Chuck Norris doesn’t breathe, he holds air hostage.
Chuck Norris doesn’t take a shower, he takes blood baths.
Chuck Norris once kicked a horse in the chin. Its descendants are now known as giraffes.
If you’ve been in the world of martial arts for any amount of time, you will probably have heard numerous humor bits such as these. Though the Chuck Norris facts are entertaining, there are thousands of bite-sized stories in the martial arts world and its history which range from being amusing to being insightful, or even enlightening.
The takeaway is that stories matter to people and they aren’t going anywhere. Whether they provide levity or new knowledge to better our martial arts journey, we can all benefit from stopping to hear a new one.
Though historical accuracy and precise understanding can matter, sometimes inspiration and motivation is the main goal of a story.
Blasphemy, I know–these stories don’t even need to be true for their strongest benefits to still exist.
Think of how many people started training after seeing the dynamic Bruce Lee on screen, the energetic action of Power Rangers, and the dramatic interactions of Daniel-san versus Cobra Kai.
What’s important to keep in mind is the purpose of the stories, and in fact, there can be many different purposes.
Let’s delve into a few stories and discuss how they can help us as martial artists aspiring for greatness!
The Legend of Bruce Lee
Movie star, martial artist, and an undeniable cultural icon.
So many things about the life of Bruce Lee have exploded into mainstream knowledge and excitement. You don’t have to be a martial artist to know who he is or to have heard the many stories of his exploits.
From the grand fight with Wong Jack man to defeating an angry extra on the film set, Bruce Lee was a man who was larger than life.
Of course, when a figure is so prolific and then also dies while still in their prime, that individual is subject to become the focus of speculation and exaggeration.
In other words, they become a legend.
One of the things that Bruce Lee is most known for was his seemingly superhuman physical attributes. The man was fast. Like, really fast.
It’s said that he was able to knock out a challenger in eleven seconds.
Beyond being able to move like a real-life Flash, he dared to rebuke classical expectations and set out to blaze his own path in life and training.
Regardless of your rank, every person can benefit from having a hero. Somebody that they can look up to and aspire to become like.
For many people, that hero was Bruce Lee–the martial artist whose powerful presence created ripples still being felt decades after his death.
The lesson: dare to be bold and blaze your own path with uninhibited passion.
Karate vs. Cattle
Mas Oyama was a karate figure known for his insane training and performances.
The father of Kyokushin Karate, he is said to have constantly tested himself in unusual manners–namely, bare-knuckle bullfights.
All in all, some say he took on up fifty-two bulls during the 1950s, chopping off many of their horns with a powerful knife hand strike. It’s for this reason that he came to be nicknamed “Godhand”.
Whether he actually fought the farm animals or the story itself is a load of bull, the idea of a powerful martial artist being able to face off against an aggressive animal and still come out alive is one worth its motivational weight.
Add on the stories of Mas Oyama’s legendary 100-man kumite and you’ve got yourself inspiration.
The lesson: let hard work and a brave spirit permeate your techniques, making them nearly superhuman.
The Samurai and the Tea Master
Once, there was a high-ranking samurai who was greatly impressed by the tea ceremony of the local tea master. After watching him prepare the tea leaves and brew an exquisite cup, he awarded the robes and rank of a Samurai to the tea master.
When a visiting samurai came and saw the tea master doing the robes, he quickly grew disgusted. How dare this average person wear this meaningful garb?!
Even after hearing how he came to wear them, the samurai remained enraged.
“If you are going to wear the robes of a samurai and purport to be one, then you must also be able to fight like one. Duel with me to the death!”
Harsh, I know.
Not one to speak without meaning what he says, he demands that they duel at a nearby tree tomorrow morning.
The tea master quickly finds a fencing expert and asks to study with him. If he was going to have to fight, he wanted to at least put up a respectable attempt.
The fencing expert hears his request and only asks for one thing back: that the tea Master perform one final tea ceremony.
As the tea master again brews the tea leaves and prepares the perfect cup, all of his worries melt away. He moves with perfect concentration, nothing outside of the present moment matters to him.
The fencing expert chuckles. “You already know what you need most,” he says. “Approach the duel with the same mindset you have when preparing tea and you will be ready for your duel”.
The next day, the tea master meets with the offended samurai. With his heart resolved and his mind in full focus just as when preparing tea, the tea master raises his sword above his head and waits in this posture.
Stricken with unease by the projection of the tea master’s calm, focused spirit, the swordsman is unwilling and unable to move. Bowing his head, he apologizes, stating that he now sees why he is considered a samurai.
The lesson: master your mind and spirit. It will show in all of your actions.
The Overflowing Cup
A long time ago, there was a wise Zen master. People from everywhere came to him for wisdom. Whenever anybody came for enlightenment in the way of Zen, he would rarely turn them away.
Once, a wealthy man came desiring wisdom like all of the rest. Unfortunately, one thing set him apart from the previous guest–it was painfully obvious that his mind was still stubborn and not yet receptive to new ideas.
Minutes into their conversation, the Zen master smiled and said that they should discuss the matter further over tea. The master collected a cup and began to pour for his guest. Quickly, the cup was fully filled and, as the master kept pouring, began to overflow onto his guest.
With a now burning lap and equally hot head, the wealthy man cried out in rage, “Stop! Can’t you see the cup is full?”
The master stopped pouring and smiled at his guest. “You are like this tea cup, so full that nothing more can be added. Come back to me when the cup is empty. Come back to me with an empty mind.”
The lesson: tea can be painfully hot. Also, you should probably empty your mind so new knowledge can be poured in.
By Justin Lee Ford