5th and washington street fight

Here’s the infamous “5th and washington street fight” that’s been making the rounds on the Internet. Props to Clint for pointing it out.  Take a look first and then I’ll discuss it a bit:

As you can see, Mr. 5th-W makes all sorts of mistakes. Let’s line them up:

  1. He gives his back and walks away from the boxer to take his shirt off. He could have been sucker-punched right there.
  2. He does the typical chest-out-chin-forward-hands-low huffing and puffing of inexperienced fighters. The boxer has nothing but available targets; he could have picked his shots at random and they’d all have landed.
  3. He gets stuck in a predictable pattern in his footwork: step forward-step back, step forward-step back. Makes it super easy for the boxer to get his timing right to throw the jab-cross combination.
  4. When the boxer puts up his guard, he’s so stuck in his play of intimidation that he walks right into that jab. It’s not like he couldn’t see the boxer was getting ready to strike; his fists were clearly up and in a fighting stance.

For those who might think a chorus of “Hail the conquering hero” is in order, I’m going to have to disappoint you. The boxer does a lot of things right but he makes a few horrible mistakes too. First, let’s look at the good stuff:

  1. He stays calm under pressure. When Mr. 5th-W gets in his face, he keeps his cool.
  2. He waits for a good opportunity before he makes a move.
  3. Instead of puffing his chest like Mr. 5th-W, he takes a de-escalation stance and waits for his moment.
  4. He sets up his opponent well. He lets Mr. 5th-W step forward a few times and seems to spot the forward-backward footwork pattern. Then he tests the distance twice with a lead hand push, which tells him how to throw his jab. You saw the results; it worked just fine.
  5. His timing is perfect. The jab lands just as Mr. 5th-W steps forward.


But unfortunately, he also messes up big time and turns a self-defense situation into assault. Here’s what went wrong:

  1. He hesitates to throw the jab-cross combination. Instead of firing from his de-escalation stance, he puts up his fists in an on-guard position first. That mistake could have cost him dearly had Mr. 5th-W been anything but the clueless loudmouth he seems to be. Throw the punch or not but don’t just stand there with your hands up.
  2. What was seemingly (more on this in a bit) a clear-cut case of self-defense turns into assault as soon as he punches his opponent when he’s lying on the ground. I totally understand why he did it, but the law does not agree with him. He should have walked away instead of punching some more.
  3. To make it worse, he puts his boot to the ribs for good measure. Under the influence of adrenal stress, it’s a common human instinct to want to get some payback for Mr. 5th-W’s insults but once again: the law doesn’t see it like this. Especially as this is after other people pull him away from his opponent: he comes back to deal out some punishment instead of walking away.
  4. He taunts his fallen opponent: “What do you wanna do?!” and “Don’t ever touch (or perhaps “hit”? It isn’t clear.) my fucking face! Ever!”  Which part of this has anything to do with self-defense?
  5. He does it all in front of multiple witnesses and on camera. His claim of self-defense will be hard to defend in court…


Here’s the thing:

Yesterday, I was talking with two of my best friends: both men are experienced operators and have had their share of extreme violence. Fights, knife attacks, gunfights, etc. They’ve seen and done it all.

One of them explained he is constantly amazed at how martial artists mistake the tools for the mission. Because when planning for a mission, you gather your tools in accordance with the goals. You don’t grab your tools first and then see how they fit the goal you want to achieve. That’s ass-backward. What you do is first formulate a plan to achieve the goals of the mission. And only then do you look at which tools you need to achieve that goal.

I totally agree with him but that’s a rant for another time. The reason I bring it up is this:

His second point was about people forgetting the mission and going off the reservation. This means they no longer try to achieve the goals they were sent out to achieve but are focusing on other things. E.g.: if your goal is to protect a VIP and your job is to block everyone from going through a certain door, then you stay in front of that door. When some idiot picks a fight with you because you don’t let him pass, you’re still on mission when you put him down because he takes a swing at you. But when that same idiot spits on your shoes, slaps you in the face and then runs away, you’re abandoning your mission if you run after him.

