What is proportionate self defence?

Street fights and self defence scenarios are often discussed in the most extreme terms, which leads us to the most extreme conclusions, such as:

There are no rules in a street fight, therefore I will use every method which is commonly banned in sports such as eye gouging, biting, groin strikes, weapons; I will never take the fight to the ground because I will get stomped by several people, and there are needles and glass and lava on the ground; I will maim and kill and rip and tear.

In reality, violence and confrontation run the gamut from imposing body language to nuclear weapons, and then there’s everything in between.

When we are defending ourselves, the laws in most places expect that you will use a proportionate level of force if you need to defend yourself.

If you’re a strong young man, and a 75-year-old woman tries to slap you, it might be considered reasonable and proportionate to hold her wrist to stop the slap. Biting her nose off would be considered disproportionate in most places.

So much conversation around self defence lacks nuance; here’s an example of a situation that might help us think about it.

This man was eating at a restaurant and another man has tried to steal his phone. But the victim trains jiu jitsu (this has been confirmed), and he resisted, held onto the phone and they end up in a short grappling match before the victim throws him on the ground, and then that’s it. The offender realises he’s outmatched, he submits, and just walks away.

You hear people say ridiculous things like never grapple in a street fight. Never take someone to the ground because 10 of their friends are going to appear and stomp you. If someone attacks me I’m going to bite and eye gouge and hit em with furniture and stab them etc., etc.

There might be times when those things are reasonable, but they’re often not. Maybe you can put them on the ground and it resolves without any injury at all.

If your local laws permit, maybe you can consider a citizens arrest if you can be bothered going through the process of holding him there until police arrive and providing a statement, showing up at court and so on.

You might want to check them for weapons before you let them up. And once they leave the area, you should probably leave also, in case they decide to return with a weapon. Those are things to consider.

Self defence laws usually revolve around a proportionate level of force to protect yourself and your property. Using more force than is reasonably necessary to get the job done could be considered excessive, and this is where people get into trouble.

With this scenario where I live, if the victim had done exactly the same thing and the offender is on the ground not moving and saying OK I give up I’m sorry, then the victim kicks the man in the head, he’d probably get charged with assault.

Think about what it would achieve in terms of the objective of self defence. Yes, he tried to steal your phone but he’s not any more. He’s not attacking you, or threatening you, he’s stationary on the ground in the moment. Using force was reasonable while he was trying to take the phone but that stopped.

“He deserves it, there should be revenge, he needs to learn a lesson, he should be punished,” these are not justifications of self defence, these are excuses to assault someone after a self defence situation has already resolved.

There would be other circumstances where a head stomp would be reasonable, for example he sees the man pull out a knife while he’s laying on his back there, it might be reasonable to kick him, knock him out. These situations are fluid and change moment to moment, and you have to react to what is in front of you.

If you use force, you will later have to explain why. To what end? What was your objective, was it reasonable, was it necessary? Because if you could have used a lower level of force, or done anything else to protect yourself, then it wasn’t necessary.

It’s all fine in hindsight, yes, but that’s why I’m using the term “reasonable” so often. Would most reasonable people in the same situation believe that your actions were reasonable, and necessary, and proportionate?

A rule of thumb is that when the threat stops, you stop.

Learn about the laws in your area and what is considered self defence, you might be allowed to do a lot more than what I’ve described, but you need to understand what you can and can’t do legally. Otherwise, you might start as the victim and end up being the one who goes to jail.

Man taken to ground in street fight, brutal armbar follows

According to the source of the video on Reddit, this fight started after the drunken older man had been arguing with a group for about 10 minutes and was given many chances to leave.

The man wearing the ADCC hoodie (Abu Dhabi Combat Club, a prestigious submission grappling tournament) kicked off his footwear shortly before the video starts. Then:

Strikes -> clinch -> takedown -> mount -> armbar -> head stomps from armbar -> mount -> elbows.

Bystanders offered to call an ambulance for the older man following the fight, however he refused and kept saying that a bunch of “homeless guys” had attacked him.

As I’ve explained in a previous post, the standing vs ground debate is a red herring. Sometimes going to the ground is the optimal strategy, sometimes it’s not. In all cases, grappling skills are necessary whether you want to stay standing or not.

Saying “never go to the ground in a street fight” is idiotic, and at best a misguided oversimplification.

In this instance, the man who performed the armbar was not jumped by a group, was not stabbed, there was no glass and AIDS needles and lava on the ground.

It also starkly illustrates the effectiveness of join locks. This is not a submission, he did not wait for his victim to tap. He just destroyed that arm.

None of this is to say that his behaviour was justified, that’s up for you to decide. Where I live, it would be considered excessive and serious charges would follow. Make sure you understand local laws before using force.

Eye gouges, groin strikes, bites, scratches, throat strikes, hair pulling: why “fighting dirty” is not enough in reality

Click to watch video on Youtube

Reddit discussion and video

Groin strikes, eye gouges, and other “dirty” street fighting techniques are often overestimated in their effectiveness, and are not reliable substitutes for fundamental fighting skills.

The key issue with these techniques is that they rely on pain to influence behavior, rather than directly incapacitating or controlling an opponent. Real fighting scenarios (see videos) show that people can endure severe injuries, including serious maiming, and still continue to fight. This resilience is especially true when the stakes are high.

Gaining a controlling position increases the effectiveness of any technique, including those banned in sports. Without a dominant position, attempts at “dirty” tactics are more likely to fail.

Consideration must also be given to what happens when these tactics fail. In a fight, once a certain level of violence is introduced, it can be reciprocated, potentially leading to more severe consequences.

