What is the proper response to the threat of violence?

Howard Wallace

Feb 23, 1999
Coururoy, Yoda4561, and I began an off topic discussion on this issue in the "front pocket" thread. I am interested in the views of other forumites, and so am attempting to move the discussion to an appropriate thread. I have copied the previous posts and appended them to this note for your convenience. Sorry if the formatting doesn't come through.

Senior Member
posted 01 June 1999 05:04 AM

If someone is robbing you and gives you the opportunity to take out your own wallet, might I suggest you do so and give it to them? That way bloodshed is likely to be avoided. You can always replace a wallet and its contents, but the effects of a violent encounter will likely last a lifetime, be they mental or physical.

Defensive knives are for situations when an encounter begins violent or unavoidably becomes so.
The victim should not be the one who initiates the violence, nor should a lethal weapon ever be used in defense of inanimate objects. These are my opinions, and others may, of course, think differently.


(Why else would a bear want a pocket?)
Howard Wallace
Senior Member
posted 02 June 1999 08:01 PM


Your post raises a question in my mind. I don't claim to be wise enough to answer the question, but I can at least elucidate it.

My understanding of your statement is that if one is threatened with physical violence, one should do whatever is necessary (within some reasonable bounds) to make sure the physical violence does not occur. I believe the courts also share your opinion on this point.

Do you believe, after giving a mugger a successful and non-violent mugging experience, that you share any moral responsibility for the mugger's subsequent actions? What if tomorrow, when he is mugging your 70 year old neighbor, she resists and he kills her?

I can't help but consider the possibility that predators and prey are interdependent. In a society where we make it a policy to reward violent predation, can we really say that it is only the violent predators who are morally unfit?

By the way, I honestly don't know the answers to these questions. But I do wrestle with them.
posted 02 June 1999 11:24 PM


I think that what Corduroy meant was that if a person felt that their life was threatend then it would be foolish to risk it over a few bucks in your wallet. This is especially true when you are with your family. Say a guy had you at gunpoint and asked for your wallet, would you risk your
and your family's well being over it??
Howard Wallace
Senior Member
posted 03 June 1999 12:53 AM


As you can probably tell from my indecisive ramblings, I don't have an answer to your question.
Usually I follow my gut and my heart. They've kept me alive this far, and I trust my family's fate also to the "quiet voice within."
Senior Member
posted 03 June 1999 01:19 AM

I do not feel responsible for the actions of a mugger before, during, or after the event, no matter how I respond. During the event, my primary goal is survival with a minimum of risk. If simply cooperating will see me through the encounter, that is far better than resorting to violence.

I feel that all force should only be countered with lesser or equal force. A knife is lethal force.
That means that if my life is at stake, I feel justified in using it. But if it appears likely that my life is not in real danger if I cooperate, then it would be inapproprate to escalate the encounter to a lethal level.

I agree that I may seem to be "rewarding" the mugger by not resisting, but I will immediately "resist" when it is over by providing the police with a report in as much detail as possible. I will not execute an individual for a crime that is undeserving of such punishment, even if I were legally empowered to deliver punishment for crimes, which I am not.

In short, I would be neither morally nor legally right to kill someone over the contents of my wallet. I can always get more money, and I do hope that such an individual will be punished for their actions, but they do not deserve to die for them (or for actions you may imagine they might commit in the future).

That's my take on it, but this is a fascinating question and I hope more folks will find this very off-thread discussion and respond.


(Why else would a bear want a pocket?)
Well this will be a popular thread. Here is my quick take as I must leave soon.

If you are being robbed and you have the opportunity to escape, do so. In the example above you should throw your wallet down and to the side and haul A$$.

However should you enter into a unavoidable fight the suggestion to only use lessor or equal force does not work.

Sorry guys I grew up in the projects and I am also a martial artist of several styles for many years. I think Bram will back me up on what I am about to say.

It has been my experience that if you only show equal or lessor force to an attacker you will get hurt or killed. Should it become necessary, and you are in fear of your life, you must show that you are a force to be reckoned with. I mean go ape on the guy big time and they will in most circumstances run away thinking you are not worth the hassle. This has worked many times for me and the people I have taught.

In several instances simply yelling at the attacker made them turn tail.

I must get to work now and I will hop back in the thread later.

Best Regards,
Mike Turber
BladeForums Site Owner and Administrator
Do it! Do it right! Do it right NOW!

I, for one, am not willing to take the chance that the mugger would just take the wallet and go. I would "flip the switch" and try my best to incapacitate him so I could escape.


