Fighting for Stuff; Is it Worth It?

Posted by: John W. Zimmer
Under: Self-defense
17 Jan 2010

 

How many times have I seen stories about karate instructors telling students if someone tries to grab your purse or wallet, you can do the following technique! WHAT? Yes I have heard instructors teaching students to not only defend ones life but personal property in self-defense too!

 

Understandably this is a hot button issue because on one hand people with the old west mentality will argue that not only is it legal to fight over personal property, but if you know how to fight it is a smart thing to do! Teach the robber a lesson and hold the guy for the cops and such.

 

In this post I will examine the logic of self-defense of purse or wallet from a legal and common sense framework. Should karate instructors teach students that they should try to defend personal property? Here is a quick video of one good samaritan that did come to a women’s rescue that was being robbed of her purse.

 

 

Let me first say this guy should some courage in trying to rescue the girl in this attack. The story did not really say much about the girl other than the robber was after her purse. My question would be was there anything in her purse worth her life? Maybe the robber was really trying to grab the girl or such and if that was the case then it would make sense to fight back.

Do you see where I am going with this now? If the woman was just getting robbed of her purse (money, ID, credit cards), why didn’t she just hand it over – run away and then report the incident to the police? That way she would quickly know if the guy was a robber, rapist, or worse. The guy that came to her rescue  could have been killed.

Here is a story about a girl that was accosted by a mugger with a club. The girl quickly gave up her purse and the mugger walked away. This girl decided that nothing in her purse was worth her life. She later reported the incident and got home safely that night. Had the girl fought back for her purse – she mostly likely would have ended up on the hospital at the very least. I think this girl acted just right for the situation.

Is a purse or wallet worth a fight? For most people I would say that the answer is a resounding NO! I mean if fighting is not your day job and you have no idea if you can take a guy with a club or knife – why would you risk it? ID’s, credit cards, keys are all replaceable but your life it not.



This next story here should illustrate my caution when dealing with robbers. One never knows exactly what will  happen. A woman was dining with her daughters and left the table to use the restroom. A man walked up and snatched the woman’s purse! One of the girls ran to get her mom’s purse back and was slammed into a door for her efforts.

The girl thought she had to protect her mom’s purse and got hurt for her efforts. I’ll bet the mom feels bad she did not ever tell the girls that fighting for stuff is bad. It was not the girl or mom’s fault obviously but as a parent – you want your children to make good choices that keeps them safe.

Here is a quick video of a karate instructor that starts out with common sense and then quickly digresses into teaching how to fight for stuff.

Would you want your daughter to learn that it is ok fight back if someone is trying to rob you? Sure it is legal to fight back but is it smart? I would say the answer to both questions is a resounding NO!

You can replace everything in a purse or wallet. You cannot replace your life. Fighting is a judgement call and while the law allows one to protect life and property – I think the decision should be funneled through common sense. Intent is everything. If the bad guy is really a rapist or murderer I think everyone would agree – Fight Back! But how can you tell?

One easy way would be to comply with a robber and throw (or drop) the purse or wallet in one direction while you run the other direction! That way you will quickly know if the assailant has other things on his mind. By running towards people – you might just get away. If not your only logical choice will be to fight back.

When is is ok to fight for stuff? As I alluded to earlier, if you are a trained fighter and know the risks (and accept the risks); Sure – fight back if you want to but don’t teach children that fighting for stuff makes sense. In most cases a mugger/robber has a weapon of some kind (to scare victims into compliance) so fighting for stuff in most cases just does not make any sense.

What is your view? Would you teach children to risk life and limb to hold on to a few bucks?


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26 Responses to “Fighting for Stuff; Is it Worth It?”

  1. SueC Says:

    Hi John, I’ve been umming and arrring about whether I agree with you or not. I’ve been thinking about the things I regularly carry in my purse and whether they are worth fighting for. I have to say at the end of the day I think you are right – nothing in my purse is worth losing my life over. However, to have my bag snatched would mean days/weeks/months or even years of inconvenience and problems. Locks on both house and car would have to be replaced; credit/debit cards stopped and replaced; driving licence replaced. Then there is the risk of identity fraud and someone using my identity to rack up a load of debt (this could take years to sort out). Yes, there would be potentially a lot of trouble brewed up for the future – but at least I’d be ALIVE! Good post.

