From self-defense to excessive force

Here’s a great example of how your actions can take you from self-defense to excessive force in the eyes of the law. I’ve written many times about why this is important, but this video is a perfect illustration of the many factors involved in street violence. I’ll comment after the clips, but first a caveat:

I have no idea what started the confrontation.

I also don’t know if the man survived the beating he took.

There is the obligatory idiot screaming “Worldstar!” the whole time. You might want to turn down your sound.

That said, here are the two videos:


Some thoughts on all this:

  • It’s difficult to see what triggered the fight. It looks to me like the guy in the white shirt is confrontational and the one in the grey sweater throws the first punch. But the video is of bad quality so I may be seeing that wrong.
  • The street is not the Octagon… White shirt takes his opponent in a guillotine choke, but doesn’t secure it enough by keeping his weight down. As a result, he receives a vicious body slam that clearly puts him at a disadvantage in the bottom position with a much heavier opponent…
  • The street is not the Octagon, Part 2. While white shirt is busy fighting grey sweatshirt, the latter’s friend comes out of the woodwork and changes the equation. It is now 2 on 1 and the 1 has nowhere to go, given as he’s pinned down. After a few kicks, he is clearly knocked out, yet it keeps on raining punches and kicks. Again, you do not want to end up on the ground in the street. There is no referee to stop these two guys from killing white shirt. The amount of damage he takes is entirely up to them.
  • A line is crossed. Up to the first few seconds of white shirt being out, the two others might have a successful case to plead self-defense if this incident goes to court. But when there is clearly no longer a threat to them, they keep on striking. This goes against most self-defense laws in existence and it is at this point that the line from self defense to excessive force is crossed. Bad things happen when people go beyond this point…
  • Nail in coffin #1. Grey sweatshirt gets up without white shirt doing anything about it so the law requires grey sweatshirt to disengage. He does not. Instead, he gets a few extra kicks in, including a stomp/axe kick, which a medical examiner will tell you is potentially lethal given the concrete surface white shirt’s head is on. This has nothing to do with self-defense and is clearly excessive force.
  • Nail in coffin #2. Again, instead of fleeing to safety as he should, grey sweatshirt starts on a tirade on a downed opponent, challenging him verbally. If you can cuss somebody out and he doesn’t even move, you are clearly not in fear of your life…
  • Nail in coffin #3. Grey sweatshirt grabs white shirt’s head and smashes the back of his skull into the concrete with vicious force. Again, this is not self-defense but without a doubt excessive force. This technique is a finishing move, designed to seriously injure or kill an opponent. There is absolutely no need to use it in this scenario, the fight was already over.
  • Nail in coffin #4. It takes both men about 30sec to leave the area. They are clearly not in fear of their lives, a critical factor in claiming lethal force for self-defense. Instead, the tirade goes on until they eventually up and go. This matters as it goes to prove their mindset at the time.


All in all, a gruesome example of how crossing the line from potentially legal self-defense into excessive force is one you can cross in the space of a few seconds. By then, it’s too late and you risk having to face the consequences of your actions in a court of law with an extremely weak case. In this one here, a defense attorney will have a difficult task of proving both men acted in self-defense. Chances are good they’ll go to jail.


From self-defense to excessive force

From self-defense to excessive force…

Some suggestions:

  • Even if you don’t see a camera, assume you’re being filmed. These two guys probably didn’t see the man filming what they did as he was probably in a building, up several stories. They probably think they’re fine and won’t face charges. Don’t make that mistake and always assume you will be held accountable for your actions.
  • Learn about self-defense laws. Before you train anything, at least know what the self-defense laws are in your state. Not what you think they should be, but what they actually are. Try this site (where I found the videos, has some great articles and case studies) or this book to get you started.
  • Ingrain it in training. Learn form the mistakes these men make and ingrain a better standard into your training. Practice avoidance to begin with but also how to finish a fight quickly and for God’s sake, don’t go to the ground unless you absolutely have to. Most of all, practice how to stop fighting when there is no longer a threat. It is very instinctive to keep on fighting when the need is no longer there and, as demonstrated in this incident, this can lead to using excessive force. Practice restraint and disengaging just as much as stopping the threat. At least, if you want to have a good life once the fight is over…


As always, be safe.

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  1. Gye Greene says

    In this modern, internet-driven age, it’s pretty straightforward to find the main Act that defines the various crimes and offences for your state. This **should** expressly state “THIS counts as self-defense; THAT does not.”

    For those of you in Queensland, Australia:

    I AM NOT A LAWYER; THIS IS NOT “LEGAL ADVICE” — but: Check out around-abouts p. 175.

    Section 271(1) (paraphrased): when defending against an unprovoked assault, you can use “reasonable forcer” to defend yourself, as long as you don’t INTEND to, nor is it LIKELY, to cause death or permanent injury.

    Section 271(2) (paraphrased): BUT — if there is a “reasonable” fear of death or permanent injury by the defender, and the defender has “reasonable grounds” to believe that there is no other option — then the defender can use as much force as required — even if that force causes death or permanent injury to the attacker.


    Also: Section 267 (p. 173) (paraphrased): If you’re peaceably occupying your dwelling, then you (and also a person assisting you by your authority) can use physical force to prevent people from entering your dwelling (or remove them if they’re already in) — if you have reasonable grounds to believe that the person you don’t want in your dwelling is there to commit a serious offence, and you NEED to use the force to prevent/remove that person.

    (Presumably if you feel that you’re in danger, then also apply section 271, above.)

    My personal interpretation is that, in Queensland, in a home invasion situation: YES, you can use some pretty serious “defensive” force if you have a reasonable belief that the invaders intend to cause you serious physical harm.


  2. Gye Greene says

    Son of a biscuit.

    For section 271(2), I meant to write “if there is a “reasonable” fear of death or permanent injury TO the defender (by the attacker).”

    The problem with late-night paraphrasing. Sorry.

    Also, note that the following section in the Act talks about what’s reasonable level of force when defending after you have**provoked** an assault. Apparently, if you **start** a fight, then there isn’t as much leniency…


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