An Extract from Punchlines 1996

Two Masters meet.

They fought until sunset, and then through the night. They fought until the sun rose and fought on until the morning sun steamed the cold dew from their blades and yet not one blow was struck! In all those hours neither moved. They were not like statues, statues are frozen. They were still, calm, like that terrible moment when the world holds its breath before an earthquake strikes. Ying Chih and Lin Chung as only the greatest sword fighters may, recognised each other as equals. They knew victory would come to he who waited for an instances weakness in the other.

Villagers gathered to watch, uncomprehending; then a child ran forward, past his father’s snatching hand and threw a stone at Ying Chih but his hot eye never left Lin Chung. He did not blink even at the trickle of blood which had begun on impact.

The day wore on and a wind began. Drawn by the increasing crowd, Tai Tsung understood little of it. He thought the way of a glacier flows. Torrent or glacier it matters not, both at last reach the sea, although only nature has time to wait to crown the victor. Suddenly a dust devil blew and the flurry of wind blew fine sand, as fine as rice flour, up into the air. Momentarily it obscured both figures and it blew into Lin Chung’s face. In that instant Ying Chih struck.

There was the hiss-hiss of steel on steel. A single sword arced out of the dust cloud and sunlight sparkled briefly upon it before it fell in a quiver, point first, in the ground ten feet away.

The men were motionless again but it was changed. Yang Chih stood still, head bowed. Looking at his empty hand where his sword had been only a moment ago. Lin stood poised ready to strike again if the other man resumed. Yang slumped, no muscle moved, yet the man was transformed. He walked slowly to retrieve his weapon. He wiped it, sheathed it, and walked away.

Lin Chih left with Tai Tsung. No one spoke and no one tried to stop them.

An excerpt from “The Water Margin” By David Weir published by Star Books.

Think of the above extract and draw your own conclusions. Mine are that it is wiser to wait for an opponent to make the first move, but if he makes the first mistake... Also all deserve respect. It is importantly wise to know your own limitations.

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