View Full Version : Martial Arts
May 19th, 2003, 12:15 PM
Hi, just wanted to know how you guys feel about the implementation of martial arts in a fantasy story. I know it seems a little unorthodox for the genre, but im a martial arts fan (train Taekwondo myself). Well anyways, the real question is; how do you think expressions from for instance Taekwondo would be received by the reader, with explanations of course. Would that just be silly?
I have this sort of martial-arts/battle-mage/monk-people in my book, and really like them, but never know what others thinks (since everyone seems to think I'm a little strange (different, that is)). :p
May 19th, 2003, 12:53 PM
I don't think it would be seen as unorthodox or silly. Overall, fantasy readers like battles and martial arts makes for great potential characters. I've seen martial arts with weapons fighting more than hand to hand, but either is doable as long as you can describe it. Aphorisms and philosophy from the martial arts are even easier to use.
For a comic use of martial arts in fantasy, check out Barry Hughart's The Chronicles of Master Li and Number Ten Ox trilogy, the first of which, "Bridge of Birds," won the World Fantasy Award. For a more serious use of martial arts, Michael Moorcock might be a good bet. Military science fiction might also be of some help to you as well.
May 19th, 2003, 01:10 PM
I use my martial arts experience (jeet kune do and arnis) a fair bit in my writings. I don't bother with the terms much, as I don't want readers to have to refer to a glossary in back.
I do like how Jordan uses made up terms to describe his sword techniques- Eric Van Lustbader does the same with authentic japanese terms in his books. These are so descriptive they work well, such as "Crane Spreads Wings". Although you may not know exactly what it is, your imagination can fill in details. Martial arts are also a wellspring of story ideas, such as your warrior monks.
May 19th, 2003, 02:27 PM
In its broadest sense, martial arts encompass all military arts, and I think that one would be hard pressed to find a fantasy story without some aspect of the military arts mentioned. That being said, the popular definition of martial arts tends to refer to eastern fighting arts such as karate, judo, kung-fu, tae kwon do and many others.
Incorporating elements of these arts into a fantasy story is quite natural for me. (I've practiced judo for almost eighteen years now and I've loved every minute of it.) The trick, as Pcarney eluded to, is to adapt them to the fictional world.
One trick that may help is to look up the english translation for specific techniques. Most arts incorporate a little poetic licence in naming their techniques. For example some of the more advanced kata techniques in judo have names like yudashi or taki otoshi which translate into english as shower and waterfall drop respectively. Other techniques have more impressive names like mi kudaki which means body smashing.:D
Another trick, is to dress up the fighting so that the text captures the dramatic element of the conflict. It gets boring after a while to read a blow-by-blow description of what happened. I try to keep the actual action short and sweet (which is kind of how most fights work in the real world anyway). It also leaves the reader wanting just a little bit more.
May 25th, 2003, 02:28 PM
I have always been put off by it.
It seems out of place in the traditional fantasy genre, unless the setting is in the Far East.
May 25th, 2003, 03:41 PM
Just have a reason and explanation for using "eastern" style martial arts. Why does one group or an individual practice the philosophy and style? Just having a single individual practice kung-fu in the middle ages for no apparent reason would be hard to believe. Like Stranger said, it doesn't quite feel right...so be careful.
May 25th, 2003, 03:44 PM
I have clans, groups whatever, which are spread over an area. So they are "organized", no single person out of no-where.
May 25th, 2003, 04:40 PM
Well, as Choppy said, martial arts aren't certainly contained to the Far East. Pretty much any combat system can be defined as a martial art. But you would need a reason for a character to fight completly differently then any other person in the region..
What I find interesting when writing martial arts into a fantasy is that these systems are cultural as well as martial. That is, most martial arts where, originally, heavily tied into the local religion, society, etc. You're not just developing a martial art, your developing a whole way of life.
May 25th, 2003, 04:42 PM
You are so very right
May 26th, 2003, 08:24 AM
On another vein, I have always had the greatest respect for the martial arts.
Up until we got involved in global conflicts, 20th Century, and GIs began 'importing' them, these were very elite Arts, known to only a few.
Having them reduced to every man-jack that walks down the street kills the mystique of the practitioner.
If everybody is a 99th Dan doing triple somersalts over buildings, it really loses its punch in a story.
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