Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Taoist Fighting Monk

From Deng Ming Dao:

"When the gatekeeper announced the entrance of a challenger, all the students expected a quick resolution. But this time when Wang Ziping looked up and saw a wiry man about 70 years old, he paused. Wang could size up a man at a glance. This one had skill.

The stranger was tall and quite thin. His white hair was cut into a severe crew cut, and he had a long beard, the symbol of an elder. He evidently spent alot of time outdoors, for his skin was as brown as teakwood. Saihung noticed that his hands were long and flexible. Wang Ziping was a heavyweight. The man was like a stick figure before him.

'I know your reputation' began the stranger politely. He held his clasped hands in front of him in the gesture of respect.

'I do not believe in isolating myself in a mountain retreat. I believe in testing my skill against skilled people. If I win, then I know that old age has not yet bested me. If I lose, then I know the weak points I have to correct.'

'I have heard of men like you,' responded Wang. 'You are interested only in the pinnacle of skill.'

'I would like to see if I have made progress in my practices. Would you oblige me?'

Wang could not refuse. His honor was at stake.

They began to circle each other warily. Neither made any flamboyant moves. There were no fancy postures, no talking, no tricks. Two dedicated martial artists who would, if nothing else, uphold the dignity of the challenge and themselves.

From the first clash, Saihung could see that his teacher was at a disadvantage. The stranger hit Wang repeatedly, hard enough to make booming sounds but not enough to injure him.

They fought in fifteen minute rounds. Wang was tiring. The older man was not even breathing hard. Wang Ziping tried every technique that he knew, he still could not best his challenger. In all they fought four rounds for a bout that lasted over an hour. It was the challenger who stopped the contest.

'Thank you for indulging me,' said the man politely at the end of the final round.

Totally anonymous and without students or career, the old man cared for only his art. Yet nothing about his persona hinted at this attainment."

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