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Stevenson
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Pre-Emptive Strike Court Case

I have been following a high profile court case involving self-defense in my old home town of Perth Western Australia:

http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/breaking/15461300/not-guilty-verdic...

I think it is worth a look for observations and lessons. A quick note regarding the 'mateship' culture in Australia - it's very common amongst young men to support one another regardless of the consequences 'putting your body on the line' for your mates no matter what. It's a very strong ethos which is perpetuated in sporting community particularly in Australian Rules football. 

The basic story is this:

- Dylan Winter, who was on trial, went out with some friends including a friend Travis Gray and his girlfriend. young and dumb, they were fooling about play fighting in a nightclub and got ejected very roughly by the bouncers who also called police.

- As they moved on, Travis Gray and girlfreind started to argue, and Luke Adams, who is a renowned football (Aussie Rules) player, a ruckman which would make him very tall - they are regularly around 6'5" and very strong as he was playing high level football.

- Luke, a bit of a trouble-maker, called out 'Just break up' and possibly some other seedy things which caused Travis to react angirly and approach Luke Adams and his friends.

- Luke Adams then said to his friends 'Lets smash these c...'

- Dylan Winters, who had walked on ahead returned to back up his mate.

- He told Luke Adams to 'back off', who responded with more threats.

- Winters, who had only about 2 months Mauy Thai training, popped him with medium strength pre-emptive punch.

- it knocked Adams out cold, and he fell and fractured his skull on the pavement, nearly costing him his life.

The punch itself left no injury, it was so mild, yet it was enough to knock out a fairly drunk and very big man. His size undoubtedly contributed to the severity of the fall. He didn't so much as have a bruise on his face. The irony of this situation is that Luke Adams became a cult hero, and went around promoting non-violence. During the case Dylan Winters was vilified by the press as being some kind of thug, even though he had never been in a situation like this, and he had no criminal record.

It's pretty clear went right and what went wrong for Winters. He should have tried to remove his friend from the fight, but once he had been threatened by Adams, the pre-emptive strike was reasonable and appropriate - and why he got off the charge. He could have done much better to prevent the fight in the first place. Here is something to think about:

If he had karate training where we take control (a grab) and strike at the same time, could he have prevented Adams from falling and injuring himself so badly? Should that even be a consideration in a scenario like that? Even if Winters had more training, Adams would have been probably as much as 5 inches taller and very fit. Surely the force was proportionate, but the consequences were not.

The consequences for Winters was extremely severe too - a great argument for doing everything possible to avoid confrontations of this nature. Even though he 'won' the fight, 'won' the court battle, he still lost an awful lot.

John
John's picture

"- Luke, a bit of a trouble-maker, called out 'Just break up' and possibly some other seedy things which caused Travis to react angirly and approach Luke Adams and his friends."

Uhh okay im assuming Travis was drunk cause this sound like a real bad idea.

"- He told Luke Adams to 'back off', who responded with more threats."

Why didn't he tell his friend Travis to back off? Why didn't he try to de-escalate the situation and get his friend to leave instead of making the situation worse?

"If he had karate training where we take control (a grab) and strike at the same time, could he have prevented Adams from falling and injuring himself so badly?"

I think Marc MacYoung descirbes this pretty good (somewhere on his site nononsenseselfdefense) in that you have 2 bad outcomes, either it works or it doesn't. You succesfully use your karate skills to win the fight and go to jail as you have just commited a crime, or you lose and made the situation worse with your aggresive response. De-escalation skills would have been appropiate in that situation.

Rory Miller nails it in his facing violence dvd, these monkey dances escalate to the point where both people claim self defense. If your going to learn how to legally defend yourself learn how to legally defend yourself. Just learning how to punch and kick effectively then assuming everything else will work out is no better than people buying a gun then expecting it to magically keep them safe.

Wastelander
Wastelander's picture

I agree that this situation was completely avoidable through verbal de-escalation and physical extrication of either party--nobody needed to defend themselves against anything because there was no reason that they could not simply leave.  That said, I realize that is not the point of the OP, so much as a set up for the question that is relevant to you. There have been true self defense situations where an attacker has been dropped and been severely injured or killed by the fall, rather than the strike that felled them, so the question of whether karate, with it's grappling-inclusive striking methods, is a better choice for those needing to defend themselves, is perfectly valid.

