When Can You Legally Defend Yourself?
Unfortunately, it happens all too often: you’re out with some friends, minding your own business, when someone sets out to cause trouble with you. And despite your best efforts of de-escalation, you may not be able to get out of the situation easily. Or maybe you stumble around a corner and interrupt an assault already taking place, and the assailant – or assailants – focus on you instead. Or in an extreme case, you could be in a worst-case scenario: you’ve come home unexpectedly, or woken up in the middle of the night, and someone you don’t know is inside your home, and you’re in their way.
In situations like these, preparation is the key. You have to be able to act decisively and effectively, while ensuring the safety of you and your loved ones. You may be willing to do what it takes to protect them – but just how many options do you have? Do you really know when you can legally defend yourself?
(Before going any further, we do have to point out – we are not lawyers, and as with any laws, this information is subject to change! These are guidelines only, and we make no guarantees that what is true today will hold up in the future. If you are in need of detailed help, consult someone who is trained to interpret the most up-to-date laws properly).
Self-defense is a very grey legal area for many reasons, but one of the biggest ones is this – at some point when you are fighting back (if you are successful), you will no longer be defending, but attacking. Finding that point is very difficult to do after the fact, and it is up to the people involved to judge when they can safely stop fighting back and exit the situation. The crux of many cases is whether a person acted reasonably, and did no more harm than absolutely necessary; many factors are taken into account for this, like relative size, weight, gender, weapons, prior behaviour, martial arts training, and so on. But in general, if you are attacked, you are legally permitted to reasonably defend yourself until you are no longer in danger.
When it comes to weapons, you also must be careful of what you use. It is actually illegal to buy or possess pepper spray in Canada, even for self-defense – and the same goes for a bat you pull from your truck, the switchblade in your pocket, or the brass knuckles you carry around. If you have anything on your person that you intend to use as a weapon, and then use it as such, it becomes harder to believe that your actions were entirely innocent, even if they were. The lines get blurry very quickly.
In Canada, you are innocent until the Crown proves you are guilty – which means that in a trial, the prosecution would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were not acting in self-defense. While it’s good that the default position is in your favour, these cases are often decided on sparse testimony, personal interpretations of behaviour, and second-hand evidence, so it is rarely as black and white as that.
In general, when it comes to self-defense, less is more. As a trained martial artist, you most likely have an advantage in a physical fight, and that will be accounted for after the fact. Never cause more harm than you must, and always look for a safer option to defuse the situation before choosing to defend yourself physically. The goal of martial arts like kung fu is not to fight like in the movies – it’s to gain a valuable skill and improve the balance and harmony of your body. Use your brain as much as your brawn, and you’ll always have the upper hand.
(And remember: if in doubt, talk to the real experts. We’re not afraid to admit we might be wrong, so don’t take any of this as complete legal advice!)
"How often should I train Kung Fu?"
There’s an old saying that says people need about 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. So if you didn’t sleep for nearly 14 months, and trained all day, every day, you could become a kung fu master in that time. Easy enough, right?
Okay, so maybe not that easy. But it does lead to the question: what is the best amount of time to train? Is there a “sweet spot” of dedicated time per week you should aim for?
Everyone is different, but our standard recommendation is about 2-3 hours per week of moderate to hard training. We know – it sounds like that’s hardly anything at all! But it’s important to remember that in kung fu, more training doesn’t necessarily mean better training. It’s much more about consistency than it is about total time.
Some people come in for 10 hours per week, and that works well for them and their lifestyle. And that’s great! Others can only do 2 or 3 per week, but they are very satisfied with the balance that it brings. And that’s great too. Listen to your body and work within your own personal “sweet spot” to find what’s best for you. As long as you are training and happy with what it does for you, that’s better than chasing an arbitrary time that you feel like you “should” be working.
Another good tip? It can be easy to think that training for, say, an hour straight once a week, is best. To be sure, it’s better than nothing. But instead of training once a week for 60 minutes, reframe it to 60 times a week for one minute. This way you are constantly refreshing yourself and your knowledge, and it will be quicker to recall and reuse – especially in the event that you have to use it. You don’t want to be caught in a conflict on Saturday night when the last time you even thought about training was last Sunday morning!
Our best advice is simply this: do the right amount to keep you happy with your progress. Martial arts are about learning what you’re capable of and how to harness your inner concentration, and when you do it the perfect amount, you’ll notice the positive effects coming through to the rest of your daily life too.
