bunkai-jutsu-Blog

How To Improve Lower Back And Knee Function When In Pain

I recently received a email question from a gentleman who practices Shotokan Karate and is challenged with lower back and knee pain.
He has already adapted his stance accordingly and no longer pushes his lower abdomen/pelvis forward as he was originally taught to do.

His question to me was, did I have any further advice on improving knee and lower back function?

I’ve given a full answer in the video below, so I’m not going to repeat it again here.

If you have a particular challenge to your own martial arts training, feel free to drop me a line and ask me!

Self Defence & The Law

Something that is not always taken properly into consideration when we talk about self protection is where do we stand legally.  It’s all well and good if we successfully defend ourselves against an aggressor, but what does the law say if we end up seriously hurting or even killing that person?  Should our response always be proportionate to the attack?  How do we interpret minimum force and is it the same for everybody?  What if we make an honest mistake and end up injuring somebody?  Do we have to warn a would be attacker that we’re a martial artist?

As martial artists, we regularly train to hurt and damage other people, and to use a corny quote from Spiderman; with great power comes great responsibilities!

Ok, that’s a bit tongue in cheek, but many martial artists do have above average capabilities and it’s worth looking at our responsibilities.  Now when it comes to responsibilities, I’d say that works on 2 level; moral and legal.  For the purpose of this post, I’ll be focusing on the legal side, the moral side is a different discussion for another day.

Also, I need to specify that what I’ll be discussing here is the law in England & Wales (in the UK).  Things will vary in other countries and States so you’ll have to check the law where you live.  That said, the law is likely to be similar and this post should give you some ideas of what to look for and what questions to ask!

Leigh Simms
Leigh Simms, 4th Dan Karate & Solicitor

I also want to give credit where it’s due, a large part of the content below comes from a webinar hosted by Leigh Simms on this subject.  Leigh is a 4th Dan black belt Karate specialising in practical application of kata and is a solicitor who has studied UK Self-Defence Law in College, University and Post-Graduate courses achieving LLB with Honours and a Postgradue Diploma in Legal Practice.  And as if that wasn’t enough, Leith is author of the Amazon #1 best-selling book – UK Self- Defence Law: A Practical Guide to Understanding the Law of Defending Yourself.  So firstly, I want to thank Leigh for hosting an interesting seminar and for giving me permission to reproduce his content here.

Right, that’s the parameters, lets start:

Do I Have To Warn An Aggressor That I’m A Martial Artist?

Hmm most of us have heard that old chestnut before!  The short answer is NO!

I first heard this decades ago on a very old episode of The Saint, just before he beat the snot out of a bad guy.  I’ve heard it a number of times since, though never officially through any instructor or association!  However, there is one set of “reasonable force” rules which applies to everybody regardless of martial arts experience (or lack of)!

That said, if you should defend yourself and knock the other down, then play soccer with his head for 10 minutes, you might expect the fact that you’ve been trained to come up in the courtroom as part of the overall picture!  It won’t be helpful to you.

If I Defend Myself, Am I Required To Prove It Was Self Defence?

This one surprised me.  NO you don’t.  If you hit somebody (even in self defence), technically you’ve likely fulfilled the criteria of a criminal offence.  However, you have a lawful excuse (you were being attacked).  However, in criminal proceedings, if you claim self defence then the onus is not on you prove it in the first instance.  The burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove that it wasn’t self defence.

It should be noted that this is not the case in civil court should you be sued by the guy you defended yourself from.  In that case, it’s more on a balance of evidence rather than one side having the obligation to prove the other side acted incorrectly.

What Constitutes A Valid Claim Self Defence?

Basically, did you consent to take participate in a fight?  If you did consent, however much you may been provoked, no matter what the other person said about yo mama; the moment you decide you’re going to “sort it out”, you have consented to be part of the violence!  And however offended and aggrieved you might feel by what’s been said, you’re outside of the law and it’s not self defence.

