On Saturday morning, at 9 am, Kyle was already running late. He sat at the front of the local line bus and alternated between glancing at his watch nervously, and looking out the window nervously.
He shouldn’t be late. He’d been awake by 3 am. That should have given him plenty of time to get anywhere. He hadn’t wanted to be awake at such a ridiculous hour, but he’d gone to bed at 7 pm and 8 hours of sleep had apparently been enough for his body. His schedule was completely confused from the migraines. He’d assumed he’d be fine yesterday since work had been easy, but then he’d fallen asleep in front of the TV.
To pass the time, he’d gone down to his lab. Of course, the space hadn’t been intended to be a magical laboratory. It was intended to be a single car garage. But Kyle didn’t own a car. He did own a lot of advanced magical, engineering, and computer equipment. Surely that made calling the humble space a “laboratory” reasonable.
That morning, he’d lost track of time. He frequently did when work was going well. Last night it had been excellent; he had the sun burns to prove it. He probably wouldn’t have made his bus at all except the magical battery he’d been using to power his experiments had run flat. He probably could have run them using his own energy, but he tried not to do that because of all the time he spent over-extending himself at work. While mentally debating the issue he’d looked at the clock, realized the time, grabbed his stuff, and sprinted out the door.
Kyle watched his destination approach through the small cloudy sphere on the window that expanded and contracted with his breathing. There’d been a cold snap during the night and the air outside was freezing, or just above. The morning weather had said it would warm up later in the day, but at 9 am things were still chilly. The bus pulled to a halt at the intersection of Taylor and Union. Kyle got off the bus along with a vastly over dressed old lady, and a vastly under dressed teenage girl. He hurried across the street checking his watch as he went. It was 9:01. Master Jun give demerits for arriving late to class, and with a demerit on his record he couldn’t participate in the current round of belt testing.
Fortunately the small Dojo, “Steel Dragon self-defense”, was just across the street and when Kyle hurried in the front door Master Jun Shan was still pulling equipment out of the storage room aided by his eldest black belt, Jill. Shan shot Kyle a quick look as he entered and narrowed one eye, but didn’t say anything. Kyle breathed a sigh of relief.
The Steel Dragon was a tacky cheap looking little place. Long ago Kyle had decided this just made it more authentic. If you were an American and you were going to teach martial arts you’d want an “Eastern looking” building; something light and airy with lots of natural building materials. You’d put some classic Chinese water colors on the walls, and if you were really well-funded you might even drop a Zen garden behind the building. But if you were really Chinese you wouldn’t know Americans expected any of that and you’d just build and teach however you had in China.
Master Jun Shen had emigrated to the US from Guangzhou where he had taught unarmed self-defense in a dodgy neighborhood. He’d opened the Steel Dragon to carry on that work. It was located in a small slot in one of the area’s cheaper strip malls. It wasn’t particularly light and the buildings materials were mostly “scuffed up off-white”. He had scattered a few Chinese decor items around but they were all low rent kitsch. A ceramic statue of either a lion or a dog guarded the door. Its face was cracked and Kyle thought the line of that damage made its snarl seem somewhat mentally handicapped. In the winter Master Shen hung his coat over it so, as Kyle entered, it was dressed for the cold.
Kyle smiled; no doubt its mother worried if it went out in less.
Master Shen advertised his class as “karate for self-defense”. It was closer to unarmed assault and murder. The class taught two or four hand strikes, depending on what traits made two strikes different. Students practiced using them to hit the kidneys, neck, or weaker portions of the rib-cage. Two chops were taught. They were for use only when an attacker was too close for a strike and should hit a joint or the neck. Jun’s philosophy on kicks was similar. He taught a limited set, made sure his students could throw them perfectly, and was careful to explain which one was best for shattering which joint. Most disturbingly the class taught three forms of stomp. From a standing start you could do a forefoot or heel stomp to break the toes of a standing attacker. With a jumping start you could execute a “flying stomp.”
Master Jun had introduced it by explaining, “Very good if your attacker is on ground. Aim for the hand, joints, head, or neck. Neck is best, almost always ends attack.”