Do Laws Prevent Crime?

Words will not stop a crime. Words will not deter a committed criminal. Criminal laws are written to describe a crime and establish punishment for acts committed. The only way the laws may prevent a crime: the person thinking of committing the crime considers the risk to be greater than the reward. This has been a fact since the beginning of written law. Laws are reactive, not proactive. That can be difficult for some to understand.

I’ll give an easy to understand example: the posted speed limit. When a person drives at a speed greater than the law allows, they are weighing the prospect of getting caught and punished against their desire to reach their destination within a certain time frame. Does the speed limit law stop people from exceeding it? For some people, yes, because the risk is too high. For the person late to work or to pick the kids up from school? Maybe, but most times the consequences of being late are greater in their eyes than the risk they run of being caught or the punishment if they are ticketed.

Let’s look at another type of law. One that makes it illegal to possess or use something. Drugs are a great example. There are drugs used as medication to save or enhance lives daily. Some of these same drugs are used recreationally as well. As long as you have permission, i.e. a prescription, you can lawfully possess and use them. Does that mean only those with permission are able to possess and use them? No, that’s absurd. We all know that people get the drugs illegally and the fact that it is illegal does not prevent it from happening.

This is true of all acts that are not in accordance with the law. Does a person intent on committing a violent crime such as murder care if they have additional charges brought against them for less serious violations? Of course not! Life in prison or the death penalty are the consequences of the murder so what do they care if they break other laws with less severe penalties?

Our criminal justice system is in place to determine guilt and after guilt is established punish the person that committed the crime. Some bills being considered are touted as ways to prevent criminal activity. Laws don’t prevent crime! They establish criteria of what acts and circumstances constitute a crime and how the offender should be punished. Nothing more. We have a great many criminal statutes in place yet people are constantly committing acts that are contrary to them. If laws did prevent crime, we would have no need for prosecution and defense attorneys, judges, jails or law enforcement. Just having the laws in place would ensure that no person ever committed a crime.


Hybrid Self Defense vs. MMA

I've been asked a couple of times about MMA training at Salvos. My response is fairly simple. We focus mainly on self defense, not sport. I really do enjoy the sport of MMA and have done a little myself, though way back in the day. Today’s athletes are phenomenal and they are incredibly talented in many different aspects. They are tacticians and strategists adept at recognizing and responding to various attacks and using full advantage of the rule set.

A broad generalization: Most MMA fighters would certainly be able to defend themselves in a one-on-one ego fight in a parking lot simply because they're good at striking, avoiding being hit or taken down. They've also spent countless hours in training becoming resilient and learning the limits of their bodies which can be a huge advantage. While an MMA fighter is able to fight really well within the scope of the sport, a real world environment against a determined attacker intent on seriously injuring or killing them is a different thing.

Why? In the sport there are rules (see below) and if you train to play by them, during a self defense situation you will perform within those boundaries. The "bad guy" you're dealing with will not! You also develop habits (or "your game") that when used outside of the rules will likely get you hurt or killed.

Don't believe me? The next time you train, throw the rules out and, with control and sensible force, look for and take opportunities to simulate the more brutal fighting tools. You'll find that some of your go-to techniques and positions will get your skull bashed in, eyes gouged, face bitten, balls stomped, etc, etc. Then introduce things such as multiple attackers, rocks, water puddles, bottles, sticks, knives as well as different environments like confined spaces, stairs, furniture, mud, etc.

Below are the Unified Rules of MMA with * notations (some kinda funny) added by me.


The following acts constitute fouls in a contest or exhibition of mixed martial arts and may result in penalties, at the discretion of the referee, if committed:

- Butting with the head *Use the correct part of your skull and aim for the face

- Eye gouging of any kind *If given the chance, go for it! Sometimes it's the best option.

- Biting or spitting at an opponent *Only downside to biting is the bad taste and risk of infection. Spitting is pretty useless though.... unless you have chew in your lip, then go for the eyes.

- Fish hooking (act of inserting a finger or fingers or one or both hands into the mouth or nostrils of a person, pulling away from the center-line of the body) *OK this is pretty dumb to do anytime so we'll keep this one. Not that it isn't effective, just too high risk.

- Hair pulling *Seems like a good handle to use. Where the head goes, the body follows.

- Spiking an opponent to the canvas on his head or neck * No canvas in the real world, spike the guy on the concrete and end the attack

- Strikes to the spine or the back of the head. *Good way to end an attack. Do it! But not to the back of the head with a closed fist.

- Throat strikes of any kind, and/or grabbing the trachea *The throat is a viable target, hit it! Hard!

- Fingers outstretched toward an opponent’s face/eyes *This could be dangerous to the striker, but also very effective when done properly

- Downward pointing elbow strike (12 o’clock to 6 o’clock strike) *One of my favorites and very effective

- Groin attacks of any kind *It's not Krav Maga until someone takes a shot to the balls. I'll quote Master Ken here "Always re-stomp the groin!"

