Jumper Without A Cause (Jumpchain Creative Mode)

Discussion in 'Creative Writing' started by Leingod, Nov 4, 2017.

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  1. Leingod

    Leingod Immaculate Blooming Lotus

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    Well damn, swell my head some more, why don't you?:oops:

    Seriously though, thanks a lot for the feedback. Any constructive feedback is great for my drive to keep writing, and I'm really glad to hear you're enjoying it so far.

    Though I think maybe "seamless part of the plot" might be stretching it with how coincidental I made Ensei's first run-in with Ragnarok.
     
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  2. SonOfNenji

    SonOfNenji Aimless Wanderer

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    Pfff~

    This is normal for shonen or anime. It's actually a good thing in a story like this as it's more faithful to the original and adds to the seamlessness I mentioned earlier.

    Everything is going according to keikaku. :)
     
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2018
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  3. Threadmarks: History's Strongest Disciple Ken'ichi, pt. 4
    Leingod

    Leingod Immaculate Blooming Lotus

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    ‘Crap, I knew it was too good to be true when Miu asked to go shopping with her!’ Ken’ichi thought to himself. First Ensei decided to butt in on their trip and force Ken’ichi to carry the huge amounts of junk food he was buying, and now this!

    “This” being the dozen Ragnarok goons that had apparently found him totally on accident, which meant now he couldn’t even go shopping with Miu again once word got out!

    “Oof!” Lost in his own thoughts, Ken’ichi wasn’t able to dodge the fist of the group’s leader, who seemed to have some kind of boxing experience, given how similar his stance was to Tsukuba’s.

    “Man, you sure can take a hit, Shirahama,” the guy said, shaking his hand. “Think I messed my hand up more than your face, though it’s hard to tell with a face like that.”
    [​IMG]

    “Oh, ha-ha,” Ken’ichi said sarcastically, correcting his stance and focusing on his opponent now that his head was back in the game.

    “You know, Shirahama, we’re a lot alike,” the guy suddenly said without prompting. “I can tell you’ve put the work in, you’ve got the skills to be a big deal, but you don’t really have any rep yet through no fault of your own.

    “I’m the same way. But once I take you in to Kisara, I’ll be replacing that punk Koga as part of the Three-Man Army, and then everyone’s gonna know the name ‘Furukawa Takashi’!”

    “Are you done yet?” Ken’ichi asked, a little annoyed by the monologue. “I really don’t care about your career aspirations.”

    “Actually, one last thing,” Furukawa said. “A question, actually.”

    “… Yeah?”

    “Who the hell are those freaks of nature!?” he screamed, pointing to where Miu and Ensei were crushing Furukawa’s comrades with contemptuous ease. Miu, in fact, sprang into a handstand to knock the wind out of a downed thug and then launch herself feet-first at another even as he said it, while Ensei was giving one thug pointers while the guy completely failed to touch him. In all, eight of the eleven other gang members were already on the ground.

    “Jeez, it hasn’t even been a minute!” Ken’ichi exclaimed. ‘Aw man, it’s one thing to be shown up by Miu, but if this keeps up there’s no way Ensei won’t rub it in that I didn’t even beat one guy!’ he thought to himself.

    Seeing Ken’ichi looked to be distracted again, Furukawa threw a right cross at Ken’ichi’s head, only for Ken’ichi to do the same thing without noticing his opponent’s attack.

    Ken’ichi took a step back from the blow, touching a hand to his stinging cheek. Furukawa, on the other hand, took several woozy steps to regain his footing, one hand clenched to a bleeding nose.

    “Blood…?” he muttered to himself, looking down at his fingers, stained with red. Suddenly, he started screaming as though he was dying.

    Ken’ichi blinked in surprise. “Umm… are you oka-”

    “I’m bleeding! You bastard, I’m bleeding! I’ll kill you!” Furukawa screamed. A manic gleam entered his eye as he pulled out-

    “Is that a knife!?” Ken’ichi screamed, staring with utter terror at the short length of sharpened steel in Furukawa’s hand. ‘No, it’s okay, I can just block it and then-’

    Ken’ichi’s mind, and his body, froze in utter shock as Furukawa lunged forward with the knife. He almost wondered if he’d see his life flash before-

    “What kind of half-assed grip is that?” Ensei said as he kicked the underside of Furukawa’s hand, sending the knife flying up into the air. Without looking at it, he caught it by the handle.

    “Uh… what?” Furukawa asked, his brain seeming to have shut off completely from what had just happened.

    “Really cheap quality, too,” Ensei continued, looking at the knife critically. “You don’t have a clue how to take care of it, either.”

    “G-give that back!” Furukawa demanded, starting to realize what was happening.

    “Why? You clearly don’t know how to use the damn thing. Do you have any idea how stupid it is to pull a knife you don’t know how to use in a street fight?” Ensei demanded. “You’re a danger to yourself and others with this thing, swinging it around like you’re trying to swat a fly.”

    “Listen here, you-”

    There was a loud crunch as Ensei folded up the knife and smashed it hard into Furukawa’s face, breaking his nose and sending ribbons of blood through the air.

    As Furukawa clutched at his broken nose and cried out in pain, Ensei hooked a leg so that he fell to the ground when he staggered backwards.

    Wordlessly, Ensei took the knife out again, pressed the flat of the blade up against the side of a nearby traffic light, and started applying pressure. Within seconds, the blade snapped loudly.

    “See what I mean about the quality?” he asked, holding up the now-broken knife. “If this happened in a fight, you’d take someone’s eye out, probably your own.”

    “Ken’ichi, are you okay!?” Miu called out, running over after finishing off the last of the Ragnarok thugs and seeing the still visibly frightened Ken’ichi.

    “Y… yeah, Miu, I’m fine,” Ken’ichi said shakily. “I just… I just almostdiedholycrap-!!!!

    ---X---

    “… and that’s why Ken’ichi’s moping in the corner,” I concluded, biting into a “pizzaman,” which was apparently nikuman (meat buns) with the meat replaced by cheese and tomato sauce; it tasted pretty good, though I decided that I preferred real pizza. Thankfully, I was able to get it without mayonnaise.*

    “Ah. Facing a weapon for the first time is a terrifying prospect, especially so early in one’s training,” Koetsuji said with a nod. “And there is only one solution!”

    “More training?” I guessed with a sly grin.

    “Exactly,” Koetsuji said with an enigmatic smile. “Of course, we need to make sure that Ken’ichi is ready to face a weapon-using opponent as quickly as possible; you and Miu won’t always be there to protect him, after all.”

    “So, you’re saying he’s going to need some special lessons in weapons, right away?” I asked.

    “Exactly. I hope we can count on you to act as his sparring partner for this, as you do when he trains in muay thai with Apachai?” he asked, lifting an eyebrow.

    “Definitely. But who’s going to train him?” I asked, not even bothering to keep the sarcasm out of my voice anymore.

    “Well, it would be best if it was someone who specialized in weapons,” Koetsuji answered, his smile growing by the moment. “Unfortunately, while there are jujutsu techniques regarding the use of knives and short swords, I have always emphasized the empty hand in my own approach. Shigure, do you perhaps know someone who might be willing to teach Ken’ichi?”

    The two of us finally turned to Shigure, who had apparently spontaneously started going into a complicated kenjutsu routine in front of Ken’ichi. She froze for a moment, then suddenly sheathed the sword and failed miserably at looking casual.

    “Nothing better… to do…” she said softly, studiously avoiding our eyes.

    “W-wait, I just want to learn how to not get killed by a weapon, I’m not going to use one!” Ken’ichi protested.

    “Well, the best way to learn how to fight weapons is to learn how to fight with weapons,” Koetsuji replied as he herded Ken’ichi over to the practice area. “You must understand the unique properties of weapon combat to effectively use an empty hand against them.”

    “Besides, weapon and unarmed combat have a lot of overlap,” I added. “Most of the unarmed attacks in arnis are based on the weapon techniques, after all. Where do you think the ‘bolo punch’ comes from?”

    “I don’t even know what that is,” Ken’ichi said.

    “Doesn’t matter. Point is, the best way to get over your fear of weapons is to master weapons. It’s fine if you don’t ever intend to use them, but deliberately keeping yourself ignorant of them is just limiting yourself as a martial artist,” I replied.

    “We’re here…” Shigure said. Suddenly, she pulled out two short swords from… somewhere. “Here. We’ll start with… swords…”

    “Oh dear, I was afraid of this,” the Elder muttered to himself, having suddenly appeared out of nowhere while we weren’t looking.

    “The hell we will!” I exclaimed. “Who starts a guy off with live swords!?”

