“You Are Entitled to Defend Yourself,” by Nev Sagiba

I recall, the one time I stood like a sack of potatoes and decided to do nothing, I sustained an injury. I recall clearly the policeman saying to me: “You are entitled to defend yourself.”

Obvious common sense.

What exactly is defence? Going into someone else’s home or country, all armed and pushing your weight around telling them how to live their lives? Not quite. Despite the fact politicians haven’t yet learned this basic and most expensive of all lessons, this obviously fails to achieve constructive results. Don’t think that the initiation of violent aggression is by any means a modern phenomenon. It’s as old as the world and has brought about the fall of each and every empire that thought it would solve their problems.

And still, there are those who just don’t get it. The initiation of acts of aggression will always have consequences, if not immediately, then eventually.

The other crime, mainly against yourself (or your nation) is the failure to effectively protect your perimeter. Or to fake this, such as in ‘false flag’ strategies used by despots, in order to manipulate otherwise peaceful minds to instigate and foment rage, in order to get otherwise reasonable people agree to risk wasting money in the initiation of aggression.

Why the madness? A perceived gain that not only does not exist, but one that is ultimately paid for in immeasurably expensive and untold, long term suffering on all sides.

This too, if you study history, in the end, not only backfires, but begins irretrievable downward spirals that lead to collapse of economies and empires; or individuals that choose to “live by the sword.”

What is the answer to aggression? Budo. The stopping or interception of violence when it happens. Preferably before it happens. This requires understanding and true skill.

Simply study nature. Your body has both internal and external security measures refined over many millions of years.

Humans being social creatures, implementing this is a skill that must always work hand in hand with awakened mind, observation, awareness and clear noticing.

90% or more of violence can be stopped before it gets off the ground by understanding gained in vigilant observation, followed by a few tweaks of positioning and strategy. This minimizes late exertion and thereby expensive energy loss.

Minamoto no Yoshimitsu was more enlightened than we give him credit for. Otherwise, the myth about him is. Either way, the tale of the spider spinning its reasonable jurisdictional and limited web, respecting that of others, is precisely in accord with the laws of universal harmony and that of Aikido.

Jurisdictional perimeters are everywhere in the universe and nature and the forces which protect them are rightly ruthless. But they do not step outside of jurisdiction to effect protection since it cannot be effected this way. All homes are sacred to their respective occupants. This law is universal.

The only creature with a delusion that this may be otherwise is man. And what problems he has caused in this long history of trying to break that which cannot be broken.

As for the spider, it waits with awareness, allowing any creature foolish enough to attack its web, to enter, get entangled. It then eats it.

Spiders have more morals than men, it would appear.

The biosphere protects us in so many ways. I won’t attempt to list them here. Read your science. Quite simply if you step outside of it, you die. Astronaut suits and paraphernalia are prohibitively expensive. Sending a camera is cheaper and less stressful. Another example is the fascia and other layers in-between our internal organs, keeping separated that which must be kept separated, and thereby enable us to live and function. And so on throughout all nature.

We could learn by watching and studying how nature, in order to enable life, protects and separates mutually enhancing jurisdictional perimeters.

It’s not so much that nothing can cross over, only the uninvited. This process is much older than human existence, but as old as the universe and indeed enables all in it, to exist. On earth it protects life as we now know it.

Aikido is everywhere and has been around as long as time.

No matter who you are or where you are, if attacked, know this: “You are entitled to defend yourself.”

But not by interfering uninvited in the lives of others, outside your jurisdiction and in theirs. Rather by effectively protecting the perimeter and holding the valid line that defines it. Like the humble spider, observe quietly and wait for the approach, always expecting it. NOTICE EARLY. Then you can do anything that works to stop the aggression.

Better still, lawfully trade that which is mutually enriching and beneficial, so the stage where defence becomes necessary never arrives. By giving respect we earn it and with it come opportunities for fruitful exchanges which enrich everything and everyone involved.

Nev Sagiba


  1. But what if my neighbour is being attacked in their own home do I just do nothing or step outside my home into theirs? Say in domestic violence, the home is theirs I will be the intruder, do I stand by and watch?

  2. too good

  3. I agree with mutual respect. Like a beauty pagent contestant I also wish for “world peace”. It’s not a perfect world, never will be. But madness is burying your head in the sand, or wishing you were a spider, attempting to catch an unkowing fly….. An attacker moves to attack, and I strike first. In defense of myself, my family, my neighbor, my Country… I will always be the policeman who says your entitled to defend yourself.

  4. …self defense is a natural law. that said you might want to check out Alan Korwin’s ( ) summary of Supreme Court self defense cases…

  5. This is a bit disingenuous. While I applaud the sentiment, a premptive attack can many times resolve a conflict with less violence than waiting for an enemy to impinge on our jurisdiction. The problem with the author’s premise is that he’s assuming a rational enemy. This is never the case.

    When the enemy is building a weapon of mass destruction and has expressly professed his intent to use it once he’s finished, only a fool would fail to act pre-emptively. Particularly when that enemy has a demonstrated history of attacking you whenever possible.

