The Martial Arts Parable


When you finish writing a book, you look back at where you started and realize that your vision is not what you finished. The work takes on a life of its own. When I started Earth Dragon Canon I had a vision for a fictional account of my martial arts journey through the eyes of a young child and his uncle.

A condensed version of that original work did survive in the finished produ as The Martial Arts Parable. When I decided to post the parable as its own page on The Walking Circle it became the most discussed and shared piece on the site. It is also the chapter many mention when discussing Earth Dragon Canon with me.

It is appropriate then, that the parable be the first piece shared on the new site. Since it had an impact on so many, I am encouraging you to share it as well. I am releasing the The Real Meaning of Practice, a Martial Arts Parable under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported license. Which is the geek way of saying that you are allowed to redistribute it for commercial and non-commercial purposes as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to Troy Williams, and a link to thewalkingcircle.com.

Click on the Creative Commons logo and link at the end for the skinny.

You can get the Google Doc with the complete text and license attribution here.

Stay in touch, Troy.

The Real Meaning of Practice, a Martial Arts Parable

Teneke was smaller and slower than all his classmates. On his way to school each morning the bigger kids would take his lunch, and after school they would push him into the dirt as they ran by him. To protect himself, Teneke would avoid playing with the other kids, and hide in his room, reading and watching television.

At night, Teneke would watch the World Fighting Show and dream of having the skills of Bone Cutter--the World Fighting Show champion--so he could beat the bullies, take their lunch, and push them into the dirt. But, the next morning he would walk to school in fear of the bullies, and try to avoid them.

Teneke’s great uncle owned a martial art school where he taught the same martial art Bone Cutter bragged about on television.

Sometimes Teneke would sit in on his great uncle’s classes and watch the students practice. When he would ask his great uncle to teach him how to fight like Bone Cutter, his uncle would say that is just television and pretend. That no one can fight like Bone Cutter, and that he just does and says those things to make money.

Teneke would insist, and his uncle would finally relent. Instead of teaching Teneke the Splitting Chop that Bone Cutter would use to send his opponents out of the ring, his great uncle would just ask him to stand with his arms up and his legs deeply bent.

Teneke, feeling that he was finally learning his great uncle’s martial art would stand for a few minutes, but his legs, and arms would begin to hurt and he would stop. When he would ask to learn something else, his great uncle would just have him go and stand again, saying that he was not ready to learn something new.

Finally, Teneke would just stop and leave the class, thinking that his uncle did not want to teach him.

One day, Teneke tried to resist one of the bullies. He had been watching carefully in his great uncle’s class as the students learned the Splitting Chop movement. After a couple of hours of practice, Teneke was sure that he could execute a Splitting Chop to the bully and defeat him.

Instead, the bully punched Teneke in the face, and made his nose bleed. Teneke, feeling humiliated, ran to the martial art school and knocked on the door. His great uncle opened the door and asked what had happened. Teneke explained that a bully had punched him in the nose and made him bleed.

Teneke was crying and blaming his great uncle for not being as skilled as Bone Cutter with his Splitting Chop movement.

“What do you mean?” asked his great uncle.

Teneke explained that he had watched in class and practiced the Splitting Chop movement in secret. But, the bully beat him up anyway.

“Have you been practicing the standing postures I showed you?” his great uncle asked.

Teneke replied that he had not. They were boring, and made his arms and legs hurt. “Can’t you just teach me the Splitting Chop movement the way Bone Cutter does it?”

Finally, his great uncle relented and said that, “If you want to learn the Splitting Chop movement, then you must become my disciple.”

Teneke was overjoyed, but his great uncle continued, “To be my disciple, you must do all the exercises that I tell you, for as long as I tell you to do them. Do you understand?”

Teneke was so happy to hear that his great uncle would accept him as a disciple, that he agreed to the conditions without realizing that he was just going to be standing around again.

Teneke studied every night after that incident. When his arms and legs would start to hurt, he would remind himself that he was his great uncle’s disciple and had to persevere.

As the weeks and months passed, Teneke’s health began to improve. He was not the smallest and slowest in his class anymore, and since he was proud to be his great uncle’s disciple, he did not try to hide from his classmates. As his health improved, the bullies stopped pushing Teneke down and taking his lunch. Some days, they would even walk with Teneke and he would play games with them after school.

Teneke did not notice this change in the bullies, or his own behavior. He was concerned with his martial art practice and not with taking revenge on the bullies.

Then, one evening, his great uncle asked if Teneke would like to learn the Splitting Chop fist. Suddenly, Teneke remembered why he had been training so hard. Full of understanding, Teneke turned to his great uncle and said, “I don’t need to know the Splitting Chop fist, Great Uncle. But, if you show it to me, I will practice it.” With a tear in his eye, Teneke’s great uncle began the instruction.


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The Real Meaning of Practice, a Martial Arts Parable by Troy Williams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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