UNARMED COMBAT?

My father taught me combat from an early age.    I was an apt pupil.

The first lesson in the  art of combat is only to engage in fights you can win.   Clearly I was never going to win in any physical contest, so I always carefully avoided those.   But sometimes when a child, it is impossible to sidestep a fight.   I recall one pig-tailed tomboyish girl at school whom I had scarcely noticed (I cannot even recall her name) who announced one day she was going to fight me after school.   I looked at her incredulously.   “Why?” I asked.   “We have no quarrel.”   (I refrained from saying, and who are you anyway?)   She declined to give any reason.    I advised her  against it and walked away.   But she was tough and strong and I gave the matter some consideration.    At that time children wore leather school bags that were worn with two straps over the shoulders.   Mine was always heavy with books.    I thought my challenger would have the sense to go on her way – after all, we had no quarrel – but just in case…   I unfastened one of the straps and carried the bag in my hand, concealing that the strap was unfastened.   As I came out of school – late, to have given her time to think better of it and depart – there she was with her little band of supporters, incongruous with her pigtails tied up with  red ribbons.    Drat, I thought, as she squared up for the fight.   I never said a word but walked  straight towards her.   Some instinct for survival must lend you the timing at these times, for lord knows I had no practice or skill in physical combat.   I did not alter my pace, but as I came near her I swung the heavy bag at her head.    She fell.   I walked on.   I did wonder with some slight anxiety if she had been injured but reflected that the fight was not of my choosing and I had advised her against it.

Next day, she appeared at school, apparently uninjured, and relations between us were cordially neutral thereafter.   No-one ever mentioned the incident to me again.

So the second rule of combat appears to be ruthlessness.    You should avoid conflict wherever possible, but if challenged or forced to a fight, then it’s war.   Afterwards, when you’ve defeated the enemy, then you can be as magnanimous or generous as you like, but during the battle you must  employ every available tactic to win.   Victory or death.

In a long drawn out campaign, if the battle has been conducted properly, there will come a moment when our warrior has the enemy in his sights.   Perhaps this is why in films the truly deadly fighter is often portrayed as silent and still.   He is watching and waiting for the moment when his opponent makes a mistake.   He knows this opportunity will only come once and fleetingly.   He must recognise the moment and act with lethal precision.

So, let us assume our warrior has learnt the arts of warfare well.    He must behave to the highest standards, given the assumption that combat is a deadly art.   But even if he wins; if he becomes the champion, the Lancelot of his day, he faces some unhappy scenarios.    Firstly, he must live his life in a state of defensive alert at all times.     He is the Champion of all champions, and it is by defeat of him, and only him, that a rival for his title will be recognised in his own right.    As our hero gets older and more assured, he may become arrogant and complacent, and if he does this then eventually a challenger will come who will overthrow him.   If you live by the sword, you will die by the sword.   But even if our champion really is heroic;  if he fights for justice, not for profit or glory;   if he is patient towards fools and does not destroy them because he can;   if he is generous in victory;  if he only fights when all alternatives have been rejected…    He may well remain unvanquished, but he will end up alone, victorious on a hill, surrounded by the dead bodies of his enemies.

Finally, there is the terrible possibility that the assailant who rises up to challenge him is someone he loves.    What will he do when the moment comes when this enemy’s neck is open to his sword?    All his instincts, his life long experience, urge him to raise his arm and strike.    For him, it would be as easy as taking a breath.   He will still be champion, and who could argue the case against him?   So will he stay his hand, or will he cut?     Or perhaps he will have learnt the wisdom to have seen this coming, and to have gone on his way?   Avoiding a few squabbles with silly schoolgirls hardly qualifies me to be a warrior prince, so I cannot give the answer but it seems to me, even if victory is pretty well guaranteed, the destruction of the enemy can never be a wholly desirable outcome.   Peace is a better alternative.

As for she of the pigtails of long ago, I am sorry that I do not remember her name.    She had pluck, and she was gracious in defeat, which was certainly more than I would have been.     I hope that life was good to her.

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About adhocannie
I am a good natured woman with a long memory and a swift tongue. I like loooking at things and thinking about them. Also food, clothes, travel, reading, sewing. I try to see the ridiculous in things, but sobriety of reflection keeps edgting in. I have husband, children, grandchildren, friends... I feel rich in things that matter. I am a happy exile. I like writing. I do not like talking about me (though I do.). You willl be much more interesting.

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