    The author also assumes that the rational person need only defend himself. Is there a moral imperative to also defend those who are defenseless when someone else seeks to do them harm?

    When a person is observed physically abusing someone, or has been observed in the act of raping or robbing a third party, I am not going to wait for permission or an invitation to intervene. Society which does not enforce rules of civil behavior will descend into anarchy. Solutions on the micro level do not always translate to international policy, because where are the police in the society of nations?

  6. Thanks for the incisive and thoughtful replies.
    This is an ancient debate that, both individually and internationally opens up cans of worms at every corner. Nevertheless it is a valid debate, probably the most valid. It’s just that we as species have not yet learnt to get our priorities in order, or that denial is more comfortable, in the hope that violence will somehow go away all by itself, or that someone else will deal with it. It won’t. Sometimes we find ourselves in the line of fire and have no option than to make a call. Chance does favour the prepared and duly trained however.
    Just as we need a license to drive a car but anyone at all can breed and then mistreat and provide skewed and damaging parenting, so also jurisprudence and the right to defend, is not usually taught at school as a paramount consideration. It should be. Issues of bullying and nowadays even gun control in some places, often rears its head at children’s schools, not to mention some homes as well.
    People find out the hard way by accident, trial and error and thereby polarize their position. This is a late way of dealing with things. Being conscious in advance most often minimizes harm because it is nipped in the bud when early warning signs ring the alarm, the unconscious would otherwise walk past in their sleep.

    Taisho – Thanks. Included in the process of intuition are – Pre Incident Indicators – as put forth by Gavin De Becker. His book “The Gift of Fear” should be mandatory reading at primary school in today’s world. Whilst the knowledge is not entirely new, he made the effort to again issue a reminder of the existence of early warning signs available to everyone. These were well known in history by some, who tended to survive, and less well known by others who disappeared. Survival predispositions all come from our survival instincts and will evolve into strategic competence if and when addressed consciously. As humans we have a duty of care to survive, and help others to, with integrity and not just any which way. Certainly not by way of crime. The older Kobudo practitioners knew these predispositions well. Among them are: respectfulness, zanshin, all aspects of maai, deai, metsuke and the various nuances of so called ki, etc., etc. And more.

    David – Law surrounding DV and Family issues is still evolving and as it appears there are indeed people who are trying to refine and get it right. But nothing is static. Your example is a difficult one and one all cops dread. They used to readily intervene in Domestic Violence but lost too many staff. It’s not as cut and dried as it seems. It’s not a gender issue but a toxic relationship issues which both participants CHOOSE to be in. They are addicted to the problem. In too many cases, the wife who was being beaten would knife or shoot the cop in the back, who was trying to hold her husband from harming her. Eventually, sick of it, the cops stopped prioritizing these calls and only attended to mop up bodies. Also not quite sufficient. Then, people would call the fire brigade claiming there was a fire, but having no jurisdictional authority in DV, firies would wait outside until a real fire happened. They too, were reluctant to get shot at. This too proved unacceptable, particularly if kids were involved and now, in many places ALL PARTICIPANTS of a toxic relationship are held duly accountable, arrested, counseled, cautioned and in many places constructive intervention to allow people to get out is given. Both are held accountable. Not everywhere on the planet has caught up. And we still have a long way to go. For example, if it wasn’t for the journalist Alysia Sofios crossing the line to help, there could have been even more causalities in the case of Marcus Wesson murders.

    Most real violence is silent and most people, or departments will not intervene. On reporting crime, abuse of kids etc, some heavily subsidized government department in someplace write it down and tell you to go home! That’s bureaucratic criminality. You could be walking past crime of some sort daily and most likely are.

    In international matters, in this problem of whether to intervene or not, and if so, how to get it right, one major symptom has come to be known as “The Accidental Guerrilla,” syndrome as coined by David Kilcullen who also wrote a book by that name. It’s a good read, rather long and detailed, but very lucid in its thinking. It always helps when the policing force has their facts straight, and knows who is who. Especially when you have entered their domicile. Otherwise you risk becoming another perpetrator adding harm to harm the victims. I don’t think I really need to iterate that’s a great way of bringing real problems on both yourself; and all concerned. Adding criminal behaviour to crime does not solve crime. A helper and would-be protector has to provide real and measurable help and protection. Otherwise what’s he really doing there? One essential criterion is that the one(s) wishing to receive help make the request to be helped. But sometimes this is not possible, and indeed waiting is seldom an option once matters have escalated. Noticing early, or a high standard of intel is essential to prevent a debacle.