When somebody forces you into a violent situation that you do not consent to being part of, then you can claim self defence and a number of rules change at that point.

When Can We Use Force For Self Defence?

You can defend yourself when unlawful force is being used.  This can be to protect yourself, to protect others, or to protect your property.  It can also include preventing a crime from happening or assisting a police office to make a lawful arrest should they be in need of assistance.

If however you’re being arrested, that is lawful force and you can’t claim self defence if you resist.

Am I Obliged To Use Minimum Force To Defend Myself?

Yes!  But here we open a whole can of worms.

If for example a drunken guy who is smaller than me try’s to attack me, the chances are that I would be able to control and restrain him.  If however the same guy attacks a 70 year old lady, she would have trouble controlling and restraining him; so she would need to use a more violent response.  If I were to push the guy to the ground, I could likely escape before he gets up.  If the 70 year old lady pushed him to the ground, it would be very unlikely that she could outrun him when he gets up and he’d likely catch up with her easily.  Then she’s lost all elements of surprise and he’s likely to be even more angry.  In short, she won’t get a second chance.  She has to do the job right first time.

So . . . . . . if there was a handy brick nearby and she hit him with it (assuming that all other options had failed) then she would likely get away with it.  I likely wouldn’t!  So minimum force is going to vary from defender to defender for a given threat.

Basically, it comes down to what is necessary to remove the threat of harm to yourself/others.

Does My Response Have To Be Proportionate To A Given Attack?

This is obviously related to the question above (one of the worms from that can I mentioned)!

No it doesn’t need to be proportionate, but it does need to be what you honestly and instinctively consider necessary at the time.  In the example above, I would have trouble selling it to a judge that honestly and sincerely considered it necessary to hit a guy with brick when he’s smaller than me and is too drunk to to fight properly.  A 70 year old lady might well honestly and instinctively feel that it was necessary to hit him with a brick as he could seriously hurt her, she wouldn’t be able to run away and her body being more frail would be injured much more easily.

Also, if somebody does hit you and you feel it’s necessary to hit them to stop them doing it again, then you’ll intuitively know that if the first strike does not incapacitate them, then there is a good chance that they are going to be angry and could come at you even more violently.  So if you do strike first, it might be necessary to hit them a number of times (even if they only hit you once) in order to ensure that they don’t come back at you even more intensely than before.  This is a judgement call you’ll have to make at the time.

But What If I Make A Mistake, If I Think The Threat Was Worse Then It Actually Was?

The law will take into account that under the effects of fear and adrenaline, you might make a mistake.  Adrenaline can potentially shut down a lot of our ability to think and rationalise.  Fortunately the law recognises that.  So as long as you acted honestly and instinctively, you can still claim self defence and can be acquitted.

The exception to this however, is if you were drunk or high on drugs at the time and you made the mistake due to your own altered state of mind.  It’s what’s called voluntary intoxication.

What If I Push/Hit Somebody In Self Defence & They Fall Back And Crack Their Skull Open & Die?

The key question is was your action reasonable?  It is not, what was the consequences of that action?

If somebody is assaulting you, then it is reasonable that you push them back.  We can’t always predict the outcome of a reasonable action.  So should they trip or fall, causing further damage then you are not responsible.  But again, we go back to whether or not you acted honestly and instinctively to do what was necessary.

Am I Allowed To Use A Weapon For Self Defence?

Yes, but again we go back to if you honestly and instinctively felt it was necessary to use it.  Carrying and using a katana would not be necessary against a smaller unarmed assailant.

However, it is not legal in the UK to carry a weapon, or to carry any object with the intent to use it as a weapon, (for example, a screwdriver, sharpened keys, etc); so you could end up on charges for that, even if your plea of self defence is accepted.

Am I Allowed To Strike First If Honestly Believe That I’m In Imminent Danger?

