Is a high level black belt MORALLY OBLIGATED to accept an attacker's surrender (aka tap out) in a real world street fight? Let me clarify with a senario. Imagine this condition: I attack you with a butcher knife & you being the high level black belt EASILY disarm me. I tap my leg three times and bow to you as a form of surrender. Do you respect that or no? Do you kill me anyway, hold me until the police arrive, accept the surrender and just walk away, etc.

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    You don't kill them! Haha. You do need to assess the situation and figure out if it's safe to stay there in control of him while waiting for police to arrive. Tapping is only for cooperative partners. In real life, the situation dictates what you do. Aug 7, 2019 at 17:51
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    I argue that, as a morality question, this is essentially opinion-based. There is no universal "black belt protocol" to appeal to, and it's highly situational. Aug 7, 2019 at 18:50
  • @Sean Duggan, yes there is because most martial arts teach some surrender method. Most use a tap method. Explain why you would NOT HONOR my tap if you are the superior fighter? Secondly morality is not an opinion based system of thought as you believe. Based on all true premises that are related to the conclusion a moral argument will have to be true if all the premises were true as well .
    – Logikal
    Aug 7, 2019 at 19:06
  • While there are many opinion-based answers to this question, I think a "legal" argument could be made as to why certain responses are legally, if not morally, better. For example, Canadian law allows the use of minimal required force to end threats to yourself, meaning that you are legally obligated to keep your attacker alive unless it's the only way to end the threat. An applicable answer could thus be "Canadian law allows me to keep restraining you until law enforcement comes to the scene if I believe it to be the safest course of action". I don't think this question needs to be closed.
    – Dungarth
    Aug 7, 2019 at 19:57
  • On the other hand, I do believe the question could be rephrased a little to make it clearer what constitutes an interesting answer.
    – Dungarth
    Aug 7, 2019 at 19:59

1 Answer 1


A little clarification seems to be in order.

Morality has nothing to do with a street fight. Morality is the recognition of right and wrong and their application in every day life. A street fight has already started with the rejection of right (using the common societal definition, I don't want to get into a philosophy discussion) by at least one person, so why would you expect the outcome to follow ring style or other idealistic system rules?

A second point: If you are the black belt in this scenario, and you follow through on the disarm and kill them scenario, then at least in the United States, you can (and probably will) be charged with murder. As soon as you are at a point where you can safely disengage and don't, then you become the aggressor in the scenario and can be charged accordingly.

So to answer your base question, there is no obligation on either party in a street fight. This isn't feudal Japan or anything close to it, there are no liege lords, etc. It is a street fight, plain and simple. Do what you have to in order to get out of it with the least injury, and be prepared to legally defend your actions if need be. That's about it.

  • Thanks for your answer. However, you did not address if YOU are the black belt and you are CLEARLY leagues above ME as the attacker are you obligated to accept my tap out? If NO is your answer please express why. You being the superior fighter can basically have your way with me. The issue is NOT about you being hurt but the attacker being outclassed in such a way an honorable warrior can’t take my life away now. Hell if a woman attacked you the same way is your answer the SAME? Is there a double standard here that is NOT being mentioned?if the attacker was a Child is the answer the same?
    – Logikal
    Aug 8, 2019 at 1:15
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    @Logikal In most civilized countries, you tapping out could be interpreted in a court of law as a sign of surrender, and him killing you in that scenario would likely no longer constitute self-defense. However, there is no moral nor legal obligation for him to fully release you if he truly believes this would put him, or others, in danger. As long as the force used to end the threat is "reasonable", he's OK as far as the law is concerned. If the attacker was a woman or a child, the answer stands unchanged, though what constitutes "reasonable force" might have a lower threshold.
    – Dungarth
    Aug 8, 2019 at 2:42
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    @Logikal I have answered it. You seem to want to invent really abstruse situations to fit whatever mental pictures you have of martial arts. That's not the way stack exchange works (or martial arts for that matter).
    – JohnP
    Aug 8, 2019 at 4:58

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