Escalation of force. The standard of force continuum. Rules of engagement. Regardless of the name, the concept is the same: use no more force than necessary to neutralize opposition. There is a beautiful poem of sorts in martial arts that sums up this idea neatly.

“It is better to avoid than to block

It is better to block than to strike

It is better to strike than to hurt

It is better to hurt than to maim

 It is better to maim than to kill

 It is better to kill than to be killed

All life is precious and none can be replaced”

You do enough to stop someone from hurting you, but no more than that. Compassionate aggression. Damage control. Force escalation is practiced to avoid damage that could result in an unnecessary fatality.

For the less compassionate in the audience, there is a more practical reason for following this code. If you can’t justify your use of force in a court of law, then you could get anything from aggravated assault to manslaughter. The length of time varies, but prison is prison.

Aside from the practical implications–like staying out of prison–there is another reason you don’t want to overdue it. Every action in human affairs provokes a reaction of an unknown force that is limited only by the power of those to react.

There are times when you have to block, hurt, maim or maybe even kill. This could be in business, interpersonal relationships or dangerous real life encounters. If you focus on achieving your objective instead of destroying the other person, you may spare yourself the wrath of a new enemy. 

A crushed rival remembers not only how you beat him, but how you behaved when your hand was raised in victory. You’ve already won! There is no need to throw salt in a lethal wound. It’s amazing how many people make enemies in situations where nothing is gained at all.  Hell knoweth no fury like an opponent driven by hatred rather than necessity. No one knows the future. Overly shamed or overly hurt opponents become enemies who will stop at nothing to balance the emotional scales. 

You’ve already won! There is no need to throw salt in a lethal wound.

When you have to stop an opponent, do what’s necessary and respect your adversary. Sometimes a bitter enemy is inevitable. Just don’t make an enemy out of the fallen if you don’t have to.

The difference between those who graciously accept defeat and those who plot revenge is often how the victor handles the shift of power. The enemy you avoid making today could be your ally tomorrow. Or your executioner.