As most people who read this blog know by now, one of my taglines is, “If you have to fight, fight like a cornered cat.”
When people hear me say that, they tend to assume that I mean that you might have to fight really, really hard in order to defend yourself. And that’s true — you might.
But that’s not the heart of the issue.
The thing about a cornered cat is, it fights with a specific goal in mind. That goal is to escape and get to safety. That’s it and that’s all. Whatever damage happens to the attacker on the cat’s way out the door simply Does. Not. Matter. to the cat, and especially not when it is compared to the overwhelmingly important goal of getting away from danger and into a place of safety.
With that goal of getting to safety in mind, a good and reasonable person can use any degree of force — up to and including deadly force — and almost always be on the right side of the law even without ever thinking about the law at all. They’ll be on the right side of the law, not because there’s something magical about being “a good person”, but because the laws are written specifically to allow necessary self-defense and specifically to dis-allow fighting (or killing people) over things like ego, property, pride, aggressiveness, insults and disrespect … and the list goes on.
It is only legitimate and necessary defense of innocent life that is protected by self-defense laws, not any of that other stuff.
Not only this, but the law allows the use of force to protect your life only to the extent — in both time and severity — that it is truly necessary. And that’s another thing that a person with the “fight like a cornered cat” mentality will have in place. Because the goal is always and ever to survive and get to safety, a person with this mindset will not get entangled in proving a point. They will tread softly when necessary and treat other people with kind respect. They will apologize when an apology is called for, and, should it come to a physical defense, they will stop when it is time to stop. They won’t fire shots at a car thief as he drives away, or shoot an unconscious assailant again and again to make sure he’s dead, or do anything that prolongs the encounter.
They will do whatever they need to do in order to survive and no more than that.
Going into an encounter with the mindset that you will do whatever it takes to get to safety — no more and no less — protects you from this aspect of the law.
But it’s not only about the law, of course. It is also about personal survival. Over the past 18 years, I have taken many classes in both armed and unarmed use of force. Nearly all of those classes billed themselves as “Self Defense Class” of one flavor or another.
One thing that I discovered in many of the empty hand classes that I’ve taken is that there is a huge, remarkable, amazing difference in the physical mechanics of effectiveness when a person’s goal changes.
When the goal is “to win” or “to humiliate the assailant”, the physical mechanics of doing that are much different — and much more difficult to perform effectively! — than the mechanics of fighting to survive and get away. Sometimes, of course, fighting to survive and get away will include disabling or even killing the attacker. The attacker’s goal and attack method might make that necessary. But also sometimes, a good person completely misses their opening to escape and survive because they get completely fixated on humiliating their opponent and winning the physical fight. The mechanics of survival fail them because they didn’t have the right goal in mind during the fight.
So it turns out that fighting with the goal in mind — the goal of doing whatever it takes to survive and get to safety — keeps a person safer both legally and physically.
It’s worth thinking about.
If you have to fight, fight like a cornered cat.