And if you’re the type that simply can’t get enough of the Kung Fu for Life studio, well, we’re open Mon-Fri from 1 – 9 PM, and 10 -2 on Saturdays, so there’s plenty of time for you to practice in our out of our classes. We look forward to seeing you the next time you drop in to recapture your zen!
Women in Martial Arts
It’s unfortunate, but it’s true: the world isn’t always a friendly place. And even more unfortunately, it’s usually more unfriendly to certain groups in particular. Until everyone gets along well, learning a martial art as self-defense is a good idea for everyone, even though we hope you’ll never have to use it outside of our facilities. It’s an especially good idea for women, and we want every woman out there to know that this a safe place to learn and practice alongside other women on the same journey.
There might be a misconception that if a woman comes to a class here, they will be disrespected or overlooked. That’s just not true – we are all students, and we are all in this together. We’ve never had an issue with this, and we’ll make sure it stays that way, because we want every single person in our classes to feel empowered and capable of mastering the skills they are learning.
So why is it important for women to pick up these techniques? Especially if the chance of having to use them is small?
The main reason is because, in general, women are smaller and lighter than men. If you’re not physically imposing, it will likely be tough to overpower someone bigger than you – but one of the great things about kung fu is that it teaches you how to leverage your power and weight in order to compensate for that. It’s something that we stress a lot, because it’s one of the most important concepts you can use in order to get out of a bad situation.
However, one of the only things more important than that is the idea that such a confrontation should be avoided in the first place. They say that the best defense is a good offense, and being proactive and aware could be the key to staying safe. For example:
Don’t look at kung fu as “manly” or “feminine” or any of those other – frankly poor – words. Think of it as an insurance policy for yourself, one that you can always keep up to date. It’s a great way to stay in shape, it helps you feel safe in certain situations, and it reduces overall anxiety, not only because of the mindset but because of the social aspect and the exercise.
If you want a respectful environment that treats you well and teaches you helpful skills, a course that shows you how to make up for a lack of weight or height, or even a place that just allows you to make new friends where you can show off what you learn together – Kung Fu For Life is for you. Increase flexibility, be more comfortable in your body, and build your well-being to new levels, all right here in our martial arts classes.
Kung Fu For Kids Recreation
One of the biggest shows on Netflix right now is “Cobra Kai” – a Karate Kid spinoff that shines a spotlight at the role of martial arts throughout life, with old rivalries that move into a new generation. A major theme of the show highlights how childhood is one of the most influential periods of our entire lives: it’s where we develop the habits, hobbies, and discipline that we will carry with us through the years. We learn social skills, how to deal with adversity, and how to focus our skills and energy into meaningful outlets – so with all that said, is learning a martial art a good kids’ activity? We think so!
8 Benefits of Martial Arts for Kids
There are all kinds of reasons why kung fu is a good sport for kids, but the best way to know is to simply see for yourself. While COVID restrictions have made drop-ins difficult, you can still contact us about getting an information session or taking part in a class with your son or daughter, helping them find out on their own how much fun it can be to learn crucial skills while getting a workout at the same time. Our non-competitive environment is the perfect place to hone the art, and who knows? They might stick with it, and become a kung fu teacher themselves, continuing the circle of knowledge and sending a message to the next generation that they can achieve their goals, too.
Call us or use our contact form to enroll your child in one of the best kids’ activities in Calgary, and find out more about why people are getting into kung fu for life!
Kung Fu Competition Training vs. Self-defense Training
It is important to understand that you don’t have to compete in order to learn self-defense. The origin of our system, shaolin, was never meant for competition. It was designed to create good health, focus of mind and body, and of course learning to defend oneself.
Sometimes what you might think looks barbaric in the fighting ring, is actually civilized when compared to advance self-defense training. Ring fighting contains only a portion of true Kung Fu/ martial arts.
Let us start by saying, there is only one true competitor in your life and that is the person looking back at you in the mirror. We will explain in point-form the main differences of self-defense and competition training.
So let’s address each one for now - competition versus self-defense.
1. Limited space, this is also often the case in self-defense as a matter of fact, much less space is usually available compared to the ring. So close-quarters fighting techniques is an absolute must. Sometimes there is much more space than you would ever find in a ring. Remember that the only thing that matters in self-defense is self-preservation, you must do whatever it takes, including running away. There’s no rules, no competition, no crowd to impress, just defending yourself! True self-defense has a foundation in both common sense and ethics. Before you ever lift your hand to hurt another human being, it must be warranted.