- Kneeing and/or kicking the head of a grounded opponent *IF they're already down, run. If they're still in the fight, game on!

- Stomping a grounded opponent *I call this a parting gift. Play stupid games, win stupid prizes. Gives you more time to get away. Also, do it like you're kick starting a motorcycle.

- Holding opponent’s gloves or shorts *Uh, yeah, I'm going to use everything I can to control the bad guy. And I assume they mean while he's wearing them, otherwise, that's just weird.

- Holding or grabbing the fence or ropes with fingers or toes *Use what your environment gives you

- Small joint manipulation *This works for some grabs and holds, do it fiercely

- Throwing opponent out of ring/fighting area *N/A

- Intentionally placing a finger into any orifice or any cut or laceration of an opponent *This might be a good one, in a way. Don't place a finger there, stab it in there with gusto!

- Clawing, pinching or twisting the flesh *If it happens, so much the better but not something to look for.

- Timidity (avoiding contact with an opponent, intentionally or consistently dropping the mouthpiece or faking an injury) *I agree with this to a point. Avoidance is key to self defense. If you have to fight remember: To stop violence, you have to be violent. But then run away!

- Using abusive language in the fighting area *N/A

- Flagrant disregarding of the referee’s instructions *There are no refs. All the more reason to not train with the rules.

- Unsportsmanlike conduct that causes injury to an opponent *Shit, that's what we want to do

- Attacking an opponent after the bell has sounded the end of the period of unarmed combat *N/A. No chance of being saved by the bell in the real world

- Attacking an opponent on or during the break *N/A You're either fighting or not, there are no breaks.

- Attacking an opponent who is under the care of the referee *N/A

- Interference from a mixed martial artist’s corner or seconds *You'd better be prepared for interference from the bad guys buddies. They won't follow this rule.

-Head Instructor Donny Pickard

When bad technique leads to a major injury - A Labral Tear

Recently Instructor Donny was forced to make a hard choice. Surgery or no surgery.

Anyone who has faced major a orthopedic injury knows there is never a good time, no matter what you have going on something will have to give. In this case, many things will need to be sacrificed. If he elects for surgery he will not have use of his shoulder for 3 months, with 4 months expected rehab. In not having surgery, he will be electing to never be any better than he is today.. in his injured state. Gone are: His goal for testing to be StrongFirst Kettlebell Certified. His personal hybrid self defense training. His hands-on coaching. This is just the professional challenges of his second job!

People reading this who have been injured, you get it. Those who are reading this who have not been injured, read closely because we are going to try to help you PREVENT this type of injury.

Brief anatomy lesson:

The shoulder joint is a complex joint with the multi-directional movement of a hemispherical humeral head on a relatively flat socket. The best analogy I know of is a golf ball (humerus) perched on a tee (glenoid), then set into a wall and held in place by twine (ligaments ) and suction-cup type force (labral cartilage and joint capsule). Made up of the humerus, scapula and clavicle and acted on by the muscles of the Rotator Cuff (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, subscapularis, teres minor). The joint capsule provides primary stability, the labrum gives depth to the socket to aid in stability. The long head of the biceps tendon originates deep with the joint at the superior part of the labral cartilage, passes through the rotator cuff interval along the anterior humerus and attaches to the radius of the forearm.

Xray imaging with same view as the later MRI image, Axial views.  This view makes it easy to see the ball as it aligns with the socket

Xray imaging with same view as the later MRI image, Axial views.

This view makes it easy to see the ball as it aligns with the socket

Xray of the shoulder in the Anterior-Posterior plane. Essentially the same as the below coronal MRI imaging.

Xray of the shoulder in the Anterior-Posterior plane. Essentially the same as the below coronal MRI imaging.

Common shoulder injuries we hear about are “shoulder separations” common in contact sports - strain or tear of the ligaments of the acromioclavicular joint; “rotator cuff tears” - from overuse or impact injuries common in heavy labor workforce; SLAP tear - common in throwers and the injury Coach Donny sustained.

The problem is a Type II labral tear occurring from an excessive load to the biceps during a controlled fall. Why controlled? Because that was the goal.

The situation was thus:

When at risk of falling - ice, loose gravel, FIGHTING… it is ideal to know how to limit the forces on the body and sustain minimal injury. The technique is a break-fall. In this case, he was practicing a forward break-fall off Double Ankle Picks and Machine-gun Takedowns. For those of you that train grappling or Krav Maga this is familiar language. But lets break it down a little:

The mechanics:

Body weight is uprooted and forward momentum carries you face first toward the ground, legs are blocked so you cannot step. Your options are to belly flop and eat concrete, fall on an outstreched hand (aka FOOSH, one of the most common ways to break your wrist, jack up your shoulder and or neck, etc) or arrest your momentum. To displace the energy you catch your self on your hands, elbows with slight bend and engage your muscles to slow the rate of the fall and soften the impact by engaging those muscles. He would describe it as “you are basically doing the down stroke of a push up from a 3 foot fall”.

