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A Marine is sprayed with practice pepper spray during nonlethal weapons training

The Use of Force Spectrum: Advanced Physical Force

Advanced physical force and intermediate force are the tools and skills that go beyond physical force in the Use of Force spectrum, but are still not considered lethal force. They included advanced martial training; such as expertise in multiple weapon types,  professional-level martial training, chemical sprays, electromuscular disruption technology, and adaptations of lethal force to minimize damage (such as bean bag shells for shotguns).

This article is NOT a primer on what is legal or not legal in certain states, as the laws vary. The reader is encouraged to research the laws pertaining to their state and to consult their legal counsel to verify their understanding of these laws.

Advanced martial training is included in intermediate force only from the standpoint that such training brings additional scrutiny to the protector when utilizing this skill set. This is NOT the notion that ‘hands and feet are registered as lethal weapons’, because that is a myth. However, credentials in advanced martial skill can be used to question if the level of force administered was necessary for protection, or if it was excessive. This is sometimes initiated through ‘disparity of force’ arguments. In disparity of force, a lone protector against multiple attackers may be able to respond to the altercation with lethal force, even if none of his attackers are using lethal force instruments, only because the 4 against 1 scenario provides enough justification that life or great bodily harm is a reasonable possibility. Similarly, in an altercation between a mid-20’s athlete arguing with granny over a parking space, if granny starts swinging her cane, the other individual may not necessarily be able to justify a physical force response, because granny is no real threat. Expertise in martial training may be used to demonstrate a force disparity based on capability. Remember, a prosecuting attorney’s job is to get convictions, and any legal avenue he can bring to bear on the case may be used.

Chemical weapons are often allowed to use any time physical force is justified (again, check for yourself in your state). The most widely acceptable is OC spray, which stands for oleoresin capsicum. It is an inflammatory, so when sprayed affects the eyes, nose, and mucus membranes of the target. While some people are not as affected by this type of attack, it will have an effect on most of the population. The inflammatory effects take time to onset. This can be between 10 and 20 seconds, depending on the target. In that onset time, the target will feel discomfort, but will not be overly incapacitated. Repeat offenders who have been sprayed multiple times are also far more likely to control any anxiety over getting sprayed, so while the spray will affect them, any panic associated debilitation will be averted. Users of OC spray are well served by having a strong martial background so that they can protect themselves while the effects of the spray set in.

Another  advanced force item is electromuscular disruption. TASER is a popular brand device for this. In the case of these devices, an electrical signal is imparted to the target using frequency and high voltage to disrupt the nervous system’s ability to send signals to the body. The effects are a kind of stun, because the target can no longer control most bodily functions. These effects are instantaneous, but the nature of the device is such that one shot is usually all that the device has capacity for. In that one shot, two probes must make contact with the target to create the signal loop. Fortunately, the probes’ small wires can also act as signal loop so contact with the wires is sufficient to get some effect.

There are other intermediate force options available, primarily to law enforcement, which include bean bag rounds fired from shotguns, using weapons such as flashlights and batons in a controlling way, and other alternatives. These options are not generally available to civilians, or may constitute lethal force. For instance, a night stick used by a police officer trained in using it as a grappling aid would fall under advanced physical force. If the same scenario was played out between non-LEO civilians, the use of the weapon may constitute lethal force.

Advanced physical force options are an excellent way for a protector to be able to help ensure he is not harmed by using these tools in an effective and law-abiding way. A fight against a thug may have been a challenge, but if the thug has been hit with pepper spray, it makes the protector more likely to prevail.

There are multiple courses around the country that instruct intermediate force options available to the non-LEO civilian. Like all protection training, these courses should be explored and attended, and proficiency gained, before relying on the force option for personal protection. Each of these options have very unique characteristics and require an understanding and proficiency to correctly employ. Paying for a pepper spray canister from the hardware store does not generate this proficiency. Training does.

About donaldj

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Donald Alley is a black belt in jujutsu with over 10 years of martial experience, he has practiced personal protection training methodology with broad-spectrum awareness. Black belt in Yagyu Jujutsu. Brown belt in Yoshinkai Aikido. Licensed Instructor (rank of Shidoin) in the International Sogobudo Federation. Yutto Jusseki 2012 (top graduate award) ISBF Instructor Training Program. Owner of DJA Applications and the Bu Tactical product line. Program coordinator for Martial Tactical Training of Michigan Chudokai Aikido Federation Kenshu graduate 2006. Primary Member of the US Martial Tactical Association. Level 1 Instructor in the US Martial Tactical Association. NRA Certified Instructor in Basic Pistol. NRA Certified Instructor in CPL (Personal Protection In The Home). Published martial arts and personal protection and emergency preparedness columnist.

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