Real-life examples illustrate these points. Fighters have continued to compete even after sustaining significant injuries like broken limbs or blindness. The effectiveness of these tactics is unpredictable and can vary greatly depending on the situation and the individuals involved.

While “dirty” techniques can be part of a fighting strategy, they are not reliable or decisive. Effective fighting requires a combination of skills, including striking, grappling, and a strategic approach to positioning and control. Simply relying on pain-inducing tactics is insufficient for real combat scenarios.

Here we have a man arguing with police, and he throws a knee to the groin. You can see the officer’s hips move back as the energy from the strike transfers to his body. The officer responds with a punch which knocks the man unconscious. This is a stark illustration of the difference between doing something that simply hurts a lot, and something that takes away your capacity to fight completely.
A jeweller is stabbed and attempts to stop the attacker by using groin strikes and eye gouges, which have no effect. Neither man is able to clearly dominate the fight before the stabber eventually gives up and walks away.
This man entered an MMA gym and challenged them to a fight. When he gets caught in a guillotine choke, he attempts to eye gouge his opponent, who continues to choke the man unconscious.
In Japan 1995, 5’7 Yuki Nakai fought 6’5 Gerard Gordeau in an MMA bout. Gerard illegally eye gouged Yuki, which left him permanently blind in his right eye. Yuki continued to fight with one eye, and won by heel hook in the fourth round. He never let officials know that he’d been blinded.
Full fight where a man’s ear is bitten off, and the biter loses by submission when he is unable to escape from a bad position, demonstrating the importance of basic grappling skills no matter the rule set.
A man’s lower lip is bitten off in a street fight; however, by the end of the video he is keen to continue fighting, while it is the biter who walks away.
Man has his ear bitten off in a street fight and does not stop – by the end of the video he is in a dominant position and continues to fight without issue.
A man who is allegedly a pedophile according to onlookers, attempts to bite and eye gouge while underneath the mount of his opponent, which fails. His opponent – the man in a controlling position – eye gouges and blinds the other man, demonstrating the importance of positional control no matter what rules of lack thereof.
Two men are fighting on the ground, one has his eye gouged out – however, he continued to fight and at the end of the video, he is in a controlling position and is now gouging the eyes of the other man.
Multiple unanswered strikes to the groin which appear to have no effect
Source of video thumbnail – by MMA photographer Esther Lin
“After the fight, Werdum said the poke didn’t hurt or affect him – and even if it had hurt, he might have lied to the ringside physician and said he was fine out of concern the bout would be stopped. Werdum, who won a unanimous decision, says he thinks some fighters embellish the severity of a poke to get out of the fight and that offends him to some degree.”


German police use wrist locks on protester

Click image or click here to watch video

The German police have employed wrist locks on a protester, promising to release him if he stands and walks. However, the protester is engaging in passive resistance; he’s neither attacking nor attempting to flee, but simply refusing to comply by staying down and using his body weight to resist. Despite the intense pain from the double wrist lock, the man remains unfazed and has even wet his pants, likely from being in the situation for an extended period. His commitment to his cause appears to outweigh any physical discomfort.

This scenario highlights the limitations of pain compliance techniques, which aim to induce compliance through inflicted pain. Such methods can be ineffective against individuals who are either highly committed or in an emotionally heightened state, as they may choose to endure the pain. The police could have opted for dragging the protester away, achieving the same result without causing pain. This suggests that a more effective approach for law enforcement would be to focus on mastering basic, fundamental grappling skills rather than relying solely on pain compliance techniques.

The Norway Incident: Cop charged with assault after failing to control on the ground

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Bystanders and the court of public opinion

The failure of wristlocks and armbar takedowns

News coverage of the incident from Norway:

On October 30, Kevin Simensen, a 26-year-old man, was subjected to violence by the police. Initially, no one believed his account, but new surveillance footage has emerged that supports his claims.

The footage shows a police officer in his 30s repeatedly striking Simensen outside a gas station in Kongsberg. This video has gained significant attention recently. TV2 has also obtained another video that shows what happened immediately after the first surveillance footage. Simensen believes this second video was taken after he was pepper-sprayed and before his friend Kristian was hit with a baton.

Due to the surveillance footage, the case has taken a turn. The officer has been charged with violence and gross negligence in the line of duty. The police chief, Ole Sæverud, stated that the charged officer has not been in active duty since the video came to light.

Both Simensen and his friend Kristian Teigen appreciate the media attention the case is getting. They believe it’s crucial for people to realize that such incidents do happen in Norway. Teigen also mentioned that the police deleted some of the footage they had initially captured.

Simensen, who has been dealing with PTSD since the incident, is slowly reintegrating into society. He had previously served with NATO in the Mediterranean for six months.

The officer’s lawyer, Gry Schrøder Berger, stated that the video doesn’t show the entire sequence of events and that her client is currently struggling emotionally.

The case is now pending court evaluation.


The Buskerud District Court ruled that the officer’s use of force against Kevin Simensen was lawful. The officer had been accused of gross bodily harm after forcibly restraining Simensen, who was pepper-sprayed and hit multiple times with both a baton and a fist.

The ruling was not unanimous; one of the judges dissented, arguing that the officer’s actions were not in line with the police law’s guidelines on the use of force. The court’s majority opinion emphasized that Simensen did not cease resisting arrest and that the officer had little time to consider alternative actions.

The Special Unit for Police Affairs, which had been prosecuting the case, stated that they would review the court’s reasoning before deciding on whether to appeal. Kevin Simensen and his legal team expressed disappointment with the verdict, stating that it could further erode public trust in the legal system.

Ole Sæverud, the Police Chief in Kongsberg, has not yet commented on whether the acquitted officer will return to duty. He mentioned that the officer is currently suspended and that they would need to thoroughly review the verdict before making any decisions.