  2. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Sue,

    I’ve thought more about this and decided to clean out my wallet of the extra credit cards I don’t use much. Less to deal with if the case ever happened. Thanks for pointing that out… even I might have to take the safer way out for a robber if my family was around or such.

    I recall my Dad telling my not to keep a lot of cash on hand. Well as it happened I got robbed once as a kid when scuba diving. Here is a video of some scuba girls for context and then I’ll explain what happened.

    We parked up on some nearby cliffs to the one in the video. A bunch of kids started asking us a lot of questions and befriending us while we were getting ready for the dive. We waved back at them from way out on the water. When we got back to the car – they were gone. We packed up and went for some fast food. But when we tried to pay – none of us had any money! The kids took it!

    Moral of the story is to don’t carry what you cannot afford to lose. Debit cards and credit cards mitigate some of the risk.

  3. mixed martial arts Says:

    It comes down to the individual and what they want to do. If it seems to risky to help someone in trouble then I cannot fault someone but at the same time if someone wants to do something heroic there is nothing wrong with praising that person and calling them a hero.

    I would never tell someone they should always give up their wallet. At the same time I wouldnt ever tell someone they never should. Theres many other factors involved.
    .-= mixed martial arts´s last blog ..interesting article on bob shamrock =-.

  4. self defense Rob Says:

    That’s a tough one, and really depends on a lot of situational variables. You don’t always want to wait to test the seriousness of the intent. I mean if you have someone 6 feet away from you demanding your wallet, I’d rather blast him with pepper spray right away instead of tossing the wallet to the right as I run to the left and see if he follows the wallet or me.

    Then you have that story from last month in Toledo when the woman got raped on the side of the road in the middle of the day, with cars and people going right by without anyone “coming to her rescue”.

    You don’t have to be a hero when a wallet is at stake, but you don’t always want to walk by. It’s a tough call, and the decision is always made in a split second.
    .-= self defense Rob´s last blog ..How To: Fighting Stance =-.

  5. William Souza Says:

    I know I would like to think if I came upon a situation where someone was being raped I would try to help as much
    as I could. I know if one of my daughters or wife was in that situation I would hope that someone would at least try to stop it. Also call the police. I like your website
    you try to educate the public to at lease learn to use self defense weapons to try to get out of trouble. Just be aware of where you are and what you surroundings are.

  6. Master Jack Says:

    You should always plan ahead for how you would deal with violent crime, pepper spray, stun guns, and firearms
    will always put the odds back in your favor but you must practice the use of each one of them.it is also a very good idea to take a good street self defense class, Kenpo Karate,
    Close Combat and Krav Maga are a couple of good ones,always be ready for anything, the safety of the public is in the education of it’s people.
    Be Safe, Master Eastman
    2nd Dan Tae Kwon Do
    5th Dan Combat Tae Kwon Do

  7. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hey Mixed Martial Arts – yep there is a decision to be made for sure… not always easy to discern…

    Hi Self Defense Rob – It is good to have options… pepper spray might thwart an otherwise risky defense… sad to know that people don’t help many times.

    Hello William Souza – I’m with you here. Even if one is not a fighter – he/she can pick up a stick and try to help the girl out and call the cops. I am troubled by bystanders to an obvious attack on a girl…

    Hi Master Jack, – good points about thinking ahead. I’ve always endorsed a layered approach to self-defense. Who knows what layer will work.

  8. Sly Says:

    I think I am switching to a fanny pack or big pockets in my pants. Sigh…

    Good post.

  9. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Sly! A good plan – less of a target! :)

  10. Matt Klein Says:

    Here is a solution, especially for traveling. I used it in Rio when I heard about the problem with street violence there. Pack a “dummy” wallet (your old worn out one) filled with expired license and expired credit card, and US $20. Keep the rest of your money and good credit card and license in your front pocket where it is very hard to pickpocket. Then if you get rolled, the most you lose is $20 and the jerk won’t cause you the hassle of having to cancel all your cards nor use them.

  11. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Matt – I like that. Soon cell phones will all have wireless smart chips in them to make carrying money/credits cards a thing of the past.

