To Conquer By Yielding
Jiujutsu is the old samurai art of fighting without weapons. To the uninitiated it looks like wrestling. Should you happen to enter the Zuihokwan while jiujutsu is being practiced, you would see a crowd of students watching ten or twelve lithe young comrades, barefooted and barelimbed, throwing each other about on the matting. The dead silence might seem to you very strange. No word is spoken, so sign of approbation or of amusement is given, no face even smiles. Absolute impassiveness is rigidly exacted by the rules of the school of jiujutsu. But probably only this impassibility of all, this hush of numbers, would impress you as remarkable.
A professional wrestler would observe more. He would see that those young men are very cautious about putting forth their strength, and that the grips, holds, and flings are both peculiar and risky. In spite of the care exercised, he would judge the whole performance to be dangerous play, and would be tempted, perhaps, to advise the adoption of Western “scientific” rules.
The real thing, however—not the play—is much more dangerous than a Western wrestler could guess at sight. The teacher there, slender and light as he seems, could probably disable an ordinary wrestler in two minutes. Jiujutsu is not an art of display at all. It is not a training for that sort of skill exhibited to public audiences: it is an art of self-defense in the most exact sense of the term; it is an art of war. The master of that art is able, in one moment, to put an untrained antagonist completely hors de combat. By some terrible legerdemain he suddenly dislocates a shoulder, unhinges a joint, bursts a tendon, or snaps a bone—without any apparent effort. He is much more than an athlete: he is an anatomist. And he knows also touches that kill—as by lightning. But this fatal knowledge he is under oath never to communicate except under such conditions as would render its abuse almost impossible. Tradition exacts that it be given only to men of perfect self-command and of unimpeachable moral character.
The feet, however, to which I want to call attention is that the master of jiujutsu never relies upon his own strength. He scarcely uses his own strength in the greatest emergency. Then what does he use? Simply the strength of his antagonist. The force of the enemy is the only means by which that enemy is overcome. The art of jiujutsu teaches you to rely for victory solely upon the strength of your opponent; and the greater his strength, the worse for him and the better for you. I remember that I was not a little astonished when one of the greatest teachers of jiujutsu told me that he found it extremely difficult to teach a certain very strong pupil, whom I had innocently imagined to be the best in the class. On asking why, I was answered: “Because he relies upon his enormous muscular strength, and uses it.” The very name “jiujutsu” means to conquer by yielding.
— The Overlook Martial Arts Reader, pp. 56-57
That morning as they rode past a town, a grey-striped cat made his way through the stream of people coming to market. There were animals enough on that road in that hour: horses and mules of course, and donkeys, and dogs, and pigs and cattle and sheep being driven to market, and here and there a quick-witted cat. But this one came direct to King Malcolm’s riding, lofted weightlessly to Edith’s saddlebow, and yawned in her face.
The puca seemed quite as much at ease in this world as in the other. What he was doing here, she did not know, but from the way he curled on the pommel of her saddle, he was not about to leave.
Some of Alain’s Bretons slid eyes at him. So did a few of Malcolm’s Gaels. They knew what they were looking at.
The puca met their glances. They looked away in haste. It was never wise to question the whims of the Old Things.
Edith took comfort in this one’s presence. There were folk of air enough, some of whom had followed her from the abbey, but a puca was a stronger power by far. A power for mischief, yes—but also a faithful ally who had sworn to her his service.
— King’s Blood, Chapter 24
Service Promised Was Service Given
There was a person in front of her. He was neither as tall as the fair ones who crossed the land in their ridings nor as small as the fey and lesser folk who populated both this world and the other. He looked quite human actually, if one disregarded the sharply pointed tips of his ears and the sharply pointed teeth, or the eyes as green and slit-pupiled as a cat’s. His hair was as brown as oak-bark, and he was dressed in green and brown.
“Puca,” she acknowledged him by name and kind.
He grinned and bowed. “At your service, lady,” he said.
