In the movies and on TV, bad guy gets punched in the face, he falls down unconscious. Most of the time our movie hero doesn’t even take the bad guy’s weapon, he just saunters off.

Let’s be very clear: movies and TV are NOTHING like real life. Real life fights are brutal, sloppy, and full of surprises. Boxers, who are professional punchers, rarely ever get a one-hit knockout. It can happen.

Unfortunately, many laws regarding self-defense were clearly written by people who learned everything about self-defense from watching movies.

So you’ve downed an opponent, is it time to stop and reap the rewards of heroic action? Like everything in self-defense the only true answer is, “that depends”.

If you’re thinking that it’s dirty pool to kick a downed man – you’re darned right. Why would you invoke the Marquis of Queensbury rules when somebody is trying to hurt, murder or rape you? Self-defense is not a sport.

Has the downed opponent ceased attacking you, or is he going to continue the attack? This should be the primary consideration about whether to press on with an attack. The secondary consideration should be whether you have created an opening for escape. Could you safely run away at that point?

I am not a lawyer, and nothing here is intended to serve as legal advice ever, and by reading this you agree never to sue me for anything ever – OK? If so, keep reading.

First, your state and local laws may require you to disengage in your defense if an opponent stops his attack or is downed, or indicates surrender. Check your own laws and do your best to act within the confines of the law.

To me, this places a pretty heavy burden on the part of the person who defends him or herself. In the heat of conflict, you have to asses the condition and accurately predict the future actions of someone who just attacked you.

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