Re: To help or not to help
Basically, I think that someone who pursues Budo as a Path has an obligation to use those skills to protect folks who are not capable of protecting themselves. What else is your training for?
That said, you have to be realistic and understand that ANY time you intervene it could instantly and without warning become a life and death matter. If you don't go into it with that mindset, don't intervene. Also, in a violent confrontation, it makes no sense to intervene unless you actually have the skills to back up your words.
In Seattle during Mardi Gras a number of years ago there was a woman being assaulted by a group of guys and a young 18 year old intervened to help her. They killed him. Just like that. Good intentions without skills just add to the victim count. I suppose you could say that he saved her... but he died doing it and I don't see needless sacrifice as much of an improvement.
Mindset is everything. You get involved in a confrontation, you have to be impeccable. By that I mean you have to accept the fact that you could be seriously injured or killed and you have to be willing to do what is needed to protect yourself and the victim you are intervening to help. Willingness and commitment to do what is necessary and knowing you have the skills to do whatever becomes necessary without hesitation... if you don't have these, it's better not to intervene. Call the police. Make lots of noise, set off a fire alarm, something... But don't get directly involved unless you can take it to the finish if it goes badly. There's simply no point in substituting one victim for another or simply adding to the victim count.
That said, in my own mind there are certain situations in which you simply do not consider your own welfare. A child needs help, a woman is being assaulted, you go to the center and do what you need to do. But you need to be clear that you could die doing it. The power that comes with the clarity that accompanies that willingness is quite tangible and is often enough to take care of an issue. Predatory types are both good at identifying victims and good at deciding when it isn't worth the sacrifice to get what they want.
I have had this conversation wit my sons. My eldest had a good object lesson. Several years ago he spent the summer with his jaw wired shut after he tried to break up a fight at a party. A guy no one even knew came up behind him and cold cocked him, breaking his jaw in two places. The guy wasn't even one of the guys in the fight. I explained to him that there was a reason why the police don't do anything without back up. I told him that, while I wasn't opposed to the idea of intervening, he should never do so without someone watching his back. Anyway, in hindsight it was a cheap lesson he will NEVER forget.
My other son stepped in one night when a couple of guys were drunk and were being abusive to their girl friends. He took issue with their behavior... they took issue with his interference. He showed up back home with a black eye... I asked what had happened and he said "I had to beat them up. Afterwards I helped the girls put them in the car so they could take them home." So, while I was pleased to know that my son's assessment of his ability to handle himself was realistic in the case, I talked to him about the risks involved with fighting at all, even when you are sure you can win. I told him about the Univ of Wash student who took one punch at a party and died on the spot. Now the idiot who punched him is a murderer. So, we had the discussion about doing everything one can to avoid having to get physical while still doing what is right by protecting the ones that need protecting.
I think it helps clarify what you really believe on this subject when it's your kids you are talking about and not just yourself. It puts risks and consequences in perspective.