Late! Late for a very important… class

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.”

An Implausible Conspiracy is Introduced
We continue the story of a Dodgy Dojo

For some reason I cannot adequately explain, even to myself, I'm trying to write and to write better. So if you like my story let me know. All feedback is appreciated.

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7 comments on “Late! Late for a very important… class
  1. Thaumaturgical_Support says:

    Hopefully Jun’s teaching style is reasonable if eccentric. It seems to me there aren’t that many ways to hit people if you’re being really honest about what makes one hit different from another. Closed fist, open hand, jab, roundhouse, chop; but that’s about it right? You can give a punch different names based on it being high or low but I don’t think it’s really *different*. Then again, I do not know karate; I’d be happy to rework things a bit if I’m off the mark and someone can provide insight.

    It’s also important to note Jun isn’t teaching a “style” nor is he particularly interested in ceremonial trappings. He does the belts because it’s expected and it’s a good way to assess progress, but mostly if you’re in his class you’re worried someone will try to hurt you and you’re comfortably convinced that jumping on their face is the best offence. If I’d known it existed when I wrote this page I might have said he was teaching Krav Maga, but probably not because I don’t really know much about how that’s done. The goal is the same: end the fight fast and hard, don’t get fancy.

    • Kim says:

      Kind of yes, kind of no.
      The first thing to learn in any “self-defense” class is how to fall.
      With anything somatic, you’re trying to teach it as instinct. It’s possible to build up a decent combo that you know by heart. Boxers can know “jab Jab hook”, or something like that.

  2. COB says:

    Tried adding this comment (and a half dozen others) a few weeks ago. Not sure if they hit a spam filter. Trying again:

    I have a question aboiut the ethnicity of this teacher and school. Karate is a Japanese form, while the teacher (and decor) come from Guangzhou China. (The given name Junshan could work in both countries.)

    Finding a Chinese teacher of Karate would surprise me. Maybe you meant Kung Fu?

    • Thaumaturgical_Support says:

      I’ve checked and I can confirm your comments were lost when the site had problems and had to be restored from backup. There’s no way I can really put them back now but they’re still in my email so I can respond!

      * I’m glad you liked the cover. I’ve been meaning to make one for the second book but haven’t quite gotten around to it yet.
      * Chi exists more broadly in martial arts in the story setting because magic is a big part of everyone’s life and makes for a good way to enhance your punches. Of course, if a world had magic of the sort I describe, it probably wouldn’t be called “chi” at all or seen as mystical any more then shuffling your feet across a rug and shocking someone is seen as mystical. However, I’m going to claim the mystical associations with magic continue in setting because meditation and the like is a big part of working magic.
      * Thanks for all the corrections! I made them when I saw them the first time around, but I suppose I’ve lost that as well….

  3. Thaumaturgical_Support says:

    As I imagined it, Jun is Chinese but isn’t very big on formal trapings and has called it Karate because he finds anything else tends to confuse inexperienced American students. Mostly he teaches “how to throw a small set of punches well”.

    BUT that might not be reasonable. I don’t know much the subject, and my research only took me so far.

    Sorry your earlier comment got eaten. There has been some site instability that might have caused that. Also I’ll check the spam filter tomorrow.

    • Isa Lumitus says:

      What you’ve told us here about Jun’s teaching isn’t unreasonable. I’m not a blackbelt or anything, but around college I dabbled a bit in Karate, Aikido, Tang So Do, and Tai Kwan Do.

      Between those, a lot of the basic motions are the same, the main difference is exactly where the emphasis is placed. I can think of seven kicks I was taught, not counting jumping versions. I got the impression that only two of them were practical in a fight. Maybe three.

      There was a saying that I heard from a couple different instructors, “I do not fear the man that knows a thousand kicks one time. I fear the man that knows one kick, a thousand times.” That’s basically all the explanation you need to justify practicing the same few ‘moves’ over and over.

      For belt colors, if you have no idea: Black is usually the best. White is usually the starter, or close to it. Brighter colors are usually lower. Aside from that, I haven’t seen any pattern across styles.

      For the comment about learning to fall first? That’s always taught before going into trips and throws, but some styles teach strikes first. Falling has to be taught before takedowns so your partner doesn’t get hurt. Aikido did the most of that, but its ‘philosophy’ sounds almost like the exact opposite of Jun’s.

      The story I was taught about Aikido is that it was made by a master of another style who decided one day that killing everyone might not be the best way to go through life. As a result, it focused a lot on softer things like throws and and trips, and ignored things like crushing someone’s windpipe. As I said, opposite of Junshan’s style.

    • COB says:

      In my (limited) experience, chi (or qi) gets the ‘matter of fact’ treatment that you describe in the “internal” martial arts moreso than the “external.” Rather than risk opening up a huge can of martial-arts worms, I’ll repeat that this is a generalization based upon my (limited) understanding and leave it at that.

      You still have a cultural stew in these Dojo sections. It might just be me, but the terms trip me up, much as if someone wrote about an HTML compiler or a Python Runtime Environment. Not knowing about scripting, I’d skim past the computer-ish terms — but you’d probably find them disconcerting.

      I’d suggest more abstract terms. For example, “karate” is specific; “kung fu” or “martial arts” is general. “Dojo” is somewhat specific; “studio” or “class” is general.

      Thus, a karate dojo with a Zen garden sets up an expectation of Japanese culture and teachers. A martial arts studio with a dragon statue… could be many asian cultures.

      And if you don’t change a thing, they’re still a great couple of chapters.

      (also, my experience with Chinese vs. Western teachers and their studios pretty well matches what you wrote)

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