Chris Canis,

An anecdote: A friend of mine residing in Los Angeles came out of a store one night after purchasing a bottle of Gatorade. As he approached his car, a perp came up to him, armed with a knife, demanding money. The perp met with my friend's newly purchased Gatorade bottle on the head with a high rate of speed. My friend then proceeded to take what money the mugger had and his knife as well.
It can't be said enough that the best place to be when trouble comes along is not to be there when it happens. Barring that, one should be prepared to defend oneself vigorously.
Just my 2 cents.

On this topic.

Our laws are set up around the concept of "fundimental fairness", NOT morality.

This is why the crook has more rights than the victim. Cumbersome? yes. Problematic? definately. But I have to admit if I were charged with a crime that I didn't do then I would definately want to use the system for all it is worth. It is one of those things that make sense from a certain point of view, but the results are completely ludicrous.

The part of your training should include "what if" games. Before you ever get into that question you need to draw a line in the sand, knowing that the decisions you have to make in seconds will be evaluated by people who litterally have all day to develop a response.

I carry a five and five ones wrapped around a match book for muggerbait (secure with a rubber band). The serial numbers are recorded. I won't give up my wallet, because it contains my PD ID. One look and the mugger is now on guard and may be willing to neutralize the new threat to his getaway (me). I also will not take a kneeling position when told. The fight will be on.

Morally or legally, your goal is to SURVIVE. Appeasing a mugger may sound like a pansy way out, if you survive, you won. Ditto the one that takes decive offensive action. There are plenty of dead moral persons. Morality is judged by actions, so the questions of the predator/prey relationship is one of intageable philosophy. I cannot contribute to this world in a positive manner if I lose or am convicted for protecting myself.

I do not think that it is a question of whether to act decisively to protect yourself, but when to act. Every situation will be different and have a different response, if only on a psychological/physiological level. Did you go home without stopping at the hospital or jail? Then you won. It is not my place to judge as I was not there.


how would you like to be judged by 12 people who were not smart enough to get out of jury duty.

I mean, if I went around saying I was an Emperor because some
moistened bint had lobbed a scimitar at me, people would put me away!

I agree with Pat (Ic609) as a long time (20 years all told) in law enforcement. The best reaction is action. Mugger bait is a great idea. But using less force that presented in NEVER an option. The die was cast by the Bad Guy, he chose his road. Be safe! Fish
My views have changed as I've gotten older and started a family.

I view my fundamental responsibility right now as: protecting and providing for my family. Period. If I'm dead or in jail, I've failed -- regardless of any other ethical complexities. When I was younger and responsible only for myself, my view on this point was much different; I felt more strongly about taking action. I must confess to being a bit conflicted about my current philosophy on the subject, about "*****ing out" when challenged (which, embarassingly enough, is somewhat the way I think about it). But ultimately I thought hard about what I think it is to be a man, and the above is the conclusion I came to.

This is highly situation-dependent, but by and large, confronted with a strong-arm robbery, I would likely hand over whatever was required to ensure my continued safety, and hence my continued availability for my family. HOWEVER, strong-armed robberies can and do get violent -- victims are often killed or beaten into a coma even after complying. As a result, to maximize my chance of survival, if I see a realistic chance to neutralize the attacker, he will be neutralized. How "realistic" a chance I'll take depends on the vibes I get about my own personal safety.


[This message has been edited by Joe Talmadge (edited 03 June 1999).]
"how would you like to be judged by 12 people who were not smart enough to get out of jury duty."

shame on you. Is this your opinion of your civic duty (and privelege !) to serve on a jury ? Do you view voting in free elections the same way ? Don't complain when the liberal elites erode your rights & freedoms because all the people "smart enough" to avoid getting involved stayed home.
We all have to make our own decisions (usually on the spur of the moment) about how to respond to the threat of violence. I'm not sure there is one correct answer. There are too many variables for one thing. Personally, my general response would be to answer the threat with extreme and crazed aggression (the same as others have indicated above). However, this is only if I sense a real personal threat to myself or a loved one. I would be more likely to walk away (if possible) from lesser threatening situations.

"Walk softly and carry a big folder... and a small folder... and a SAK... and a multi-tool..."

I must agree with my fellow LEO's answers but add a little to the picture.

While some people here are saying "I'll give up my wallet to a B/G, because I can always get more money" and "My life is worth more than a few bucks", might sound like a logical idea, there is no way to tell when a situation will turn from a small threat to life threating.

I have seen to many 14 & 15 year old kids that have been charged with murder or attempted murder because they set out to mug someone and then after they got what they wanted, they just started beating, stabbing or shooting the victim.

If someone I know were to ask me the posed question my reply would be very simple and straightforward....If you can safely run away from the situation,by all means do so, BUT
...Remember that it was the other guy that initiated the situation, and use whatever type and amount of force that is necessary to terminate the situation.

There is a saying that I'm sure everyone has heard before....."Better to be judged by 12, than be carried by 6".

