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.

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

Click image above or here to watch video

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.


How Police Training Got It Wrong: The Failure of Wrist Locks & Armbar Takedowns

Click here or click the image above to watch the video.

00:05 – Intro
01:44 – Citizens arrest a man – what methods do they use?
02:21 – What are wrist locks and armbar takedowns?
03:36 – How do they differ from other methods?
04:10 – Arm drags are not equivalent to armbar takedowns
04:28 – Performance in combat sports
04:44 – So why do police train this way?
06:08 – Why do we teach police this way if it doesn’t work?
07:17 – Fighting is impossible to understand without doing it.
08:14 – Discussing examples
09:41 – Safety concerns
11:43 – Do wrist locks and armbar takedowns have any use at all? 12:41 – What should we teach instead?

School staff use armbar takedown on intruder

When an unknown man entered school grounds in this French school, a staff member used an armbar takedown to restrain him.

This clip displays two central issues with armbar takedowns:

  1. Control on ground – When the video begins, the staff member is controlling the arm while ignoring the man’s core, which allows the man to stand up;
  2. Injury – When he does stand up, the armbar takedown is effective but causes injury, slamming the man’s head into the ground, and a pool of blood is forming as the video ends.