2. A referee is there to ensure that no competitor gets out of hand, gets severely injured or killed. He is the calming agent between the two fighters, reminding them at all times to follow the rules.
In self –defense, of course, there is no such person mediating anything or protecting you from what your assailant is going to do to you, it is just you and your attacker. There is only one outcome and it must be that you survive. You aren’t a winner or victor but rather the survivor for life not glory.
3. Rules. There are all kinds of rules in competition, and you can thank civilized man for that. Just remember there’s no rules in self-defense, except maybe the law and that’s only after the fact, unless you’re very lucky. In Roman times, the spectators were the true barbarians and they promoted the violence. Unfortunately, you still see some of that today, not just in martial arts but in many sports, more blood, more cheering, lots of big mouths calling out for more violence… it’s easy when it’s not their own blood.
4. Prearranged time in competition, this allows many variables to be somewhat predictable within reason, good fighters know this and plan a couple surprises for their opponents. Self-defense situations always have an element of surprise which causes confusion, fear, hesitation, and sometimes locking of the body (also known as freezing). Which is natural but nonetheless can be very irritating and restricting. Examples of this are, you can be carrying your groceries to your car, riding on the bus, sitting at a donut shop, or any number of tasks we do every day when an attacker comes at you. One of the best ways to avoid these predicaments is to remain aware of your surroundings at all times which allows you more options than just self-defense. This could include calling 9-1-1, avoiding the potential danger by exiting, or finding another way around it. Good teaching promotes the understanding of self-defense is far more than just hand to hand combat.
5. Know your opponent. For competition there are many ways to study the strengths and weaknesses of your opponent. For example, watching recordings of past fights, physically seeing their fights, watching old interviews, and yet there are still many other ways. In self-defense, obviously, there are no such observations possible. There is little to no idea of your attacker’s skill or intentions, other than obvious postures. How do you compensate for this? There are numerous ways, but no matter which you choose, you are forced to react (after exhausting all non-violent measures). You have to use any techniques that will work and must exert 100% effort until the threat is gone. When the attacker has forced you to the point of no return... fight for your life!
6. Rounds. There are 2-3 minute rounds with rest in-between. In Self-defense there is no rest, as I mentioned before no referee, no choice, and no rules.
Most self-defense if properly taught will only last a couple of seconds, maximum a minute, any self-defense that lasts longer is considered a very long time. The energy used during that minute is equivalent to over half an hour of an intense work out, depending on the intensity used. As well, you are dealing with other energy draining problems such as nervous tension, possible lock up, anxiety, maybe fear (which is totally okay). Remember hurting others is not normal or natural, even in our own self-defense. Like we said before you must defend yourself!
7. You get time to prepare for the fight, sometimes months. Pre-fight warm up in competition is also possible. As a matter of fact, it is absolutely necessary in order to prevent injury and have better reflexes and movement. Self-defense must include cold response training methods. This can be very difficult to do because the lack of a warmup that may cause injuries to occur. We don’t do it all the time, but often enough to make it work. However, our students always step into the martial arts hall with a certain state of readiness. Because of this our main teaching methods always include situational awareness training, which is an important tool for self-preservation. Obviously you can’t know when a self-defense situation will occur so there is no chance for a warm up. The main tools of mental preparation for this case are conscious and subconscious recall.
8. In competition there are two people who want to fight, both want to win but only one will. Both are already warmed up, they have been training for months and have done their homework beforehand. In Self-defense there is at least one aggressor and one defender who does not want to be in the situation at all. An attacker usually makes the first move and has the element of surprise. If you have no inclination of the attack and get surprised, being aware of your surroundings beforehand and having proper training can put the advantage back in your corner.
9. No exit strategy. In the ring, no one wants out. However in self-defense there are many exit strategies. A good martial arts teacher will show you the way to leave a situation or at least come up with a non-violent solution. Peace should always be the top priority.
10. Your trainer is right there with you in the corner of the ring. This is an amazing advantage. If you could have your teacher right there telling you what to do when you get attacked it would seem 10x easier. Unfortunately there is no chance of this ever happening. The best you can hope for is that you listened so carefully to your teacher that the master’s words flow to you like water; as if they were right there with you, telling you what to do, while you’re getting attacked. Otherwise (and for the most part this is always true), you’re on your own and every move is your call. Whether it’s the right or wrong move it’s totally up to you.
Training for competition is good for health and self-defense, but you DO NOT NEED to compete in order to learn excellent self-defense, because there is only one true competitor in your life, and that’s the person looking back at you in the mirror.