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I am 15 and I am currently being trained in Krav Maga, one on one with a partner.

I have a very practical question:

Am I allowed to use Krav Maga for any case of self-defense? Even a threatening or grave suspicion.

I live in Brooklyn, NY, but it would be nice to know how this works in other places too.

(and as a plus, how the heck can you walk in a ready stance down the street without the whole freaken place going 'ooooh, aaahhh'. Lol, 'cuse I was walking like that once at like 8PM in Staten Island, and this guy on the side walk ahead went to his friend:"yo, watch out" and they stepped aside.)

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In most of the world the question "Is [violent action XYZ] legal for defense?" can only be answered with detailed knowledge of the situation in which it occurs. – dmckee Apr 21 '13 at 22:45
Just to make things clear: while you can ask legal advise from plebs on the Internet, please check with a criminal lawyer if you want a valid and legal answer. – Sardathrion Apr 22 '13 at 7:20
Ask a lawyer in the area where you live. IN general you can respond with equal amount of force in any given situation. That is general and there are exceptions. – Wayne In Yak Apr 22 '13 at 19:43
Thank you to the above. Great advice – Tzvi Apr 23 '13 at 5:49
Remember the joke about the man who represents himself has a fool for a lawyer? If you take legal advice from random people on the internet, then you could learn a lesson from the man who has a fool for a lawyer. – Mark C. Wallace Oct 17 '13 at 11:15

6 Answers 6

up vote 9 down vote accepted

Am I allowed to use Krav Maga for any case of self-defense?

Of course you are, within the normal parameters. You will only use what you need with the amount of force required in order to defuse and escape from a situation. The amount of force that is considered "legal" will differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction based on current law and precedent case law (you could also reference the previous question Are there legal ramifications to being a trained martial artist?), and will also depend on the severity of the situation you find yourself in.

I live in Brooklyn, NY, but it would be nice to know how this works in other places too

As mentioned the law is different everywhere - for example you will have a slightly different set of laws the moment you cross a state line. The important thing is not so much what you use on the opponent, but the damage you inflict on the opponent.

how the heck can you walk in a ready stance down the street

You don't - you just walk normally. A stance is simply a starting or ending position for a movement or technique. You don't "get into a stance" before starting a fight, you assume the stance as you execute techniques.

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Thank you. About the stance, in Krav Maga I was taught that you need to be minorly alert on the street, as in almost never texting, always realizing what can and cannot be used against you or for you on the street and to watch your surroundings. So, I was told to hold my hands in a way where they are always close to my chest so to allow for quick movement. (Like holding on to hoodie strings, or top of coat, simply fiddling with fingers and the sort). Unlike other arts, this one was built for the street, and comes very useful in Brooklyn. sooo? idk. – Tzvi Apr 22 '13 at 0:13
@Tzvi Hehe, if you walk around like that then people will indeed think you are "special" and the men in white coats won't be far away ;) But being serious, once you've trained long enough the "always be aware" concept will become more obvious to you - you don't have to be walking around in the "ready to spar" pose. For example I can walk down the street texting on my phone and still be totally aware - in fact the phone can be utilized as a weapon. You should be able to attack or defend from any angle and any pose/stance. – slugster Apr 22 '13 at 1:05
+1, very nice answer indeed. – Sardathrion Apr 22 '13 at 7:19
thank you @slugster ! – Tzvi Apr 23 '13 at 5:45
As a bonus, the level of awareness that you develop becomes evident, which reduces the chance of a fight starting in the first place, as you won't be giving off the vibe of "easy prey". – Sean Duggan Jun 2 '14 at 16:03

The short answer is yes, but you should not take legal advice from people on the internet.

The long answer is, you should really talk to a lawyer if you have questions about self-defense. Jails are full of people who thought they were acting in self-defense, but crossed the thin line at some point because they didn't know what exactly it means, like you. Consider the following a rough guideline on principles that are usually valid in most countries, but check with a lawyer before doing anything stupid.

First of all, you should understand that when you claim self-defense, the burden of proof is now yours. You're no longer innocent until proven guilty. You're admitting that you attacked someone, and now it's up to you to prove that you were justified in doing it because you were just defending yourself.

There are five principles that determine what is justified in self-defense. Innocence, imminence, proportionality, avoidance and reasonableness. In very simple terms, what they mean is:

  • Innocence - You cannot initiate a conflict and later claim self-defense. This means that you'll have to prove in court that you didn't started the fight.

  • Imminence - The danger you are defending yourself from is something happening right NOW, at the moment! You cannot claim self-defense if you are reacting to an hypothetic danger that might happen later, like a verbal threat, or a danger that is already over, like hitting someone after they are incapacitated on the ground. You'll have to prove that you were in immediate danger.

