Monday, July 18, 2005


The golden rays of the noonday sun were merciless on the beaten ground, the baked soil almost crackling with the terrible heat. But the large crowd of people standing about the premises were heedless of their discomfort; another event was taking place that transcended mere mortal affliction.

They stood on opposite sides of the field, the centre of a large space of sunbaked earth, surrounded on all sides by spectators. They wore simple robes that flared at the sleeves, not inhibiting the wrists. Holding long, fine slender swords that shimmered in the sunlight, they bowed to each other, then, to a group of clustered elders. Solemnly, a brass bell sounded, sonorous in the yawning silence.

The two swordsmen ran at each other, their steps light and in tandem. The veneer of strained concentration was emanating from both, but coupled with a sense of carefree confidence and anticipation of a well-played tournament. At the last moment, both leapt lightly into the air, lithe bodies twirling, well-heeled wrists twisting as they brought their weapons to bear at each other-

The sound of impact reveberated into silence as the two competitors landed back on the ground, swords grappling with each other. As if from some unconscious agreement one of the fighters brought his sword away, and blindingly fast, crouched low, sword flaring in a well-aimed swing at the limbs only to be parried swiftly with a backhanded hold. The swordsman smiled and brought up his weapon in a thrust that was swiftly diverted with a blow on the left side, even as the pair of swordsmen leapt sideways in opposite directions, swords ringing clear and resonant in the sunlight haze.

Swift procession of thrust-parry-swing-block, the dominant sound the metallic ring of ephemeral contact of steel, even as the fight flowed gracefully from end to end of the combat ring. One daring swipe brought a blade dangerously close to a neck, blocked only by the blinding speed of an equally daring parry. For a moment there was a tense reprieve. Perspiration fell onto the sun-parched earth, onto the swords themselves. Then the crystal silence was broken as the serpentine hold of sword-upon-neck was broken. Duck-jump-thrust-parry, somersault in an impressive high jump that drew awed whispes from the crowd, only to be anticipated by the turning foe. He smirked as he brought his sword foward, left in a swinging movement-blocked at the last moment, again.

They were like the most graceful animals ever to walk upon the earth - the agile quickfootedness of a lion, the light springiness of the gazelle, the sudden striking capacity of a snake, as did Man draw his strength and art from them. So fast, the blurred dance of human and sword, it could not be called a fight, but a dance, a flowing dance that, so elegant in its civility, burnished the monuments of savagery as yet it did pacifism. The intransigent meeting of wills, in a bloodless yet bloody contest that pitted strength against weakness, weakness against strength, and, through the transcending of inhibition, liberated the deepest recesses of the soul.

Ever-trained muscles and the incantation of the swordsman - the sword is not a tool; it is the hand. The weapon is the extension of your self, not an extension of the world - and the sheer force of wills that rocks the world, part of a minute battle of skill and bravery that resonates across the Universe. That practice combat on a sunbaked field is the expression of the intent of our existence; the rush of opposites that creates a new whole, the thesis and antithesis that spawns a synthesis. The symbiont merger of polars is the essence of our existence.

And so the combat, no, the dance continues, the swift flowing back and forth, of weapon and will, the retreat and the daring strike. One clever thrust distracts the opponent, by which the sword is swiftly withdrawn and is swung around in an overhead blow that is desperately blocked by the uprushing blade - a feint. The battle of swords continue, as the spirit of mastery pours through the opponents; Nature's avatar of the primal clash of opposites.

The blurred motions of the fight ensue across an hour, and muscles begin to tense. The battle mellows to that of endurance and mantainence of will, as sweat puckers brows increasingly and the thirsty earth soaks up more, as the noonday sun is muted by the whirring clouds and afternoon sets into mellow cyan hues - the merciless hacking and strafing and thrusting is met by opposites of blocking, parrying, twisting, the weary reality settles.

Then, the beautiful dance is marred - in a spectacular twist of clashing blades one sends the other's weapon flying, and at the other's stricken expression, sends his blade snaking to hover at his opponent's chest. The crowd erupts in roars of jubilation and disappointment, and the two swordsmen smile at each other, satisfied at the pure display of their aggression and finesse, as they withdraw, and bow to each other, and bow again to the clapping elders, as the satiated representation of primal will is finally, irrevocably, ended.

Balance is overthrown.

No comments: