Israeli Krav Maga: Legally Speaking


Retzev counter-attacks must be considered and understood within a legal use of force context.  When there is no choice but to use counter-violence against a potential deadly force threat (whom cannot be reasoned with or otherwise deterred), you, the kravist train to temporarily incapacitate or, if necessary, maim an attacker.  To avoid legal ramifications, you must articulate why you injured an attacker. 

It behooves us to remember how and why krav maga was developed.  Of course, the answer is self-defense.  However, it was a specific “battle zone” type of self-defense.  Imi developed krav maga to contend with threats from hostile fellow civilians, terrorists, and enemy combatants all of whom gave no quarter.  Krav maga’s initial philosophy and tactics recognized that legal liability and jeopardy were usually inapplicable, if not entirely irrelevant.  Visceral counter-violence was generally both warranted and required to survive this type of violence.  In such situations, there was just one overwhelming rule:  survive. 

Today, when civilians employ self-defense, rules govern the proportionality of permissible counter-force.  Self-defense may be defined as:  reasonably necessary counter-force to protect yourself from suffering potential injury or death.  If you use and claim self-defense, you will be scrutinized by the police and, quite possibly, the local prosecutor.  They will examine closely if your self-defense actions justified and objectively reasonable. 

The totality of circumstances dictates that there is no single factor that determines reasonable use of force.  You understood potential severity of the injuries you could sustain if you did not act (use counter-force).  Accordingly, you made an informed decision to act.  You understood that passivity (not using counter-violence) could lead to your being severely injured or killed.  This type of compact explanation may be persuasive to a prosecutor exploring an indictment or to a jury post-indictment.

You must use only force that appears to reasonably be necessary to prevent the harm.  You must not use force that is likely to cause death or seriously bodily injury unless you reasonably believe that you will be maimed or killed.  Should you use more force than is necessary you will lose the privilege of self-defense.