Karate lady preparing for a preemptive strike
Dawn lining me for a pre-emptive strike. Remind me not to pick on her again!

Yes!  But again, we go back to that honest and instinctive belief that it was necessary.  If somebody has their nose to your nose, is frothing at the mouth with rage and is telling you how much they’re going to tear you apart then do the same to your family; it would be suicide not to act first.  One quick head butt from them and it’s all over.  The law recognises that.

As a general rule of thumb, there are 2 indicators.  The first is that they are actually threatening you.  The second is that they are entering your personal space.  Your personal space can be marked by your own hands in what we call “the fence” position (see image to the right – hands open, palms down, elbows slightly bent).  It gives you a guard, whilst looking completely non-aggressive.  Should somebody threaten you and move close enough to compress your fence, then usually I’d say it’s time for a pre-emptive strike.  But again, bear in mind all the points above.

If I’m Threatened, Am I Required To Remove Myself From The Situation?

Yes, but only where reasonably practical.  If you’re out with your family and somebody initiates a situation; you wouldn’t be expected to run of and leave your wife and kids with an aggressor.  But where you can reasonably remove yourself from a situation, you should do so.  You can’t claim self defence if you could of walked away and a fight did not even have to occur.

 

Well that’s it, I hope you find it useful.  Just to recap, the above is the law for England & Wales (UK) and you should check the law in your own country/State.

Thank you again to Leigh Simms for his insights.  Leigh can be contacted through his website at:  www.leighsimms.com where you can download his free eBook on Understanding Kata Practically or book him for seminars on either self defence law or kata bunkai (both recommended)!  You can also contact him on Facebook through his Progressive Karate page at – https://www.facebook.com/leighsimmskarate/

If you found this of particular interest and want to look into it further, Leigh does have a book available on Amazon, just click on the image below.
Book on UK Self Defence Law

Disclosure:  The link above is an affiliate link, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.  

The Real Purpose Of Makiwara Training

Gichin Funakoshi on a makiwara

Personally, I like makiwara’s (padded striking post).  And I’m talking about the traditional post type which have a bit of give in them, as opposed to the wall mounted type which generally have no more give than the padding (though they can be good too).  Originally in Okinawa, a traditional “post” type makiwara would have it’s base buried in the ground for stability.  That is not always practical these days as your partner might not like the garden dug over to put a post in and here in the UK the weather isn’t very conducive for training outside much of the time!  I have one bolted to the floor in my loft which is more convenient.
Anyway, some people argue that as a makiwara has so little give in it when you hit it, your striking hand therefore is forced to stop very soon after impact.  So (it is argued) you don’t get the feeling of going through the target as you might when striking a punchbag or focus mitt and therefore you are training yourself to stop short.I respectfully don’t agree as I believe that if you Continue reading “The Real Purpose Of Makiwara Training” »

Is Preserving Traditional Martial Arts A Good Thing?

It is not uncommon to see martial arts adverts to the effect of “authentic such-an-such martial art”, or “we teach traditional such-an-such style, true to the teachings of the 34th Grandmaster of the whatever Shaolin temple”.

There is a certain logic to it. If something has been established to be effective, then by preserving it, theoretically you pass down something that continues to be good! If for example something has been tested on the battlefield (as many traditional arts have) and has been proven to be successful, then on the surface it would appear to make sense to preserve what has been proven to work rather than risk changing it to something that is unproven! Continue reading “Is Preserving Traditional Martial Arts A Good Thing?” »

Interview With Rob Jones, 5th Dan Karate & Founder Of Zenshin Dojo

Rob Jones & wife Kate
Rob Jones with his wife Kate

I first met Rob Jones round abut 2009 (I can’t remember the exact date/year). I’d been out training for number of years due to various domestic reasons and looking to get back into it. With the club that I’d previously been training with closed, I tried a couple of clubs in my area. During that search, I met Rob Jones and his club, Zenshin Dojo.