Is it understandable to want to run after the guy and pound him into oblivion? Yes. Totally.

Is it the smart thing to do? No. Because leaving that door unguarded means abandoning the mission.

5th and Washington fight

Which part of this is self-defense?

Who cares about all your “mission” crap?

Well, you should care and here’s why:

As a civilian, you only have one mission: to defend yourself and your family (In some countries, you’re also supposed to defend  people in need, but let’s leave that one out for now.) Your goal is to come home alive and in one piece. Anything else is irrelevant in the eyes of the law.

You may not agree with that.

You may think it stinks and is unrealistic.

You may hate it with a vengeance and think it’s unfair.

But it’s still the law of the country you live in. Dura lex, sed lex

If you don’t like it, go live in a country where the laws are different. But unless you do that, you abide by the law. Why? Hundreds of thousands of people watched the boxer abandon the mission by now. It’s all over the Internet. Which means that if the local DA sees it too and decides to press charges, the boxer could end up in jail. At the very least, he’ll still have to get a lawyer and pay loads of money to defend his actions in court.

The only thing he needed to do to prevent this was to walk away after he put the other guy down.

The fight was already over. He’d won. He could have run away and Mr. 5th-W wouldn’t have been able to keep up. His mission of getting home alive and in one piece would have been successful. But now, who knows what will happen?

Where most people go wrong in self-defense

Before you comment on this post, consider this:

  • I totally understand why he punched and kicked the guy after he hit the ground. It’s a common human reaction and I’m not faulting the boxer for being human. The point is that you can learn from his mistake and avoid it yourself.
  • Another aspect is that in some parts of society, you have to make sure the message “Don’t fuck with me.” is clear after you put a guy down.
  • Some people you can’t afford to let back up and take another swing at you because you might not survive it.

The law frowns upon these things, but sometimes that’s just how it works.

The problem is that in many, many cases, neither of these three reasons apply. More often than not, you can just walk away. This is the smart and lawful thing to do. Look up your laws on self-defense and then study up on case law for precedents. You’ll see just how rarely a judge agrees with people who kick a guy after they punch him to the ground. Just because you feel something ought to be legal, that still doesn’t make it so.

That’s what my friend pointed out and what I very much agree with. Many people are stuck in their feeling of righteousness when they’re in a fight and don’t see it when they abandon the civilian mission (get home alive and in one piece). They don’t even notice they’re wandering into illegal territory and afterward they cry foul because they get arrested and not the piece of shit asshole who started it.

Once again, I totally understand the feeling but if the law says you can’t kick a man when he’s down, then you can’t. If you still do so, fine by me but don’t call it self-defense.  Call it “getting even” or something along those lines, but payback and self-defense are not the same thing.

The consequences for ignoring the difference between these too can be the difference between coming home and continuing to live your life, or ending up in jail and ruining your life.

Choose wisely.


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  1. Great post Wim and your exactly dead on . One thing I would say to add to this is If you claim self defense then you have admitted to doing it now you have to sale the reason why you did it to a jury and make your self look not only like the good guy. But also as a victim of a crime in which you had no other choice but to act the way you did

    • Thanks Clint. Yeah, I agree. You have to be able to sell it in court as well as do it on the street. If Mr Black shirt ever has to do that over this incident, he’s gonna have his work cut out for him…

  2. Hi Wim,
    Here’s another twist on this kind of a situation…

    I’m a disability claims examiner for an insurance company. I have a case where a bouncer was stabbed in the hand in a situation that started as a bar brawl. It began with a verbal fight between two groups inside the bar and got physical when the two groups moved out into the street, completely off the premises. A few of the bouncers followed them out into the street. One of the bouncers attempted to break up a fight between just two individuals when one of the fighters displayed a knife in an attempt to stab the other in the back. The bouncer got between them and was stabbed in the hand. The police arrived, the bouncer pressed charges, and then he was taken to the ER for medical treatment.

    Since the bouncer left the premises and was subsequently stabbed on a city street, his disability claim against his employer’s insurance coverage will not be covered. In short, he’s SOL.

