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Unarmed Combat

Unarmed Combat is the discipline of using our bodies as weapons, both for offensive and defensive purposes, as opposed to resorting to a lightsaber or another form of weapon. As Jedi, we have a distinct natural advantage over many opponents, since we have well-honed senses that go far beyond the ‘natural’ sensory perceptions employed by most sentients, given that we can sense things through the Force, and often employ a form of subconscious precognition in addition to our combat skills. Furthermore, we all try to keep ourselves in good physical condition, partially through training our physically-based Force abilities (‘Force Jump’, ‘Force Acceleration’ etc) and also as a consequence of believing that a sharp mind is as much a product of a well-trained body as much as due to any mental activities we participate in.

Naturally, for the most part, Jedi tend to work with their lightsabers in the field, using them to protect themselves against attack, and also offensively against those that act against members of our Order, or to the detriment of other sentients. To an extent, we tend to rely on them to a degree that could be considered unhealthy – though the lightsaber is our signature weapon as an Order, it has oft been remarked that the weapon is only as good as the person wielding it. If a Jedi is not focused and disciplined, their lightsaber will only serve as a crutch upon which they will lean on, and historical records offer many instances where even a Jedi can be killed by someone not trained to use the Force, and with weapons far less civilised than the lightsaber. As such, it is necessary for a Jedi to train themselves in many combat disciplines, both to offer them versatility and to ensure that they are as much a weapon as the lightsaber they traditionally wield in battle.

The first natural benefit we gain from training in hand-to-hand combat is a purely physical one: we develop a good understanding of our body mechanics, nurture our balance and hand-to-eye co-ordination, increase our flexibility and generally gain a better sense of our physical strengths and limitations. Some Jedi are more relient on strength, others on agility and speed, but absent unarmed combat training, they may not be wholly aware of where their true skills lie: using a lightsaber requires more attunement with the Force and quick reflexes than it does any true physical ability, so further developing the body only enables one to better manipulate their physical skills to the benefit of their overall combat ability.

The second benefit comes in the form of an understanding that Jedi need not entirely rely on the Force to perform an action. When you fight in unarmed combat, you have to make use of jumps, rolls, sidesteps and slides, as well as punches, kicks, open-hand attacks, pressure point strikes, grapples and throws. In doing this, you gain a sense of what you can accomplish without the Force – and, as a result, you know that you need not rely on it. If you need to run fast, you could use the Force to accelerate yourself, or you could simply sprint faster with your legs. When faced with a divide to cross, you can use the Force to propel yourself across the divide, or you could simply use your legs to jump across the gap. If you’re faced with a wall to scale, you could use the Force to help you leap to the top, or you could use your arms and legs to physically climb it. A Jedi who seeks to truly understand the Force learns not to rely upon it to solve all their problems, and uses their natural skills in concert with that energy to achieve their goals. In so doing, they gain a better understanding of how the Force flows through them when not being actively channelled – and this too only serves to develop their skills as a Jedi.

Furthermore, you have to consider the ethics of lightsaber combat – the weapon you use is extremely deadly in a battle. As students, we’re all taught the marks of combat: removing a hand, limb, the weapon arm, decapitation, bisection, generating a minor wound with the edge of the blade, stabbing and disarmament. Only one of these is completely harmless to an opponent: disarming them of their weapon. Unarmed combat gives us other options – it is a form of combat that can be lethal, but can far more easily result in lesser damage. You could punch someone in the stomach, knocking the breath out of them so that they can’t attack; you could render them unconscious with a well-placed strike, and you could disarm them with a simple kick. Likewise, you can incapacitate them with a grapple, or put some distance between you and them with a throw. All of these are far less dangerous to an opponent, and therefore both useful when you’re not trying to kill an adversary as well giving you an ethical approach to ending a confrontation. After all, you can’t question someone for information if you’ve just removed their head with a well-placed Sai-Cha technique using your lightsaber.

And if an adversary still doesn’t surrender when disarmed, what do you do? Cut something off them to persuade them to capitulate? Cut them with your lightsaber in a non-lethal but nonetheless painful manner? Or could you simply deactivate your lightsaber and use a precision unarmed strike to render them unconscious, both removing them from the fight without causing them any long-term damage? Unarmed combat allows for a level of versatility that Jedi might not otherwise be able to employ with a lightsaber – and it’s certainly easier to do. Very few Jedi have the skill and precision with a lightsaber to win a battle without causing harm to their opponent. It’s often considered the cost of engaging in combat, but it’s not always a necessary one. A Jedi carrying two weapons has more options than a Jedi carrying just a lightsaber – and being one of those two weapons personally is a greater advantage still.

Additionally the vast majority of hand-to-hand combatants have to have some understanding of physical anatomy – you can’t knock somebody unconscious by punching them in the kneecap, after all – so Jedi that have training in unarmed combat will naturally garner a fair idea of sentient biology. While we use this primarily in a battle context, it can also give a fair idea of how to proceed with battlefield medicine: if you can numb an arm by pinching an artery, can this same technique not be used to prevent arterial blood loss? If you know how to make someone unconscious by applying pressure to a nerve bundle in the neck, can this not be used if you need to perform surgery without anaesthetic, thus ensuring that the patient feels no pain from the procedure? Since all Jedi are given basic first-aid training, using a knowledge of anatomy developed from unarmed combat training can serve to enhance this ability. Any healer knows far more ways to both help and hurt a sentient than a warrior will. As such, any information derived from one discipline can aid the other.

Finally, unarmed combat is an excellent way of developing mental clarity and focus that is sometimes missing from lightsaber combat drills – you could easily be cut in half with a negligent wave of a lightsaber, but to strike another person with your hand with sufficient force to render them unconscious takes more effort and more direct physical energy. You have to think fast to react to an attack, both defending yourself against it and generating sufficient force to make your counterattack both practical and effective, and this requires a well-discipline mind that can assess and react to a situation within a split-second. This is something you are far more likely to develop in close-quarters melee combat than you will in combat with a lightsaber.

As such, all Jedi should strive to develop their unarmed combat abilities through their training – even if you never have cause to use those techniques directly in the field, most of them will provide benefits to you that have far more applications than merely for combat, and that should always be encouraged.