I didn’t end up training with them permanently as I was looking for a Shotokan club and Zenshin Dojo are Shotokai based. I’ve nothing against any other style of Karate and believe in learning from others; I just wanted to continue with my own primary style which was Shotokan.

However, I found both Rob and his members at Zenshin Dojo to be an extremely friendly group and very good at what they do. We’ve kept in touch over the years, I’ve been included in several of their functions both training seminars and social and I’ve even been invited to give feedback on one his students going for her 3rd Dan.

Continue reading “Interview With Rob Jones, 5th Dan Karate & Founder Of Zenshin Dojo” »

I first met Rob Jones round abut 2009 (I can’t remember the exact date/year). I’d been out training for number of years due to various domestic reasons and looking to get back into it. With the club that I’d previously been training with closed, I tried a couple of clubs in my area. During that search, I met Rob Jones and his club, Zenshin Dojo.

I didn’t end up training with them permanently as I was looking for a Shotokan club and Zenshin Dojo are Shotokai based. I’ve nothing against any other style of Karate and believe in learning from others; I just wanted to continue with my own primary style which was Shotokan.

However, I found both Rob and his members at Zenshin Dojo to be an extremely friendly group and very good at what they do. We’ve kept in touch over the years, I’ve been included in several of their functions both training seminars and social and I’ve even been invited to give feedback on one his students going for her 3rd Dan.

Continue reading “Interview With Rob Jones, 5th Dan Karate & Founder Of Zenshin Dojo” »

Ideas For Training At Home (Part 7): Mokuso (Meditation) In Martial Arts

It’s often said that the most important thing in self defence is the mind. Mokuso (meditation) is often skirted over in martial arts training, seen as just something to clear the mind before training and calm you down again after training.

But meditation is a method of developing the mind which has martial applications as well as being for self development and health. It allows better connection between the conscious and sub conscious minds, enabling better instincts and intuition to develop. This can carry into all areas of you life, but having a improved intuition has obvious applications for self defence.

Unfortunately it’s usually only done for a few minutes at the beginning and end of the class. It teaches us to quieten the conscious mind and, more importantly, to observe the conscious mind. If we can then introduce this practice of observing our conscious mind into our daily life, we become a lot more aware of all our negative thoughts and how we react to things on autopilot without actually thinking about it. This observation and awareness can over time weaken these automatic responses, allowing us to make better decisions and overcome knee-jerk automatic responses, which might not actually be in our best interests. This can apply in any area of our life, not just self defence!

Whilst many of are stuck at home in self isolation, this is a great time to practice meditations a bit more deeply.

Ideas For Training At Home (Part 6 – Breathing: Isolating The Diaphragm)

Diaphragmatic breathing is something I’ve covered in detail before, but it seemed a good time to revisit it with a lot of people self isolating and training from home at the moment. Correct breathing is very central to keeping you relaxed (hence fast) and generating high levels of impact. Some of this video may go against conventional wisdom, but give it a try and you’ll see it really works.

Ideas For Training At Home (Part 5 – Turning The Hip/Waist More Efficiently)

In most styles of martial art, many techniques involve turning the hips/waist one way or the other in order to transfer the body weight into the striking limb. This in turn adds power and speed to the technique being performed.

In this video we look at enhancing that hip/waste turn by maximising the way we use the legs.

Ideas For Training At Home (Part 4 – Learning To Engage Your Fascial System)

Part 4 of ideas for training from home. This looks at a simple modification to your technique for more efficiently engaging the fascial system in the arms to make them faster and more powerful. After you’ve seen this, you’ll realise what’s been there all along in plain sight; yet most people never realised!

Please leave your comments and feedback below.

Ideas For Training At Home (Part 3 – Improve Punch Speed)

Right, this one is a short one. It’s a very simple exercise aimed at teaching you to remain very relaxed as you shoot your arm out without any tension or stiffness.
Please leave your comments below and let me know what you think.