    • Thanks for joining the discussion Lisa.
      Your story makes perfect sense to me and I think it’s a great example of what I wanted to point out: the disconnect between what you feel entitled/justified to do and what is actually legal/right. The bouncer may have felt it was his right to break up the fight but once it went into the street, he abandoned his mission. But I bet he doesn’t see it that way.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. Excellent “post incident analysis” Wim. I’m sure many will benefit from reading it. As a retired police officer, a defensive tactics instructor and a court-declared expert on use of force and self-defense, I agree with your breakdown of the dynamics of the incident. Situations like these, as senseless and stupid as they are, can provide a great opportunity to learn from OTHER PEOPLE’s mistakes instead of your own. Keep it up!

    • Thanks for speaking up Randy. Especially given your experience and professional background, I’m humbled by your praise. Glad you enjoyed my blog here.

  4. Damien Alexander says

    On the law side, I agree with you 100%

    But, what really inhales profusely about “the law”, is the law preaches humanity, yet, when it comes to making a dollar/point/example, suddenly, human emotions are “illegal”.

    Sure, kicking the guy when he is down is wrong, unless, of course…he’s trying to get back up.

    BUT, just yelling at someone, like this man did, *don’t touch me…*

    THAT is an emotional response and should have NO bearing, what so ever, in the court.
    ALL people say things under duress.
    Anyone who says different is an out & out, bold face liar and, if anything, it should be illegal for attorneys to use them to prosecute people.

    For instance, I am a person who does not bottle things up anymore.
    When I was growing up, I was told…*keep your mouth shut! No one wants to hear your problems!*
    Suddenly, I had a history of physical violence.
    Then, I decided, “screw you! I’m going to say what I want and get it off my chest!”

    Then, I became known as a *talker*.
    Fine by me!!!
    No one got hurt anymore and I stopped fighting.

    But, by law, I am still guilty for my words, not my actions.

    But, “the law” is perfect and black & white, as we all know.

    • Damien, I understand what you’re saying but please re-read my post: I *never* said the law is perfect. I did say that it is the law you should keep in mind when you fight and not what you *want* the law to be. The law sucks blocky nuts sometimes and it’s often totally out of touch with reality. But it is still the law you are obligated to adhere to. When you ignore the law, you do so at your own risk. Especially in self-defense situations.
      In a perfect world, the law would be righteous and serve justice. In the one we live in, that’s just not going to happen. Like somebody once wrote: the law has nothing to do with justice.
      Again, I understand how you feel but dura lex, sed lex. If you don’t agree, you can move to a country with different laws or petition your lawmakers for change. In the mean time, if you want to stay out of jail: stick too the law or if you don’t, hope you don’t get caught…

  5. Awesome blog!!!!

  6. over all I give it 4 Jalapenos..interesting and entertaining. One thing for sure 5th & Washington breeds shit talkers….yeah it turned into assault..oh well..it happens…was it wrong ? To some maybe…but no one knows the dynamic of the entire situation from a short clip..Hell these two guys could have known each other for years and Mr. 5th & washington beat up up the Guidos sister or something..who knows..the courts wont care but I understand the Guido’s desire to bash the fuck out of this snot rag..hell I been in his shoes on more than a few occassions as have a lot of people…so it is what it is..I highl recommend Mr. 5th & washington find a better way to be tough..talking wasn’t it!

    • Mike, true, we don’t know the context. And like I said, in some situations/parts of society the assault is what needs to be done. But the law doesn’t care about that; it’ll still convict you for that assault.
      A LEO friend of mine often says you need to be able to win three battles in a street fight: the physical fight, the criminal charges against you and then the civilian lawsuit you might face. I think he’s right, especially with everybody having cameras in their cellphones: you’re on film even if you don’t know it. And then smack in the middle of the criminal court case the DA slapped you with, he produces the footage. Good luck defending yourself there if you put a boot to the ribs like Mr. blackshirt in this video…

  7. And that is how you go from a possible self-defense scenario to being arrested and possibly sued.

    Although, even the self-defense part could probably be argued down by a good attorney. Was there any reason for Mr. Blackshirt to stick around? An attempt to walk away followed by Mr. Shirtless following would have been an even more solid argument for defensive use of force.

