Using the right skills in conflict at the right time!

A guide for professionals.
By Ricky Thomas

Nothing in this post should be construed as legal advice.  If you have questions relating to this matter you should obtain formal legal advice.

A recent string of posts I have seen highlight the fact a lot of people do not know their rights to self defence, or can quote the laws back to front but have no concept of what reasonable force actually is! Krav Maga usually gets criticized from people like this because in their view, what we train to do is too extreme or unnecessary especially for professional remits such as security or police.

“A person may use such force as is reasonable in the circumstances in the prevention of crime, or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of offenders or suspected offenders or of persons unlawfully at large.”

There are a myriad of different types of conflict, crimes and violence! There are also many different responses and tools. Not all are suited for every situation. Despite me being primarily a Krav Maga – Close combat and self defence instructor, I am not naive to the fact there are some situations it’s not required or too unreasonable to use. Its all about knowing when to use certain skills.

What shouldn’t be mistaken is that all of the skills are de-escalation measures. A situation may be too volatile for verbal skills therefore restraint may be a better option. Either way the situation will be de-escalated. Do not assume that if needed using physical skills is a negative option this will make you hesitate.

I find the best way I explain conflict scenarios is to break it into the following coloured ‘zones’ similar to the cooper colour code.

Green: This a situation that has come to an end with effective verbal skills. No hands on required or they are very cooperative.

Yellow: This situation is where restraint, physical intervention has been employed. They are trying to break away but ultimately not attacking.

Red: This is Krav Maga’s remit. It is a full on violent attack on yourself or others. This is a self defence situation. It doesn’t matter what uniform you have on, whether you are police, security or anyone else. You have the right to do what is reasonably necessary in the circumstances to get to safety.

Despite RED being the most dangerous Zone it is the area paid the most lip service to. Remember a situation can change zones fast and not in any particular order.

Speaking to many police officers many feel that there is not enough focus on extreme violent encounters. This can have detrimental effect. There have been occasions where people have tried to utilize yellow skills in a red zone. Those skills are not adequate and an escalation of violence needs to be met with an escalation of force. So if a yellow conflict turns to red the skills need to escalate to red.

The video below demonstrates what can happen when a suspect turn violent. Strikes would have been completely legitimate but none were used and as a result the police officer receives significant injuries. This could be because the over dependence on restraint and PAVA or the pure hesitation due to the possible consequences.

An example from a recent post from a self defence organisation that received a lot of flak: The scenario was a female fully mounted by a heavier male who was attacking her with knife. The female had managed to secure the arm of the attacker but was struggling to reverse her position. The instructor’s advice was to bite to inflict a response. Yet the ‘experts’ on facebook classed this as unreasonable.

Consider the situation you are in, someone is trying to kill you! and you are not prepared to bite or even strike? This type of thinking and even worse the people issuing this advice is stupid and will get people hurt or worse. The general consensus in the UK is you can’t defend yourself and it’s simply not true! If the police can shoot a knife attacker I’m sure you can bite if needed!

Where the line is drawn, it’s not your job to punish! We work off set principles and that with enough practice will become second nature! An updated training methodology is needed in professional organisations to give a higher level of capability and confidence. We live in a world where respect is fast becoming non existent. Criminals are willing to kill or maim to escape and we have an increase in terrorism.

In Krav Maga we constantly train students to aggressively attack to stop the threat, but as soon as the threat is neutralized they are trained to disengage and get to safety. This then becomes instinctive and therefore training them to use the minimum amount of force for the situation albeit a violent one, without having to spend hours going through power points trying to explain the legal jargon! They then become aware of what is reasonable in a practical setting which is the setting that actually matters!

“It is both good law and good sense that a man who is attacked may defend himself. It is both good law and good sense that he may do, but only do, what is reasonably necessary.”

Below is a link to the CPS website with all the information required:

So in summary, you must have skills that span across the spectrum of conflict. Conflict management is no good if not backed up by physical intervention and restraint. Realistic self defence skills need to be primed in the background ready to go in that unlikely but possible event where a conflict becomes a red zone!