    Greg – Thanks. Jurisprudence comes from a deep seated sense of justice most human beings have at the core. Probably everyone is born with it. As far as we go back in time, justice is there is some form in the East and the West. Greek and Roman Law is a good study. Cicero is particularly inspiring. Even back then there was an expectation of a high standard in some quarters. Medieval feudal law only the rich were right, even when they committed crimes. The poor were there, “For their pleasure.” But eventually Europe grew up. Some quarters more than others. As human consciousness evolved somewhat from the muddy depths of medievalism, so did societal expectations and law. Over time this changed to various nuances. Democratic thinking certainly helped advance the causes of justice and understanding. Of course, we still have a long way to go, but a lot of people seem to forget that Democracy is interactive and participatory, so they waste opportunity. In matters of assault, affray and other interpersonal human violence, at first it was deemed that whoever struck the first blow was at fault. But this argument is obviously was full of errors. It then grew into “if you had reasonable fear for your life,” and equivalents. Of course you will have to be able to articulate why. It’s still not perfect, but I suspect lawyers lust for money is behind this more than self evident facts.
    Bottom line is that when you are ‘on the ground,’ you make the best call you know how.
    If you are not properly trained this could transgress the established laws of this or that region.
    Some forms of “justice” are not and are merely theoretical for the convenience of academics or worse, courts, who should be serving YOU, the citizen.
    In reality there are so many variables and nuances its impossible to define them all. Being properly prepared in both mind and training does help, as does being able to explain your actions, as to how they differ from that of a perpetrator. In this certain valid principles can be extracted. Being able to articulate precisely following an incident is helpful.
    Spiders eat well so I don’t think they are out of touch.
    Striking first. There is nothing wrong with this if the attacker has crossed your line (maai.) If you enter his, you commit a crime. If you travel a long way at great expense to do so, it self explains. However, notwithstanding tardy laws, if the, “Attacker moves to attack, and you strike first..” I can see nothing wrong with that. Provided he is indeed intending to attack and not just ask for a light. Determining intent is clear if you know the predispositions although it is oft debated too much in courts.

    In the end, if you find yourself in a difficult position, all you can do is to make the best call you know how at the time. And learn from mistakes. Then don’t repeat them.

    Charles – Thanks. It pays for everyone to learn and understand the law of the country and state they live in and make a reasonable compliance, part of life navigation. Onlookers, or people hearing part of the story later will not always understand, will have lots of theories and will often call you violent. For trying to protect yourself or others. Fact is, on the ground, at the time of the incident, you make the best call you know how. Training definitely helps. So does understanding the principles involved. And law. If a law is a bit backwards and you have good insights, especially when based on hard experience, in a democracy we each have the power to lobby for improvement based on how well you can articulate your case.
    Navigating the fine line in the Principles of Natural Justice or Natural Law, determines the maai. This study, in some form, goes back as far as there have been humans on the planet. Sometimes it has to be worked at to be understood and is not finite or static but continually evolving and being refined. Natural Justice is entirely concurrent with the principles of Aikido and the real philosophy the Founder of Aikido, Morihei Ueshiba continually tried to put forward.

    Having said all that, on the ground, whilst many situations can be mitigated by early noticing, there will be times when the sudden and unexpected will happen and all you can do is the best you can.

    I think this is why, and we don’t need anyone to preach to us that each and every human being is responsible to contribute to making the world, a safer, better place. After all we and our children, and future generations will have to live in the conditions we make for ourselves. Sometimes this takes work, writing letters, lobbying, being there for someone in need etc. The rest is working on oneself and getting one’s own house in order. And as Budoka exercising the increased foresight we hopefully develop as a result of the discipline of our training, should help.

    Scruffy – Thanks. I agree with you that doing nothing, in the face of abuse and wrongdoing can be seen as nothing other than complicity to the crime. Good Samaritan laws need to be upgraded to protect the protectors.
    Pre-emption is assault. It is most usually not justified and when thoroughly scrutinised, is found to be motivated by fear. And lack of, or poor intel. Fear or ulterior motives dulls the mind. Interception takes a skill. The logic of pre-emption is tantamount to the Fire Brigades burning drown a house because it was a fire risk. Arson.
    When an enemy intends, and proves intent, defence is no longer pre-emptive. The enemy is doing the pre-empting. I’m all for early interception. The earlier the better.
    “Defending” people by bombing them to death was never very popular. I wonder why?
    Stand-offs are a pain in the proverbial, as anyone having experienced dangerous ones finds themselves in a quandary at the best timing to intercept. Miss the current and it becomes too late.
    As for intervening where there is injustice happening, as far as I’m concerned , intervention is an essential. The duty of the protector is to not harm the person they are trying to save in the process otherwise the victory will be pyrrhic. An interesting phenomenon I’ve experienced all my life is that the person you save will usually not thank you, but often will turn on you.
    I’ve yet to understand why this is.
    I don’t think Superman would in real life achieve anything more than weakening people and causing an unhealthy dependency. A wiser approach is to teach people to take some measure of responsibility for their own defence, thereby empowering them instead. Hence Budo. And regular training. It’s good to be on the planet at a time when people are actually addressing the problem of violence and its ONGOING resolution as a science; rather than just living in denial and setting themselves up to be either a victim (doing too little) or bully (doing too much) and living at the whims of happenstance. Understanding being the other 90% which can totally undo escalation when properly implemented. Consequence free defence being the balance that seeks to minimise harm, hence Ai-Ki-Do. That’s my humble opinion.

  7. Brett Jackson says:

    “Understanding being the other 90% which can totally undo escalation when properly implemented. Consequence free defence being the balance that seeks to minimise harm, hence Ai-Ki-Do.” Thanks Nev! Like it a lot!

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