I have been asked, "Where do you get your inspiration for the fighting in the Kan Savasci Cycle."
This post will address it through a story. I will preface the story thusly: I begun my martial arts studies at the age of seven. I have taken breaks here and there, with a long stretch (~20 years) of consistent practice and training. Part of my training, as a young adult, after years of training in the US, and Spain, took place in China, where I lived, expressly, to continue my martial arts study. I lived there for a few years.
The below story takes place in the Jiangsu Province of China....
I stood staring into a kung-fu master’s eyes as I heard Chinese words floating vaguely through the air. The smile he had was now nothing more than a memory. Surrounding the tattered mat were several of his students, two other kung-fu teachers, and a beautiful young woman. All eyes were focused on the competition underway, one I had somehow managed to be at the center of. Not the first time I managed to boldly stumble into a precarious position.
It all began innocently enough. A brief introduction to the Chinese masters, and a simple request to show them some martial art forms. At first I felt a little like a character I’d been writing about, as my movements were swift and sure. My body responded to my thoughts, whipping about as I had been trained. The feeling faded rapidly as I somehow forgot a few critical moves in the middle of the form. Too late to stop, nothing to do but create a few of my own. If only my master could see me now!
One of the masters spoke up; I nodded and smiled as I struggled to understand their heavily accented Mandarin. No doubt praising my kung fu.
The forms “test” was done, they’d seen what they wanted, and apparently I had just agreed to fight their top student. Note to self, don’t nod and smile when you don’t understand what the hell is being said. I listened to their guttural tones as they discussed a series of rules with my friend, June.
“Don’t kick him in this area,” June’s hands moved shyly over her groin area, “and don’t hurt him,” she paused, “Be careful.”
It sounded like the guy had said far more than that, but there was nothing to do but step forward. So there I was, facing a young man, who I’d recently seen kick the hell out of a large heavy bag. He had a nervous glean in his eye, and the set of his shoulders already indicated submission. I knew I could take him.
The fight didn’t last long; certainly nothing like the movies. I chased him around the mat, constantly forcing him back and staying close enough to make it harder for him to kick. I risked a glance at June. Her face was a mask of concern and interest. I rapidly closed the distance with a series of chain punches, pummeling through his defenses, and ending the fight. We were called off the mat. I walked up to the masters and their plastered smiles. Well that was fun, time to go home.
A stern glance was exchanged between the student and the top master, his instructor. The top master of the school then stepped onto the mat, shrugging off a simple coat. My breath slowed and settled deep within my stomach. Once more I glanced at my surroundings. My eyes jumped from the crumbling white walls cast in yellow pools of light, to the expressionless, stolid masters, then finally to June’s worried features.
I turned my gaze and now stared into my opponent’s eyes, gauging him, undistracted by the echoing words of a bystander. Somewhere in the back of my mind the words registered, “trained in Anhui province close to Songshan - where the Shaolin still train.” Words shall not be my undoing, breathe and focus.
Responding to unspoken queues and with little fanfare the fight began. He advanced immediately, using the same tactic I had used just moments ago. I however didn’t back up, choosing instead to side step him, cutting diagonals off his center-line. I was used to close combat training, and when he came close again I found an opening and struck. I hit him with enough force to make him step back and change tactics. A friendly match, don’t hurt him - were the words still ringing in my head, along with the image of June mimicking the forbidden area.
He sprang forward yet again, but I was already advancing and his blow glanced off my forearm. My fist shot forward in a rapid straight punch, weaving through the hole in his defense. There was a rewarding crunch as it smashed into his skull. Before either of us could blink I had reformed my offensive posture, forcing him to back pedal yet again.
I threw another punch; he ducked and deftly spun about. Time slowed as it so often does just before a painful mistake. I watched from the corner of my eye as a back-fist approached my face. One could say I admired it as it arched through the air. Unfortunately that was my only response.
I was too late and his fist struck me square in the side of my head. The world sped back up to normal. I spun about to absorb the impact as best as I could, taking a more defensive posture. I stole a glimpse of one of the other masters smirking, while flashing stars danced playfully at the edges of my vision. The rhythm of my breathing was broken, and for a moment I stumbled rather than glided upon the dirty surface of the over-used surface.
My opponent came forward rapidly, seeing that I was mildly dazed. He came in low to grab my legs in hopes of throwing me over his body. I responded quickly, knocking his head to the side with one arm as the other sank into the top of his neck. I now held him in a vice-like grip, controlling his head and therefore his body.
“Stop!” A man shouted in Mandarin before turning to my lovely friend and telling her about my ‘illegal’ maneuver.
I struggled to listen as my heart pumped heavily in my ears. Once again we were squared off on the mat, the big nosed foreigner staring down the Chinese master. I focused on every detail of this surreal scene, just barely noticing the subtle dance of fear that played across his face. This caught my interest and I carefully studied his intent, attempting to illicit his next move. He blinked and shifted his weight, and already I could see his repeated pattern.
The kung-fu master leapt forward, angling for an aggressive tackling take down. My mind flashed through options. Not allowed to pin his neck, shouldn’t knee him in the face. Too many thoughts.
He slammed into my knee. I twisted with the force of impact, but I wasn’t fast enough. A loud pop filled the air and I collapsed into a half kneeling position. It was over, he had won. Tricky bastard. I slowly stood on an uncertain leg, still tingling from the rush of adrenaline. I fumbled my thanks, oddly to the man who had just slammed into my leg.
I turned to June, her watery eyes filled with concern.
“It’s time to go.” I said.
The feeling of strength faded, replaced by the pulsing warmth of pain. It felt good.