The Eye of Robert Smith

Robert SmithHere is a short and direct excerpt from one of the forefathers of western martial arts writings. Robert Smith was as much a story-teller as he was a reporter, bringing forth tales from the fringes of some styles, along with the hidden clashes between the masters of others.


“Simply observing the art without participating in it can be misleading. I once made the mistake of taking an American nidan in Okinawan Karate to meet Cheng. The American was singularly unimpressed by what he saw. He wanted a test. So Cheng signaled to a student, who then faced the karateka. He faked a high kick, the student’s arm started up; the foot flashed down and the student slapped it lightly while stepping inside and touching the American’s heart. Dead, he failed to realize it, for he went away scoffing at T’ai-chi. I apologized to Cheng later and he waved it aside: “One must be kind to a blind man.” The inevitable sequel: I took the lad to a Shaolin friend of mine and left him to his ministrations. A week later I saw him. He had discontinued. Why? “Damn it, those guys wanted to fight!” Unappreciative of the soft, afraid of the hard, this one doubtless is still thrilling them at cocktail parties with his dance. Fighting it is not.”


 From “Chinese Boxing: Masters and Methods,” Robert Smith, 1974

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One Response to “The Eye of Robert Smith”

  1. Carl Totten says:

    “The Eye of Robert Smith” was charming, much like Smith himself was. He was a terrific story teller and when I hosted him in Los Angeles several years ago he enchanted us with his amazing stories late into the night!

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