C.O.'s-"It takes balls to work behind the walls "
hello people, lets take something in consideration here, would the thug have a knife, a bat, or a gun, or any other deadly weapon. If the thug had a gun, whats the distance between you and your attacker, the same with all other weapons, if the thug is close/one kick away, i would surely use the most deadly force known to man, but, the only time you can do this is if the mugger is quite close to you, if the mugger is 5-10ft. from you with a gun only, your only coice is to hand over your stuff, i suggest acting really scared and frightened for your life, so the mugger thinks, man, im in control here, then when the time is right, run, or if you can, attack him. My old Sensei, a 5th degree black belt in Aikido always taught me and my fello peers to act so scared and plee for your life, making the mugger feel he has the power, then attack. If the attacker has a bat, a pipe, a knife, or anything except a gun that shoots any type of projectile, i'll whip out my blade and take him down, if it was a striking weapon like a pipe or bat, thats so easy to disarm, especially if you have some aikido practice, just remember, if you disarm the mugger, and if you hurt him/her, and they are on the floor without a weapon, don't hurt them anymore, you can be charged with manslaughter, even if he was not killed-some law isn't it, if some low life criminal went to attack or mug me, it would really be hard for me not to stomp on his head when he's on the floor, this jerk wants to take your damn life away, why aren't we allowed to slay that mugger, it's because society, once again society would say oh my god, why did the civilian tear the muggers head off, then again, who wants to go to jail for manslaughter. Just my thoughts folks, i hope no one got affended.

"Shackle there minds when their left on the cross, when ignorance rains life is lost"....

Hmmm, given the second half of that quote, let me just fix it up:

"Shackle their minds when they're left on the cross, when ignorance reigns, life is lost."

Not trying to offend, just struck me as slightly hypocritical. Email me if you'd like an explanation of the different uses of their, there, and they're.


(Why else would a bear want a pocket?)
This is a fundamentally personal issue that each individual must resolve for him or herself. I appreciate the opportunity to see some of my respected fellow forumites' thoughts, and to clarify my own.

Corduroy is the only person who has directly addressed my question about the compliant "victim's'" responsibility for further violence, in his statement that he assumes no responsibility for a mugger's actions, past, present, or future.

I have found behavioral psychology to be a powerful model, both in its predictive power and it's ability to allow manipulation of human and animal behavior.

A man gets a young Rotweiller puppy. Every time the puppy snarls or growls at the man, the man gives the puppy a bit of food. If the puppy displays aggressive behavior towards the man, the man can avert "violence" by giving the puppy another toothsome morsel. The puppy grows to an aggressive and mean dog, who is especially dangerous to people around the dinner table. Does the man bear any responsibility for the behavior and the dangerous nature of his dog?

It can be argued that throwing rolls of money at a mugger to avert violence does not exactly parallel this example. Some say that a human has free will, or a soul, and the dog does not. Nevertheless, experiments have shown that human behavior can be influenced by conditions very similar to those used in training animals.

I believe that we train each other. In that sense the notion of individual responsibility is false. But we must pretend that it is true, at least as far as holding individuals accountable for their own actions.
Several posters have mentioned important factors that need to be weighed when faced with the threat of violence. Personal safety and survival, the safety of loved ones, compliance with the law. It seems to me that many factors of importance have been left out. Do we not also need to throw into the balance the effect of our actions on the aggressor, and the effect of our actions on the society as a whole? These factors will not always indicate the same type of response. Even the theft of money or materials, if it occurred on a regular basis, may threaten the survival of a family. Threatened violence may come under the auspices of the legal system, as is happening in Yugoslavia. Then should you obey the law? What if capitulating to the threatened violence means changing your way of life? Our forefathers fought violently, and risked their lives and the lives of their families, over the issue of taxation without representation.
Several posters have mentioned that all situations are different. I think this is true. As soon as a "correct" response is determined to a type of situation, the situation will change.

The ideal response will probably include the following two characteristics. 1- The responder is aware of the unique situation, and is using all the available information and intuition at his disposal. 2- The responder has thought about his values ahead of time, not to reach an a priori decision on how he will react, but rather to enable an instantaneous response that is appropriate to the situation and his values.
When I got my wife a gun for personal defense, I admonished her that if she picked it up, be very ready to use it, mentally. Never to brandish it as a display.

I would have to think that the mugger or attacker would be just as willing to use his weapon or fists/feet and probably more so as his was a premeditated action. I would assume that his threat was real and his attack imminent. And I am a witness to his crime.

I'm no hero and detest pain, butt danmmit I'm a lousy runner, really slow. If I could hurt him bad, I would. I need the headstart. The only way I would cooperate is if I felt I had no other choice, and in that case I would definitely surrender my goods.