  12. “Fighting for Stuff; Is it Worth It?,” by John W. Zimmer Says:

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  13. Gus Romano Says:

    Excelent post, I´m totally agree. I said the same message to my students all the time, specially to women, but ” my strongs boys too ;-)”… they love to know how to behaive like Robin Hood… I´m work in every single class about those point over and over, but it looks never be enough.
    Oh!, the idea from Matt Klein (a “dummy wallet”) it´s wonderful ( we live in Argentina you know…).
    Congrats for your common sense and very interesting comments!.

    Best regards from Buenos Aires, it´s not too bad after all 😉 you can visit us any time!

    Gustavo Romano – 3° Dan Aikido
    Federacón Aikikai Argentina
    Aikikai Foundation – Japan

    (by the way… sorry by my english, I need a lot of practice!)

  14. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hello Gustavo!

    You offer sage advice to your students. You make a good point about getting some students to understand it is better to come away with their safety for sure than argue over a few bucks… money can be replaced. :)

    I’ve always wanted to visit Argentina… such in interesting land from what I used to read. Out in the Western US we have cowboys that use ropes but in Argentina they use bolos? Did I get that right… Anyway I appreciate common sense approaches to self defense too.

    By the way your english is fine. :) I added a link to your website.

    Best,

    John

  15. Gus Romano Says:

    Hi John. Thanks for your comments. Those “bolos” that you mention it, we call “boleadoras”. It´s close yes, because they are three balls of rock covered with leather strips tied to braided leather also, and were used by ours “gauchos” for to bring down animals or enemies, throwing down their legs. Interesting for another tip 😉
    Thanks again, we would be happy to visit our country whenever you want. It would be very interesting to organize a seminar to exchange techniques!.
    Ok thanks again (I hope it is true that I understand my “spanglish”). I´ll made a llink to your sites and blog soon!.
    My regards
    Gustavo Romano

  16. Matt Klein Says:

    Gus, I was in Buenos Aires a couple years ago and had a great time. Never ate so well in all my life. Unfortunately, did not get to see the countryside much to check out the boleadoras. Now that would be awesome to see that in action. Curious to know what the predominate martial art is in Argentina.

  17. Gus Romano Says:

    Hi Matt, nice to receive your communication. I’m glad you had a good time in my city, indeed, all people says the same thing about our delicious: “asado” (barbecue is our specialty).
    Today the use of “boleadoras” has practically disappeared, but maintains the use of the rope and lasso to catch cows, bulls or horses in the ranchs, as in the westerns ;-). Also like in other places, here remains the “doma” (training wild horses for use in the countryside). Anyway all these activities can be seen in specially prepared countryside ranchs, for those who want to know and be part of them. It´s very nice.
    About martial arts in Argentina you can find all of them, is very difficult to say which one is predominant. Probably Karate, Judo and Take Kwon Do (I´m 3th Dan in that martial art too). I’m talking about numbers of “students”. On the other hand we know that people come and go searching and searching…
    Aikido (my lifestyle since 18 years ago) is not the most popular, perhaps because of the philosophy that seeks, perhaps because of the dedication it requires, I don´t know. Personally I think the commitment to its principles are not easy to maintain. Combining this with the corresponding to this blog entry, I can humbly say that around the world, we live in sadly violent times and people are mostly looking to “learn to defend themselves in a few steps!” and Aikido is much more than that: its fundamental principle is to seek Peace and Harmony.
    Matt, I visited your website and I congratulate you for your work with children and all your experience. I was school teacher for a lot of years and I’m still in touch with them, it´s wonderful!.
    I am honored to communicate with you.
    My best wishes (and apologies by my “pampas” english 😉
    Gus Romano

  18. Matt Klein Says:

    Not to worry about your English Gus–it is better than most Americans. Did not realize you had such a wide range of MA in Argentina. I really like the whole philosophy of “going with the flow”, which Aikido is known for. Am releasing a new website in the the next few weeks, which will include a blog, and you are most welcome to post.

    John, thanks so much for your kind advice re the blog. Will post the new domain soon.

