Friday, January 21, 2011

Martial Arts in novels

Martial Arts have always been my passion. I don’t remember exactly how it all started, but as long as I can remember, the fighting arts (key word is arts) held my interest. You may wonder if I’m a violent person by nature. The simple answer would be I am not. But it’s too simple. I believe we all have violence in our nature to an extent. It’s how you chose to channel it that makes all the difference. Let’s be honest here, not many of us would shy away from violence when it comes to protecting ourselves or our loved ones. Now, don’t be too fast to deny that. Think about it first. Would you do what you have to do to protect your child or your spouse? Would you use violence if necessary? I should hope so.

But Martial Arts are not about violence, not at its core.  It’s about learning to defend your life and the life of those you love. But it’s also much more. In Japanese, “martial fighting technique” is called bu-jutsu. It is quite different from the term bu-do, which means “the martial way”, the way referring to the way of life. What differentiates the two, besides the obvious, budo encompasses a lifelong pursuit for the perfection of character and technique, while bujutsu is just that – learning to fight with no concern for one’s personal development as a human being. One of the main precepts of the Japanese style of karate called Shotokan is “to seek perfection of character”. This is what got me involved with Martial Arts in the first place.

I love when I find a novel where the hero or the heroine is practicing a form of Martial Arts.  I mean, I enjoy any kick-ass heroes but I feel that the actual practice of Martial Arts by a character lends them more depths and gives more of a glimpse into their personality. Generally, it would tell the reader that this character has enough patience and diligence and willpower to push their bodies and minds for years and reach for something beyond the physical. The training scenes in particular often reveal much  about a particular character. It also humanizes them, makes them more easily relatable.

Here are just a few examples of the novels with a character that practices Martial Arts or has some kind of a connection to it. These are novels that I really enjoyed reading and would suggest.

The Ninja Series by Eric Lustbader – Martial Arts in this series has an almost mystical nature but nevertheless, it makes for a great character and interesting insights.

A Devil In the Details by K. A. Stewart – I’m partial to the Japanese Martial Arts, so I’m partial to Jesse’s way of life and connection to bushido. Lots of quotes and mentions of such great classics as the Book of Five Rings and the Art of War.

Night’s Cold Kiss by Tracey O’Hara – Includes good training scenes

 Please add your favorite novels with Martial Arts connections.

1 comment:

  1. Great explanation of bu-jutsu vs. bu-do. Martial arts is about self improvement, as you mentioned, "seeking perfection of character". Any novel that uses this idea for a character's development has my vote.

    Too many people see martial arts as a form of violence. It isn't. It is purely about self defense. Every first kata (aka form) begins with a defensive move. "There is no first attack in karate."


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