    “Isn’t that… normal?” Shigure asked, her brow furrowing just the tiniest bit, the only hint of expression on her face.

    “In what world could that possibly be normal!?” Ken’ichi yelled.

    “Look, let’s do this the arnis way and use these, alright?” I asked, withdrawing two rattan sticks hidden in my clothes.

    “Wha- You too? Where were you keeping those?” Ken’ichi asked.

    “That’s… fine,” Shigure agreed. “Ken’ichi, take one and… take your stance.”

    “Uh, like this?” Ken’ichi asked. Not really knowing what stance to take, he seemed to have just defaulted to something like a mix of different things; his legs were spread apart and he was keeping low to the ground, with his arms in front of him. His free hand was loose, as if he wasn’t sure what to do with it, and he was facing me head-on.

    I jabbed the fleshy “web” of his free hand with the stick, causing him to jump back, shaking his hand. “Ow!” he exclaimed.

    “Why did you… keep your hand out?” Shigure asked. “Did you want him… to take it? If… you’re not going to use it… then keep it out of the way.”

    “But he’s got his hand out in front of him, too!” Ken’ichi protested. I’d have pointed out that I was still using the stick to cover my free hand, even if it wasn’t immediately obvious, but I figured it’d be easier for him to learn the hard way.

    “Then… hit it,” Shigure said simply.

    With a yell, Ken’ichi tried to charge forward with the stick, swinging it downward at my free hand. Before he could complete the motion, I just grabbed his wrist and quickly twisted his arm around, causing him to yelp in pain and drop the stick. I rapped him once in the side for good measure before pushing him back.

    “Kali** calls that… ‘live hand’,” Shigure explained in her usual slow, halting pace, but with an air of authority to it suddenly. “The body… is a weapon. The weapon is… part of the body. So… they use both.”

    “Yep. The good thing about an amateur pulling a weapon is that they’ll usually ignore the rest of their own body and only attack with that. Just like you did just now,” I noted. “Of course, that’s not a license to just drop your guard and only pay attention to the weapon in their hands.”

    “You need to stop… thinking of weapons as something different,” Shigure continued. “If you look at them with dread… they have power over you. What quality… does a swordsman need?”

    “Uh… technique?” Ken’ichi guessed.

    Shigure shook her head. “Conviction. If you hesitate in a battle of weapons… it’s over for you. You have to… be brave, even if you’re scared.”

    Ken’ichi closed his eyes and took a deep breath. When he opened them again, there was a fire in his eyes. “Alright!”

    ---X---

    Tsukuba Saizō sighed as he swept the empty dojo himself. Normally, Ensei would be helping, but his training with Shirahama was apparently running overtime. ‘Damn it, why does this dojo only have the one other student?’ he thought to himself. It was a bit too big for just the two of them to be able to clean it easily.

    Well, he wasn’t going to complain too much. He’d only been going here a little while, but he could already feel that he was growing as a fighter here at the Southern Martial Forest. Even if the training was a small slice of Hell…

    “I’m home,” Ensei announced as he walked in. “Sorry I’m late; some dude attacked Ken’ichi with a knife, so now we’re adding dealing with weapons to his training regimen.”

    “A knife? What crazy bastard pulls a knife on someone he’s trying to recruit?” Tsukuba asked, dumbfounded.

    ---X---

    “Lady Kisara, we’ve just gotten word that…” Shiratori stopped to check the report that had just been handed over, “uh, ‘Furukawa Takashi’ and his group were defeated trying to bring Shirahama to you.”

    Kisara looked up at her right-hand fighter and functionary, deep in thought, before finally drawing a blank look. “Who?”

    ---X---

    “I didn’t catch his name, I just know his taste in knives was garbage,” Ensei said with a shrug. “I swear he must have picked that balisong up out of the trash.”

    “I’m starting to get a little glad I got out of Ragnarok, if that’s the kind of guys they’re letting in these days,” Tsukuba said, shaking his head.

    “Oh, now that hurts,” came a sarcastic voice, causing both of the dojo’s students to turn their heads as someone walked in unannounced. Tsukuba’s eyes widened in horror.
    [​IMG]

    L-Loki!” Tsukuba whispered, stricken with fear.

    “I see my reputation precedes me,” the intruder said smugly, struggling with a wire puzzle all the while. “So, you’re Tsukuba, and that makes you the young man who defeated Koga the Kicker.”

    “If you’re here for lessons, we’re closed for the day,” Ensei said calmly. “Come back tomorrow.”

    “Oh, I think you know very well I’m not here for lessons, my young friend,” Loki said, still working on his wire puzzle. “Though if this dojo is the reason you got so strong, perhaps I should, eh?

    “But really, I’m here to make you the offer of a lifetime,” he continued.

    “And is this one of those offers you’re going to tell me I can’t refuse?” Ensei asked flippantly.

    “Oh, I wouldn’t say you can’t, per se. It’s just not advisable.”

    “Really? And I suppose you’re going to make me pay the price if I do?” Ensei replied with a smirk.

    “Ensei, don’t goad him!” Tsukuba exclaimed, shaking in fear. “He’s the Fourth Fist, Ragnarok’s Fighting Tactician!”

    “You should really listen to that stray dog you picked up off the street, Ensei,” Loki said, now starting to look frustrated, clearly struggling to solve his wire puzzle. “After all, he’s the one who’ll pay the price if you aren’t willing to hear me out. After all, it’s not like you can watch his back all the time, now can you?”

    Ensei’s confident look turned into one of surprise, then cold anger. “You’ve got a minute before I feed you that puzzle. Talk.”

    “I’ll keep it brief then,” Loki said, still struggling with his puzzle but now grinning widely. “We want you to join Ragnarok as its Eighth Fist. There, is that quick enough?”

    Wh-what!?” Tsukuba exclaimed.

    “Oh, it’s true, we usually screen applicants more,” Loki admitted casually, “but our leader, Odin, has let it be known that he wants the Seven Shadows to become Nine, as soon as we can without compromising on quality. And you gave an impressive enough showing that I thought it best to see about fast-tracking you, as it were.”

    Ensei tilted his head in thought for a moment before replying. “So, what? I say ‘Yes,’ and that’s it? I’m the Eighth Fist?”

    “Oh, not quite. We’re not fast-tracking you that much. But we’ve got two other applicants that we’ll be testing, and you’ll be standing alongside them,” Loki answered. “Usually, you’d have to be a member for quite some time before even being considered for becoming an Executive Officer. You’ve really made an impression on us.”

    Ensei was quiet for a moment before giving his reply. “You know what? Sure, why not. But if I do this, you leave Tsukuba and this dojo alone.”

    “Excellent!” Loki said, finally giving up and just pulling the wire puzzle apart with simple muscle. “Your first test begins now!

    Reaching into his long coat, he pulled out a collapsible baton and extended it to its full length. Tsukuba took a step forward. He had no chance against a Fist, but if he could at least grab onto him-

    Like lightning, Ensei’s leg lashed out and kicked the baton out of Loki’s hand, the smell of ozone and a crackling sound as it sailed through the air giving away that it was electrified.

    Before the Fourth Fist could respond, Ensei spun around completely and caught him in the side of the side of the face with his other foot. Hardly a second after the fight had started, it ended as the Fighting Tactician fell unconscious to the floor.

    Tsukuba almost didn’t notice Ensei walking over to the door and opening it. “Hey! One of you assholes get out here and take your friend home. Then you can lead me to the real Loki.”

    Tsukuba almost didn’t have it in him to be shocked anymore after what he just witnessed, but he found some room as four more Lokis filed in. Two of them picked up the unconscious one from the ground.

    “Sorry about the deception-” one of them began, only to stop as Ensei cut him off.

    “Don’t worry about it, I wasn’t fooled for a second,” he said, his cocky grin back in full force. “Now come on; I’m sure the real Loki has some special sales pitch for my ears only or something.”

    As he and the imposter Lokis stepped outside, Tsukuba wasn’t even sure what to think anymore.

    Well, maybe he had one or two thoughts. ‘Wait… if Ensei becomes one of the Fists… could he make me a member of Ragnarok again?’

    -x--X--x-

    *No, seriously, the Japanese are disgusting with the stuff they’ll put mayo on. Not that you should be surprised, with the way that topping their omelets with ketchup is normal and accepted behavior there rather than culinary heresy.

    **Another common name for arnis/eskrima.

    AN: Looking over my notes, I realized that this chapter would either be really long or just be nothing but setup, so I decided to just crank it out as fast as I could so we could get to the actual substance sooner.
     