She was very careful not to twitch. No word spoken in this world was heedless, and service promised was service given. “Indeed?” she asked. “Have I earned it?”
“Your destiny has,” said the puca, “and your magic. You’re blossoming into it, lady.”
“Like a nettle,” she said.
He laughed. He was not mocking her, she did not think. But then he sobered. “We’re not at ease with all of magic, either. Some of what’s been breeding and growing in Britain is frightening. Even the great ones walk wary of it.”
“The black places?” Edith asked. Even out of the body, the thought made her cold. “The places where it’s all rotted and dead?”
The puca nodded. “It scares us. It’s all wrong—and what ever it touches, it twists. It’s caught the Hunt; they’re ever turning on their own, and feeding on magic.”
“Won’t the rites of Beltane and Midsummer help?” said Edith. “Aren’t they supposed to feed the magic?”
“They do,” said the puca.
“You want me to do something,” Edith said.
The puca grinned. “Everyone said you had clear sight. Yes, we want something. We’re not sure what, yet. Just… something. Because you have so much magic, and your blood is what it is.”
“You want my blood,” Edith said. She was very calm. “Do you think it will help?”
“Maybe not that kind of blood,” said the puca. “We don’t know. Fate swirls around you—time comes to a center in you. But we can’t see how. Not yet.”
Well, Edith thought. She was born to matter: king’s daughter and descendant of kings. That she mattered to England came as no surprise.
“Britain,” said the puca. “You matter to Britain.”
“But England is—”
“England is a shadow. Britain was there before it and will be there long after it is gone.”
“I was born to England,” Edith said a little stiffly.
“Your mother was born to England. You are half a Gael, and all the magic is in you.”
Edith set her lips together. She did not know that she was angry. He was saying things she had thought for herself. But part of her was still her mother’s child, however little she loved the life her mother had meant for her. She had to defend it somehow.
“I won’t destroy England,” she said. “I’ll never agree to that.”
“We won’t ask it,” said the puca. Still smiling at her, he shrank and dwindled and shifted, until a sleek striped cat stood where he had been. His eyes were still the same, and his teeth not so different. He was purring loudly; his whole body shook with it.
Edith blinked. She had not expected that, even knowing he was a puca and therefore a shapeshifter. He crouched; she was prepared, somewhat, when he sprang to her shoulder.
His claws dug in, but gently. His purr was raucous. She caught herself smiling and stroking his fur. He was seducing her; but she did not mind.
— King’s Blood, Chapter 16
Reaching Through the Matrix
[Vasque] stepped to the [battle] suit and ran his fingers over first the plastron, then the sheared metal along the cut…. Hansen couldn’t judge the status of the smith and his apprentices. Vasque wore a gorgeously-embroidered tunic—though there was a cracked leather apron over it. Even the youths were dressed rather better than many of the warriors.
“Not much of a suit,” Vasque said. “Dilmun’s work, I wouldn’t be surprised, and he was never much.”
“Dilmun’s good enough to dress the Lord of Thrasey,” said Malcolm. “And as for this suit, there were three arcs on it together before it failed.”
“On a good day, I suppose Dilmun might be all right,” Vasque admitted grudgingly. He took the severed arm from the slave and worked the elbow joint with his hands as he peered at the cut. “Well, we’ll see.”
The sleeping youth groaned loudly and threw out an arm. After a moment, his eyes opened. The other apprentice helped him sit up on the couch.
Vasque handed the arm back. “Go on, boy, go on,” he said to the apprentice, making shooing motions with his hands. “There’s king’s work to be done.”
He turned to the slaves. “Lay it down by the couch, you. I’ll take care of it now.”
As the slaves laid the damaged suit full-length on the floor, the two youths positioned the [severed] arm by it so that the cut ends joined. Vasque himself stepped outside. He came back with his leather apron laden with bits of ore.
“Might need more than this,” the old man muttered, “but I think not, I think not….” He arranged his chips and pebbles around the severed arm with as much care as a florist creating a wedding bouquet…. [Then] Vasque lay down on the couch…. One of the youths took a polished locket on a thong from around his neck.
