When is Self-Defense not Self-Defense?

How much force is acceptable?

If you do find yourself in a situation where you must defend yourself, how much force is acceptable to use in order to get the better of your attacker? 

You have the right to protect yourself or someone else from violence by using force but your actions should be appropriate to the level of threat you find yourself dealing with, in other words, don’t go over the top after you have dealt with your attacker. 

If you have to hit someone 50 times to stop them attacking you this is acceptable providing they were still a threat after punch number 49! But if you continue to punch or kick them after they are helpless on the ground then the table has been turned around and now you are the aggressor and can be prosecuted as such.  

Don’t wait till they throw the first punch

Now, having said that, this doesn’t mean you have to wait till you are punched first before using force to stop your attacker, if you wait till you are punched before taking action the first punch could well be the last punch too! Anyone can be taken out with one punch so don’t wait, act fast! 

You are entitled to use an appropriate level of force as soon as you recognize a threat to yourself. Notice I say `appropriate` and not `minimum` force? This is because the law does not require a person to carefully figure out exactly what level of force is required to stop an attack or use a specific move to stop the danger, so providing your actions are reasonable under the circumstances you are quite within your rights to do what is needed but no more than that. Remember don’t get carried away and turn yourself into the aggressor. 

The level of force used must be appropriate to the threat that you perceive it to be and you have to be able to justify your perception. Hitting someone who isn’t a threat but in your eyes looks a `bit dodgy` is not acceptable at all. But if you can explain exactly what signs of aggression you felt threatened by and feared for your safety, then as long as your response was proportionate to the threat you feared, then your actions are justified by law.

Deal with the threat

Once the threat is over you must stop as further violence is not necessary and certainly no longer self-defense at all. You are entitled to ensure your attacker is unable to continue, but certain guidelines apply here, it’s acceptable by using a restraining move but most certainly not acceptable by kicking them on the ground. Control is the key here.

There is no `he came at me with a knife so I killed him` principle, but if your only course of action to stop an attacker from doing something extremely serious to you resulted in his death or very serious injury, then as long as you actions were warranted by the circumstances, they would be considered lawful.  

You are not required by law to try to escape from a situation or to surrender any more than you are to stand and fight. However, if do claim self-defense then you will need to explain why you chose this option rather than using other means not using force. For example, if you chose to stand and fight someone when you had a clear chance of escape, you would be required to explain why you did not take that opportunity. If there wasn’t a good reason for your choice of action, then this might undermine your assertion that you only did what you had to do in order to protect yourself. 

Don’t go beyond Self-Defense

If you have the attitude that the person deserved a `good kicking` for attacking you in the first place you have taken this way past self-defense as self-defense only applies while there is a threat. It’s amazing how quickly your attacker will happily play the role of victim and sue you should you step over the line for something they started in the first place! 

So basically, if you decide you want to get some `payback` after the threat is over you will most likely answer for it in a court of law, remember, there are cameras on most streets now watching your every move that will confirm whether your actions were justified or not. Again, control is the key here, I cannot stress that enough.

Have you been the victim of an attack where you successfully defended yourself? Did you do this with minimum force or did you go over the top and give your attacker a beating?

Author: Nigel Taylor

I`m Nigel Taylor – originally from England – owner of The Backyard Gym in Round Rock Texas. We specialize in personal training, kickboxing cardio and self-defense. With over 25 years experience as a personal trainer, I know what works! From weight loss to bulking up to toning up, I can help you get your desired look and achieve your fitness goals. I can also offer you the privacy of a 100% private personal training studio in which to enjoy and get the most out of your workouts.