Preclusion is a legal term meaning to take steps to avoid or retreat from the action that can lead to violence. It’s a term you won’t hear bandied about that much even in martial arts or self defence schools. You will hear the phrase. As Miyagi would say, “Best defence, don’t be there”, but even then it’s pretty vague on how far you have to go to not be there.

Some will ask why bother discussing a legal term and quote the often parroted “I’d rather be judged by twelve than carried by six”. Just remember, those twelve judging you will probably know as much about violence as a ten-year-old does about sex (the media is there to entertain, not educate) and will be judging you accordingly. Secondly, if you’re training for self-protection then you might want to look at the entire process of a violent altercation rather than only what occurs in the heat of the moment. For example, you have managed to disarm your knife-wielding attacker and now hold the blade, but the attacker is still coming at you. What do you do? Stab him? You just broke the law. Throw the knife away? Food for thought.

The other thing I’ve run into is the “I’m a good person and good people will instinctively do the right thing and I’ll only be violent if I think I’m in danger” mindset (if you have a chance have a look at Joel and Michael Stovall’s interview ca. 28 September, 2001 and how they killed a deputy; you might be surprised how it sounds very familiar).

Some go to the extreme of avoiding trouble spots. A friend of mine in Ninjutsu equated this with the famous Godan test of avoiding the sword strike from behind “just don’t go to class on that day you avoided the sword. Of course, you also avoided all other lessons and you can just avoid life and raise cats”.

Richard Dimitri teaching the finer points of preclusion.

Richard Dimitri teaching the finer points of preclusion.

But yes avoiding trouble through being situationally aware and through avoiding certain behaviour patterns that might get you into a bad situation where you get an educational beat down (or “EBD” – a great term I learned from reading Marc MacYoung and Rory Miller books) is a solid foundation for self-protection. “But”, I hear you say, “I don’t hang around bikie clubs and dens of iniquity (you don’t know what you’re missing out on), as if those are the only places you might get an EBD. The worst EBD I have ever seen was from a few old Italian ladies when they heard a young man make a disparaging remark about a younger female of their family; the old ladies got to him before the males, and nothing much was left for the males to do except call him an ambulance.

Then you have preclusion once the scenario begins. I won’t discuss it from a bouncer’s perspective mainly because I’m contractually obligated (I’m an idealist, I do it for the money) to be there in the thick of it and can only retreat so far (please note venues are obligated by law to keep out those who are under-age or intoxicated, as well as those who they think may start a fight (sorry if your feelings get hurt). If we don’t, not only do penalties apply to us staff, but venues can be shut down and consequently, people lose their jobs). So when I refuse you entry I’m not always being a complete prick for the sake of it.

Now there are many different scenarios that can become violent and I can’t cover them all, but Iet’s look at a few which I’ve recently had some discussions about.

Scenario 1: this actually came about because I stated that real knife fights are not like sword duels in the French country side, but more like a knifing in a parking lot. My friend commented but what if you use your situational awareness, spot the danger and deploy your knife?

You’ve done your shopping and you’re walking towards your car, and your situational awareness goes ping. The would-be assailant is standing six to eight feet from you between you and your car, He isn’t carrying shopping, isn’t holding car keys and isn’t looking for his car and his hand keeps checking the same part of his body. You recognize this as a red flag, now what are your options ?

As my friend commented, drop your shopping, deploy your knife, travel the eight feet and rush him before he can draw his weapon, keys, mobile phone? (even if he was Jack the bloody Ripper, you had no proof he had any violent intent) or go back inside and get security (Preclusion).

Scenario 2: you’re a young woman walking down the street and feel someone is following you. He hasn’t said anything but you feel uncomfortable so you turn around and mouth off at him or attack him pre-emptively, neither of which would be considered justifiable or intelligent. The mouthing-off would probably create a situation that didn’t exist or cause a potential situation to escalate, and the pre-emptive strike? Well, that would be considered an assault.

Scenario 3: you’re at home and someone breaks in. How far should you retreat? The following quote shows how some perceive retreat to a silly level.

Marc MacYoung recalls a case in Massachusetts where a home invader broke into a woman’s house, chased her upstairs, broke through the locked bedroom door, and was shot and killed by the woman. The prosecutor got her convicted for failing in her duty to retreat because she didn’t climb out the window.

Now let’s move on to the idea that the best defence is to not be there. This isn’t strictly “preclusion”, but it’s still something worth thinking about. I’ve commonly heard the phrase “you’re trained, so you should be able to avoid the strikes and stop the attacker without hurting them.” ….. are you insane? First, how long are you going to dodge the attack before the attacker gets a lucky shot in?… before Murphy rears his ugly head and you trip? …or before your attacker’s friends or even some stranger who decided you’re the bad guy jumps in?

So our goals must be to survive and take our attacker down as quickly as possible and make sure he doesn’t want to get back up. It’s not for us to teach him a lesson, but we should use attitude interrupters while we take him down. Just because I’ve managed to use a fancy lock and put someone down does not mean that in turn he suddenly realizes that taking my head off was wrong. That’s just naïve and only works in the old kung-fu movies. In reality, I’ve taken guys down who keep struggling and screaming to let up, just so he could continue his stupidity.

And if you think you’re ok once the police arrive, first find out what the response time is where you live then factor in that the police will see two people struggling and not know what happened and treat you like the bad guy until they know otherwise.

I’ve had the police tell me to release someone as they had arrived and all was good in the world. Even after I explained that the big guy I’m hanging onto for dear life is still holding onto his knife, they would insist I let him go. I’ve also had the police empty an entire canister of OC foam while holding one guy down as three big guys were beating me (me being in a three piece suit and wearing a security tag obviously meant I was the bad guy).

Hang on you didn’t actually write anything saying what to do, what gives? I wrote this to get people to think. I don’t want people to do something because I told them to; I want them to think, even disagree and explain why they disagree, but most of all I want them to think whenever anyone says something.


Marc MacYoung comment was taken from”Stand Your Ground and the slaughter of ‘innocents.’”

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