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When in doubt, don’t touch, because “there are so few situations where it is appropriate, so few where it might work.” Once a threat is in motion against you, however, touch transforms into a useful tool, as the paragraphs on projection of force, essentially redirection, illustrate.

The authors move on to describe the use of and justification for restraining force, termed Level 4. The options include joint locks, takedowns, holds and pressure point manipulation and they make it clear that justifiable applications for private citizens are limited. Level 4 requires very close proximity, and if you do succeed, what will you do with the threat to avoid an immediate explosion of violence as soon as you release them?

Before the chapters about destructive force options, the authors write a very thought-provoking page that explains making choices in the heat of a fight as clearly as I have ever read. To summarize, a justifiable decision to go to a higher degree of force is not the result of deciding you want to change your strategy, it is in reaction to “taking damage” from an assailant. “It will be thrust on you,” the authors stress, adding that if you have time to think about options, “you are contemplating assault.”

The section on takedowns is a lesson in denying balance to an assailant, but it reminds the reader, as do the other lessons in the many techniques discussed in Scaling Force, that reading a book about physical technique is of but limited value. “Everything in this or any book is just words on a page. That’s, at best, knowledge. You want to apply this when you are scared and desperate, so you need, at minimum, understanding,” they advise.

As we enter Scaling Force’s final quarter, the authors define two additional levels of force, identifying the next to the last as Level 5, which is “to stop an attacker and facilitate your escape to safety without permanently injuring or killing him.” Inflicting harm on the assailant is justifiable to prevent being injured, and here, the authors essentially explain the doctrine of competing harms.

They later add that for Level 5 force to succeed, it must be “ruthlessly applied to end the confrontation as quickly as possible.” Their discussion of these issues is realistic, a little chilling, and of considerable value.

The authors acknowledge that the boundaries between less-lethal force and deadly force are indistinct, “thus reinforcing the importance of being able to articulate the threat you faced and why you did what you did to escape it.” For armed citizens, in light of the places where weapon possession is verboten, a good reminder of defense alternatives, their application and their justifiability is always welcome.

Scaling Force’s transition into deadly force, which the authors call Level 6, is sobering, as they labor to invoke both the finality and the immediacy of death and dying. Coping with pain, countering an armed assailant, the fallacy of the fair fight, and the element of surprise are discussed. Witness dynamics and aftermath issues that include psychological stresses, legal realities and more are identified.

Since Scaling Force is written primarily for martial artists, the authors debunk a number of the common “death blow” techniques, summarizing by explaining, “From whatever position you find yourself in, you must get kinetic energy into the threat’s body. That energy must induce shock by stopping oxygen intake or blood flow or damaging the brainstem that controls the blood flow. It is that simple, and making it happen under stress is very hard.” They also outline knife lethality that could prove essential in explaining using a gun to defend against a knife.

In a brief conclusion, the authors emphasize that conflict and violence are not simple, single-facet topics. They’re as broad as the range of human behavior. Training that focuses only on developing skills for one aspect of defense–or what you expect will be needed for defense–just doesn’t make sense. Coming out alive is not as simple as instructors, books, or training DVDs make it seem. Neither is applying the right solution to the problem at hand. I think Kane and Miller have opened up the dialogue, and now the onus is on the practitioner to fill in the gaps in his or her own skill set.

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