“Keep back, boy…,” the smith murmured.
His eyes, focused on dustmotes dancing in the light, glazed and closed. The apprentices watched with critical interest, while the slaves gaped with amazement as great as that which Hansen tried to conceal….
Vasque was shuddering in his sleep. Hansen gestured toward him. “Is he any good?” he asked Malcolm in an undertone.
“You won’t wake him,” said Malcolm in a normal voice, as though that were the only reason someone would want to discuss the matter in a whisper. “And yeah, he’s very good.”
The veteran smiled impishly. “Almost as good as Dilmun, I’d say. You’ll have a suit to be proud of.”
…The ore shifted around Hansen’s suit. The chunks on top of the pile slid as dust puffed away. As Hansen watched, a fist-sized lump he thought was magnetite crumbled as though in a hammermill. Bits of it drifted down through the interstices of the pebbles beneath it.
One of the apprentices bobbed his head in approval. “Look, he must be four centimeters away from the join,” he said. “Great extension!”
Malcolm sniffed. “The important part,” he said, ostensibly to Hansen, “isn’t how far a smith can reach through the Matrix for material but how well he stitches the result together. That’s the craftsmanship that keeps you and me alive, Lord Hansen.”
“That and skill,” Hansen remarked coolly….
Half the gravel piled on the shoulder of the battlesuit powdered and slipped to a flatter angle of repose.
Vasque shuddered like a swimmer coming out of cold water. His apprentices stepped toward him, one of them with a skin of wine or mead, but the older man waved them away. “There!” he gasped. “There, Lord Malcolm. Tell me about Dilmun now.”
“Although,” he added as he got to his feet and only then accepted the container of drink, “I checked the whole suit while I was in the Matrix, and it’s not so very bad after all….”
“How do we test it?” Hansen asked. Malcolm smiled.
“I get my suit,” he said, “we go out to the practice ground … and I see just how good you are, laddie.”
It wasn’t an especially nice smile; but then, neither was the grin that bared Hansen’s teeth.
— Northworld, Chapter 10
The Sands of Nisanti
Doctor Strange:…Please, do you honestly want to have a wizard’s duel with me?Nicodemus West:Not in the least.Vrak par hensargini!Doctor Strange:The…the Sands of Nisanti?Nicodemus West:…For the next three minutes, neither of us will be able to use magic in any form….
— “Doctor Strange: The Oath” #5 (2007)
Used without permission.
Composite War Bow Was Revolutionary
…The simple wooden bow was a very old weapon which showed some important affinities with “civilian” devices used for kindling fire and for boring holes as well as with certain musical instruments. Its emergence as a specialized tool took place at some unknown time and place, and for millennia it was employed for hunting as well as for war. It so happened, however, that the rise of the chariot was soon followed by—if indeed it did not coincide with—the invention of the composite reflex bow, a very different weapon. Made of wood, sinew, and horn glued together, with each material carefully coordinated with all the others so as to yield the optimum combination of strength and flexibility, the composite bow represented as great an advance over its simple predecessor as did the breech-loading rifle over the muzzle-loading flintlock musket. Capable of firing arrows rapidly to an effective range of 200-300 yards, its power and effectiveness remained unsurpassed for several thousand years.
— Technology and War, Chapter 1
What Really Destroys Armies
Combat does not destroy armed forces; it merely hastens the process. The real killer is day-to-day wear and tear. Armies die by inches, not yards. Attrition is people and their equipment wearing out. Even in peacetime, up to 2 percent of combat aircraft can be lost to accidents and deterioration each year. In wartime, up to 50 percent of aircraft will be lost each year to noncombat wear and tear. Rarely more than 90 percent of armored vehicles will be in running condition at any one time. Those vehicles that are running will likely break down after going less than 500 kilometers. More important, people wear out, too. Without enough people to tend them, the machines wear out even faster….
