Following up on fists

Last week in a fit of annoyance I hastily cobbled together a piece intended to demonstrate the danger posed by empty hands. The post seems to have taken on a life of its own, circulating farther and wider than I ever imagined it would. It’s always gratifying to see something I wrote circulate, but along with that comes some incorrect interpretations and ideas that should be corrected and some points that should be clarified…so here goes.

1. No, I’m not arguing that you gun down anyone who tries to lay hands on you.

Justifiable use of force, any level of it, is centered on the idea of reasonableness. A large percentage of people out there have this ridiculous idea that someone who attacks with “just” his fists is not really a threat, picturing the schoolyard dustups they saw as a kid. This is clearly not the case and the intention with last weeks post was to lay out a fact-based demonstration of the kind of danger empty hands/feet can pose. Nowhere did I argue that if anyone tries to touch you that it’s perfectly acceptable to shoot to slide lock.

Let’s say that for some reason Shelley Rae got angry at me and decided she was going to punch me in the face. Let’s freeze the mental camera at the moment she’s throwing a punch at me. Would it be reasonable for me to use lethal force against Ms. Rae at this point? It would be very difficult to make that argument seeing as how I have almost a foot in height on her and probably weigh at least 120 pounds more than she does. But let’s say that as I’m backing away from her fierce ginger fury that I trip and smack my head on the concrete, dazing me. While I’m on the ground seeing tweety birds let’s say she picks up a pipe straddles my chest and raises the pipe over her head to give her best Babe Ruth impression on my face. Same people, same size and strength advantage on my side…only now I’m not in a position where those things are a factor. Now I’m on the ground, barely conscious, and a good pipe swing from someone even as petite as Ms. Rae means coloring books for Christmas from then on, I’m facing the immediate possibility of death or serious injury. What was unreasonable while I was on my feet and at full capacity now may be perfectly reasonable now.

Many don’t seem to understand that use of lethal force (any force, really) is based upon an exigency, a set of circumstances where a reasonable person has cause to fear death or grave injury at the hands of a criminal aggressor. That exigency can appear in a flash and disappear just as fast. Something that starts out as a minor kerfuffle can quickly escalate into a lethal force situation, and something that started out on the brink of gunfire can quickly drop down to minor incident level. You as the good guy have to be able to adjust to what the situation calls for at the exact moment where you are taking action. As an example, I can’t tell you how many police officers out there have been in a situation where they were actually pulling the trigger on their issued weapon when the situation changed to the point where they didn’t fire the weapon. One of the key lessons Craig “SouthNarc” Douglass teaches in his programs is the requirement to scale up and down the level of force you use in response to the fluid circumstances of a violent encounter.

2. Correct…that actually wasn’t a mount.

I linked to a video last week showing Kongo winning a victory by referee stoppage in an MMA fight as a means of illustrating the “mount”. Some have noted that in the video Kongo wasn’t actually in a mount position, and that’s true. He wasn’t in a full mount position, as that requires having one’s hips above the hips of the guy on the bottom. To the average person who doesn’t know any better, though, it certainly looks like Mr. Kongo had “mounted” his opponent. The point wasn’t so much the technical details of the mount as I don’t think we have any solid information on the exact position Martin had on Zimmerman. It was used more to illustrate how a professional fighter with vastly more skill and experience than anyone on the street, facing a man that was roughly the same size and weight (fighters have to be in the same weight class) and yet unable to do much to intelligently defend himself while on the ground. Had Kongo been in a full mount it would have been even worse…but even just being on top of the other man gave him just about total freedom to hammer the losing fighter’s face at will. The referee had to stop the fight because even the professional MMA competitor who has spent countless hours in the gym preparing for that fight ended up helpless due to circumstances.

What we know for sure from eye witness testimony is that Martin was on top of Zimmerman throwing punches at will. If a professional can be rendered helpless through positional disadvantage in a controlled fight with rules, a person without all the skill and training is in no better position to use empty hands to defend himself/herself on the street in that position.

3. Yes, you really do need some relevant experience, training, or education to offer an intelligent opinion on use of force options against the sort of attack Zimmerman dealt with

Some folks seemed somewhat offended by the notion that if they hadn’t actually attempted to deal with the sort of problem Zimmerman faced that they weren’t qualified to talk about the options he had in that position. Well…sorry, sweetheart. Some things are true whether we like them or not. It’s difficult to take someone who has never been in a real fight seriously when they opine about the options one has while on the wrong end of a beating when I know court-certified experts in defensive tactics and use of force that have almost been beaten to death multiple times on the street due to their job’s requirement to interact with the criminal element. I wasn’t sharing information I got from the guy working the griddle down at the Waffle-House, folks. I shared some insight and information I’ve collected over the years from men who have considerable learning and experience on the topic ranging from legit black-belts in Brazilian Ju-Jitsu, MMA competitors, police defensive tactics instructors, and court-certified experts (meaning they have served as expert witnesses on multiple occasions) in the use of force.