  • Proportionality - The degree of force must be proportional to the threat. You cannot break the arm of someone who touched you with a finger, or shoot someone who punched you. You'll have to prove that your reaction was proportional to the threat and you weren't overreacting.

  • Avoidance - There was no other way for you to protect yourself from danger other than reacting with violence. This means that if you have a non-violent option that doesn't increase the danger, you should try it first. You'll have to prove that there was no way to avoid the fight.

  • Reasonableness - This is a subjective principle that applies to all the others. It means your perception and reaction regarding all the others must be compatible with that of a reasonable person under similar circumstances.

Now, to your question:

Am I allowed to use Krav Maga for any case of self-defense?

You are allowed to use anything for any case of self-defense, as long as your claim of self-defense follows these principles, which may vary in many places. For instance, many states in the US have the so-called "Stand-Your-Ground" laws, where you don't have to prove that you were cornered and had no way to retreat. Also, reasonableness is very subjective, and what sounds reasonable for a judge or jury in one place might not be reasonable somewhere else.

Even a threatening or grave suspicion.

It depends on what you mean "use Krav Maga". If you mean engaging in a fight with someone, then absolutely no! Following the principle of imminence, reacting violently to a threat or suspicion is not self-defense. There are a lot of people in jail whining that they were just defending themselves when they attacked someone who they thought was threatening or suspicious.

I live in Brooklyn, NY, but it would be nice to know how this works in other places too.

The only sane answer here is: hire a NY lawyer for one hour of consulting and ask how exactly NY laws work in self-defense claims. If you are going somewhere else and you believe there's a chance you might find yourself in trouble, check the local laws before you leave, specially if you're going to another country. Trust me, you don't want to be in a foreign police precinct after beating a native for what you thought was self-defense.

If you don't get professional legal advice and you ever need to use Krav Maga or anything else in self-defense and you end up doing something serious, like gravely injuring or killing someone, call the police, rescue services and a lawyer immediately, and don't say a word to anyone until you do, not even to claim that you were acting in self-defense. To the police that's a confession of assault or murder, and they usually don't care about your self-defense claims other than to put it on record. It's up to the justice system to decide if you'll be prosecuted. If you don't know any lawyer -- and you should, if you are training self-defense techniques and planning to use them -- simply ask the police for a lawyer. I can't emphasize how important this is. A lawyer will know if you have a solid self-defense case or if you have better chances with some other strategy. You don't want to end up in jail for defending yourself, but many people do.

and as a plus, how the heck can you walk in a ready stance down the street without the whole freaken place going 'ooooh, aaahhh'.

Seriously? You don't. That's nonsense. That's not something a normal person sitting on the jury hearing your case will find reasonable. The opposing lawyer will have a great time convincing the jury or the judge that you are nothing but a freak who walks the streets trying to pick up a fight for no reason and claims self-defense later.

However, there are many natural non-threatening stances that are quick to shift into a defensive or aggressive stance that you can use in a potentially threatening situation. For instance, holding your chin with one hand while supporting the elbow with the opposing hand like this is a natural, non-threatening position, that allows you to defend your face and your genital area easily, which are common targets for someone starting a fight. Read Kelly McCann, Combatives for Street Survival, he gives some advice on that.

But please, don't walk around the streets in a ready stance like you're looking for a fight, unless you are trying to get your ass kicked.

You say you are training one-on-one with a partner, so it doesn't sound like you have an instructor. Learning the mental and legal aspects of self-defense is as important as the physical and technical aspects. If you have a instructor and he never taught you that or never hired a lawyer to give a lecture on that and answer questions, I would recommend asking him to do it.

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Krav Maga was not intended for self defense, and is, in fact, an art of assassination. While it is used to assassinate, you can use self defense using what you have learned in Krav Maga as long as you honour the law.

This means that you do not: 1.) Kill the attacker. 2.) Cause excessive damage to the attacker. 3.) Pursue the attacker unless you were robbed.

If there are witnesses around, be sure to ask them to testify in your defense. If possible have a bystander film and call the alarmline.

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-1. First and second paragraphs are utterly inaccurate. Last paragraph shows an fundamental lack of knowledge of crime, witnesses, or any legal system. – Sardathrion Oct 15 '13 at 15:56
Krav Maga is based on Ninjutsu, actually. Which is an art of assassination and infiltration. – MilanSxD Oct 21 '13 at 10:27
Your opinions on this are very wrong. Krav Maga is not based on Ninjutsu but on boxing, Muay Thai, Wing Chun, Judo, jiu-jitsu, wrestling, and grappling to name but a few. Ninjutsu is not the art of assassination. None of the Ninja Jūhakkei ("the eighteen disciplines") mention assassination. – Sardathrion Oct 21 '13 at 12:03
I guess I'll just stick to Judo answers xS – MilanSxD Oct 22 '13 at 9:03

Am I allowed to use Krav Maga for any case of self-defense? Even a threatening or grave suspicion.