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  4. moon so bright

    moon so bright Shining Light

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    Does he really want to be part of Ragnarok again? Regardless, I am really enjoying the subtle changes that his presence is causing to the story so far. Loki coming out sooner, Kenichi a bit more aware of his weapon issues, and so on. Thanks for the tale, especially delivered at such speed. :)
     
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  5. Leingod

    Leingod Immaculate Blooming Lotus

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    Well, when the thought came to him it wasn't a serious thing, just a thought that popped into his head. Who knows if he'll follow up on it?

    #20 will be crushed when she hears that.
     
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  6. moon so bright

    moon so bright Shining Light

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    Oh, I only just now noticed that! Ha, that's so true, though. 20 will be crushed, poor lass...
     
  7. anhrefn

    anhrefn [Not An Evil Clone]

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    Dude, I will love if he really joins Ragnarok, it will be fun!
     
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  8. SonOfNenji

    SonOfNenji Aimless Wanderer

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    Ragnorok pulled a heel-face turn in canon if I remember correctly.

    If the SI remembers that he might consider joining to contribute to that turn.
     
  9. Leingod

    Leingod Immaculate Blooming Lotus

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    In canon, five of the Eight Fists ended up joining the Shinpaku Alliance (Loki became a private detective and did freelance work for Nijima, while Odin and Berserker joined YOMI). Most of them didn't really have any strong loyalty to Ragnarok in the first place and were impressed or inspired enough during one fight or another that Nijima was able to get them to join with a bit of nudging (though Hermit never stopped being tsundere about it).

    So Ensei probably won't see any need to go around trying to nudge them around unless things really start going off the rails.
     
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  10. Threadmarks: History's Strongest Disciple Ken'ichi, pt. 5
    Leingod

    Leingod Immaculate Blooming Lotus

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    “… and Miu said that muay thai and karate are my best options for learning how to fight a boxer in time,” Ken’nichi concluded, throwing a series of jabs and elbows.

    “That sounds about right,” I said with a nod, making sure to keep moving the mitt around so he wasn’t just hitting a stable target. “Boxing revolves around competitions, and the training and ethos center around the rules of the ring. It’s a very specialized way of fighting that’s great at what it does, but if you can make a boxer fight you somewhere outside of his comfort zone, he’s gonna be a lot easier to deal with. And both karate and muay thai have things that the typical boxer has no answer for.”

    “That’s right, Ensei! If you need to kill a boxer, then you use muay thai!” Apachai said with a happy, encouraging grin as he oversaw Ken’nichi’s exercises in hitting the mitt, correcting his form and technique as need be. He would’ve been holding the mitt himself, but uh… Well, Kensei and Koetsuji said that Ken’nichi wasn’t concussed, so there’s that.

    I suddenly swiped Ken’nichi with the mitt, smacking him in the face with it. “Ken’nichi, you need to pay attention to Ensei’s shoulders to see how his arm will move!” Apachai chided. “How are you going to kill your opponent if he kills you first?”

    “But I’m not trying to kill this guy, I just want to learn how to beat him so he won’t punch my face in! I don’t even want to hurt him, really,” Ken’nichi protested.

    “Think about stuff like that when your opponent’s dead!” Apachai exclaimed in a weird voice, using his fingers to push the edges of his eyebrows up and giving a comically deep frown. “When you fight, all your brain should think about is how to kill!

    “That was my impression of my master. What do you think?” Apachai asked excitedly, reverting back to his usual expression and voice.

    “Uh… I’ve never met your master, Apachai,” Ken’nichi pointed out.

    “Yeah… anyway, Ken’nichi, my advice as far as muay thai against boxing goes is that you should take advantage of muay thai’s greater versatility,” I said, changing the subject. “Boxers are only allowed to strike with their fists, and if this guy trained for the pros that’s definitely what he’s got the most training in. Muay thai doesn’t just allow kicks, but it also allows elbows and knees, which makes it much more dangerous in the clinch than boxing.”

    “Right! Boxers punch hard, and good ones are hard to catch, but get them in the clinch and it really easy to win,” Apachai added. “Lot of martial arts for sports don’t allow elbows and knees.”

    “Why’s that?” Ken’nichi asked.

    “Because if you get hit wrong, you die,” Apachai answered simply.

    “Or crippled,” I added. “Muay thai has roots in martial arts made for the battlefield, and even though it’s taken on a lot of the trappings of Western competition martial arts like kickboxing to adapt it for the modern world, it still allows for elbow and knee strikes, and even emphasizes their use.”

    “How come?” Ken’nichi asked.

    “Because if you hit right, you kill,” Apachai answered simply.

    Ken’nichi stopped hitting the mitt and looked down at his hands, wrapped in tape. “… Should I really be learning this, then?”

    “Oh, don’t’ mind Apachai’s talk about killing too much,” the Elder said, once again having seemingly appeared out of nowhere. “It’s just a holdover of his past; he has no intention of killing anyone. That said…”

    He started stroking his beard. “All martial arts training ultimately centers around efficiently destroying your opponent’s ability to keep fighting. Whether in a strictly regulated, official karate match or a ring made of sand in the muay thai underground, that doesn’t change. Everything beyond simply defeating your opponent is beyond your training. It is up to you, the man behind the technique, to decide what it’s all for.

    “Certainly, if you were to use what Apachai is teaching you for selfish gain, or a cruel desire to harm another, it would become mere violence. But if you fight for something greater than simply destroying the fighter in front of you, then any technique, fatal or not, transcends violence and becomes martial arts.” He lifted his eyebrows, seeming to search Ken’nichi’s face. “Let me ask you, Ken’nichi; do you intend to ever use what you are being taught here to make another person miserable?”

    “Of course not!” Ken’nichi exclaimed.

    “Then all is well,” the Elder said with a nod. “Techniques alone have never harmed anyone. The will behind your fist is what decides that. If your will is untainted by selfishness or cruelty, and you cultivate the proper discipline and restraint in your techniques, you will never commit an act of mere violence.”

    Ken’nichi gave a sincere smile at that, his passion to keep studying muay thai renewed.

    “By the way Apachai, your training time ran out while the Elder was giving his lecture,” Koetsuji said. “It’s Sakaki’s turn now.”

    All was silent, until I couldn’t hold it anymore and started laughing.

    ---X---

    While Sakaki forced Ken’nichi to spar with Miu to get over his stupid “won’t hit girls” thing (good luck with that), I took a break until they needed me for his training with Shigure, lying on the floor and resting my eyes.

    “You know, Ensei, you seem a bit tired today,” Koetsuji said, suddenly playing a game of go with Ma Kensei next to me. “I hope there’s nothing wrong; it could cause problems with both Ken’nichi’s training and your own if you’re pushing yourself too hard.”

    ‘Seriously, why does every Master turn into a damn ninja?’ I wondered.

    “It’s nothing serious, I just got carried away hanging out with friends last night and didn’t get much sleep,” I lied.

    “Ah, I see. Well, please be more aware of your sleep cycles in the future, alright?” Koetsuji asked.

    “You should really listen,” Kensei added. “As a doctor, I couldn’t tell you how many of my patients would be better off if they’d stop trying to fool their own bodies and just sleep a full eight hours…”

    As he started talking shop, I leaned back and closed my eyes again, my mind going back to the previous day…

    ---X---

    I took in the room, my arms crossed and no expression showing on my face.

    It wasn’t especially fancy, though it was pretty big, and there was a lot of comfortable furniture. To my left side, standing so the three of us were in a line, were a slender, tomboyish-looking girl with a very… well-developed lower body. In the martial arts sense. And nothing else. *cough*
    [​IMG]

    The other was a beefy guy with an unruly mop of hair, wearing an old-school uniform like a stereotypical delinquent. He kind of looked like he’d be the protagonist of some shonen manga about street-fighting delinquents with hearts of gold.
    [​IMG]

    Arrayed in front of us were a collection of seven young men and women (okay, six men and one woman). Some were sitting casually, others were standing on full alert. The “Seven Fists,” the leaders of Ragnarok. I let my eyes roam over them, not bothering to hide that I was sizing them up; they’d expect it of a prospective new member.

    I was, admittedly, just a little bit nervous. Even with my training harness on (which it was, I hadn’t had the time to take it off discretely and I’d rather not having Loki know about it), I could probably take on numbers Four through Seven with just a bit of trouble, though Five and Six would take a lot to put down and keep down. Two or Three would be harder, but I was pretty sure it’d be doable. Numero Uno… I wasn’t entirely sure I could beat him without taking it off first.

    But even if I took the harness off, taking on all seven in one night, even if they took turns? That might get a little dicey. So, it looked like I’d need to make sure not to piss them off too badly.

    Good thing I don’t make that a habit or anything.

