Can Video Help You in Self-Defense?
Updated: Nov 24, 2021
The highly publicized Kyle Rittenhouse trial has reinforced our contention that there is more video of crime, incidents, and responses than ever.
The video of that night in Kenosha from independent people at the riot has provided definitive evidence of the timeline and behavior of the actors. It turns out that the FBI was even involved and was monitoring the riot via high-tech aerial imagery.
The video evidence in the Rittenhouse trial most likely provided the foundation of Rittenhouse's self-defense claim. We can take a lesson from that which we will talk about later in this post.
We can also take advantage of this trend in our self-defense training. More and more video evidence has come out than ever before regarding self-defense events, close quarter combat, and examples of attacks.
Face it, everyone has a smartphone. Even homeless people have smartphones. Of course we also have a lot more video of cats playing pianos. But, we seem to have less sightings of UFOs. Weird.
Let's take a look at some of the sources for all of these videos showing the realities of violence, attacks, and crime:
Social media. The 800 pound gorilla when it comes to video. Over 1 billion hours of video are watched daily on YouTube. 100 million hours of video is watched every day on Facebook. When there are crowds of people, there are people capturing or streaming video. And then there are millions of these people posting, distributing, and archiving video.
New video devices like the Ring doorbell and Blink cameras provide opportunities for capturing and sharing video of events like home invasions.
Business security cameras and municipal traffic cameras are routinely used to solve crimes or prosecute criminals. Follow this link and take a look at this video we covered here regarding an armed robbery attempt — and the employee’s response.
John Corriea has diligently documented and essentially made a career out of finding and posting examples of self-defense situations and responses. This might be one of the best sites to start with to find videos which relate to the every day situations in which we might have to defend ourselves.
Videos of riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin, have also provided examples of the highly-documented civilian close quarter shootouts involving Kyle Rittenhouse and a number of combatants. Below is a highly graphic video of Rittenhouse shooting Huber and Grosskreutz.
Now you can find real-life examples of attacks and people defending themselves readily. In addition, many times these attacks and the resulting efforts at self-defense are thoughtfully broken down and analyzed by different sources.
Use these sources to study what has happened and could be likely to happen in most self-defense situations. Allow yourself to be in that situation and think about how you would react and how you could successfully solve the problem.
One of the values one gets from sparring in combat sports is seeing what real attacks look like. Getting the repetitions of been attacked in sparring allows your brain to be able to recognize which attacks are possible from different distances and different positions. As you continue to train you also program efficient and effective counters for these attacks. Drill those responses religiously. You want the nerve paths in your brain to strengthen so these responses become automatic.
If you are training correctly, you will be able to look at the videos and real-life attacks and impose those on the ways you have been attacked in training. If you've never trained with partners simulating real life attacks, you absolutely need to rectify that by finding suitable avenues or gyms in which you can train. There is no substitute for hands-on training with partners who share the same mindset and commitment to improvement.
Using Video Proactively for Self-Defense
You can also use video for your self-defense. Proactively using your video devices for your own efforts gives you the ability to have video for the defense of your use of force. This can be advantageous for these reasons:
You can present evidence showcasing the events leading up to, during, and after to show how your actions were reasonable.
Video negates the inaccuracies and biases of eyewitnesses and bystanders.
You avoid a he-said-she-said argument which is “a contentious dispute in which the parties express opposing accounts of an event or situation; an account of such a dispute lacking analysis or concrete evidence.”
Most of us don't remember when the concept of video instant replay was introduced in to the National Football League. Initially, many people were against the replay. Ditto for the concept of putting body cams on police officers. Cops also thought that the video captured by these cameras would be used against them. In both cases, the cameras exonerate the referees and the cops far more than the implicate them. As it turns out, body cameras have been a positive development.
I see this trend continuing. Now you can have tools which strengthen your claims of self-defense. I’ve been asked by a client during a protection detail during riots following George Floyd’s in-custody death to wear body cameras to document our actions. At the very least, I use dash cams on my vehicles to document my driving, the driving of others, and to provide accurate descriptions of suspect vehicles during surveillance or surveillance detection efforts. I personally know of two traffic accidents which were proven in favor of the driver by video which also negated the other drivers’ accounts.
There are developments by certain manufacturers to perfect and market gun cameras for police which would provide an even better view of what officers are seeing when their gun is drawn and fired. This type of video tool could further strengthen your legal position.
Generally, our security strategy revolves around these concepts:
When bad people know they are being watched, they have a tendency to go find a softer target.
Criminals are deterred more by the certainty of being caught than the severity of the punishment.
There is evidence to suggest that having a sign in your yard declaring you have a video or alarm system deters burglars. I've also seen videos of confrontations that were de-escalated when it was announced that everything was being recorded. In our women's self-defense classes I have also advised defenders to take down license plate numbers of suspicious or aggressive people. I've had students report back that this had the immediate effect of the bad guy breaking off. People with bad intentions do not like the light of day shining on their actions.
Having an early detection system greatly increases your chances for successful self-defense. Being unaware can cause us to be completely surprised by the attack. Situational awareness is paramount for your self-defense. This cannot be denied. For video, this might be more useful in terms of your home defense. In this case, security cameras like Amazon’s Blink cameras or devices like Ring doorbell cameras can give you a view outside for an advanced warning of an attack.
Video itself is not going to preclude your use of physical defense if you need it. But I included this here because we will talk often about the three fights you have in self-defense:
the mindset fight before;
the physical fight during;
and the legal fight after.
As we documented above, video offers definite advantages when it comes to the investigation and legal repercussions following a crime committed against you and your property.
Get educated about the threats we face today. Take a look at the links above so you can see what “actually” happens in fights. Then you can be better prepared. Not that this knowledge alone is power. It’s the action you take with your knowledge that is the real power.
Learn, train, practice.
Like your life depends on it.