Self-Defense Lessons That Can Be Learned From the Leandro Lo Tragedy

Leandro Lo
As Black Belt reported last week, the martial arts community was stunned by the death of 8-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Leandro Lo. Lo was the victim of a tragic shooting in Brazil. While exact details of the circumstances that lead to Lo's murder by an alleged off-duty military police officer aren't known, a look at what is known might prove useful to martial artists thinking in terms of protecting themselves from harm.

First of all, reports have the murder taking place at a location described as an event venue where live music was being played. The reports also indicate the incident started in the early morning hours on Sunday when the alleged assailant stole a bottle off a table Lo and companions were sitting at, supposedly seeking to provoke a confrontation. Though no reports specify it, it would seem likely alcohol was present. Lo is said to have gotten up and confronted the person in question taking him to the ground and controlling him before they were separated. At which point, the alleged assailant is said to have pulled out a gun and shot Lo in the head.

Assuming the above information is accurate, Lo seems to have been an innocent party who did nothing to cause his own murder. However, there are several takeaways martial artists, or anyone else, can gather from this tragedy to, perhaps, avoid ever finding themselves in a similar situation.

The first of these recalls the old saying, "nothing good ever happens after midnight." Any time you are out late at night, you have to realize almost everyone, including yourself, is more tired than usual and thus people's judgment is not quite as sound as it might normally be. Additionally, in most places where people congregate late at night, alcohol is available, as appears to be the case here. When alcohol is involved, judgment, both on your part and the part of people you meet, may be severely compromised, as will physical abilities like reflexes. One simply needs to be far more cautious when going out late at night, especially to places where alcohol is available.

The next thing to consider is how to react in such circumstances if someone becomes belligerent toward you. Though martial arts often preach non-violence, the truth is most very good martial artists are not passive individuals. A certain degree of aggressiveness is required to be good at any activity that involves physically striving against another human being. In the type of situation described above, where someone is seeking to provoke you and takes something from you, it's going to be difficult for most martial artists to not react in some sort of confrontational manner. However, you are clearly putting yourself in more potential danger if you do. In the setting of a night club or bar, perhaps your best course of action in such circumstances is to simply request the management resolve the issue and let bouncers or other security personnel deal with the situation. Once you get directly involved in any confrontation that you could have potentially walked away from, no matter how justified you feel you might be, you are putting yourself in both physical and legal jeopardy.

If the situation does turn physical, as it reportedly did in the case of Lo taking the other man to the ground and holding him there, You need to be aware this is likely a very different situation than anything you've ever encountered in the gym. There, you do not have to worry about an opponent pulling out a hidden weapon, let alone the possibility he has friends who might jump you from behind. If you do find yourself in a physical altercation with someone, you need to make sure they can't reach into their pockets. If they do get a hand in a pocket, you need to make sure they can't get it out in case they have a weapon in there. In circumstances where you end up controlling someone in a clinch or on the ground, it may not be a bad idea to pat them down and see if you can feel any potential hidden weapons on them.

Finally, when any physical confrontation has ended, unless you're going to be required to make a statement to police, do not linger at the scene of the confrontation. The individual you've confronted may have friends in the area or may go to retrieve a weapon. Your best course of action is to leave immediately and, if necessary, report the incident to the authorities.

Leandro Lo's tragic death appears to have been senseless and not at all of his own doing. But there are still lessons that can be learned from it.

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