    It was obvious who the leader here was, even if you didn’t know him on sight. Even if the others weren’t loosely centered around him, it was clear through presence alone that everyone here was afraid of him, deferred to him. Even the Sixth Fist clearly didn’t want to mess with him, no matter how standoffish and detached he tried to be while standing by at the edges.
    [​IMG]

    “Greetings, you three,” he said softly, adjusting his glasses with gloved hands. “As you’ve been made aware before coming here, my Master, the great martial artist known as Kensei*, is the true founder and leader of Ragnarok. We, the Seven Fists, are the only ones who have the privilege to know this, and to receive instruction from him at his leisure.

    “Recently, Master Kensei has asked that we induct two more worthy fighters at our earliest convenience, so that the Seven Fists can become Nine,” he continued. “Thus, we have looked within – and without,” he said, giving me a glance that was hard to read before continuing, “for fighters who might prove worthy of taking up the seats of the Eighth and Ninth Fists, and the three of you are the only candidates we have found who might be worthy of this honor.

    “Your ascension is not assured,” he stressed. “You must prove to us that you are worthy, and if at any time you do not, you will not be given a second chance. And as you can see from your numbers, one of you will lose out regardless.”

    The only woman present spoke up as soon as the leader fell silent. “Each of you has been monitored, approached, and endorsed by one of the Seven Fists as a worthy candidate. But there will be no favoritism from your sponsor… or else.
    [​IMG]

    “Tsuji Shin’nosuke, you have been endorsed by the Seventh Fist, Thor, as a potential leader of Ragnarok. Do you accept this honor, and this burden?” she asked, looking at the mophead to my and Kisara’s right.

    The mophead gave a big grin and punched his palm loudly. “Yes, ma’am!” he shouted. “I’m ready! This has been my dream since I joined Ragnarok!”

    Without acknowledging him further, she moved on. “Nanjō Kisara, you have been endorsed by the Fifth Fist, Siegfried, as a potential leader of Ragnarok. Do you accept this honor, and this burden?” She gave no hint of emotion, despite addressing the subordinate who’d turned her back on her.

    “Yes, Lady Freya,” Kisara said, not quite quietly, but just loudly enough to carry to the others, and gave a slight bow. Freya didn’t spare her a second look.

    “Kimura Ensei. You are not a member of Ragnarok, and in fact have attacked members of Ragnarok on two occasions,” she said, breaking the pattern as she looked at me. “You would normally not be considered for this position, regardless of your obvious strength, but as you have been endorsed by the Fourth Fist, Loki, as well as the Sixth Fist, Hermit, we have seen fit to make an exception. Do you accept this honor, and this burden?”

    “Only if we lay down a few grounds rules, first,” I said, arms crossed as I stared them all down.

    A chilly silence engulfed the room. Kisara and Tsuji stared at me, dumbfounded at my “presumption,” while the Seven Fists had several different reactions. The prevailing emotions, though, seemed to be either amusement or apathy. Loki looked a bit pissed, though.

    “Oh?” Odin tilted his head, his tone putting him in the “faintly amused” category… for now. “You have demands of Ragnarok, in the position you’re in? You truly are confident in your skills, aren’t you?”

    “I’m not one for false humility,” I replied. “I’m more than good enough a martial artist to join your little club, and you’ll see that when you do whatever tests you feel like doing. But I don’t particularly care about any of the perks of joining your little group, so you’re going to need to sweeten the pot.”

    “With what, exactly?” he asked. His tone wasn’t any different, but there was a clear chill in them all the same as his eyes bored into me.

    “Just something I want to make very clear, so none of us go into this with any misconceptions. My family’s dojo has nothing to do with any of you,” I announced. “Just because I join up with you guys doesn’t mean it’s Ragnarok property. It’s not going to be your recruiting ground, your training ground, your front, or anything unless I okay it. Its students are not members of Ragnarok unless they specifically join, and if anyone in Ragnarok attacks them for any reason other than being attacked first or provoked, they’re the ones who get punished for it. Deal?”

    Odin leaned back in his chair, adopting a small smile. “I had no intentions of bothering with that dojo, so I see no reason to say no,” he said.

    ‘Which means you suspect that my masters are Masters and know better than to try anything funny,’ I thought to myself. More than could be said for some people…

    “Then yeah, I’ll become a member. Do we get to pick our own nicknames when we become Fists?” I asked.

    “Of course.”

    ‘Good, because half of you idiots aren’t even really on-theme,’** I thought to myself.

    “If that’s all, then it’s time for your first test,” Odin continued. “Well, second for one of you. I’m sure you’re expecting some physical challenge or fight, but we need more than brainless brutes leading Ragnarok, and Master Kensei has no interest in training them.

    “One of the important qualities of a martial artist, and a leader of an organization, is being able to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of others with very little information and sizing up the competition at a glance. And that’s what you will do here. Each of you must state which of the three of you is the weakest, and which is the strongest. Take all the time you need… within reason.”

    “I don’t need any time!” Tsuji declared, stepping up past Kisara and I. “I already know that I’m the strongest of the three of us! And the weakest one… is you!”

    I looked down at his outstretched finger, pointing right at me. I tried very hard not to laugh honest.

    “Oh? Why don’t you explain your reasoning?” Odin “asked.”

    “Simple! A man’s quality is clear in how many men he can get to follow him! I’ve got more followers than Kisara, and this punk doesn’t even have a single one! His school even only has one dojo, and that’s just some flunky he picked up out of Ragnarok’s trash heap!” he exclaimed.

    “I see. Ensei, since he’s declared you the weakest, why don’t you give your opinion next?” Odin said.

    “I’m the strongest one here,” ‘And no, there’s no unspoken qualifier there,’ I thought. “As for the weakest, Shaggy here just proved who it is by mouthing off like a moron.”

    “Why you-”

    Quiet,” Odin said calmly, but firmly, and the tone made even the mopheaded dope shiver. “Kisara?”

    Kisara gave Tsuji a single glance before giving a dismissive scoff that had him fuming, but she looked me carefully up and down.

    “See something you like?” I asked jokingly. Her only response was to roll her eyes and turn back to the Seven Fists.

    “He’s right, ‘Shaggy’ here doesn’t have a clue,” Kisara answered, but her amused grin faded as she struggled with the next part. “And… I think he’s a bit stronger than me. A bit.”

    That’s… really impressive,’ I thought to myself. I was cheating, after all; fighters of our level usually need to see someone in action for opinions and comparisons to be even slightly accurate. But then, Kisara was the only one of the main disciples in the series who never trained with a Master at any point. An absurdly keen eye for martial arts is only the beginning of what she’d need to keep up with that.

    He managed to keep it out of his voice, but I could tell from Odin’s eyes that he was just as impressed as I was. “I see. That concludes the first test, then. Now for the second one.

    “We have no need of Ten Fists, and weaklings need not apply. The tests to come will weed out the weak regardless, but there is no reason not to remove the weak link from this chain immediately,” Odin lectured, adjusting his glasses again.

    “Tsuji Shin’nosuke. Both Kisara and Ensei have decreed that you are the weak link.”

    “But that’s-!” Tsuji started to protest, but took a step back at the intensity of Odin’s glare at his interruption.

    “You are not among our number yet. Speak to us when spoken to,” he commanded, his voice like icy daggers. He closed his eyes and took a breath before continuing, calm again. “Because you have declared that Ensei is the weak link, the two of you will duel, here and now, to prove who is correct. The winner gains a clear advantage in standing among us. The loser is no longer a candidate to become one of the Nine Fists of Ragnarok.”

    Tsuji grinned at those words. Turning back to me, he started cracking his knuckles and popping his neck. “Ha! Now that’s a test I can get behind. You ready for this, short stuff?”

    “One second, Mophead,” I said, holding up a finger and turning my head back to the assembled Seven Fists as Kisara walked off to the side. “Hey, is this a strictly unarmed fight?”

    At my request, Loki nodded approvingly, and Freya tilted her head slightly, as if in thought. Thor frowned, but the rest didn’t seem to care.

    “Either of you may use whatever weapons you have with you… within reason,” Odin answered.

    “Tch, weapons? Come on, a real man lets his fists do the talking!” Tsuji declared.

    “My fists don’t really have anything to say to your face,” I said glibly, pulling out one of my many hidden weapons. Specifically, two hardwood sticks connected by a metal chain.

    “Wh-Nunchaku? What do you think this is, a Bruce Lee flick?” Tsuji asked, incredulous.

    “To start with, these are not nunchaku,” I explained, warming up with some tricks by rapidly swinging them around my arms and torso, switching the weapon between my hands seamlessly. “These are tabak-toyok, sometimes called ‘chako’ for short, and they’re from Filipino martial arts, not Okinawan. They are closely related, of course, but the chain is longer and the handles are shorter. That’s because nunchaku are primarily meant for defense; you’re supposed to use them to catch and disarm weapons, and striking is a secondary goal. It’s the reverse in the Philippines.

