I don't believe in using devastating techniques unless there is absolutely no alternative - for instance, against an armed opponent or against multiple opponents where it might be necessary to disable one of them to make the others lose heart. There is a saying in the I ching: 'A goat butts against a hedge - and entangles its horns'. In Tai Chi, one should be like the hedge, soft and defensive, so that nothing can get through. When I lived in London I was attacked in broad daylight on my way home from work by six teenagers. One of them had a thick stick he had broken off a tree - thank God it wasn't a baseball bat. The contest went on for about 100 yards, with me stopping frequently to defend myself against renewed attacks. At one stage, the one with the stick was trying to hit me very hard and repeatedly over the head with it while the others were punching me from behind. I warded off nearly all the blows with the stick, but one glancing blow got through and hit me on the side of the head and came down across the bridge of my nose. By this stage, we were all right outside the front door to the block where I lived. I knew they were never going to give up no matter how much of a 'hedge' I presented to them. They were more spread out by this time, so I went for the one with the stick, deflected his stick arm, turned my hand under his wrist and held it, then stepped forward into a bow stance and struck him in the side of the face with my elbow. This was enough to stun him. I then advanced towards the next most violent in the gang, who had now lost heart, and who turned round and started to run away, but he tripped over his own feet and fell flat on his face in the road. Then they all ran off. I only learned later about being punched in the back from a neighbour who was watching everything from his window. At the time, I didn't feel anything. Afterwards, I had a lot of bruising down my forearm from warding off the stick and although I was wearing a sweatshirt, the skin was broken in one place, and I had a tiny cut on the bridge of my nose. Although they were certainly a local gang, they never attacked me again, because I hadn't given them enough pretext for reprisals. I had used minimal force. If I'd gone further, they would have had every excuse to try and get their revenge. For instance, I lived on the ground floor and it would have been easy for them to smash my windows, but they never did. Later, when I moved here to Brighton, I was in a similar confrontation. I'd had an argument late at night with some workers in a takeaway over change, and they followed me out into the street and tried to beat me up. There were three of them, in their twenties, although one looked in his early thirties. They were all trying to punch and kick me and one of them was also trying to burn me on the arm with a lighted cigarette. I warded off everything, although once I tried to kick the man with the cigarette, but as I was drunk, I messed it up and fell over in the road. While I was down, he kicked me in the head, but I got up and carried on parrying punches and kicks. Eventually, they just gave up, because they couldn't get through. Once again, I provided them with no excuse for reprisals or revenge. I go down that street a lot, and they have knives in their shop ... But they got the message, and that was sufficient. It really isn't worth trying to take someone out with a knockout blow causing serious injury unless you can be sure that you will never see the person again and that he won't be carrying a gun or a knife next time. You don't want to risk revenge attack, and next time too, he might be in a gang, and an armed gang at that. Also, of course, the 'morality' of disabling strikes except where absolutely unavoidable, is questionable. You're only as good as your last fight. Kind regards, T.
'Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions. Live the questions now. You will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.' Rainer Maria Rilke.