Sifu sighed, again. “You’re too mechanical in your movements. You need to relax while you move, stay in the moment.”
The dojo was a converted parking space of the motoryard for Shining Sun’s farming equipment. The parking spaces around them were taken by tanker trucks, tractors and crop dusters. As Shining Sun was the largest farming conglomerate in town they were in the midst of the only wheeled vehicles for miles that hadn’t been designed for recreation.
In the empty space Mr. Lin had set up an outdoor gym. Sledgehammers, tractor tyres (of which he had a ready supply), kettle bells, a punching bag with Wing Chun dummy arms, a chin ups bar, a dumbbell and barbell set with removable weights and the jigsaw mats Jie and Wu were currently sparring on.
“Again.” Sifu commanded.
Jie was upon Wu in an instant, throwing out a quick series of chain punches to his face and chest. Wu tightened his guard, walling himself behind his MMA gloves but keeping Jie clear in his sight. With minimal movement Wu easily deflected Jie’s attacks. He counted the hits in his head, waiting for the fourth attack.
Then like clockwork Jie threw the hook he’d been waiting for. Wu dropped low and let Jie’s fist sail harmlessly over his head. When he was down to waist height Wu uncoiled and tackled Jie off his feet.
Jie hit the mat hard. The impact forcing the breath from his lungs. While Jie gasped Wu bounded up to Jie’s chest and sat on him, pinning his arms above his head.
“Stop.” Sifu called. “Start again.”
“Don’t worry about it.” Wu said. “You’re doing fine.” Then he got up off the kid.
Jie grumbled under his breath, but got back up to his feet.
“You tried the same combination again.” Sifu explained. “Wu already knew what you were doing and he read you like a fan page.”
“Sorry.” Jie said. “I’m just not used to this. All the fights I’ve been in I solved with my nanohacking.”
Sifu’s eyebrows shot up. “Really? Where did you learn that?”
“From my dad.” Jie said, quietly. “He doesn’t want me using it, he wants me to rely on my Jeet Kune Do, but sometimes the guys at school won’t leave me alone unless I make one of their arms go limp.”
“Hmmm.” Sifu said, impressed. “And no-one has ever objected to you using an illegal technique.”
Jie sheepishly scratched at the back of his neck. “Well it doesn’t last long enough for anyone to notice, but I still get a hit in while their guard is down.”
Sifu acknowledged this with a nod. “Nanohacking is a useful skill for a martial artist and an essential one for an agent of the Black Mask Society. But a true martial artist cannot rely on the one aspect of combat they happen to be good at. This is why Wu keeps beating you, he can see where you’re comfortable and change the game on you.”
Jie turned his nose up at that. “I’ve beaten wrestlers before, once I stun an arm they can’t keep a grip on me.”
Jie puffed up his chest. “I could take you. If you let me nanohack I’ll show you.”
Wu turned to Sifu. “I don’t want to hurt him.”
“You won’t.” Jie sneered.
“No he won’t.” Sifu said and she stepped out of her shoes and onto the jigsaw mats. “But I’ll do my best to be gentle.”
Jie starred at Sifu a moment. Unsure weather to be honoured that Sifu was going to spar with him or angry at being belittled like that.
Sifu gently slid into her stance. “Come at me with everything you have, even your nanohacking. If you can successfully perform a nanohack attack on me, you win. If I can force a submission before you achieve this, then I win. Does that sound fair?”
Jie held his tongue and put his guard up again.
Wu stepped off the mat and crossed his arms.
Sifu kept her eyes on Jie and remained where she stood. She looked as relaxed and ready as a dancer before a performance.
Jie launched himself at her. His footwork skipping him right up to Sifu so he could deliver a long, step-up side kick. The fluid and practiced movement brought him close to Sifu before she could make any large movements to avoid. Sifu pulled her head to the side and Jie’s foot sailed harmlessly past her face. Jie snapped the leg back just as quickly and Sifu side-stepped around him.
Jie turned with Sifu and unleashed a flurry of punches at her. Quickly Sifu parried the first two and retreated a step, leaving Jie punching at the air.
Jie grit his teeth and quick-stepped up to Sifu with a sharp jab. Sifu feinted a parry and at the last second she stepped back again, Jie saw this coming and immediately quickstepped so Sifu couldn’t retreat again.
This time Sifu held her ground. Batting the incoming fist away from her face, Sifu snatched his next punch at the wrist and snapped at the side of his neck with a sharp chop.
Jie reeled as the blow interrupted his blood supply for a fraction of a second. He recovered quickly and swung a left hook at Sifu. Sifu ducked under his arm, put her back into his chest and got her hips under his. With a deft push from her hips and quick pull at his arm Sifu folded herself at the waist and plucked young Jie clean off his feet and landed him flat on his back again.
As Jie’s back took the brunt of the landing Sifu slipped down to Jie’s shoulder and wrapped her legs around his torso, pulling him into an armbar.
Jie began to strike at Sifu’s legs, punching in the first two macros of his nanohack, when Sifu tensed up her legs and Jie felt a lot of pressure build up around his elbow joint. Jie stopped, his hand hovering above Sifu’s leg.
“Tap or snap.” Sifu said firmly.
Jie stretched his hand out and slapped loudly against the mat.
“Good.” Sifu said and let go of his arm.
The two fighters disentangled and Sifu rose to her feet again. “Do you understand now?” She asked.
Want to read the whole thing now? Buy it here