Annually, disease and noncombat injuries often cause far more loss than the dangers of combat. Most major wars go on for years. Battles are relatively infrequent. As long as the troops are living in primitive field conditions, they are more prone to disease and injury. The annual loss rates in the wars of [the 20th] century, expressed in terms of average daily losses per 100,000 men, bear this out. Battle losses, killed and wounded but not prisoners, varied from a low of six per day in World War II theaters such as North Africa to over 200 Germans a day on the Soviet front. Soviet casualties were sometimes double the German rate. World War I had battles where the rate exceeded several thousand per day….
The World War I casualty rates, and the numerous mutinies they eventually caused, were not forgotten. The butchery of World War I made an impression, and the casualty rates were consistently lower in World War II. Since World War II, still more efforts have been made to protect the troops. Armored vehicles and protective gear have become more commonplace. Daily loss rates of 40 per 100,000, similar to the Western allies of World War II, can be expected in the future in a war between equally matched armies….
Non-battle casualties, primarily from disease and especially in tropical and winter conditions, regularly reach 200-500 men per day per 100,000 strength. Malaria alone can cause nearly 200 casualties a day. Another constant menace in populated areas is venereal disease, which can render ineffective as many as 40 men per day. Injuries often exceed battle losses. The troops tend to get careless in the combat zone. Vehicle and weapons accidents were so common in the past that they often reached 20 men per day per 100,000 troops….
It’s not unusual for armies to waste away to nothing without ever having come in contact with the enemy. Historically, natural causes have killed or disabled far more soldiers than combat. Many wars are won by the side best able to maintain the health of their troops. Perceptive military commanders have long recognized the substantial assistance of General Winter, Colonel Mud, and the carnage wrought by pestilence, poor climate, thirst, and starvation. An armed force may be an impressive sight. Yet people have to live. They must eat, sleep, and escape the elements. Disease and injury are ever present. Adequate medical care prevents minor afflictions from becoming major ones. More important is public sanitation. Many diseases thrive in careless accumulations of human waste. Public sanitation, even within an army on the move, eliminates the cause of most disease….
— How To Make War, pp. 517-20
The Dorestad Brooch. c. 800 C.E. Carolingian. Gold, garnet, glass, enamel, and pearls.
Found at the bottom of a well in the Netherlands in 1969!
On display at Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden.
Necklace of Troy
Gold necklace with bulls’ heads and acorns, from Troy (Hellenistic period, 3rd century B.C.E.), Athens. National Archaeological Museum.
Vowed Himself to the Infernal Gods
[Publius] Decius Mus [was an early] Roman [Republic consul] who, when faced with an impossible battle, vowed himself (according to an old ritual of human sacrifice) to the infernal gods, along with whoever he killed and who killed him. He then charged the enemy line singlehanded and opened a hole the Roman Army under the other consul (Rome in those days sometimes took the field with both presidents) then used to defeat the enemy.
— Legions of Hell, General Glossary
Now that is patriotism.
New Series: This. Is. Treasure.
Since 2021 I have been retweeting posts by Archaeology & Art, and others, of beautiful historical artifacts. I add hashtags for the various role-playing game “communities,” and the simple description “This. Is. Treasure.”, taken from the 1999 film The Mummy.
I have begun taking screenshots and tooting them on the Mastodon server dice.camp.
And now here, going forward.
The Temptation of Anakin Skywalker
[Palpatine] ticked his fingers one by one. “I have kept the secret of your marriage all these years. The slaughter at the Tusken camp, you shared with me. I was there when you executed Count Dooku. And I know where you got the power to defeat him. You see? You have never needed to pretend with me, the way you must with your Jedi comrades. Do you understand that you need never hide anything from me? That I accept you exactly as you are?”
He spread his hands as though offering a hug. “Share with me the truth. Your absolute truth. Let yourself out, Anakin.”
“I—” Anakin shook his head. How many times had he dreamed of not having to pretend to be the perfect Jedi? But what else could he be? “I wouldn’t even know how to begin.”
