Friday, August 5, 2011

It's better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6 - A rant

Most people, especially martial artists, have heard the expression "It's better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6".  What this means is that it's better to survive an encounter and be tried in a court of law than to lose you life and be carried by 6 pall bearers.

I heard it again last week.  Then I heard it in a women's self defense setting not long after.  In fact, I've heard it said in a variety of reality based self defense seminars, in traditional martial arts clubs, and even on t.v.

"It's better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6"

Well, yes it is.  So why a rant?  

Because most people who say it are being irresponsible.  Most people use it as a blanket statement to avoid answering legitimate questions over the reasonable use of force in self defense.  In one 'reality-based' women's self defense seminar, the statement was used when someone was hesitant to throat stomp their attacker after throwing multiple strikes to the face and legs. The attack on her was a wrist grab.  Instead of answering the question, the instructor fell back on the good old 12/6 response.  That was irresponsible and misleading. 

Women in the class would either come out thinking any amount of force is fine in self defense, or would still question what is reasonable, which could translate into hesitation in an actual encounter.  Actually, neither outcome would be desirable.

This is but one of the examples.  In a life and death situation, when your own life is in imminent danger, the statement hold up.   If you can't get away, fight with everything you've got.  Let the chips fall where they may afterwards.  

The problem is that the statement is rarely examined or broken down.  And usually it's used as an 'out' for an irresponsible instructor, or by one that doesn't have a clue about the law.  Sadly, these 'teachers' are often providing instruction to impressionable beginners who believe they are qualified to provide accurate and responsible direction.

In my Mind the Gap series, I talked about how your motivation, goal, or desired outcome in an attack should be to get away.  The question of using force was the subject of one of the posts.  Basically you can use as much force as you need to in order to negate the threat enough to allow you to get away.  

Knowing that, be cautious of any instructor who tells you "It's better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6" when you have questions or concerns.

In truth, this is but one part in a larger rant I have on the state of women's self defense instruction,  but that's a post for another day.

Train responsibly.

Welcome new readers and followers of my blog.


  1. One of my favourite rants as well. Heard the 12/6 'advice' by instructors, people in authority, way too often. Not only is this irresponsible, it's also lazy. If you can treat real world situations in black and white terms, it's so much easier. Trouble is, real world situations, life, is not like that. It's a lot more complex. Is it any wonder the martial arts is often not taken seriously by main stream society with these sorts of opinions being voiced far too often.

  2. Wouldn't it be great if things were so clear cut? And you're right, it is down right lazy. I feel bad for those well meaning, eager to learn folks out there. It can't be easy to navigate through the world of the martial arts to find responsible, quality instruction. How do they know what to look for? A future post perhaps...thanks.

  3. Learn Kanji says: Very interesting mini-rant. I totally agree, in a life-threatening situation, if you have a way to defend yourself, give everything you got so that you can get away of the situation. However, that is not excuse for beating up your attacker to death... although let's face it, that's exactly what you wish you would be doing.

    Thanks for sharing! :D

  4. Glad you liked the post. The key is to be trying to get away at all times, as safely as possible. There are limits in all we do. I've gotta disagree with you about wanting to beat my attacker to death. If your point is meant (as I suspect it is) to say how it can be tough to not try to "get 'em back" for attacking you, then I do agree. It's challenging to rise above the emotion of the moment. Thanks for commenting.

  5. Better to learn self defence strategies that keep you safe AND on the right side of the law I say. Thanks Journeyman, this post fits in well with the things I'm thinking about at the moment and provides a bit more clarity for me.

  6. The key is to learn techniques that are effective, reliable and responsible all at the same time. You can't be worrying about the legal aspect during an actual attack so your trained responses need to have taken into account the law at the time they are taught and drilled. I'm glad I helped clarify things a little bit.

  7. if killed someone and it was self defense and you can prove it. it is better to be alive and well instead of dead in the ground.