To answer your question, Stevenson, I believe that the answer is "maybe." If a karateka trains proper application of hikite, as you suggest, then they certainly have the ability to control their attacker's fall if they knock them out. The problem that I see with this is that most karateka do not train to control anyone's fall because they are training to control the arms from a standing position in a striking or grappling context. Some certainly do work on that control when working sweeps, but a knockout is not a sweep. Since I have some background in judo--2 years learning "kata judo" plus a lot of newaza, and 2 years learning "Olympic judo"--I have trained to both control someone's descent and to slam them, respectively, but it isn't the same because you are purposefully trying to make them fall, and in a certain direction, whereas a knockout may occur when you aren't expecting it and may cause them to fall at awkward angles. Thanks to your question, I think that I need to incorporate "surprise falls" into self defense drills in order to get myself and my fellow karateka accustomed to the idea that they may need to control an unconscious, falling person.

Another thing that comes to mind is this--would a karateka's grab even be successful? In the dojo, most of us wear our dogi, and grappling with people's arms works much better when they have fabric over them. Suppose you have to defend yourself when it is warm (as it is much of the year where I live) and people are wearing short sleeves, tank tops or no shirts at all, and sweating. Much of the muchimi-te (sticky hand) grappling can still work for short-term controlling (pulling hands out of the way, jamming punches, etc.) but holding up your average 180lb man is going to be tough.

I have to say that this really makes me appreciate living where I do, since my state has several laws protecting those who act in self defense, even if they seriously harm or kill their assailant.

John
John's picture

When we start talking about controlling someones fall that's just training to fight someone using karate. That's training to commit crimes. In a realistic self defense scenerio you should have done everything you could have to have avoided the fight first.  Self defense cannot revolve around physical violence and you  cannot really claim self defense without  using avoidence, awareness, and de-escaltion skills first.  Someone is trying to kill you and your concerned about controlling their fall so they don't hurt themselves to badly? Doesn't add up.

"He should have tried to remove his friend from the fight, but once he had been threatened by Adams, the pre-emptive strike was reasonable and appropriate"

It's a grey zone. It's impossible to know If Adams would still have attacked if Winter's had tried to de-escalate the situation.  If he did though, there would not have been this big court case and it would have saved him a lot of grief. To say he was justified in attacking after escalating things to the point where he felt he was going to be attacked?  I just think he was lucky his punch worked so well or he would have been badly beaten.

Stevenson
Stevenson's picture

Guys - from the point of view of the law, Winters is regarded as having acted in self-defense. He was acquitted of the charges. But he spent 18 months of hell - being vilified by the press, wondering if he would go to jail, concern that he may have killed someone, or permanently injured them.

Rory Miller makes this point time and again, the consequences even if you are successful both in applying self defense and legally can be really severe. There is no question had Winters (or in fact any of them) had some self defense training (I don't mean in the fighting sense) the situation would never, or should never have come to blows. I see this case as a 'teachable moment'. Consistent and representative of self defense and how we apply a pre-emptive strike, and also demonstrating how important it is to de-escalate, because even if you are successful and justified there is still a world hurt waiting for you.

And of course perhaps some consideration should be given to trying to prevent someone you have knocked out cold from serious injury. Remember Luke Adams would have been an absolute giant, or very much bigger than most of us, and very fit and strong, and highly accostumed to physical full contact sport. Would attempting to be concerned about the consequences of a successful pre-emptive strike made in the heat of the moment as a split-second decision be dangerous or even foolish?

Personally, I think it depends on the individual nd the relative level of danger. I think I will be concerned and I am going to train for it in the light of this story. My wife who is tiny, I think should not even give it a second thought. Unless she is attacked by a 9 year old....

Also, a note on alcohol levels. Adams was very drunk, Winters had some alcohol but was not by his account drunk - 'tipsy' was the word used. His friend Travis Gray was quite drunk.

Stevenson
Stevenson's picture

Quote:
Someone is trying to kill you and your concerned about controlling their fall so they don't hurt themselves to badly? Doesn't add up.

In a Monkey Dance situation the intent is rarely to kill, merely impose your power and dominance over someone. I appreciate your point, that a great deal more effort should have been gone to de-esclate the situation which would meant Winters would not have risked the charges, but you only have to change a few things subtely for the scenario to be more appropriately self-defense - even though legally speaking it already was.

The point is, things are often not so clear cut. There maybe things going on around you that concern you, that might make you think there is not time for de-escalation or that it probably won't work. The longer you delay the worse you chances become. Do I 'go' now while the strike is most likely to be effective or wait and see what happens and try to de-escalate? Or perhaps you weren't switched on and you missed the best moment for de-escaltion...or perhaps some twat who was with you said 'he knows karate, he could snap you like twig...' Yeah thanks a lot....

Rory Miller believes a good person will make the right decision based on their ethics and especially if they have thought all this through before hand. But that won't stop things from going south from a legal point of view if there is serious injury as result of your actions, depending on who you are of course.