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In the canonical novel Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens: The Weapon of a Jedi - A Luke Skywalker Adventure, Luke recalls the incident in the Mos Eisley Cantina as follows [emphasis mine]:

Luke’s mind flashed back to the Mos Eisley cantina, where two alien thugs had picked a fight with him. Ben had tried to play peacemaker, sensing Luke’s growing panic, but the aliens hadn’t been interested in peace. One had flung Luke into a table, then gone for his blaster, ready to gun Ben down.

The old Jedi’s hand had dipped to the lightsaber on his belt, faster than anyone would have imagined a desert hermit could move. His lightsaber sliced the blaster aimed at him in two, then carved through the thugs.

This makes it clear that Obi-Wan delivered two strokes, and that the first had cut the alien's blaster in half; only after this did Obi-Wan chop off his arm.

The question, then, is simple:

Obi-Wan had already disarmed Ponda Baba (no pun intended) - so why did he continue the attack and remove the poor guy's arm when he no longer posed a threat? Isn't this an unnecessary use of force (again, no pun intended)?

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    Obi-wan just loved chopping off arms. – Cearon O'Flynn Jan 19 '16 at 7:35
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    He might have been a Jedi, but he was also an old man heavily outnumbered by the cantina's patrons (who are presumably the most wretched scum and villans Kenobi referred to in an earlier quote). It seems a decisive blow (with some degree of overkill included) would be the best way to end the conflict quickly and deter Ponda Baba's potential allies (seems to have worked, too). – Eike Pierstorff Jan 19 '16 at 8:16
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    He had the death sentence in twelve systems. He needed to be disarmed. – maguirenumber6 Jan 19 '16 at 12:27
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    Ponda Baby is wearing the orange jacket. We don't even see him draw his blaster. The guy who's talking, the one with the bad nose, is Evazan. We see him point a blaster at Obi-Wan. Since your quote doesn't say who's blaster was cut, and we can see in the scene that Ponda Baby's blaster is intact, we know that Obi-Wan cut through Evazan's blaster and cut off Ponda Baby's arm. – user45623 Jan 19 '16 at 21:39
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    Good god, how many decades have I been writing "Baby" instead of "Baba"? I can't believe I just noticed it was "Baba" right now. -_- – user45623 Jan 19 '16 at 22:03
10

The way I see it, Obi-Wan had already decided to remove his arm when he drew the lightsaber. The initial strike to disarm Ponda (of his weapon) is just to be safe. It would only take a fraction of a second to pull the trigger, it could even happen unintentionally when being hit somewhere else. By destroying the weapon you minimize the risk of being hurt.

It has also been done before, Mace Windu chops of Jango Fett's hand before removing his head in Attack of the Clones.

The reasons for Obi-Wan's decision to cause serious damage is in my opinion explained by Eike. He was outnumbered and wanted to end the conflict quickly. Also, the "poor guy" is a wanted thug, Obi-Wan did the world a favor, if you ask me.

  • I'm not even sure that this sentence means there where two strikes, but just as well be that the light saber did not stop at the blaster (but then I'm not a native english speaker, so maybe I'm reading this wrong). – Eike Pierstorff Jan 19 '16 at 11:01
  • Oh, good point. I don't remember exactly how the attack is executed, so it may be just one swipe. My point is still the same though, I think he went for the gun first to minimize the risk of damage. Stopped by the gun on the way to the arm, if you will. – webejaxx Jan 19 '16 at 11:05
  • This answer doesn't take Evazan into account, and operates on the incorrect assertion made in the question that Ponda Baby's blaster was disabled at all. – user45623 Jan 19 '16 at 21:31
  • @user45623 To be fair, the question isn't about him either. Answered Indirectly by saying Obi-Wan wanted to end the conflict quickly. – webejaxx Jan 19 '16 at 21:38
  • Also, in the Clone Wars movie, Anakin teaches Ashoka to destroy the weapon first, then attack. – Ed S. Jan 20 '16 at 6:31
8

Watch the scene closely. In the footage, we see Evazan draw his blaser; Ponda Baba is obscured behind Evazan in that shot so we can't see if he's drawn his blaster. Obi-Wan swirls his saber and then makes a single sweeping motion that knocks back both attackers at once. The camera then pans down to Ponda Baba's arm, still holding his intact blaster.

