After the comments in this post, I felt I should explain a few concepts again that some people seem to be confused about.
Disengagement. This is a complicated way of saying “running away” (or used preemptively, “don’t be there.”) Obviously this perfectly sound advice and I am in complete agreement that this a very good idea for staying out of both danger and legal trouble. It is not the ultimate trump card that some make it out to be simply because there are situations where you cannot run away from, either for practical reasons (no available path of escape) or moral reasons (running would mean you leaving your child or spouse to face the danger alone.) In terms of self defense as a private citizen we are always working towards disengagement, but we must recognize that there might need to be intervening steps between the beginning of the confrontation and our finally being able to disengage.
Deescalation. Deescalation is the process of being (or at least appearing to be) reasonable and or conciliatory, in the hopes of diffusing a potentially dangerous situation. This is what is known as “talking your way out” of fighting. Most people have some basic idea of how this works, and the better and more practiced at it you are the more applicable it becomes. I consider deescalation to be a core self defense skill and should get at least as much thought and attention as learning to shoot or fight. Unfortunately many situations cannot be deescalated through reason, compromise, or dialogue. This is where pacifism fails: some people are ideologically bent upon causing you harm and they are not going to be dissuaded by discussion.
Verbal Commands. A verbal command is a stated demand for compliance. This generally implies that there will be consequences for non-compliance and those consequences include the application of a higher level of force than verbal commands. I think this is where a lot of generic self defense curriculum goes awry, because if there isn’t a credible ability to use force after issuing verbal commands it simply amounts to a bluff. Should a subject comply with the commands then that might create an opportunity for using deescalation and/or disengagement.
Application of Violence. Hopefully, there was an opportunity in a developing situation to apply the previously mentioned steps and something (or some combination) was effective. Other times a situation can require the immediate application of violence because of the nature of the threat and the circumstances. Ideally the amount of violence will be the minimum that is sufficient to stop the attack. In the wider self defense community the martial arts purists seem to think that they can fight their way out of every situation (except for those that believe an armed assailant is instant death) and the firearms purists who believe that any physical altercation is justification for gunfire. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. As a general guideline, you will have an easier time (legally speaking) if you can stop an attack using something less than lethal force – even if you are not required by law to do so.