  8. Great post Wim, wise commentary. A little too tiddy in your absolutes though, given all that we don’t know about this particular situation. I understand the emphasis and logic of your post, and I agree with the importance of considering the law and the court issues as a matter of pre-incident awareness and knowledge. Lastly, it is clear that except for the tactics of the fight, your point is to highlight the balance between suffering the consequences of being attached by the 5th & Washington situation verses suffering the consequences of being attached by the legal system afterwards. It is a very real balancing act.

    In the moment, and considering the “mission”, a person needs to give serious consideration to just walking away once someone has been knocked down. (Jogging away, maybe:-) It isn’t over until it’s over and the threat has to be all the way over before you can walk away.

    I am sure you understand my meaning. And given the emotions of the moment, and the makeup of your audience here, your emphasis is probably more important than mine – but…

    • Dennis,

      I understand your point, which is why I pointed it out that there are situations in which the assault phase of Mr. blackshirt is necessary. We don’t know what the full context is and there might be other factors at play. But my goal was to point out the disconnect between feeling justified in kicking a downed opponent and the law agreeing with you. That’s rarely the case. I tried to analyze the situation the way a DA would and offer some thoughts on how your actions can look in court. Spending years in jail for (over)successfully defending yourself is not fun…

  9. It was pretty clear from the antics the guy made before he attacked he wasn’t trained or a real threat (taking his shirt off, so juvenile and indeed very dumb to turn his back) so that first punch was more than enough (a punch to the solar plexus would have been more appropriate since you can seriously mess someone up with even one strike to the face). A dangerous individual will not need to build up courage (the monkey dance) or come forward with no stance whatsoever and his face all unprotected. If someone represents a real danger (e.g he’s confident and comes at you in a boxer’s stance) you would be justified in following-up on the first counterattack but this was clearly not the case. I very much agree the guy was helpless after he went down: what followed was clearly ego-driven violence and that kick was just cruel and cowardly. Beating on an idiot with no skill is easy and it’s much more a sign of competence and maturity to know when to stop than to inflict damage that’s completely unnecessary. That kick could have broken ribs and if you’re very unlucky it might even cause a puncture of the lungs which is a life threatening condition. Good thing there’s such a thing as the law or the mob mentality and the complete lack of morals/self-restraint in some people (e.g ‘he hit me first so I can do with him as I like’) would quickly cause society to descend into chaos as is seen in situations where the external control system (police, the courts) breaks down and people aren’t deterred by the fear of punishment: floods, earthquakes, wars… Man can be a pretty vicious animal in the right (or in moral terms wrong) circumstances, with even the slightest bit of experience in the real world you’d have to be pretty gullible to still believe in the goodness of your average homo sapiens sapiens. Like Schopenhauer said most people fall into the category ‘stupid’, ‘evil’ or both, clearly the latter would be the most dangerous variety. As my law-professor once remarked: ‘the necessity of the law is proof of man’s wickedness’.

  10. Aussie as mate says

    The guy that got hit was drunk he said during the interview. That’s how a lot of people die. He or should I say both are lucky he landed on his arse not his head hitting the ground. My friend who is a very nice guy had another guy do something similar at a party, started calling my mates girlfriend a this and that and my mate punched him but when the guy landed he hit his head on the way down and later died in hospital. I’m from Australia we have a law called the one punch law where if a fight breaks out and a punch results in a death it’s a automatic 10 year jail term. My friend did 5 years his girlfriend left him he lost 5 years. Why you would approach someone to start a negative conversation that you know would most likely result in a fight has got me. Specially men in their late early 40s. My friend was a teenager immature what are the excuse for grown men doing this.
    I thought it was funny to watch don’t get me wrong but it shouldn’t of happened fights start over three things girls money and faith. Peace out 5th and washington fuckers

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