This is the second post in a series of 10 outlining the qualities I feel are the most important for success in practicing the martial way in the modern-day world...
If I had to take a worldwide survey of the top 20 most popular values and qualities in a person, my bet is that restraint would not even make the top 50.
As a martial artist, or a warrior, or someone who knows the smallest bit about fighting, restraint can be one of the most important qualities you ever embody. You know things other people don't. What's more, you know how to DO those things other people don't. Bottom line: what we know is a dangerous art. When forced to employ your knowledge to action, do not go further than you need to. If you can end a fight with a word, end it with a word and no more. If you can end it with one punch, end it with one punch, not two. If you have to take it down to the ground, do what you must to win, but once the fight is clearly over, walk away.
One reason for this is simply a legal justification. If you maim the person or do more than you have to, you will be held accountable for excessive force. So be reasonable with how much you hurt someone - the legal ramifications could hurt you worse.
Another reason is the aforementioned quality, of which I lend the utmost importance - humility. You know the damage you can do to someone - why is there the need to prove it to this person who apparently deserved your wrath? Or are you trying to showboat your knowledge to the people around you? Either way, it's dishonorable. Only put forth as much force as is needed.
I personally have never been in a full-out fight. That's because I've gotten out of at least a dozen fights with words, not fists. Irrationality spawns the vast majority of fights. I have been able to rationalize with people (primarily throughout my college career) why a fight would be pointless. Why fight over brushed shoulders? Or a misunderstanding? I'm reminded of an excellent quote by Gichin Funakoshi: "To win one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the highest skill. To subdue the enemy without fighting is the highest skill."
That being said - don't initiate the fight. NEVER initiate the fight. But if you have to fight...well, allow me to employ another master's famous sayings: "If must fight...win!"
Thank you, Miyagi!