One Punch, One Kill, Two Lives Destroyed

Ikken Hissatsu, the popular Japanese Karate maxim, is usually translated as “one punch, one kill”. And although you won’t see it in the sporting ring, it does happen in real life. As reported in the Seattle Times,

The July 9 confrontation began while James Paroline was watering plants in the traffic circle, where he set cones on the street to protect his watering hose. Instead of driving around the cones, a group of girls got out of a car and two of them yelled at Paroline.

One of the girls summoned Brian Keith Brown, who was driven to the scene. He hit Paroline once and walked away…

Hans Aschenbach, a friend of Paroline’s for 20 years, said the [cellphone video evidence] proved Brown deserved a long sentence. “The video is shocking and was really an execution with a fist.”

Now, I’m not going to ask whether, with all your Karate training, you could have stopped someone like Brian Brown. That is too easy. What I want to ask is whether, with your righteous Karate ethics, you are someone like Brian Brown.

At the time, he probably considered himself a hero, rushing to the defense of his vulnerable lady friends, who Paroline allegedly squirted with his garden hose. Unfortunately, when your best tool is a punch, every problem starts to look like a sandbag.

It’s been said before, and I’ll say it again: we don’t need another hero.

Planet Thunderdome


  1. Last time I checked, the elderly neighbours living around my house are still alive and watering their plants peacefully. I have not needed to use – nor ever intend to use – any one-punch-certain-death techniques on them.

    Home intruders however will be judged differently.

    But then maybe Taekwondo is not as righteous as karate???


  2. I have heard of this happening many times before, were people have ended up dying from a single blow. I am very aware of my training and what I can do which is why I tend to avoid using it on the street unless of course I absolutely have to. Myself and other martial artists I know are often afraid of doing someone permanent damage or worse. It is easily done. You have to realize the responsibility that comes with having such knowledge and training.

    Anyway, I enjoy the quiet life and I do my best to steer clear of such confrontations. Jail does not appeal to me.I’d rather hit the bag as someone else.

  3. Not sure if the puncher actually had martial arts training. A young punk street fighter vs. a 60-year-old man with a garden hose? Doesn’t take Stephen Hawking to do the math on that one!

    Still your question applies to anyone with martial arts training, I think. And at least in America Collin’s hypothetical “might” be a justified use of fist.

    Fighting out side of your home and in a public area is a different matter. You really have to worry about your duty to retreat, even if attacked. (sometime you have to worry about this in your home)

    If I were attacked (in my home or outside of it) I can guarantee you I’ll do something. I’m just not sure what — or to what degree — until it actually happens. I truly hope it never does.


  4. Every fight is a lethal force scenario, though most do not end in death the chance is always there.

    I remember being attacked when i was trying to leave an area where there were some bully type folks. One of them kept after me threatening me and trying to hit me. I could not escape and he would not relent. I removed a knife from my pocket, opened it and planted it firmly in his stomach, hardly thinking about what I was doing.

    He fell over and I screamed ” Call 911″ I went and told my parents what had happened and that is where the police placed me under arrest, at my parents house a couple of blocks from the confrontation.

    It was clearly self defense and after over 12 hours of surgery and having plastic parts in his belly for months the other person lived. I felt quite bad and did not want to hurt him, but I was protecting my life because like I said: every fight is a lethal force encounter. The very purpose of self defense is to avoid violence by being prepared to do what you have to to to prevent and end it.

    This is why sportfighting and martial arts are not at all the same thing, You would never enter into the ring willing to kill to avoid violence, but I walk out my door willing to do just that every day. I would never attack someone or enter into a fight as a contest, to me those things are signs of stupidity and a sheer lack of wisdom. However to protect others from being attacked I would also use lethal force, but never out of the suspicion of an attack, rather I seek to use it as a reaction to a credible immediate threat.

    In many states if an aggravated man makes threats when he is close to you, then you are justified in drawing a weapon and firing at him, ending his life, if you feel as if your life could be in danger. This does not require warning the person or making sure they are a lethal threat instead of an empty one, when the conflict occurs discriminating between a real threat and a someone imitating one is not something you can do. This doctrine of firing under such conditions is known as the No Retreat doctrine or law and is found in several states, most notably Florida.

  5. Violence attracts violence. Prolonged, emotive thoughts of violence will eventually bring it your way whether you want it or not.

    Be aware of violence but don’t actively engage with it- in your head – on a daily basis. Certainly don’t fear it.

    I think too many martial artists engaged in self-defense training wreck their own heads by dwelling too much on confrontation and violence in general, forgetting that such training is meant to make you feel at ease, not make you a paranoid wreck.

