The Art of Fighting Without Fighting

“In the 16th Century, there was a famous samurai named Tsukahara Bokuden. In the Kōyō Gunkan, a famous anecdote is told of Bokuden’s encounter with a mannerless ruffian. When asked about his style, Bokuden replied that he studied the “Style of No Sword”. The ruffian laughed and challenged Bokuden to fight. Bokuden agreed but suggested they row out to a nearby island on a lake to avoid disturbing others. The ruffian agreed, but when he jumped from the boat to the shore of the island, Bokuden pushed the boat back out, leaving the ruffian stranded on the island. Bokuden explained: ‘This is my no-sword school’.”

I usually focus on the details of fighting but we should also constantly remind ourselves that our first duty is to avoid violence.

As you can see in my list of articles, I have included many examples of unfortunate or rash men paying heavily for fighting carelessly, with penalties such as accidentally causing a death and prison sentences.

Part of the Eastern warrior tradition involves work transcending the ego and most confrontations in the world can be avoided through either clever ruses such as that employed by Bokunden (and Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon) or (more painfully) by declining to engage, which often means “letting it go” and allowing another man to appear to “get away” with whatever insults or slights that might be involved.

Guys trying to start fights will usually call into question your manhood, imply you are gay, etc.

It is often difficult, but it is best to not allow idiots to manipulate your emotions and draw you into conflicts in which you have no real stake.  Of course, I say this even though in these situations, I too get the adrenal response, with itchy fists and clenchy muscles and the urge to surprise the bully with a sudden blast of violence.

“Do you know what I could do to you?” I think.

But I can’t let this arrive on my face.  In reality, I want to get out of this situation without conflict.  I’ll apologize if necessary (although of course I want to put them in the hospital!).  But that’s thinking as if you are in a movie, and not real life where they come and take you away for assualt.

In reality, there are only small subsets of people who can be violent without consequence.

One is if you are drifting and have no fixed address.  If violence happens, you can just leave town.

Two, if you have very good connections.  If you are well-connected, the cops may look the other way or you can lawyer up.

But for most of us, its way better to avoid conflict through resolution or even giving the bully “face” as they say (which is what they are usually after).  Let them have their moment, knowing inside what you could do (and will do if they cross the line over into assault on you or yours).

This is not even addressing the fact that you will feel really bad when you discover that the guy you accidentally killed or put in the hosptial, although he was an asshole, he also had kids and a wife and responsibilities, or a mother who loved him.

Again, its only in the movies that can dispense violence with impunity.  In the real world, these acts have consequences.

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Martial Arts Movies: Ninja Assassin (2009)

“He doesn’t look like a killing machine. He looks like he should be in a boy band.”

Ninja-Assassin-2009* An entry from my other site, The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen.

Ninja Assassin is what all the Ninja movies of the 70s and 80s wished they could have been when they grew up.

The subject matter lends itself to a treatment which captures the mystery created by legends of magical powers such as invisibility, plus the ruthlessness inherent in the idea of a culture of assassination, but all the Ninja movies in the West usually resulted in low budget films full of people running around in broad daylight dressed all in black (totally defeating the purpose!).

While there have been impressive Japanese productions which displayed the potential for the subject (Shogun Assassin for example), the Ninja movies made in the States usually sucked.

Again, I have to invoke the genre grading curve, but Ninja Assassin is just a lot of fun!

I’ts the perfect cadidate for this site, which tries to raise up forgotten or overlooked films, especially the sort in the cheesy but fun category.

Ninja Assassin deserves attention a wider fan base.  Its a fun, violent, and beautifully made little action flick.

James McTeigue, who cut his teeth as the first assistant director for the Wachowskis on all the Matrix movies, who stepped into his own on the pretty good V for Vendetta and the not so good (I hear) The Raven, really made his best movie so far with this under appreciated martial arts bloodbath.


Donnie Yen: Ip Man 3 and Star Wars

From The Straits Times:

Donnie Yen has been telling reporters lately that he will retire from making Kung Fu movies after the soon-to-be-released final film in the Ip Man trilogy.

“I don’t know if I can find another character in a gongfu movie which can satisfy the artistic desire as well as the audience’s expectations.”

“Ip Man is so rooted in the fans’ hearts and I believe I’ve played that role quite successfully. I’m not sure if it will be a wise decision for me to search for another (gongfu) role.”

He is set to star in two more blockbuster franchises – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon II and Rogue One, a Star Wars spin-off which is reputed to be the story of how Princess Leia got her hands on the Death Star plans.

“It’s a good learning experience for me to be in such a big franchise. The very first sci-fi movie I saw when I was a teenager was Star Wars and I never thought that I would be co-starring in one many years later.”