    “Secondly, catch,” I said, reaching into my pocket and tossing something at Tsuji. He caught them – barely – and looked at me like I’d just grown a second head.

    “Why the hell are you giving me brass knuckles!?” he asked, loudly (I was starting to think he didn’t know what an “inside voice” was).

    “Use them or don’t, but when you lose, I don’t want to hear any complaining that it was because I used a weapon and you didn’t,” I said.

    “Oh, you’re dead!” he growled, but tossed the brass knuckles off to the side. “I’m going to feel your face break on my bare hands and enjoy it!”

    “You’d die trying,” I said with a mocking smirk. “And finally, this one is an open question to everyone in the room: who here knows what the Southern Martial Forest dojo actually teaches?”

    “From what I’d heard, it seems you practice Arnis there,” Odin answered.

    “Koga’s description sounded like muay thai,” Kisara chimed in.

    “Eh, you’re partly right,” I said, not bothering to correct Kisara. “We practice so much more, though. And that’s because the Southern Martial Forest…”

    I then proceeded to completely ham it up, doing a complex routine with the weapons with lots of kicks and pointless hand motions, all while doing the Bruce Lee noises. I struck a pose, now well and truly having made everyone think I was a complete and total tool but feeling like a total kung fu badass.

    “… teaches the hybridization and optimization of martial arts on the physical and philosophical level,” I finished. “In other words: Jeet Kune Do!”

    “… Just fight already,” Odin sighed, head in his hands.

    Tsuji tore his shirt off for… some reason, and charged at me, giving a loud yell.

    He threw a punch that I easily sidestepped, catching his arm on the chains of the chako as I went and pulling his arm back as I stepped around to his back, drawing a yelp of pain as his muscles and tendons started to strain from the unnatural position. He put surprising strength into trying to pull his arm back, but I held it firm, and his attempts to shift position were similarly beaten as I simply followed him to keep to his back.

    “Give up now and you get to keep your arm,” I said calmly.

    “A real doesn’t give up a fight just to spare himself some pain!” Tsuji declared. Gripping his captured arm with his free hand, he used the added strength to pull hard.

    Not really wanting to seriously injure the guy, I let go of one handle, sending the chako flying straight into his face as he freed his arm. Despite the fact that there was already a lump forming on his forehead, the pain didn’t even slow him down as he turned around to start furiously throwing punches.

    It was trivial to dodge the punches, but even as I laid into him with the chako, he seemed to not even feel it, despite peppering his body with deep bruises.

    He’s used to street fights,’ I noted as he started to cool his head and began fighting dirty. He tried to turn punches into grabs, clapped his hands in front of my eyes to try to disorient me, tried to step on my feet to make me trip or stop moving.

    Of course, I was well prepared for it all, my parents having taught plenty about the rules (and lack thereof) in a street fight.

    Eventually, he was beaten, weary, panting hard and covered in bruises. Meanwhile, I had barely worked up a sweat, rapidly circling him with light, shifting footwork that let me cover a lot of ground with little actual movement.

    It probably looked like I was toying with the guy, but honestly, I was really having trouble putting him down without seriously hurting him, or giving away too much about my fighting style in front of Odin, who was in contact with Ogata, i.e. #2 on my “Don’t Catch This Master’s Eye” list, right between Jenazad and Fortuna.

    Tsuji was a lot sturdier than I’d thought, and he had too much tenacity for pain alone to keep him down. I was hoping Ken’nichi would get to fight him soon to help polish his skills, but at this rate…

    “Quit dancing around with those stupid sticks and fight me like a man, damn it!” Tsuji bellowed, calling up as much of his strength as he still could and rushing at me again. The guy had no fighting style to speak of, but sheer tenacity, strength and experience in brawls had gotten him far. I had to respect that, even if he was an idiot who didn’t know how to stay down.

    “Fine,” I said. I stopped spinning the tabak-toyok, and instead gripped both handles like a pair of baston, the chain hanging loosely between them.

    When Tsuji got into range again, I jabbed one handle into his neck, being careful to not hit it straight-on to avoid crushing his windpipe, and hooked the other around his arm again, but this time instead of circling around his back I used my leverage to lift myself up and do a flip that drove my heel into his face.

    Righting myself behind him, I swept his legs out from under him while he clutched his broken nose. As he fell, I dropped my knees down onto his torso, knocking the wind from him. But I needed to make sure he’d stay down so I wouldn’t have to break a limb or something.

    ‘Punch with the forearm, relax the elbow and keep it bent, use your body’s motion to impart power,’ was the mantra in my head as I laid out a chain of rapid punches and chops to Tsuji’s chest, neck and head, not giving him the chance to even think of blocking or countering.

    When I stood up, careful not to put my weight back on my knees before getting off of him, Tsuji was barely conscious. Blood flowed freely from his broken nose, his torso was covered in bruises that were already starting to grow purple, and his breathing was ragged and pained; I hadn’t intended to, but some of my blows must have cracked a few ribs. He covered his face – and his eyes – with his hands, but I could see a droplet of clear liquid run down his eye. I didn’t think it was sweat.

    I forced myself to look away as Tsuji tried desperately not to cry, whether from pain or loss or both. My eyes rested on Kisara, who was looking between the both of us with something that might have been horror or disgust.

    I looked away again. Thor and Siegfried had the same looks as Kisara. Freya, Hermit, and Odin looked indifferent, even now.

    Berserker had an approving smile on his face, and Loki was all but clapping.

    “It’s decided, then,” Odin said softly. “Ensei, you remain a favored candidate as the Eighth Fist. And if Tsuji can still hear me, he is allowed to remain an Executive Officer, but is no longer in competition to join our ranks.”

    I barely heard him. I felt numb, except that I also wanted to throw up or cry. This… this wasn’t martial arts.

    I was lying to myself. I walked out, not caring if anyone called out or followed, not caring if they were done with their stupid kid’s games or not. I was furious. I did toy with Tsuji, at least at first. He was beaten, maybe even broken in ways that weren’t physical, and for what!? So I could show off and play with my new toys?

    ---X---

    “… it is not a kindness to refuse to face a fellow martial artist seriously, “Ken’nichi,” the Elder warned as I forced myself to stop thinking about it and came back to the present. “You insult Miu by refusing to treat her as someone worthy of your attention now, and if you take an opponent lightly in a true fight they will see it only as a humiliation.”

    I opened my eyes. “Elder?” I asked, turning my head toward the grandmaster of Ryōzanpaku, who stopped from his lecture of Ken’nichi to meet my eyes with his own. The look in them made me flinch.

    “Yes, Ensei?” he asked, his voice kind.

    “What you said earlier, about the different between martial arts and violence, and now, about facing your opponent seriously…” my tongue felt thick, I almost didn’t want to know the answer. “If someone breaks those rules, is there anything they can do about it?”

    The “Invincible Superman” gave the same tired, weary sigh of an old man with a lot of regrets. “We can never take back what we’ve done, Ensei. When you throw a punch, there is no taking it back. Whether you can make it right… that very much depends on you, and on them. All martial artists are ultimately responsible for what they do with their techniques.”

    I flopped back onto the floor. “Right.”

    He didn’t need to be the world’s biggest badass to hear the bitterness in that. “I’m sorry, but there are no quick and easy answers I can give for this sort of thing. Especially when I don’t know the particulars,” the Elder said. “You must find a solution that you can accept, and hope it will be enough to the person your violence has harmed. Given how young you are, I believe that should still be possible.”

    I turned back toward Ma Kensei and Koetsuji, who were still playing a game of go. “How much do you two charge?” I asked. “The patient has a lot of bruises, a broken nose, and possibly some cracked ribs.”

    I didn’t think it was enough, but it would be a start.

    -x--X--x-

    *No, not that Kensei, if you’ve never read the manga. Japanese is confusing. Ma Kensei is just the Japanese reading of the Chinese characters in his name (剣星). The “Kensei” that serves as Ogata Isshinsai’s callsign as a member of Yami is spelled differently ((拳聖) and has a totally different meaning. “Kensei” is a title that is often translated in English as “Sword Saint,” and historically referred to great swordsmen who were living legends of transcendent skill; the most famous in the West is Miyamoto Musashi. Ogata uses a different character that is pronounced the same (as “ken”), which means “fist” instead of “sword;” the obvious implication being that he is the unarmed equivalent to a Sword Saint.

    **Warning: Nitpicking rant imminent. I mean, the clear theme with the Eight Fists is supposed to be that they’re named after the Norse pantheon, right? The leader is Odin, after all. And you’ve got Freya, Loki and Thor, who are all perfectly within that theme.