  19. Gus Romano Says:

    Hi Matt, thanks for your comment. You´re right, there are a wide range of offers to choose according with each “seeker”, even at this time is becoming fashionable full contact and kick boxing… In other hand I´m still with the ideal proyect of build a big center of Asiatics Martial Arts and Harmony (at time I´ll comment you the details if you like). As Your know, this kind of “ideals” in my country needs time, money, patience and effort (and like most of us, I have everything except the needed money). Any way, at this point of my life I confess that I would like continue giving to myself an opportunity to accomplish that goal, I feel it very deep vibrating with my Ki.
    Oh sorry, I´ve lose the point. I am really thankfull and honored about participate in your new blog, please let me know as soon as begins!
    Best regards.
    Gus Romano

  20. Zara Says:

    In general it’s always smarter to just hand over whatever they’re asking for and John has a point: if they still hassle you after that you know they’re after your life or body and you better start fighting like hell. However I understand it’s rather instinctive to try to protect your property (obviously it’s your right) and if everyone just caves in to criminals they’d have a field day. I’d differentiate between an armed attacker and one that is not: when he’s armed there’s no doubt it; don’t be foolish and comply. If he’s not the balance of power is much more even and it could be worth the shot, of course you never know if he hasn’t a weapon on him that he just hasn’t drawn yet or he has a partner lurking in the shadows who might give you a nasty surprise. If I’m ever faced with a gun, a knife, a club or multiple attackers I’d just smile and hand over my wallet (hopefully that will be enough), if I’m sure it’s just one guy and I see no weapon in his hand I’d probably take the chance and fight. It all depends on multiple factors and it’s almost impossible to give advice beforehand, I think on that we all agree. In any case if you decide to fight back you must go all out and put the guy out or it will escalate and you could still be faced with a weapon and a very pissed off attacker to boot. The technique in the video is sound: follow his force and attack his vitals while he’s focused elsewhere, if done quickly it could very well work and if she runs the other direction screaming bloody murder there’s a good chance the guy will bail in order to escape being apprehended.

    It’s been suggested here to minimize the benefit to a potential mugger and save yourself a lot of trouble and administrative hassle: don’t carry too much cash on you, don’t put all your valuables in plain sight… All sound advice, especially when going abroad. When credit cards are stolen it’s not such a big deal as long as you immediately call your bank to have them blocked, same for passports, insurance papers and such.

    Children should be taught to use common sense and keep themselves safe. However do teach them they have responsibilities too: if you see someone being severely beaten or a woman being raped you don’t have to step in (could be very dangerous for you too) but at least call the cops, yell or do something. It sickens me that people are so selfish these days, especially when they’d want as much help as they could get if they were in the very same situation.

  21. James Says:

    Well I think there is a point in trying to defend a property if that is something that is very important to one’s life and cannot be replaced but if we are merely talking about a property that can be replaced, then why risk a life? As much as possible self defense should only be applied for someone’s life. Nice argument and reminder!
    James recently posted..Staying On Your Feet For More Effective Self DefenseMy Profile

  22. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Zara! Great points about others that might join in. When I worked the door I was always watching for that but it is better to not be in it if at all possible… I’m with you – stuff is not worth fighting for… I’ve learned with the wisdom of age. :)

    Hey James! Great logic… and reading the title of your blog… totally agree there too… As soon as you go to the ground and assuming you are a great grappler… you can only fighting one attacker at a time. Thanks for you take on this.

  23. Gus Romano Says:

    Hello everyone!
    (For those who didn´t read my previous entries: I’m from Buenos Aires – Argentina)

