Hammer or Anvil? The 3 Minute Use of Force Guide - Self-Defense Global

Hammer or Anvil? The 3 Minute Use of Force Guide

Use of Force


This is the primary Use of Force question. If my only two choices are to be the hammer, or to be the anvil, I’ll pick the hammer every time. If there’s a third choice, I take it.


Correct use of force should be taught at the beginning of Krav Maga training - but it quickly gets confusing. It shouldn’t be, so here are some guidelines.

There are rules of behavior for good people - the right side of the law. If you don’t like law, order, cops, lawyers, and so on- try a vacation to sunny Somalia, and see how you like it there with none of those things. We’re going to have to answer for our behavior, and should have clear guidelines for Use of Force - which are more common sense than people know.

Every cop and lawyer involved in criminal prosecution or defense knows this: "self-defense" is the most abused defense in existence.

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Every cop and lawyer involved in criminal prosecution or defense knows this: Self-defense the most over-used and abused defenses for unnecessary violence in existence.

Violence is almost always illegal. Fighting, outside of sanctioned sports events or defending against criminal violence is also illegal. Allowing an argument to escalate into a physical fight is not self-defense.

THE 3 BIG USe of force POINTS:

The moral, legal, and ethical reasons for using force on another human being include:

1. Violence is in process, and I must use force to put an end to it.

2. By a reasonable standard, I believe violence is imminent, and I must use force in order to keep itfrom starting.

3. Preclusion – Notice the “MUST” in the two reasons. The totality of the situation is such that I am precluded from using options besides force, and force is the only option. (Again - Hammer or Anvil?)

THE 2 BIG use of force QUESTIONS:

When I use force, I must be able to articulate answers to two questions:

1. Was force necessary? (Yes or No)

2. Was the level of force used proportional to the threat? (Yes or No)

If I have good answers to both of these questions, I should not be charged with a crime in a true case of self-defense. I can still be sued, because anyone can sue anyone else, at any time, for any reason. But, everyone from a responding officer to a prosecutor should immediately see that I did not commit a crime.

The totality of the situation is everything in the situation – the level of threat, the environment, and uses the “reasonable person” standard.

Threatening Indicators include violent gestures, threats, and lunging or aggressive movement into personal space - with no safe option of leaving the situation. There’s no need to make it complicated.


Castle Doctrine, Duty to Retreat, Red state, Blue state, what about Canada or Europe? Skip it. There’s one legal principle you need to know about when it comes to civilian use of force - wherever anything like the Common Law tradition applies:Preclusion - what precludes you or prevents you from leaving a situation and using some option besides violence?

Here is a longer case study (5 minute read)

Quick Summary:

  • Retired firefighter with concealed carry permit confronts a neighbor about a loud party - the neighbor is a grade school teacher with no criminal record.
  • After 22 minutes of escalating argument and threats, the retired firefighter shoots and kills the school teacher when he feels threatened. The shooter recorded the entire encounter on video.
  • Retired firefighter receives a 40 year prison sentence for murder.

Why? Even in a “Stand Your Ground” state, you are reasonably expected to remove yourself from trouble if you are not precluded - prevented, from doing so. A concealed carry permit and being armed should raise one’s caution level about staying in arguments and escalating situations rather than making one more stubborn or aggressive in a confrontation.

I’m not a lawyer and don’t pretend to be – but many people don’t understand that these Stand Your Ground situations become very muddled if the parties are known to each other and have some type of previous relationship. Or, if there is an escalating situation that a reasonable person would leave if possible.

Remember the common sense rule about use of force – it should be more obvious to everyone, but if you have a choice – really have a choice about using any kind of force, including lethal force, then you shouldn’t. Justified force is when you’d be an accessory to your own assault, rape, or murder if you failed to act!

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I'm Eric Scott, and I'm the self-defense instructor writing most of the articles and courses on this site. I'm the founder of Self-Defense Global. I've been training and teaching self-defense for most of my life. My goal is to provide you with useful information that helps you live a safer, happier life.

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