Qualified opinions that are formed after considerable experience and study are worth more than other opinions. If that wasn’t true then there wouldn’t be a difference between licensed neurosurgeons and new-age “healers” who try to treat brain tumors with crystals and meditation.

4. Lots of people out there have a real problem separating hindsight from decision making in the moment.

I kept seeing over and over again comments about Zimmerman being ultimately responsible for “provoking” the situation by following Martin in the first place. Folks, I doubt that when Zimmerman first got out of his truck he had any idea that his life was about to take a big nasty left turn. “Well he should have known!” Riiight. I don’t know about you guys, but my crystal ball doesn’t work worth spit. I don’t have the ability to know where a situation is going to go when I’m in proximity with an unknown quantity. I’m betting most of the people hollering about that don’t have a crystal ball that works any better than mine does. If I combed through the lives of people saying that I can just about guarantee I’d find situations where they did things that could be argued as “provocative” after the fact.

It’s certainly not a bad idea to ask yourself how bad things can possibly get before pursuing something you don’t need to pursue. I said as much in my article on Thinking Defensively. I have always tried to avoid trouble, but there are times in life when things can go south on you in a hurry. You really don’t want to live in a world where the idea that Zimmerman “provoked” Martin by doing nothing illegal (following someone is not illegal…assaulting someone because they were following you is) is taken seriously in court.

5. The average human head may weigh less than 20 pounds.

…but the effect of a ten pound human head bouncing limply off of a hard surface is just as bad even if the head weighs less. Should I have carefully researched the average weight of the human head before including that tidbit in my rant? Sure. Does that make any real difference in the damage that’s possible from a good bounce off the pavement? Nope.

6. I use too many commas.

That’s, like, your opinion, man.

7. People will often believe what they want to believe.

Whether that’s someone actually arguing with me about the meaning of what I wrote (a phenomenon I find truly bizarre) or folks making statements about the Zimmerman case that were directly contradicted by facts that came out at trial, some people’s minds are just plain made up and no amount of information or reasoned argument will shift it. There’s certainly room for reasonable disagreement on many issues, but increasingly it looks like the internet seems to empower the opinions that have the least fact and hard thinking behind them.

I don’t claim to have a patent on truth, but I do at least try to make statements based on some foundation of learning and research. There are limits to my knowledge and experience and I try to stay well within them…but I can easily stand behind what I said in the fists post because it’s all true. I didn’t ask anyone to rely on my little opinion. I backed up what I said with objective fact and video evidence in addition to my own experience.

The point wasn’t to anoint Zimmerman as a choir boy, it was to deal with the ridiculous idea that using a gun in a “fistfight” was somehow unacceptable…as if use of force encounters are like a game of rock-paper-scissors. That’s not how violence works, folks. If I gave you the violence equation of five police officers armed with guns vs. one dude with a knife, what would you guess the outcome would be? And yet (WARNING – Graphic video):

Two dead police officers, at least two more wounded before the bad guy was finally stopped. The end result of a violent encounter often isn’t neatly predictable, and there’s usually nothing tidy about the way they go down. It isn’t like the movies or TV. It’s always ugly and unpleasant. I understand the desire to try and package it up into something that gives us enough psychological distance to believe we won’t end up on the ground bleeding out, but it doesn’t work that way. You may do everything exactly according to the script only to end up lying on the ground beaten half to death with just enough synapses still firing to wonder if you’re going to feel the bullet that’s about to be launched into your face from point blank range.

…and no, that’s not hyperbole. That’s a real testimony from somebody who thankfully survived it. Believe that you would NEVER find yourself in a Zimmerman situation if you wish. I hope, for your sake, that you don’t. And if you survive it, I hope your future doesn’t hang on the judgment of the sort of people who have been quick to ignore the facts or exceed the limitations of their understanding in forming opinions about what happened in the Zimmerman case.


  1. “as I’m backing away from her fierce ginger fury”

    That’s internet gold right there.

  2. WTF. That video is ridiculous. I had to watch it twice to really make sure that was a rile in the stabbed officers hands. Talk about dangerous ROE’s. Sickening.
    Great Essay.

  3. Does your use of Ms.Rae as opponent say something Fruedian about your relationship?

  4. I, like your commas.
    And I think it’s good some “common sense” made it out to the people who really need to see the information. You get to see how little real information people have and unfamiliar they are with the concept of use of force. I hope it continues to spread and more people start thinking about it.

    My money would be on Shelley, TKO in round two!

  5. Well written piece Tim.

    You’ll always have the fools that opine on that Zimmerman shouldn’t have shot Martin, but those are the same people who regard TM as a saint instead of the Lean/Purple-Drank damaged (his Facebook logs and autopsy report) thug who liked to fight and make people bleed (his words), break into houses (stolen property from local burglary found in his locker) and buy/sell guns that would have been illegal for him to own (his phone data which the prosecution tried to hide).

    The joke of a “president” that we currently have and his buddy Holder are in contempt of the law and are still trying to get racial revenge against a man whose only crime was to defend himself from certain brain injury and probably death.

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