We don't see exactly what Obi-Wan is hitting with the lightsaber, but it looks like the initial swirl was intended to disable Evazan's blaster, while the second swing disabled both attackers. Again, Ponda Baba's blaster is still intact on the floor, so the Aqualish was still holding an intact blaster when Obi-Wan cut off his arm.

  • It actually looks to me like Obi-Wan makes two strokes, as the quote says. – Wad Cheber Jan 19 '16 at 21:19
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    I did a very bad job of describing what happens the first time. I've reworded most of it. – user45623 Jan 19 '16 at 21:27
  • youtu.be/DIzAaY2Jm-s?t=6m35s Two swings, one mostly off camera. – Wad Cheber Jan 19 '16 at 21:34
  • As I said in the edited answer, what I see is that he swirls the saber and then swings it. He draws it from his hip and swirls it in a circle in one continuous motion, then slashes it across both thugs at once. Regardless, the important part of the answer is that the question is wrong - he doesn't cut through Ponda Baby's blaster before he cuts his arm off. – user45623 Jan 19 '16 at 21:37
  • I see him swing once at the blaster and once at the arm. And the question is quoting a canon source. – Wad Cheber Jan 19 '16 at 21:38
5

In a society with really good bionic limbs (such as AGFFY), cutting off a hand or arm was generally considered a humane way to win a fight. Lopping off the head was considered (wait for it...) overkill in most cases and "not the Jedi way."

  • That's a great point, actually. – Wad Cheber Jan 19 '16 at 21:19
  • Also the Jedi had a really, really weird obsession with lopping off limbs ESPECIALLY hands. Don't believe me? See Hands of the Sith. – Broklynite Jan 19 '16 at 22:10
  • What does "AGFFY" mean? – RedCaio Apr 12 '16 at 5:23
  • @RedCaio - "A galaxy far, far away." – Scott Whitlock Apr 12 '16 at 16:01
  • I might tend to agree with this…but why slash Evazan’s chest, then? – Adamant Oct 28 '16 at 3:06
2

The intention on Obi-Wan's part seems to be to end the fight as quickly as possible, in a way that results in the minimum chance of a second attack but without necessarily killing the guy. Merely chopping his gun in half would still leave him free to attack with his hands.

Disabling him was an immediate and highly effective way of ending the fight in just a few seconds. On top of that, it meant that he wasn't obliged to use the Force in the fight, something that would have immediately blown his cover:

Luke looked up from where he was sprawled on the floor and saw Ben’s hand dart to his belt and draw a lightsaber. The blade flashed on and swept past the blaster-wielding criminals. The disfigured man fell back against the bar, a deep slash across his chest. The tusked alien screamed and his right arm — severed at the elbow — fell to the floor, still clutching the alien’s blaster.

The entire fight had lasted only a matter of seconds. Luke hadn’t noticed just when the band had stopped playing, but he was suddenly aware that everyone had gone silent, and the only sound in the cantina was the hum of Ben’s lightsaber. Ben maintained his position, holding his lightsaber out from his body as he stared at his two defeated opponents. He glanced out across the room. If anyone else had been looking for a fight, the look in Ben’s eyes was enough to discourage them. - Star Wars: A New Hope - Junior Novelisation

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    You don't think a lightsaber would kind of blow his cover, too? – TylerH Jan 19 '16 at 20:34
  • @TylerH - You should ask that as a question "Didn't Ben Kenobi using his lightsaber blow his cover?". I actually have a nice canon answer for you. – Valorum Jan 19 '16 at 20:35
  • @Richard - the "Didn't Ben Kenobi using his lightsaber blow his cover" question has been asked already, and you answered it. scifi.stackexchange.com/questions/85869/… – Wad Cheber Jan 19 '16 at 22:12

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