Because of the structures involved, neck holds must be considered potentially lethal under any circumstance and used only when there is no other alternative. Use of neck holds must be viewed in the same way as firearms; the potential for a fatal outcome is present each time a neck hold is applied and each time a firearm is drawn from its holster. The neck hold differs in that its fatal consequence can be totally unpredictable. ... its use should be restricted to those situations where the officer or another person's life is in immediate danger. ... It must be viewed as a potentially fatal tactic and reserved to situations which merit its risk.(emphasis added)The neck holds to which Reay and Eisele (R&E) refer are taught as shime-waza, strangulation techniques, or choking techniques within the martial arts. R&E's conclusions have some interesting/serious implications for the use and instruction of these techniques.
R&E suggest neck holds are lethal weapons and should only be used when a person's life is in immediate danger. In this way they should be viewed in the same way as firearms. There is a flip side to this argument. Based on this argument, you should be entitled to consider the application of a neck hold on yourself by another person as the use of lethal force against yourself. In most jurisdictions you're legally entitled to use lethal force to defend yourself against lethal force, so, you'd be entitled to use lethal force when someone applies a neck hold to yourself.
R&E suggest the potential for a fatal outcome is present each time a neck hold is applied. This is what makes neck holds a lethal weapon. Over the past few years 'one-punch deaths' have received a good deal of publicity in Australia and have been the source of legislation concerning these deaths. One-punch deaths refer to deaths following one punch. To be sure, the death is most often associated with the head impacting a hard surface from falling after the punch. Using the same logic as with neck holds, you could argue that punches are lethal weapons as the potential for a fatal outcome is present each time a punch is used. If this is the case then, using the flip side logic, you would be entitled to consider a punch lethal force and apply lethal force in defence.
Particularly with a punch, this is not legally the case. It is medically the case that you run the risk of dying after being struck with one punch as the number of fatalities attest. What do you instruct your students? Do you inform them of the potentially fatal risks associated with someone punching them? Doesn't this then set the scene for the student to increase their use of force when confronted with a punch? A use of force which is possibly not sanctioned by law. On the flip side it does encourage the student to consider their use of force and the potential outcomes associated with it. Does this have the potential of inhibiting their defensive response?
Vincent J. M. DiMaio and Dominick J. DiMaio, in Forensic Pathology wrote when discussing neck holds: 'In weighing how much force is acceptable in a situation, one must realise that any action involving force always has the potential of producing severe injury and death' (emphasis added). I couldn't agree more, however, the flip side poses certain problems. If any action involving force always has the potential of producing severe injury and death, doesn't this influence my response to force applied to me? Doesn't this influence how much force I might consider acceptable in a situation given the risk of severe injury and death? Do I inform my students that any action involving force always has the potential of producing severe injury and death which then may influence their use of force which may not be in agreement with the law? Might this information have the effect of making the student hyper-vigilant (for want of a better term).
In August 2005, the Crime and Misconduct Commission (Queensland) (CMC) published their findings concerning the injuries sustained by Samuel Hogan during his arrest. The police officers used a neck hold during the arrest and the commission considered the contribution, if any, the use of this technique had on the brain damage sustained by Hogan. The coroner's report appended to the CMC report had this to say on the classification of neck holds:
It is intriguing and possibly worrying that neck restraints are completely undifferentiated from use of firearms. Both are lumped together as lethal of force options. Although there is a possibility of a fatal outcome from neck restrains, the number of investigations such as this one is testament to the relative infrequency of fatal outcomes. The same cannot be said of delivering a large calibre hollow point projectile into any body cavity at short range. From the medical probability of an undesirable outcome there is merit in differentiating neck restraints from use of firearms. ... It seems to me there is scope for a further category that separates 'high probability' lethal force from 'slight possibility' lethal force.How does this reclassification or introduction of a new level of force assist in determining, and instructing, the appropriate level of force to be applied in response to force being applied to oneself. Does the slight possibility of death when a neck hold is applied to you preclude you from using a knife or gun, both of which might be classified as high probability lethal force, to defend yourself?
To the best of my knowledge, there has been no study to determine the relative frequencies of fatal outcomes using various force options. Is the relative infrequency of fatalities from neck holds to which the CMC coroner's report refers due to the fact of the relative infrequency of the use of neck holds? What would the outcome be if a percentage basis was used to determine the risks of fatal outcomes when applying these techniques? There are significantly more deaths associated with one-punches, so, based on the coroner's logic does this mean that punches should be classified as high possibility rather than slight possibility?
This blog is a philosophical musing only and should in no way be considered advice of any sort. It is also a call to arms that more work needs to be done, more information provided, on the actual effects of the techniques taught within the martial arts. The martial arts teach a range of techniques which have varying degrees of risks of fatality. The advice concerning the use of these techniques is often relegated to 'use it only to defend yourself.' If legal considerations are taken into account, the less than ethical advice has been provided that 'it's better be judged by 12 than carried by 6.' We need to do better than what we are doing. We need to know more, definitively, about the effects of the techniques we teach and the risks associated with them. ... And society needs to have a greater appreciation and understanding of the nature of violence and its effects on the human body. Law is shaped and people are judged based on, among other things, people's understanding of the nature of violence. An understanding which I would suggest is often woefully uninformed.