    If you allow me to speak from actual experience that we live daily, as I´ve already said before, one thing is to train based on “potential situations”, and another very different, is in “real situations” .
    Unfortunately, day after day in my country, takes place increasingly violent episodes, with ever younger players and with varying degrees of violence unthinkable for any normal human being. Politicians can´t handle this situation and the lack of control is increasing. Every day I receive in my Aikido´s Dojo, people interested in learning to defend itself. ” The speech that I give them is similar to the comments you make on this blog, but none of this is enough and are increasingly further from reality. Many people know my experience of other defense and combat gear, but since I have embraced Aikido (more than 18 years), so far I’ve tried to explain to stay out of combat techniques. It is true that often “we play” by combining attacks and techniques but I try to always be in a friendly environment.
    Anyway my point is that we see every day in the news, young people (and not so much) who kill the innocent for no reason, as you say, even after access to all their demands. I keep the same thought as you and common sense. Unfortunately (I apologize if I sound hard) have experience in controlled environments like a dojo, does not make us experts on defense in extreme situations. It´s seems interesting to me to make this contribution because the reality we live now is very different than you can imagine and live.
    I had to rush to change a lot of my thinking, in order to make a contribution that really serves in these extreme situations. In fact, comes to my Dojo members of police and military forces to learn basic techniques of control. They leave their schools with small classes and then never again they are forced to stay in shape!
    Soon, my feeling of responsibility was telling me I should do something against this rising tide of senseless violence, and that the words that any “expert fighter” could say, are not practical at this point. If we consider that in any corner, a 11 year old child, points you whit a gun fire and after submitting all to him, shoots you anyway … I think that soon we must change our way of seeing reality because this is beyond us.
    Aikido is peaceful by nature, therefore I have proposed finding a balance between self-defense and end up dead. We can´t forget that we no longer can applies the principle: “If you give everything you have and do what they tell you, they will not hurt you.” Here, this is not true anymore. We must start from reality that they’ll hurt you anyway. With this view I develop techniques. However, no training is based on a simple fighting because that would promote survival of the fittest and competitons: all illusions (sorry, not my intention to discredit any martial art, on the contrary, I greatly admire the great contribution they make). The training that I propose is to all who want to feel safe: to sharpen the mind and senses, overcome fears and learn to interpret every moment and every situation as unique. Based on these ideas, with proper training, each of us will know what to do at the right time. Of course this is no guarantee of anything, I know.
    For the confused people who choose the hard way: training in the arts of peace, share their frustrations and fears, may be together seek another path to their needs…
    But do not forget: the reality that we live in, follow to the end what the offender says, is no longer synonymous of out alive. ”

    Wishes of Peace and Harmony from Buenos Aires!
    (As always apologies for my spanglish)
    Gustavo Romano

    (I am currently developing a non-profit association in order to reach people who need to appease his spirit. I consider this delicate problem we are experiencing, should also be taken from their roots)

  24. John W. Zimmer Says:

    Hi Gus, Always a pleasure to hear from you. It is always a balancing act to fight or not if accosted and you bring up an interesting point about what to do if the cost of a human life is so cheap. :(

    As a young man I ended up fighting mostly if threatened because I could and as you point out – one does not really know the robbers intentions.

    As I get older I find myself feeling safe where I live and work and really it is the exception to have anything bad happen.

    I mostly get along well by avoiding bars and wild parties, places I would have frequented as a younger man.

    That being said though I still would not hesitate to defend myself if needed be but if I was only worried about my wallet – I’d just give it over.

    Using distance and depending on the weapon, one can mitigate the risk a bit – for instance if the bad guy has a knife – I can stay out of range and comply but if the attacker gets closer – I have to defend myself or put my life at risk.

    So I guess I am saying that I wholeheartedly agree with you and would strive to keep safe even if attacked and if the situation dictated – fight back… mostly to keep me safe.

    You know it is always tough to hear about bad social/political situations but one thing I think is universal the world over – human life is valuable… it is important to live and let live and teach our children. Hard to do sometimes but always a goal to strive for if we are ever to make strides in improving the human condition the world over… perhaps out of scope for this blog but I think someday an attainable goal!

    Thanks for your wisdom Gustavo! Los Mejores Deseos!

  25. Darrel Says:

    When anyone gets hurt because of their own doing, that is fine especially if they got hurt because they are stealing something from someone and that someone knows some martial arts. That is the beauty of it, and for me I would personally agree to defending one’s property.
    Darrel recently posted..The Beauty of CombativesMy Profile

  26. Gus Romano Says:

    Hello John, I am honored by your comment, thanks for that.
    I appreciate your experience and dedication on self-defense. We have this in common.
    It is indeed a very sad and difficult time that we living with my people, that’s why I decided to tackle
    this ambitious project to work from different angles, adding with humility and help of several instructors from different disciplines who are with me. The road is not easy but we are beginning the first steps.
    Being able to share comments on these issues with people of moral values as you and participants friends of your blog, is very rewarding.

    Again I totally agree with you, it is certainly risky, but there are times when you should make the decision to act forcefully and decisively. I make my best effort in order to we train every day, both in the techniques of defense and the ability to tell when it’s really necessary to make use of our training: I consider this last point it´s the real key.

    John, I send my best wishes of Peace
    Gus Romano 😉