As many of his previous films contain relatively violent fight scenes, he says: “It’s about time I can take my kids to watch my movie. Star Wars is a family movie and I think kids will love it.”

Ip Man 3 opens in Asia on Christmas Eve this year.

One of the highlights of the movie will be the explosive duels between Yen and heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson, who is in the cast.

Yen accidentally broke Mike’s finger during one of the scenes.

“Accidents do happen and it was purely an accident. It’s movie-making, it wasn’t a boxing match or a combat match. I think Mike and I will provide a very exciting fight.”


Sledgehammer Blows in One Place

“The giants of the race have been men of concentration, who have struck sledge-hammer blows in one place until they have accomplished their purpose. The successful men of today are men of one overmastering idea, one unwavering aim, men of single and intense purpose.”
―Orison Swett Marden

While this sounds vaguely racist, it also sounds a lot like a recipe for doing Wing Chun well, from the nuts and bolts mechanics of chain punching to the best way to achieve your martial goals.

I’ve come across this idea again and again in many different contexts and have found it to be the best way to accomplish goals.

You have to pick something to be your number one thing and pour all of your effort on it.

Just as in a fight, you have to find your way to the target, avoiding or stripping away obstacles, and then when you find the target, you pour your attack through that hole and concentrate your firepower on the one point.



The Book of Five Rings

“Make your fight stance your everyday stance; make your everyday stance your fight stance.”
Miyamoto Mushashi

“Study strategy over the years and achieve the spirit of the warrior. Today is victory over yourself of yesterday; tomorrow is your victory over lesser men.”
Miyamoto Mushashi

“If you wish to control others you must first control yourself”
Miyamoto Mushashi

“You can only fight the way you practice.”
Miyamoto Mushashi

Vagabond“The primary thing when you take a sword in your hands is your intention to cut the enemy, whatever the means. Whenever you parry, hit, spring, strike or touch the enemy’s cutting sword, you must cut the enemy in the same movement. It is essential to attain this. If you think only of hitting, springing, striking or touching the enemy, you will not be able actually to cut him.”
Miyamoto Mushashi

“When you decide to attack, keep calm and dash in quickly, forestalling the enemy…attack with a feeling of constantly crushing the enemy, from first to last.”
Miyamoto Mushashi

The great sword saint of Japan was undefeated in 60 duels, all to the death, the first at age 13.

Author of The Book of Five Rings (Go Rin No Sho), a timeless book on strategy and philosophy.

The epitome of walking the walk.

There are many excellent stories of his life, including his own book (Five Rings), the classic novel, Musashi: An Epic Novel of the Samurai Era, the three 1950s films starring Toshiro Mifune (Samurai I: Musashi Miyamoto, Samurai II: Duel at Ichijoji Temple, and Samurai III: Duel at Ganryu Island), and several manga, including Vagabond.

The main thing I learned from Musashi (and the Hagakure) is the necessity of accepting death as a prerequisite to maintaining clarity in the midst of a life and death struggle.  Can I do it in practice?  This remains to be seen – but I think of it and work on it.  I think of it as walking the razor’s edge, with destruction to the left and right and survival only forward on the slender thread of the blade.

In many ways, its the truth.  While statistically, you will live to be 77, we live in a world ruled by hazard, with a thin veil between our normal world and chaos.  I often think of the Germany of the early 1930s.  They were completely modern (telephones, airplanes, etc) yet within a few years, they veered off into the abyss and if you were the wrong religion or sexual orientation or race, your whole world went veering off the tracks.  People were butchered by the millions, shot in the streets, robbed of everything they had, raped ,experimented on.

One day it was civilization, and a few weeks later, they were in a completely different world with different rules.

And this sort of the thing happens in the world a lot more than you might think.  We’ve been lucky in the US for the last forty years or so.  You might say we haven’t had a war on our soil since the Civil War but regular guys got sent to WW II and Korea and Vietnam and for them, if they ended up on or behind the line. it was pretty much the same.  Murder is OK.  Raping and pillaging are going on.  The rules are swept away.

I think of being a warrior as someone who can land on their feet (as much as its possible) in such a collapse of the ordinary structures of society (even if the lack is only local to that space or moment) and protect yourself and your loved ones.

Of course, one man cannot oppose a country (unless you’re in a movie) but you can do more and have a better chance if you (and your friends) are capable of violence and of the clear thinking under stress that training in violence produces.

But just playing in the shallow end isn’t going to do it; you’ve got to train seriously, with your very serious goals in mind.

The Book of Five Rings

Vagabond, Vol. 1 (VIZBIG Edition)