    But then you’ve got the rest of them, and it becomes obvious that Japanese people (like pretty much everyone else, of course) don’t know or give a damn about actually keeping a foreign-sounding theme so long as it still sounds sufficiently foreign.

    Siegfried is a German name for a Germanic/Norse hero; if you must deviate from the godly theme and start putting in mythical heroes, you could at least go with the actual Norse and call him Sigurd! But that’s the least objectionable of the four I have a problem with.

    Because then there’s Valkyrie, which would be perfectly fine… except that there’s already a group named the Valkyries who work for Freya as members of Ragnarok, whom Kisara even used to be one of. At least pick a specific Valkyrie to name yourself after! Like the most well-known one, Brynhild (though that would, admittedly, make the fact that Siegfried/Sigurd is the one endorsing her to become a Fist a little bit funny).

    Berserker is even worse, since the term is no longer something that has a purely Norse vibe to it like Valkyries. Beowulf would be a perfect fit for the motif that he’s going for, too!

    And man, f*ck “Hermit.” What the hell screams “Norse” about a guy calling himself Hermit? Nothing, that’s what. If I were picking his nickname, I’d make him Tyr or Heimdall.
     
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  11. anhrefn

    anhrefn [Not An Evil Clone]

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    *rolls my eyes*

    shouldn't you be used to it?
     
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  12. Leingod

    Leingod Immaculate Blooming Lotus

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    Beating people up? Sure, if it was just that he wouldn't have given a second thought. But Ensei brutalized and, more importantly to him, thoroughly humiliated Tsuji in front of people he admired.

    I always liked Ken'nichi as a character partly because I got bullied a lot as a kid until I was able and willing to fight back. To this day, people bullying others brings up some very strong feelings.

    And whether Ensei intended it or not, he felt like he was using his strength to turn Tsuji, who's a hot-headed dunce at worst, into a beaten joke in front of his peers. I'd HATE other people who did that to someone.
     
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  13. shipenterce

    shipenterce Getting out there.

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    Eh, I think your SI is overreacting. He did his best to not injure the guy. Their difference in skill would have been obvious halfway through the fight and anyone who wasn't a meathead would concede at that point. And it's not like his situation was worsened beyond the injuries (which are probably about the same as what kenichi would have dealt him), as he never even has a chance to fight in front of the 7 fists in canon. At least here he's able to show off what skill he's developed without a master's support, as well as his tenacity.

    That said, your SI is like 13 and fights are pretty visceral, I assume.
     
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  14. Leingod

    Leingod Immaculate Blooming Lotus

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    Overreacting? Yeah. It's pretty much motivated by my own hangups that aren't always rational. The Elder would probably have told him as much if he'd had the details.
     
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  15. Axone

    Axone Your first time is always over so quickly, isn't it?

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    I understand where the author is coming from here. Experience has shown me in the past that even when you hate a guy and win a fight, you can still feel pretty ashamed of yourself afterward if you feel you overdid it. The SI in this case had nothing against the guy, but brutalised the poor sod and left him with severe injuries after toying with him in front of a group he admired. All because he got annoyed that his opponent didn't go down quickly.

    I'm not bashing the SI here, just stating that these situations do happen in real life and it is very possible that the winner can feel awful regardless. Taking the guy seriously would have resulted in a less bitter taste for all involved.
     
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  16. anhrefn

    anhrefn [Not An Evil Clone]

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    And now he's paying a doctor for him... that poor lad
    the beating wasn't enough, now he's adding salt into the wound
     
  17. shipenterce

    shipenterce Getting out there.

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    So, were Kisara/Thor/Siegfried's reactions tainted by the SI's self-shame? I feel like they would have seen worse, what with being leading members of a gang focused on fist fights. I'm not really sure how bad the guy looks, since the SI is probably an unreliable narrator.
    BTW enjoyed the chapter, is a fun story. One of only two good HSDK fics I know. The other being History's Strongest Shinobi by Kenchi618 over on fanfiction.net
     
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  18. Leingod

    Leingod Immaculate Blooming Lotus

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    Avoiding expounding on Thor and Kisara, Siegfried just considered it ugly. He's an artist who fights because he finds his muse in battle, so he just hates fights that bring bad tunes to mind.
     
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  19. Leingod

    Leingod Immaculate Blooming Lotus

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    Well, that's annoying. Working on the update, but progress slowed to a crawl as soon as it stopped raining. Guess that means I should move to New England or something? Hopefully it'll be done by tonight, though.
     
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  20. SonOfNenji

    SonOfNenji Aimless Wanderer

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    Have you considered background music to help set the mood?
     
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  21. shipenterce

    shipenterce Getting out there.

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    Youtube has plenty "the sound of rain" videos if it really helps. Personally hearing rain when I'm inside just makes me relaxed and sleepy.
     
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  22. Extras: Chinese Kung Fu, pt. 1
    Leingod

    Leingod Immaculate Blooming Lotus

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    Presented here is a list of traditional Chinese martial arts and what little I know about their philosophy, teachings, provenance, etc (which means you could get a lot of this info from Wikipedia). I’ll also note which styles specifically that Ensei has some level of training in. This is mostly for my own convenience and consultation, and I figured there was no reason not to put it here (except of course possibly as a surprise, but oh well).

    Short note: a lot of styles have “quan” or less commonly “zhang” as a suffix. That just means “fist” or “palm” literally, and can be taken as shorthand for “style,” such as with, say, Bajiquan/Eight Extremities Fist/Style. It’s kind of like how Japanese martial arts styles are appended with “-ryū.”

    ---X---

    Bafaquan: “Eight Methods Fist.” Not to be confused with Liuhe Bafa. This style was created by Li Demao in the early 20th century, shortly before the end of the Qing Dynasty (1636-1912), and was synthesized from Fanzi, Paochui, Tantui, Tongbei and Xingyi. The style is based on the theory of the “Eight Methods” of attacking; training for this style includes training the spear, straight sword and curved sword. Its training for the use of a very long spear, both on foot and on horseback, is considered a specialty of the style.

    Because it’s essentially a condensed amalgamation of several locally popular martial arts in its native Shanxi Province, it’s hard for an untrained eye to distinguish it on sight, and it’s hard to talk further on what kind of distinguishing features it has.

    Baguazhang: “Eight Trigram Palm.” Bagua is one of the three styles referred to in contemporary martial arts as “Wudang styles,” a term (drawn from legends about the origins of these styles and their shared qualities as largely internal styles) meant specifically to contrast with the largely external styles of Shaolin. This term also denotes a contrast in religious inspiration; Shaolin is (obviously) Buddhist, while the Wudang styles are seen as being largely inspired by Daoist thought, generally speaking. In fact, the name “Eight Trigram” refers to one of the canons of Daoist thought and belief, the Yijing (more well-known by the now-outdated Romanization “I Ching”).

    To avoid getting into some heavy Daoist philosophy, I’ll just say that “bagua” in the Yijing are eight symbols used to represent the fundamental principles of reality, each represented by a series of three straight lines that are broken or unbroken (this tripartite structure is why we call them “trigrams” in English). The Yijing is essentially a listing of the 64 pairwise permutations of the trigrams, called “hexagrams,” and contains commentary on the meaning of each one. The Yijing is used and consulted in many various ways, but most popularly as a method of fortune-telling. It’s also influenced traditional Chinese beliefs about things like geomancy, astrology, geography, anatomy, etc.

    The creation of Baguazhang as a formalized martial art is attributed to Dong Haichuan (date of birth disputed as either 1797 or 1813; date of death is 1882, so he was either 69 or 85 when he died), a devoted martial artist who is said to have learned from various Daoist and Buddhist masters while training in the mountains. Many authorities actually dispute the Buddhist origin, claiming that his instruction was purely or at least overwhelmingly Daoist in origin, citing the name of the style and several of its techniques and stances, the frequent reference in its philosophy to Daoist ideas and relative lack of Buddhist ones, etc. It’s also pointed out that the attribution to Buddhist teachers only started coming from the 2nd generation teachers, i.e. Dong’s students, several of whom were Buddhist.

    Dong Haichuan was a devoted student of the martial arts from a young age, learning the (probably Shaolin-derived) martial arts practiced in his local area. Since his family was very poor, as a young man he set out to find work of his own so as not to burden them with feeding him, and by many accounts spent years as a penniless wanderer who often got into trouble. He studied a lot of Daoist methods, including circle walking (which is not actually unique to Baguazhang) and synthesized it with his previous studies, creating an art he called Zhaunzhang (“Turning Palms”). Sometime around 1864 he arrived in the capital, Beijing, and was hired as a servant in the household of the Prince Su (which is not a name, but a hereditary title of peerage given to a specific branch of the imperial house), who eventually gave him a job collecting taxes, which he did for the next 10 years along with his first student, Yin Fu (1840-1909). After that, he left the prince’s employ and devoted himself fully to teaching publicly and further developing his style.

