No one understands because no one can understand. There is something. There is something about martial arts. Opening and closing. Like the wind rising then dying down again. Like the mind with a thought blowing past. Thoughts like the rustling of trees in the invisible wind. Mind pours through the trees and they shake, they shimmer like green silk. Then they still, returning to their quietly out-reaching lives.

In martial boxing, the human hand unfurls. The petals of the fists opening and closing. In a simple hand change night and day, blossoming and furling. Sunlight and shade.

The mind stirs the body and it moves, shaking and shimmering, invisibly motivated from within. The leg reaches out like a vine searching for nourishment. The mind reaches further, as high as heaven, down past roots through the earth.

In boxing the body changes, turning and twisting. Shaking off its own limbs like deadwood from a sprouting tree, a rejuvenating trunk. Pushing its energy through itself but seeking out for everything that is not itself: space, sunlight, air and soil. As the mind changes the body changes trying to catch up. Seasons turn and the single flower derives its beauty from the knowledge that it will not always be in flower. That blossom and sleep are woven together, that petals will fall, that mind will return to the winter of its own quietude.

The form lays before one like music carried from afar. Listen too closely and the world vanishes. Listen with distraction and the music is swallowed by the whispers of wind. The form tells a story that echoes the seasons. Now active and budding, now quiet and consolidating. Seasons of change. Seasons of harvest. Each form is as uniquely itself as differentiates each species of flower. But each tells the story of the same seasons. The same changes. Life has so long been the herald of the seasons that without the seasonal changes it would not be life. The form rejoins the body to life’s influence. Storage and issuance coalesce in power and speed. The arm whirls, the leg kicks, the hands flash. Mind supplies the time like the motion of the starry sky. If martial arts lives up to its name its artistry resides in human mutability, in adaptation to the moment, the irreplaceable moment that on the battlefield and in the monastery both exist only for the moment mind recognizes that inch of time. Boxing is a pattern that appears spontaneous, an artifice that seems artless. Organic human returning to the natural through the hingeless door of mind. Using mind to move everything that is not mind. To rediscover not the stolid in matter but the metamorphosis in matter.

In Kung Fu the slightest shading, the hint of dusk touches the petals and they fold themselves, suddenly passive. The brazen colors dim, the blush retreats to restore itself. The great sun still hangs over the distant mountains but night spreads through the blossoms like the blood of fish dispersing in pond water.

If mind slumbers the fist dies, the body hollows, the light that shines turns to a quiet, returning shade.

There are ghosts who walk at dusk. Ghosts who live only on the faintest fragrances of bewildered flowers. No other sustenance can sustain them. There is a time in boxing when the form is finished, the sword sheathed, the staff laid down, and only the specter of the movement remains; the mind sustained by the fragrance of a fragrance, the petals folded into fists, the spirit just a spirit waiting for its own wind to stir once more.


“Sometimes writer” and admittedly “a bit reclusive,” David Sterkin has published horror and science fiction stories for a few years. He’s lived in Baltimore, Atlanta and some California towns. At present he practices Tam Pai. He finds the Chinese martial arts perfect for a writer’s life “just as scholars before me did.”

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