    If confrontation of a violent nature happens, it happens and there is nothing you can do but react in the best way you can at the time. Good training will obviously help you in reacting the right way, but as I say, too much of this type of training can have a detrimental effect on your life and basic psychology. It can be counter-productive.

    The average person will have very few violent confrontations in their life. Any more than that and you’re attracting it to you in some way.

  6. “Unfortunately, when your best tool is a punch, every problem starts to look like a sandbag.” This could be true, however, looking at the situation, it sounds like he was the aggressor. . .this is not, in my simple estimation, a case of self defense. So the question :”What I want to ask is whether, with your righteous Karate ethics, you are someone like Brian Brown.?”. . .applied to the above situation is unclear. Would I punch someone as a last resort, if my physical person, or that of my family was in jeopardy, and I had no other option available. . .a resounding yes, and at the same time I would be asking someone to call 911. . .If the force of my well trained punch, in the act of defending myself fatally injured an attacker, I would consider it the result of the situation, as I would be justified in defending myself, and it would not be my intention to kill, only defend/disable. This does/would not make me like the aforementioned individual. . .He was not defending himself. If the women were having trouble, they should have called 911, not drove the accused attacker to the scene. . .””Karate Ni Sente Nashi” (There is no First Attack in Karate).” As far as ethics, and karate, that is a fairly recent phenomenon, as far as I know. Ethics have been adopted by the karate student, but the two have not always gone hand in hand. . .great post. Thanks.

  7. Adrian, to clarify my question…I wonder how many would voluntarily enter a potentially explosive conflict, escalate it, and then unknowingly mischaracterize that action as justifiable self-defense.

    This is a tragic situation, obviously for the dead man and his family, but also for Brown. His skanky acquaintances may as well have driven him straight to prison. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t claim Brown is an innocent here; but I can easily see the average person reacting the same way, given a similar set of circumstances.

    What would you do, if your friends drove over and picked you up, told you they had just been assaulted, and the perpetrator was watering his flowers down the street? What if they asked you to come along and “defend” them? I think it would be very easy to fall into this trap–especially if one had previously been inundated with terrible self-defense advice.

    Marc MacYoung is one of the people giving out good advice, IMO.

  8. U under estmate the endurance of the human body. It is possible to kill with one punch, if they fall down & hit their head on concrete. & anyone who punches a girl like a man deserves a 350lb. cell mate named bubbles. so they can blow bubbles 4 the rest of their life. lol!!

  9. Hmmm. It’s a tough thought. I dole out drills and fighting methods more often than I train environmental awareness and prevention.

    I wouldn’t do that. No. It’s such a lame excuse for a punch.

    My terrible thought wonders about some of the folks who came and went from my training system. Hmmm. Would they?

  10. Chris,
    Then I guess the real question is, would you ever be the aggressor in a situation you felt justified violence?
    A situation for instance where you couldn’t sue and the police were ignoring the offense. Or a situation outside of the law. San Francisco can be a pretty lawless place. What if you punched someone who just smashed your car window but was trying to run away? If the guy died, wouldn’t the law treat it the same way as it did in the article?

    The big problem here is that martial artists have reason to believe that a single punch might kill someone, where as the average guy who has watched a lot of Star Trek and been in a couple of bar fights has reason to believe that a single punch won’t kill you. I think the guy had a crappy lawyer.

  11. Anyone will become violent when they feel it is justified. But self-defense has nothing to do with justice.

    Personally, I would not chase down and punch someone who smashed my car window and ran away. That response won’t fix my window.

    But if he came back to smash another one, and if I were standing in the way…who knows what might happen?

  12. But Chris,
    The people who smash windows in this town do so everyday and if they get caught by the police, which almost never happens, they almost never get a charge that sticks. The cops see anything under 5000 dollars as meaningless. And the window smashers get more brazen.

    Okay, what if you were in a hospital trying to see your dying father, perhaps for the last time, and the security guard won’t let you pass unless you pay a bribe? Would you punch him? I know a martial arts teacher who was in that exact situation in China about 10 years ago. Actually there were two guards who wanted bribes and he punched both of them and both of them lost consciousness with one punch each. One of them went into a coma, but after a day he came out of it.

    A free society needs a certain amount of vigilante violence.

  13. If indeed a free society requires vigilantism, I pray that it is for the sake of their own destruction, vigilante against vigilante.

    What is the angry mob which murders the innocent scapegoat but vigilantism?

    What is the action of the KKK in their own eyes when committing murder, but vigilantism?

    What is thuggery but vigilantism?

    All the person needs to kill then is to feel as if they are justified? What counts now? Insults?

    I can only hope that in a moment of unusual clarity all vigilantes will realize that to do what they do properly entails no other thing than their own self destruction.

