Dojo: Aikido of Solano
Location: Vacaville California
Join Date: Aug 2011
Re: To help or not to help
Back to the question at hand, do you, as a civilian, or even a military man, or off duty LEO, physically intercede when someone is being physically assaulted and battered? It easy out of a sense of pride, machismo, or duty as a budo practitioner to say yes yes yes.
Let's be honest here. This is an Aikido forum. How many Aikidoka, do you train with, that you honestly think have what it takes, to apply what they have learned, to save you, or one of your loved ones. Honestly it is very few, even among the lower Dan ranks, that I have known. So let's take Aikido out of the equation. How do you know when it is appropriate for you to intercede, and to what level do you get involved?
I still maintain, the first aid model. You see something, you observe, determine that there is an actual emergency (not just some horse playing), you call, or have someone call for help, then take whatever action you can safely take.
I think it is the "safely" we are having a discussion about. How do you judge if it is safe for you to take any action. First, Know your enemy. If you are walking up on a fight in progress, you have very limited details. You may see one guy getting beaten pretty bad, by three others. Most assume the one guy to be the "good guy" and the three to be the "bad guys". Get rid of that view. They are all fighting, they are breaking the law, they are all potential enemies to you. You have no side in this exchange so don't buy into one. Do any of them appear to have any weapons, or fighting as if they have any particular training, or is it just a free for all all out hay maker fest, where maybe less than 25% of strikes are even landing? The people involved may not be any better trained than you, and unarmed. The only obvious advantage to them is numbers.
Know yourself! Are you proficient enough at what you know and fit enough to hang long enough to get away from them should they come after you while trying to stop the fight? Do you have anyone with you, to even up the numbers, and out of who is with you, who has the ability to stand and fight if needed. Is there anyone with you, who would become a detriment to you trying to defend yourself, if need be. Like a child, or elderly family member of friend? Do you have any means of force multiplier, which may aid or possibly hinder you before during or after the incident?
Know your environment. If you approach the people fighting can you get away from them? Make sure there are two ways to get away from where they are fighting. Can others see you from the street or walkway? Are there potentially dangerous stationary objects, or potential improvised weapons laying about? What's the wind direction? How's the lighting? How many people are "watching" and what do they seem to be saying?
After you have done this, and you determine you can approach or at least get a little closer, you move in. You appeal to the one or people who seem to be in control or dominating. You say things like"Come on guys, looks like he's learned his lesson" or "Ok, Ok, that's enough, don't kill the man." If that doesn't seem to slow them down, verify your egresses are still there, and tell them the police have been called. This is why you make sure there are two ways to get out. One for you, and one for them so they don't have to go through you to get away.
If you do all this and they remain, you evaluate all over again, but this time, you weigh actual physical contact of trying to pull them back or off their opponent. If there are a number of them try to get some on the scene help from fellow bystanders. Try to get to the side, never in between them and their opponent. Don't rush in and start punching or trying to slap on a control hold or something. In fact if you have pepper spray, check the wind direction, and go for it. But realize, you will be the new target after you spray them. May be best to spray then egress away.
This is just an example, but this is how you need to think, and it looks like a lot and a drawn out process written out, but all this takes seconds to do in your head, if you work at it. Working at these things is what develops your situation awareness. Over time you will be constantly doing this subconsciously, especially in Aikido where we try to develop that sixth sense for danger.
The answer to whether or not or how to intercede definitely will be on a case by case basis. Knowing the what details to think of to make the decision should be thought of before hand. You don't want to bi in the situation to try and figure out on the fly what to ask yourself.