resort -- when we have tried our best to avoid the attack but are left with no other way to protect our life or the life of a loved one.

I should add that I would not use Karate techniques to protect a physical object, such as my car. I have insurance for that, and my life is more valuable than my car.

But let's say it has become a last resort and I have to use Karate techniques to protect my life. Then what? What is my intention then?

My intent is to defend myself the best I can. If an opportunity to escape safely arises, I will take it. I will say this again. If I can safely escape, I will do so. In fact, my selection of techniques, if I have the time and opportunity to make a selection, will be geared toward escape. I want to get away. I want to run away. I do not want to fight and I am not trying to make a point.

Hey, if this guy is attacking me, he is committing a crime. I am an innocent victim. I am not fighting, I am defending myself. Once I decide to stay and fight (rather than take the opportunity to safely escape), I am no longer just defending myself. In fact, at this point, if I kill or injure that attacker I might have committed a crime and/or be liable for civil damages. The laws in various states and countries on that matter might differ. I am not trying to give you legal advice. But I hope you see the point. If I am defending myself as a matter of last resort and try to escape if it is possible to safely do so, that is one thing. But if I get caught up in the situation, do not take the opportunity to safely escape, and stand and fight, then that is another thing entirely.

I realize that it is difficult to determine whether a person is just defending himself or has gone beyond that -- this is something the courts would have to determine. And I suspect that a person's expertise in martial arts might be a factor.

Some people might be thinking -- "Hey, running away is a chicken thing to do, particularly for a Karate expert!"

Let me ask such people this. "Am I the judge and jury and perhaps even the executioner for the attacker?" If I decide to stay and fight when I could have safely escaped, and it so happens that I accidentally kill the attacker (he falls and hits his head on a fire hydrant), was I legally or morally authorized to do so?

Don't get me wrong. If my life is on the line and I cannot escape, or if my loved ones' lives are on the line and I cannot help them to safely escape, then I say you have to do what you have to do, and I would accept the consequences. In heaven, I think the angels would say, "What else could you have done? It could not be avoided."

And as I wrote earlier, if I decide to stand and fight rather than escape when I could have done so safely, who says that I will be successful? I could get injured or even killed. The attacker's friends might show up and then I would probably wish that I had run away when I could have.

So I think we have to teach our students that fighting is not the object. The strategy is not to fight, not even to defend ourselves-- if it is possible to avoid it. And then if we have to defend ourselves, and it becomes possible to safely escape, we should do so. Call it a "strategic retreat." This is not only the smart thing to to, and the right thing to do (legally and morally), it is the thing a Karate expert would do.

It is said that Karate begins and ends with respect. I would add that Karate is also characterized by a sense of restraint.

I want to add that Karate is a civilian art of self defense. A policeman does not have the luxury of avoiding an attack or escaping. A policeman has to protect the public. A person in the military has different objectives too. People in the military have to accomplish the given mission and protect themselves and their fellow soldiers. I know that I am over simplifying this but I am trying to clarify that my views about avoidance and escape are intended for the civilian situation.


Charles C. Goodin