  14. Scott,
    Can you keep your car safe by punching a window smasher? Ethical considerations aside, I just don’t think this is going to work. More probably, you’ll wake up the next morning to four slashed tires and a missing windshield.

    No, I do not expect police to make the world fair, but I also do not expect to personally succeed where they have failed.

    A free society needs a certain amount of vigilante violence? Let’s turn that around, and say that the occasional broken window is the price of freedom.

    (Those who disagree may wish to contact this guy on Craigslist?)

  15. Of course I’m left with no choice but to agree with you, Chris and Josh.
    I’m certainly NOT proposing a vigilante institution as an alternative to the courts or the police.
    But you both fail to acknowledge that we sometimes find ourselves in lawless situations or places. Sure, sometimes the best response is to take the hit, accept the loss. And sometimes there is a safe (for you) opportunity to go outside of law (and convention) and get revenge, retribution, or just get even.

    Did you miss the part of the story where there was a group (gang) of girls who were intimidation people to the point of death and yet the courts and the police saw nothing? I know these girls, they will hurt you if you let them.

    Also the claim that self-defense is morally superior to retribution is questionable.

  16. Scott, everything I write here goes on my permanent Internet record, and that fact colors my responses. I hope you understand.

    Since I already consider myself superior to window-smashing hoodlums–verily, I am full of win!–most violent retribution would be superfluous, regardless of whether it is morally or legally justified.

    Functional preemptive action is a completely different story, and obviously not the story in the case of Brian K. Brown. In the right circumstances, punching someone can be an act of de-escalation; these are not those.

    I completely agree that at a certain level, self-defense and retribution are equivalent. But good luck convincing an officer, judge, or even a jury of your citizen peers. One must be careful not to be seen as attacking the tenets of law and society itself.

  17. The idea that everything we say online goes in our permanent record in an interesting one. My father has been acting as an expert witness for 40 years on a wide variety of subjects. Every once in a while an over paid attorney for the other side will bring up something my father wrote in an obscure journal, book, etc, during cross examination. These are all ways moments of joy because the judge and jury wake up and look shocked, and thus my father is given ample time to explain the exact context and meaning of what ever it was he said. Inevitably it works in his favor, as the judge and jury are entertained and the attorney for the other side looks like he’s muck raking.
    My advice, don’t ever run for public office. People with opinions need time to explain themselves, politicians are never given the benefit of the doubt.

  18. Ten years ago, nobody would have imagined the government scanning grocery store loyalty card records, looking for hummus purchases as evidence of terrorist sympathies. Hummus, Hamas, whatever, right?

    As hope is not a plan, and innocence is no defense, I will continue to exercise discretion when discussing sensitive topics.

  19. josh, if u need a knife agaINST ONE PERSON IT DRIVES HOME MY POINT in the self defence blogg! scott if u r afraid of girls, all I can do is lol!!. let me educate some of you kids, “karate” means empty hand, nothing more. Gishen Funakoshi made the term popular. as 4 the rest of you, when in doubt hit 1st. run or deal w/ the law later. & MMA training is some of the toughest training out there! u could b the best striker or grappler, but if u can’t take a punck ur done!!

  20. “Leadfist,” your grammar and spelling alone are killing us. Truly, your kung fu is the strongest.

  21. Well, I was 15 when I defended myself with a knife.
    I still would.
    Do I need it? No.
    Would I use it? Yes.
    Because self defense means taking no chances, no risks.
    If someone was trying to hit me and I had my gun, and I could not escape, I would shoot them. I have an obligation to protect myself. I do not need to retreat, or warn, or be a victim , I need to endure and live.

    Mr Feldmen, I think you do not understand what self defense means. It has nothing to do with being the macho macho man that you think it does. It has to do with being safe, this means eliminating risks. You spoke of Ninjas before, are you familiar with ninpo? If so you should notice my self defense philosophy is no different than that of the famous Iga clans. However many people now conflate ninpo with taijutsu, I hope that this is not the case here.

    I am not impressed by MMA at all. I think it is a joke.
    If you want to make it interesting make it in an area that has no corners and no walls, has at least a 50′ X 50 dimension and has a dirt floor like a rodeo. With no wall to work and no cage the game changes drastically.

    MMA guys can fight pretty good under controlled conditions, but they aren’t martial artists and they seem universally ignorant about martial arts in general.

  22. Taking a macho attitude to self defense goes completely against what real self defense is all about, which is, as Josh Young said, about self preservation and survival at all cost. Adopting such macho attitudes undermines self preservation by introducing risk into the equation and it is not good self defense to put yourself needlessly at risk by either inviting confrontations upon yourself or being cocky when dealing with said confrontations. You defend yourself because you have to not because you get a kick or an ego boost from doing so.