    The exact details of what Dong taught are disputed; some claim that only the first three of the Eight Palms that he taught a student remained consistent for all of them, while the remaining five were varied based on the student’s skill and experience. Others claim he taught considerably more than that, and that his teaching was more-or-less consistent. Regardless, his style grew popular and acquired the name of Baguazhang. Because of how popular Baguazhang eventually became, it’s hard to say exactly what’s fact and fiction about Dong’s last years; there’s a lot of claims, for example, that he gave demonstrations to the Emperor in the Forbidden City and impressed him enough to gain imperial patronage, or that he and his students became bodyguards to the imperial family. Might be true, might not, I don’t have the evidence either way. What is known is that some of Dong’s students participated in the Boxer Rebellion (1899-1901), so there’s that bit of fun trivia.

    Dong Haichuan’s nine most famous disciples each taught the arts he passed on to them, but each of them approached his teachings in different ways, and many synthesized it with their own prior education in the martial arts. This pattern continued, and in the modern day there are almost 20 separate styles/schools of Baguazhang, each with minor or major differences from each other, though the dominant ones are the Yin style (founded by Yin Fu), the Cheng style (Cheng Tinghua), and the Liang style (Liang Zhenpu). Each of them emphasize different things and have differing focuses in their instruction, so it’s hard to make generalizations about Baguazhang as a whole except for the basics.

    What are the basics? The one baguazhang is most famous for is the practice of circle walking, sometimes called turning the circle; this is a method of training stances, movements and footwork that all styles utilize as an integral part of training. Practitioners walk the edge of the circle in various stances, facing the center, and periodically change direction as they execute forms; as they advance, the diameter of the circle shrinks. This trains up flexibility and proper body alignment through the basic exercises, then the more complex forms teach mechanics of generating and using internal power.

    Hilariously for the style that inspired Airbending in Avatar: The Last Airbender, baguazhang is actually famous for training in the use of a diverse array of different weapons, from swords to spears to a weapon unique to this style, the crescent-shaped “deer horn knives.” Baguazhang is also known for training with extremely oversized weapons, such that extremely outsized straight and curved swords are called bagua jian and bagua dao, respectively. Other weapons include the staff, the spear, the cane, and hook swords, and many styles of baguazhang take pride in being able to use anything as a weapon using the principles they teach.

    In addition to the use of many different weapons, baguazhang is also very versatile in unarmed combat, with a variety of strikes with just about every part of the arm, lots of kicks, joint locks, and throws, all to complement its evasive footwork that give baguazhang practitioners a reputation for being able to “flow” around an opponent’s attacks; all that circle-walking makes them very good at quickly circling behind an opponent without ever turning their back to them. The main differences in a lot of styles are in what they emphasize here in particular; Yin style, for instance, specializes in long-range (i.e. fully extended) strikes, while the Cheng style emphasizes going in close to wrestle and lock your opponent.

    Finally, all baguazhang styles are internal styles. So… what does that mean? A lot of the mysticization of kung fu would lead you to believe that internal power is some magic life force or whatever, but an “internal” style just means that it emphasizes on building power through means other than pure muscular strength, which is what an “external” style does. In baguazhang, power is built both from centripetal force from the circular motions and steps as well as what pretty much every internal martial art does: the generation of power through an understanding of the body’s mechanics and how to move the body in such a way that you can generate a lot of force that doesn’t come from your muscles. Movements of the waist are key to this, which is probably why the Chinese have always believed that energy comes from the stomach.

    And as far as History’s Strongest Disciple Ken’nichi goes, the very first lesson in martial arts that Ken’nichi learned (from Miu, rather than any of the Masters) was the unique “stepping method” of Bagua, which allowed him to very quickly pivot away from Daimonji’s attacks without the karateka being able to tell where he was moving (because with this method the upper body stays in place the longest, and Daimonji was too stupid to watch his feet instead of his upper body). In addition, the “Three-Headed Dragon” was a team of Chinese martial artists during the “Desperate Fight of Disciples” or “D of D Tournament” hosted by YAMI. The “Three-Headed Dragon” each used one of the three Wudang styles in conjunction to very nearly defeat Ken’nichi and Miu; the Baguazhang user was the only woman of the group, Yinlin Chou (whose actual Chinese name would be Zhang Shelin). Also, as a master of all Chinese martial arts who specializes in soft and internal styles, Ma Kensei frequently uses baguazhang, though it’s never specifically called out as such. And, of course, Ensei knows it.

    Baihequan: “White Crane Fist,” this style is also known as Fujian White Crane (after Fujian Province), or Yongchun Baihequan (“Eternal Spring White Crane Fist”). One of the major animal styles often associated with the Shaolin Monastery, it is one of the most influential of Chinese martial arts.

    Legend traces this style’s origins to a woman named Fang Qiniang, who lived in (of course) Fujian in the mid-17th century, a place known for being home to many cranes. Her father was a martial artist, and having no sons he taught what he knew to his daughter instead. One day, as she was doing her chores, a white crane landed nearby. She tried to scare it off with a stick without hurting it, but failed. When she tried to lightly hit it on the head, the crane moved its head away and flapped its wings, knocking away the stick. When she tried to hit its wings, it grabbed the stick with its talons. When she tried to poke its body, the crane jumped back and grabbed the stick with its beak. Qiniang then decided to study the crane’s movements, combining them with her father’s teachings to develop her own style of martial arts that she named after the crane.

    There are, of course, many variations of this story, but the point is that Fang Qiniang learned from a crane to emphasize evasion and attacking an opponent’s vulnerabilities rather than relying on strength. It is most often associated with the way practitioners will move their hands and arms in ways that imitate the way a crane pecks with its beak and flaps with its wings (Crane Stance is meant more as an exercise to develop balance, before you ask). Strikes are fast and precise, aimed at vulnerable points on the body to disable an attacker even if the practitioner is not very physically strong, as befits a style supposedly created by a woman, which is even now a popular subject in women’s self-defense classes in parts of China.

    As I mentioned before, White Crane is very influential in the development of many famous styles of martial arts, and not just Chinese ones; karate was originally developed in Okinawa, where there was a significant Chinese presence and a great deal of influence from Chinese martial arts in the development of their own methods of combat, which were eventually popularized in the rest of Japan; White Crane in particular is noted as an inspiration for some of the oldest formal schools of karate.

    In addition, one of the most famous and direct of White Crane’s descendants is Wing Chun. Remember that alternate name, the “Eternal Spring” one? Well, “Wing Chun” is Cantonese; the Mandarin is “Yong Chun;” though it uses a different character (thus the name means “Spring Chant” instead of “Eternal Spring”), the homage is very apparent in both the name and the fighting style, particularly in the rapid strikes with the arm and hand.

    Ensei is somewhat familiar with this one, though he personally considers it kind of "obsolete" compared to a certain other one he knows.

    Bajiquan: “Eight Extremities Fist.” Originally, it was called Baziquan (“Rake Fist”) after the way the fists, held slightly open, are used to strike downward in a rake-like fashion. As the style grew in popularity and prestige, the original name was deemed to crude and was changed. The term “Baji” comes from the Yijing, much like Bagua, and is a term that signifies something that extends or moves in all directions simultaneously; essentially, you could translate this style’s name as “All-Encompassing Fist” or “Universal Fist.”

    The first recorded master to teach this style was Wu Zhong (1712-1802), but the most famous of the style’s practitioners was a man from Hebei by the name of Li Shuwen (1864-1934), who acquired the nickname “God Spear Li” for his incredible spearmanship. A Beijing Opera performer by training (hey, just like Jackie Chan! And Sammo Hung. And Yuen Biao. And…), Li Shuwen is famous as claiming that, “I do not know what it’s like to hit a man twice.” Li Shuwen’s students included Huo Diange (bodyguard to Pu Yi, the last Emperor of China), Li Chenwu (bodyguard to Mao Zedong), and Liu Yunqiao (secret agent for the Guomindang and instructor of bodyguards for Chiang Chuncheng, a.k.a. Chiang Kai-shek); to this day, bajiquan retains a reputation as a popular style for bodyguards in China and Taiwan.