You should never give this any concern in a real-life situation. You neutralize the attacker, and no more. If there are multiple attackers, you should be excessive on the first so that he will not return to the fight, but never do excessive harm to the last person you are fighting, i.e. don't kick them on the ground if they are alone, or if their partner is already out of the fight. Just stop them from causing danger.

So long as all you did was the minimum to ensure your safety and the safety of those with you, don't care about the law. Had you done any less harm to the attacker(s), you would have been hurt more by them then by the law. Had you done more, you would have been reckless. Also, you will improve your own confidence (and your respect if others see the incident) by not going overboard. Think of all your favorite action heros. When the opponent is down, do they continue kicking or do they give the opponent opportunity to get back up and walk away quietly?

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-1 for ignoring the law, this will lead you straight to jail. +1 for using minimal force. This borders on a good answer... – Sardathrion Aug 25 '13 at 12:35
Right, I mention that the law (jail) will be better than simply letting the attacker assault you, but that there will be consequences. – dotancohen Aug 25 '13 at 13:28
If your life is in real danger and your choice is between going to jail or staying alive, then maybe it makes sense to say you should not give this any concern. If it's not a life threatening situation, ignoring the law is the easiest way to find yourself as a new entry in the prison system. – Pedro Werneck Apr 12 at 19:48

How the heck can you walk in a ready stance down the street without the whole freaken place going 'ooooh, aaahhh'.

I was trained in hand-to-hand combat by the IDF, not by a school or embassy, so my perspective may be different than that commonly taught. But I do use the same approach on my home street as I do in Jenin. There are two types of people who will see you walk: those who might attack you, and everybody else. You want those who might attack you to think "I'm not starting with that guy" but you want everybody else to not notice anything.

I walk normally, but I always 'observe' buildings, the sky, anything that moves in my opposite direction so that I can also look back every now and then. Everybody who I pass gets looked at in the eye and usually gets a friendly smile. Sometimes I let them notice that I glance at their hips and their hands, sometimes I do it discretely. Yes, even women.

When I turn a corner, I do it with the inside elbow slightly bent, and far from the wall / building and I'm always ready to pop back. That has saved me more from speeding bicycles than from terrorists.

Some tips: if you are with companions, walk slightly ahead of them. Thus, the assaulters notice you, not them, and may be discouraged. It also gives you another reason for looking back occasionally. Always know what is available to jump behind if bullets start flying. You'll probably never need it, but it will help train yourself to be aware of your surroundings. When you drive, read all the signs. Again, this makes your driving better but also trains you to be more aware of your surroundings.

Lastly, remember that your goal is to be visible to assaulters, but not to everybody else. Do not look paranoid, in fact always try to look confident. Don't walk like you're ready to fight somebody, walk like you are aware of everybody. And when you are attacked, smile and make the assaulter feel that he just did you a favour by confronting you. That scares them!

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This isn't a direct answer to the question, but it's sound advice. Very nice. I might also add that you should never put the attacker in a position that he has no choice other than fighting you. – Pedro Werneck Apr 12 at 19:54
@PedroWerneck: The advice about giving the attacker the option to flee is in fact mentioned in The Art of War, one of the best books that I've ever read. It is terrific advice, both for men against other men but also for nations against other nations. Thank you for mentioning it. The best way not to loose a fight is not to get in one, and the best way not to get in a fight is to give the other side a way out without loosing their honour. – dotancohen Apr 13 at 11:12

In German laws there is a term which could be translated as 'self-defense-excess'. The classical example is shooting children from your cherry tree in order to prevent them from stealing the cherries. That is forbidden in general (easy to understand).

In the special case that your excess happens out of asthenic affects (i. e. due to fear or terror), that can be an excuse. Sthenic affects like hate or fury will not excuse the excess.

What a judge will consider depends greatly on the question what he thinks of you. If you argue that you were in terror and broke the attacker's nose because of that, then you could go free in case the judge believes you. If you practice your martial arts for thirty years, judges tend to think you should control yourself better.

It never is of interest which martial arts you are practicing or using, but of course using Krav Maga techniques facilitating a combat rifle or a knife would be illegal just because of carrying/having/owning the weapon.

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thank you very much! – Tzvi May 1 '13 at 6:57

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