Because your momentum is forward this puts excessive force through your upper torso and arms. Landing with your elbows locked is a near guarantee to cause injury. By softening the elbows on impact and lowering down you are using multiple muscles to slow the rate of descent. What muscles? Anterior: Pectoralis major and minor, BICEPS brachii, deltoid, forearm flexors, rectus abdominus, internal and exertnal obliques. Posterior: Trapezius, serratus, erector spinae, rhomboids, latissimus dorsi, teres major, triceps, ROTATOR CUFF, forearm extensors.

To give you an idea, and capitalize on some yoga biomechanics lab work (1), jumping back into a Chaturanga applies 10x the ground force through the upper body than jumping back into plank (which accounts for 7% of body weight). Meaning when you take the lower body out of the equation the applied force is significantly greater through the upper body and arms increasing the torque on your shoulders, elbows and wrists. Using all muscles in concert is the key to preventing injury.

So what went wrong:

For years Coach Donny has implemented and taught forward break-falls. On this occasion, he was the student. The instructor was teaching a forward break-fall from standing, when a person pulls both feet out from underneath you. The technique was to catch your body weight on your forearms and land in a forearm plank. This limited the muscles being engaged to the biceps brachii, deltoid, rhomboid, pectoralis major, triceps, rectus abdominus, obliques, and to lesser degree the serratus anterior and latissimus dorsi. Additionally, this provided direct ground force through the humerus to the shoulder joint.

On his strong side, he was able to compensate and stabilize the shoulder. The left side, however, overpowered the biceps to compensate and resulted in a tear of the cartilage at the origin of the biceps. A tear of the labral cartilage, specifically a Type II Superior Labrum Anterior to Posterior (SLAP) tear with a paralabral cyst.

T2 weighted MRI, Axial plane.

T2 weighted MRI, Axial plane.

Gadolinium enhanced MRI sequence including axial (top right corner) T2 Coronal (bottom left corner) demonstrating SLAP lesion with 10mm paralabral cyst

On their own, not all labral tears are recommended to be treated with surgery and many can be rehabilitated with PT, time off and more than a little TLC. For several months Coach Donny did exactly the right rehab and still his symptoms progressed. The cyst was the game changer. The cyst formed from the tear allowing articular fluid to leak from the intra-articular joint space to the space behind the glenoid neck where the suprascapular nerve lies. Each attempt to return to normal activities after the injury generated force on the shoulder (perfect, we are trying to build here), stimulated increased joint fluid (normal) BUT with a breakdown in the structures that fluid leaked filling the cyst further. Each attempt at easing back into training lead to further injury.

This is where you have to speak up about an injury.

If you have lingering symptoms for 10-12 weeks after a shoulder injury despite all the best rest, ice, and ibuprofen you need to see a specialist. Someone who will listen to how you injured your shoulder, what you have done to help it and what it is really impacting. In insurance driven medicine specialists know the red flags and how to get what you need. In this case, Coach Donny needed a gadolinium enhanced MRI and then he needed someone who has seen enough of them to know that he was in bigger danger of permanent functional loss. Typically, this is my day job. Not when it comes to family though. After failing with encouragement, I resorted to fear mongering to convince him that he needed to get his injury looked into further. He ended up seeing a Sports Medicine Certified Orthopedic Surgeon.

What he learned:

The cyst formed secondarily to the cartilage tear put him at risk of nerve compression. This meant that in order to maintain his current function (recall he is doing rehab and on activity restrictions) he would have to accept that he would never be able to train any activities that put a pushing or pulling force through the shoulder joint. Doing so would increase the risk of expansion of the cyst and compression of the nerve leading to weakness, pain and loss of muscle mass - atrophy. Permanently.

Decision time

He has made his choice on how to manage his injury. With surgery in his future, he continues to train and coach. Everything is modified. In our world of Firearms, Fitness and Fighting he continues to learn, adapt and evolve. Through this injury he is for example:

  1. Becoming a better jiu jitsu player

  2. Learning to articulate his coaching over physical demonstration

  3. Finding what it would take to protect his family if he has one arm out of commission

  4. Firearm tactics including practicing clearing malfunctions one-handed

  5. He is learning how to open a pickle jar with his teeth - jk.

I don’t tell you these things because he is some kind of bad ass, I tell you them to reinforce a point that our coaches told us years ago… If you are injured it does not mean take a break from the mats. Observing is learning. Often our biggest breakthroughs come from watching the form and techniques of others.

In summary:

Training always comes with risks.

Practice forward break-falls by applying the deceleration force described above or shown in the video on the Salvos Training Facebook page.

If you jack up your shoulder, take it seriously. The cost of evaluation by a specialist is invaluable over time.

Additional Sources:


Imaging may be shared for the furthering of academic study with our permission.

Erin Haines, MPA-C, CPT, CCD specializes as a PA-C in Orthopedic Surgery in the Columbia River Gorge Region of Oregon with Dr. Gregory Stanley, Cascade Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Center.