Animals do not respect easy prey, they eat them.
This is an especially thorny instance of the more general question of whether one is morally required to fight for justice. How many of you have allowed petty bureaucrats to get away with forking you over, insurance companies to get away with paying only a fraction of what they owe you in an out-of court settlement, merchants to get away with refusing to replace defective merchandise, cops to get away with giving you unjustified tickets? Your life isn't at risk in any of those situations; it's the fear of going through a hassle ... I suspect reluctance to risk a hassle is responsible for more evil in the world than reluctance to risk being killed.

Back to the particular instance.... Carrying a wallet with a small amount of money to give to muggers is such a well known trick they always suspect that -- doesn't mean they'll always kill you if you don't give them hundreds of dollars; of course they usually won't, but no matter how much you give them it's very possible they'll kill you anyway....

Speaking for myself, my training is not to allow anyone to point a gun at me. He may not be dead before he gets it all the way out of his pocket, but if he isn't it won't be because I'm waiting around to see if he says, "Your money or your life," or "Can you help me adjust the sights on this?" or just shoots me. If he prefers a knife he's more likely to survive the encounter (and so am I, of course) but again I won't wait around to see what he intends to do with it or if he has anything to say.

That's just me, though. I don't preach that everybody should resist muggers -- I do plenty of preaching, but I focus on preaching resistance in the situations where the risk/benefit ratio is clearer, like bureaucrats forking with your rights, rapists, etc.

-Cougar Allen :{)

[This message has been edited by Cougar Allen (edited 03 June 1999).]
Here's a short synopsis if how I would react to a situation:

-If at all possible avoid any confrontation at all, run, whatever. But this is not always possible.
-If I felt that the mugger had a distinct advantage(ie:gun pulled and ready) then i would cooperate, using the first possible opportunity to run or defend myself if neccesary.
-If the guy is unarmed or has a knife I would refuse, if it escalated into a fight then i would fight with every intention of beating the other guy into a bloody pulp. If at any time during this I felt that the assailant might kill me, I would use any and all force at my disposal to incapacitate him.

Regarding the rotweiler metaphor, i dont belive this applies. The assailant is not my dog. I have no control over his actions, I am not his owner.
One with the Force you must be...


Hmph! a Jedi desires not these things.

[This message has been edited by yoda4561 (edited 03 June 1999).]
I don't own much at all. If the mugger is trying to take something from me, he is likely taking most of what I own. I see little recourse but to deal with him as neccesary. Oh yeah, muggings are all up close, knives work fine. If somebody tries to mug you from long distance, laugh and run away.

I know of whence I speak. I have both been mugged and used an edged weapon in self defense. I have never taken human life. Intentionaly anyway, if some dumbass dies of infection from a non-vital cut, that's his problem. Oh, I have this weird quirk too that's an outgrowth of having been an angry youth with several misdeeds on his record. It starts on the street and stays on the street. I don't call cops, not on my account. When the fights over, I leave. I can't call the cops during or before anyway, so it doesn't matter. I'm sure this stretches mutual combat laws to the limit, but so be it.

However, I do NOT reccomend not calling the police.

I have no steady residence, so I'm always the stranger in town. I have no money, so I'm always in the worst parts of town. As a result, I get "challenged" a lot. If you show weakness, you'll get screwed with a lot. If you stand up for yourself, you might get beat down once, but you'll more often than not be left alone from then on, if only uneasily. Well, usualy. Sometimes you really piss off the other guy, especialy if you win. Then he may get his buddies after you too. Then it's time to get out of Dodge.

I want to make clear that I DO NOT come out slashing every time I get in a scrap. More often than not, all that is exchanged is harsh words. If a fight does ensue, I only use the force I deem neccesary; for instance, I don't pull a knife in a "friendly brawl".

Don't kill when you can incapacitate, don't use a knife when you can use knuckles, and all bets are off if the life of loved ones are on the line. Tear the sunufabich apart by any means neccesary in that case.
There is no clear-cut answer to the question. Everything depends on how you size up the situation, and whether or not you can take your adversary.

The way I see it, if you can, kill him. If you can't, run. If you can't run, then go down fighting. For me, there is no other way.
I think Win has it pretty well right. Even though I studied marshall arts for years (a long time ago I should add) such a thing as a "fight" has ceased to exist for me. If someone attempts to use force on me or my family, whether it's robbery or to do bodily harm, if I can arrange it, he's out of here, on the spot. Too often victims wind up injured for life, brain damanged, or dead from unprovoked attacks by someone trying to take other people's stuff. To me there is perfect circularity in the attacker taking the high jump. Period. Use whatever means available to make it happen and live to enjoy the next sunrise.