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Walk Away
Martial artists must know better.
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• Distance: Maai
• Force Continuum
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• Court TV: Hockey Dad Trial

The "Hockey Dad" Case

What started as an argument between two proud parents ended up with one boy's dad dead, and the other convicted of involuntary manslaughter. It didn't have to be this way.

Thomas Junta was convicted of beating another man to death after arguing over rough play at his son's hockey practice. A 275-pound truck driver, Junta confronted 160-pound referee Michael Costin when he felt the kids were getting too physical. Costin, according to testimony, responded, "That's hockey." The two men then started exchanging profanities, which soon led to a full-blown fight.

Prosecutors agreed with Junta's account that Costin threw the first punch. But Junta quickly gained the upper hand, pinning Costin to the ground, hitting the smaller man, and slamming his head against the floor. Costin died two days later.

A martial artist has the ability to take the fight beyond the legal limit, and therefore must assume the responsibility to know not to.

Martial Artists Must Know Better

Most martial artists are taught that their increased ability in combat should be used only in self-defense. Thomas Junta's defense argument was just that--he was merely defending himself. And prosecutors agreed that Costin did strike first. But at what point does self-defense end, and involuntary manslaughter begin?

Martial artists learn an arsenal of techniques to use in combat situations. Choosing the right ones, especially in a stressful self-defense situation, isn't always easy. But one tantamount rule must apply--that only enough force needed to stop the situation is used, and nothing more. A martial artist has the ability to take the fight beyond the legal limit, and therefore must assume the responsibility to know not to.

Training in the force continuum emphasizes a controlled use of force. The techniques used against a knife-wielding terrorist should be much more severe than those used against your drunken brother-in-law. But while you might be justified in killing the terrorist, you usually aren't justified in killing your brother-in-law, even if he does take a swing at you.

If your opponent does strike first, your martial arts training teaches you to block or avoid the blow. With proper training, you can choose from your repertoire of control moves or judiciously placed strikes to stop your opponent without inflicting fatal damage. Even breaking your opponent's arm with a quickly applied armbar--a rather painful measure--is a preferable alternative.

Just Walk Away

Martial arts training gives you the confidence to walk away from an argument before it escalates into a fight. Knowing that you have the ability to physically handle your opponent means that you can react calmly and with presence, without getting angry.

Anger, which can enhance performance by increasing adrenal levels, clouds judgment. The best martial artists are eerily calm, even when fighting. Anger interferes with selecting the right technique and the execution of that technique.

With Power Comes Responsibility

Martial artists are given the power to hurt others, and this power must be tempered by increased responsibility. The martial arts are well regarded for being great exercise, moving meditation, and a means for increasing self-esteem and confidence. But at their core are techniques for combat. We can't forget that fact.

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