    Most MMA fighters suffer from classic “new kids on the block syndrome”. By virtue of the fact that they are new to the scene they think this makes them superior to it also. They suffer from short-sightedness and are ignorant to the traditions and history of the arts they claim to be better than.

  23. It is basically a snuff film. The camera person and the girls were clearly in on the murder and that was the point of filming.

    The moment that the perp walked up agitated after being driven there the victim should have drawn a weapon and fired. His life was in danger and he lost his chance to protect it…

    and so he lost his life.

    The attacker was your quintessential vigilante with notions of honor and justice. His sucker punch death blow shows clearly what self defense needs to involve and it has nothing to do with fighting.

    No retreat laws cover this type of scenario well. In states wise enough to have them you are not prosecuted for using lethal force if an aggravated person approaches you. If NJ had laws like this ‘leadfist’ might already be dead.

  24. I watched the video. It is a sad representation of America at best. I’m a soldier and have been over half of my life. Fighting wars for this country so that the people may be protected and have a good chance at life. And this… is how you repay me and those like me. Thanks for the discouragement. So there is an older guy watering plants in a traffic circle. Several females that are angry at what? Being asked to avoid running over the mans water hose for what, half an hour at most? So what do they do? They act like fools and run their mouths while the man just keeps on watering. It appeared that the man told them to leave him alone or the equivalent. The female’s champion of justice comes with not an intent to talk to the man and reach some agreement, there was no talking of any measurable worth. The champion came with the intent to harm the man, to bully him, to discriminate against him, to beat him down in all ways. The man did not deserve even the assault the females gave him, much less the threat from the champion. The man did not deserve the punch nor did he deserve death. The champion is not a karate guy, he is not a warrior, he is not a champion of anything of value. The champion deserves nothing less than to rot in jail. Better yet, so that we the honest citizens do not have to pay so much money to keep this champion in jail and since the crime was so terrible, the champion and all of the females should be brought back to that very spot for all of the TV cameras and their public execution. We can stop this sort of behavior but only by reaching into the hearts and mind of these fools and reminding them that there is more to life than fighting over a da&* water hose.

  25. I studied Kung Fu in my 20’s after being assaulted. Since that time (thirty years ago) I have never once used my training on a single person. I like to think that my training prevents me from needing my training — that I was transformed by the experience in such a way that now, when would-be attackers look me over, they sense a straight spine, an agile sense of balance, strong chi, and both the will and the skill to fight to the death to protect myself. In other words, they grok that I’m not easy prey and they move on. Far from making me more likely to use my training to hurt an innocent, I was indoctrinated every day to control my power — to practice responsible, ethical self-control. As I am neither easy prey nor a heedless aggressor, I have never needed to strike even one blow in over thirty years.

  26. I dont know how it works in the US, but in Britain if you have trained in a martial art you are classed as a weapon. If you get into a fight you have to show control and understand that your actions are going to be critized thoroughly afterwards, and I think that is appropriate.
    I’ve done full-contact, soft, hard, and one of the most important things they’ve shown me is I don’t need to use my hands, if I can stop the situation arising in the first place I won, if I had to manhandle the guy , whatever the outcome, I lost.
    That he went looking for a problem, and used his hands instead of his head over something so trivial for image infront of some girls is telling of how reckless he was. Martial arts can be a double edged sword, using it, having the wrong attitude can destroy others and yourself.

  27. Its sad to see how many dangerous evolutionary backwards attitudes some people walk around with. Its much easier to put your point across without punching anyone. Its hard to skill someone with one punch but its not worth the risk. Many times a fight will escalte to the point where someone starts using dangerous methods of winning like picking up weapons or going for eyes/throat, thats a much easier way to kill or at least maim which is arguably equally as bad.

  28. A drunken teenage yob who had previously been let off with a string of warnings over his thuggery killed a university graduate with a single punch.

    Adam Rogers, 24, was punched in the head after he stepped in to stop a fight during a night out.

    When a friend later asked William Upton, 17, whether he had floored the sports coach with a single blow, he callously replied: ‘Timber!’ [continued]

  29. I find it very worrying that anyone, especially a trained martial artist would allow themselves to get drawn into a situation such as this. In the first place the disgusting women in this situation had to business attempting to take the law into their own hands especially after they started the confrontation with their loutish behaviour and the guy should not have joined in. Secondly he should not have used and physical violence let alone a serious punch unless he was in serious danger and could not run away, for ethical reasons as well as legal reasons. Such an attack is completely uncivilised and I don’t have any sympathy for him, and nor should anyone here. If you do you need to worry that you have a very unhealthy attitude that could oneday result in a lengthy prison sentence!

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