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Kicking a Man While He is Down

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Kicking a Man While He is Down

In the Tao of Jeet Kune Do,Bruce Lee outlined several possibilities for kicking a downed opponent.

The majority of them were debilitating.

Some would likely be fatal.

As with many other sections of his notes, this begins with the word "Study".

There is something innately distasteful in the idea of striking a man who is down, much less making a concerted effort to discover the best practices for doing so.

Yet there is also a sense of schadenfreude about it.

Where in that do you find the balance?

It is important to remember that while we train with friends, and spar, and compete in combat sports, at its heart, Jeet Kune Do is streetfighting.

In a life or death situation, there may be a time when a crippling or debilitating or fatal counter is necessary.

Statistically, the likelihood of needing to put any martial training to physical use is still slim to none for the majority of us.

With those two facets in mind, what benefit is there to engaging in a study of a cruel concept like booting someone in the back of the neck or stomping on their ankle?

I often come back to what Bruce Lee said about the two purposes of your tools, and I will quote it here again for clarity's sake:

"The tools, your natural weapons, have a double purpose:

1. To destroy the opponent in front of you - annihilation of the things that stand in the way of peace, justice, and humanity.

2. To destroy your own impulses caused by the instincts of self-preservation. To destroy anything bothering your mind. Not to hurt anyone, but to overcome your own greed, anger, and folly. Jeet Kune Do is directed toward oneself."

The first purpose could certainly provide some moral guidance on when to use a distasteful tactic like kicking a downed opponent in the temple.

If someone has broken into your house and assaulted you or a loved one and you are concerned about them getting back up after you've knocked them down, there may be an argument made there for stomping on their knee.

But how does the second purpose apply to the study of kicking a man while he is down?

What do we learn about ourselves?

It is easy to see the cruelty that lies within ourselves and immediately be sickened by it.

It is very easy to look at that dark behavior and turn away, rejecting it.

It is even more easy to never look into that wild place and deny that you would ever do something so cruel.\

It is a far more difficult thing to stop, and study it, and look deeply at the part of you that having knocked someone to the ground who has insulted or assaulted you, would gleefully go about utterly destroying them.

Bruce Lee goes on to say that punches and kicks are tools to kill the ego.

It is the ego that looks toward brutal behavior with a horrified eye and says "I would never do that."

It is also the ego that looks toward brutal behavior with a wicked gleam in its eye and says, "I would totally do that."

How does the study of kicking a man while he is down help kill the ego?

Where in your life are you turning away from the dark parts of you because you are too afraid of what you will find out?

What can you do today to face that fear and grow in self-knowledge?

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