    Bajiquan specializes in battle at extreme close range, using a distinctive charging step to close in, then focusing on strikes with the elbows, knees, shoulders and hips. Fighters use these close-range attacks to forcibly open the opponent’s guard to quickly attack vulnerable areas like the throat, groin, joints, etc. The essence of baji quan lies in jin, or power-issuing methods, particularly fa jing (explosive power). The bulk of the damage is dealt through the momentary acceleration that travels up from the waist to the limb and further magnified by the charging step; this requires strenuous lower body training.

    Despite this focus on infighting, there are eight weapon styles that the style teaches, including spears, straight swords, curved swords, staff, two-handed swords, and polearms. These aren’t really ever given much spotlight or attention as far as I can see.

    Bajiquan shares similar roots with the style Piguaquan, and it is said that Wu Zhong, the first known teacher of these styles, taught them together, but as time went on they drifted apart. Li Shuwen was the one who recombined them, and it is said that this was a big part of his incredible success and fame as a martial artist. To this day, the two styles are considered incredibly complimentary, to the point that a proverb states, “When pigua is added to baji, gods and demons will all be terrified. When baji is added to pigua, heroes will sigh that they are no match for it.”

    In the manga, Bajiquan is one of the two primary martial arts used by Natsu Tanimoto (Hermit), who combines it, of course, with Pigua. This Baji-Pigua is also used by his master, Ma Sōgetsu, though like his brother Kensei he’s a master of all Chinese martial arts (specializing in the hard and external styles), as well as another Master-Disciple pair in YOMI, Ro Jisei (Lu Cizheng) and Chou Enshin (Zhao Yuanchen). The former is noted by Kensei as having contributed to Sōgetsu’s turn toward Satsujinken, and the latter was killed in a battle by Tanimoto to secure the winner’s place in YOMI.

    Bak Mei: “White Eyebrows.” The name (which is Cantonese; the Mandarin would be Bai Mei) comes from one of the legendary Five Elders – five survivors of the destruction of the Shaolin Monastery by the Qing Dynasty (an event variously placed as happening in 1647, 1674, or even 1732); many accounts claim that Bak Mei betrayed the temple to the imperial government. Like all of the Five Elders, he shows up a lot in Chinese works of fiction (and in Kill Bill, Vol. 2, where he’s called Pai Mei and played by Gordon Liu).

    As an aside, the original Shaolin Monastery was built on the north side of Mt. Shaoshi, the central peak of Mt. Song, one of the Sacred Mountains, located in Henan Province (in northern China). It was first built in 477 by the Northern Wei dynasty by Emperor Xiaowen, but was burned down various times throughout history for varying political reasons and eventually rebuilt each time. A number of traditions and tales talk about a Southern Shaoling Monastery located in Fujian Province, sometimes called Changlin Monastery. Associated with the stories of the burning of the Shaoling Monastery by Qing forces or presented as a place of refuge for survivors of the northern monastery’s burning, this monastery (along with the burning of the temples) is a cornerstone of Chinese popular history, fiction, and the traditional accounts of many of the most famous martial arts… that could very well never have even happened. There is in fact a non-zero chance that every single bit of that was either invented whole-cloth long after the fact or just extremely exaggerated. *sigh* Reality is so discouraging sometimes.

    As an example of how varying accounts of the Five Elders are, sometimes Bak Mei betrayed the temple to the government. Sometimes it was another Elder, Ma Ning-Yee, or sometimes it was both of them. Sometimes Fung Do-Duk also betrayed Shaolin with the two. Sometimes “Bak Mei” is just a nickname for one or the other. Sometimes all these completely different accounts make you seriously doubt that this wasn’t all just made up by wuxia novels and the anti-Qing mythology dreamed up by revolutionary societies like the Heaven & Earth Society that spread like a (secret) wildfire in China during the 19th century.

    Regardless, the fact that this style is named after a supposed traitor has led to very real tensions with practitioners of the styles purportedly founded by the guys that their namesake purportedly betrayed. Some provide alternate accounts that Bak Mei didn’t so much betray the other Five Elders as much as refuse to join them in fighting Qing, others that he was simply banished for accidentally killing several disciples when practicing the new martial art he’d made (which has the added bonus of hyping up Bak Mei the style). Other accounts Bak Mei as being forced into betraying the temple, or of seeing the writing on the wall and selling out a few so that he could spare the traditions of the temple and keep them going. Others take the disciple-killing story and gleefully accept the distinction of being a “traitor,” claiming that the fact that Bak Mei was able to kill several Shaolin brethren and escape retribution proves the strength of their style.

    As a style, Bak Mei emphasizes fighting in close quarters and focuses especially on the hands and arms. A particular emphasis on the style is, instead of blocking or avoiding attacks, to instead intercept and “jam” an attack before the opponent builds up force, then countering with vicious strikes, throws, locks and takedowns. It’s noted as having a lot in common with Leopard Kung Fu, one of the Five Southern Animal Styles for its emphasis on aggression, speed, and counterattacks.

    Baoquan: “Leopard Fist,” i.e. Leopard Style, and one of the famous Five Animal Styles of Southern kung fu. In contrast to its fellow animal style Tiger Style, the Leopard does not overwhelm the opponent with strength, but instead relies on outmaneuvering them with speed; the style combines speed and aggression, focusing on elbows, knees, low kicks and “leopard punches” in close range. Fast footwork is used to step into range and then out of it, with counterattacks that are sudden, quick and indirect, with the aim of striking at vulnerable areas to debilitate and cripple the opponent.

    Leopard Style does not block when it could attack (or to do both at once), and stances never sacrifice speed for stability. The style was supposedly based on the hit-and-run tactics of a hunting leopard, which allows it to take down prey larger than itself, so that a fighter could overwhelm and destroy a larger opponent. As a Shaolin martial art, this is one of the Chinese styles that Ensei is familiar with, though his actual training in it is limited.

    Choy Gar: “Choy Family Fist,” known as Caijiaquan in Mandarin. This style was founded in the 17th century by Choy Gau Lee, one of the “Five Family Elders;” this is different from the Five Elders of Shaolin, but closely related to them. One of the Five Elders, Jee Sin Sim See, taught five students who all founded famous martial arts styles that they passed on through their own family lines; these are the Five Family Elders.

    Choy Gar is a style created with self-defense in a specific environment in mind. Stances are low and stable and footwork is swift; the body and arms mimic the quick strikes of the snake. Unlike the many wide stances and open techniques of Northern martial arts, Choy Gar’s more contained movements and tighter stances make it better utilized in the cramped, crowded alleys and streets of the many megacities of Southern China. In Choy Gar, the strength of the lower body is paramount; strong legs are considered a necessity to practice the style because of the low style and the prevalence of powerful kicking techniques used to capitalize on openings made by the quick, deceptive strikes with the arms.

    Choy Li Fut: Known in Mandarin as Cai Li Fo. This martial art was founded (and named after) an amalgam of styles learned by its founder.

    Choy Li Fut was founded as a style in 1836 by Chan Heung (1806-1875), who learned Choy Gar from a Buddhist monk named Choy Fook, Li Gar from a man named Li Yau-San, and Fut Gar from his uncle, Chan Yuen-Wu. Having learned three of the Five Family Styles, Chan combined them into a style he created to honor them all and the heritage they represented. He founded his school at the local family temple in the village of his birth, but as his reputation spread. Hundreds of people came from surrounding villages to learn from him. In 1839, Chan Heung was forced to close his school temporarily to fight in the First Opium War (1839-42); his experiences with the ineffectual bureaucracy and corruption of the Qing government, which he blamed for the war’s loss, inspired Chan to leave his home to set up many Choy Li Fut schools throughout Southern China to spread both his martial arts and anti-Qing revolutionary sentiments. This connection with anti-Qing revolutionaries has given the style a fairly interesting history that’s been the subject of many a story.

    As noted above, Choy Li Fut is an amalgam of several martial arts that ultimately derived from Shaolin; as such, it incorporates various aspects of Northern and Southern styles: the powerful arm and hand techniques of several Shaolin animal styles from the South, with the extended circular movements, twisting body, and agile footwork of Northern Shaolin. The style is noted for dramatic twists of the upper body and “whipping” motions of the arms to build up greater power, as well as stances whose height strikes a middle ground between the very low, rooted stances of styles like Hung Ga and the very high, agile stances of styles like Wing Chun, to try to attain a middle ground between stability and speed. It is a very comprehensive martial art system, with strikes at various ranges, locks, grapples, takedowns, and weapon techniques.

    Bruce Lee, otherwise noted for being very critical of many other Chinese martial arts as being ineffective in modern contexts, complimented Choy Li Fut highly: “Choy Li Fut is the most effective system I’ve seen for fighting more than one person. It is one of the most difficult styles to attack and defend against. Choy Li Fut is the only style that traveled to Thailand to fight the Thai boxers and hadn’t lost.”
     
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