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The 'force continuum' is a system of maintaining awareness and respect of the level of force that is to be deployed (see 'force deployment' ) in a situation of necessity.

Our Objective in Force Deployment

What must never be forgotten is our single objective in deploying any level of force on an attacker: our safety and that of those around us in applicable situations. What we're trying to do is prevent a crime (assault) from taking place or stop a crime in progress from continuing.

Simply put, our objective is to escape. Anything we do is merely to effect an escape. If you can simply run away from someone intimidating you, do so.

Below is a list of examples (which is not exhaustive) of objectives we do not have regarding force deployment:

  • To defend our honour
  • To defend the honour of someone else
  • To teach someone a lesson
  • To prove our worth to someone who doubts us
  • To show off or gain social standing
  • To enjoy ourselves or have fun
  • To shut someone up
  • To get back at someone
  • To show superiority over someone
  • To feel better

Rules of Engagement: Threat Awareness, Threat Evaluation, Threat Avoidance and Communicative Strategies

Force deployment is of course necessary if at any moment a surprise attack occurs, when threat awareness, evaluation or avoidance has failed.

Rules of Engagement: Force Continuum

When force deployment is necessary, the minimal amount of force that is necessary in order to effect our escape and maintain our safety should be used. This is easily said and not easily measured objectively, however. As 'reasonable force' is a rather subjective and difficult area, your justification for whatever action you take is yours to make. That said, some guidelines can assist the thought process in terms of what levels of force to use.

One question stands above all others in terms of usefulness for this process:

Is [force deployment] necessary to effect my escape and/or maintain my safety?

It can be easy to continue past the point at which a threat has been neutralised in a blind rage, or even a panic, if your emotions are not kept in control to the best of your ability. The line at which protection becomes retaliation can be a difficult one to find without the above question.

The amount of force being utilised is also difficult to measure objectively, but an awareness and respect for the injuries inherent in your force options can help your consideration. For example, consider some differences between the chance of lasting injury from a palm strike to the jaw and from a punch to the jaw:

  • Both can generate enough power to cause a knockout effect.
  • The palm strike is using a larger and softer surface area to strike with. This will affect many nerve endings at once in a wider affected area, causing a large amount of pain which can be quite shocking. However, the wider surface area of the striking hand also means the impact is spread over that area, so any one part of the target is less likely to be seriously damaged from the strike than it would be if punched with the knuckles.

Taking such things as these into consideration can help greatly when considering force options and your accountability for them.

Considerations when Deploying Force Options

We have a number of considerations when deploying force options which should hopefully help avoid the legal, social, psychological and ethical issues around excessive use of force.

  • Remember that the person attacking you is still just that - a person. As a person, you won't just be harming them if you use an excessive amount of force against their attack or intimidation. They will likely have family and friends who could end up grieving or becoming full-time carers if you kill or disable them through using excessive force.
  • Control your emotional state. This is absolutely essential. If you are as calm as you can possibly be in the situation, you're less likely to panic or become enraged and find yourself sitting on an unconscious person's chest punching them in the face when you could have left.
  • If possible, you can continue to use communicative strategies while deploying force in an attempt to get the attacker to stop so that you can escape. This can also help to maintain your innocence and justification in the eyes of witnesses.
  • If possible, show compassion to a fallen attacker. This will help with the effects of the aftermath of the violent encounter. Call an ambulance as well as the police, or leave an unconscious attacker in the recovery position (if you're certain it's safe to do so), etc. Such a mindset can help you deal with any post-combat guilt that can arise as well as maintain your innocence and justification in the eyes of witnesses.