“It’s quite simple, in the end: tell me what you want.”
Anakin squinted up at him. “I don’t understand.”
“Of course you don’t.” The last of the sunset haloed his ice-white hair and threw his face into shadow. “You’ve been trained to never think about that. The Jedi never ask what you want. They simply tell you what you’re supposed to want. They never give you a choice at all. That’s why they take their students—their victims—at an age so young that choice is meaningless. By the time a Padawan is old enough to choose, he has been so indoctrinated—so brainwashed—that he is incapable of even considering the question. But you’re different, Anakin. You had a real life, outside the Jedi Temple. You can break through the fog of lies the Jedi have pumped into your brain. I ask you again: what do you want?”
“I still don’t understand.”
“I am offering you…anything,” Palpatine said. “Ask, and it is yours. A glass of water? It’s yours. A bag full of Corusca gems? Yours. Look out the window behind me, Anakin. Pick something, and it’s yours.”
“Is this some kind of joke?”
“The time for jokes is past, Anakin. I have never been more serious.” Within the shadow that cloaked Palpatine’s face, Anakin could only just see the twin gleams of the Chancellor’s eyes. “Pick something. Anything.”
“All right…” Shrugging, frowning, still not understanding, Anakin looked out the window, looking for the most ridiculously expensive thing he could spot. “How about one of those new SoroSuub custom speeders—”
“Are you serious? You know how much one of those costs? You could practically outfit a battle cruiser—”
“Would you prefer a battle cruiser?”
Anakin went still. A cold void opened in his chest. In a small, cautious voice, he said, “How about the Senatorial Apartments?”
“A private apartment?”
Anakin shook his head, staring up at the twin gleams in the darkness on Palpatine’s face. “The whole building.”
Palpatine did not so much as blink. “Done.”
“It’s privately owned—”
“You can’t just—”
“Yes, I can. It’s yours. Is there anything else? Name it.”
Anakin gazed blankly out into the gathering darkness. Stars began to shimmer through the haze of twilight. A constellation he recognized hung above the spires of the Jedi Temple.
“All right,” Anakin said softly. “Corellia. I’ll take Corellia.”
“The planet, or the whole system?”
“I just—” He shook his head blankly. “I can’t figure out if you’re kidding, or completely insane.”
“I am neither, Anakin. I am trying to impress upon you a fundamental truth of our relationship. A fundamental truth of yourself.”
“What if I really wanted the Corellian system? The whole Five Brothers—all of it?”
“Then it would be yours. You can have the whole sector, if you like.” The twin gleams within the shadow sharpened. “Do you understand, now? I will give you anything you want.”
The concept left him dizzy. “What if I wanted—what if I went along with Padme and her friends? What if I want the war to end?”
“Would tomorrow be too soon?”
“How—” Anakin couldn’t seem to get his breath. “How can you do that?”
“Right now, we are only discussing what. How is a different issue; we’ll come to that presently.”
Anakin sank deeper into the chair while he let everything sink deeper into his brain. If only his head would stop spinning—why did Palpatine have to start all this now?
This would all be easier to comprehend if the nightmares of Padme didn’t keep screaming inside his head.
“And in exchange?” he asked, finally. “What do I have to do?”
“You have to do what you want.”
“What I want?”
“Yes, Anakin. Yes. Exactly that. Only that. Do the one thing that the Jedi fear most: make up your own mind. Follow your own conscience. Do what you think is right. I know that you have been longing for a life greater than that of an ordinary Jedi. Commit to that life. I know you burn for greater power than any Jedi can wield; give yourself permission to gain that power, and allow yourself license to use it. You have dreamed of leaving the Jedi Order, having a family of your own—one that is based on love, not on enforced rules of self-denial.”
“I—can’t…I can’t just…leave…”
“But you can.”
Anakin couldn’t breathe.
He couldn’t blink.
He sat frozen. Even thought was impossible.
“You can have every one of your dreams. Turn aside from the lies of the Jedi, and follow the truth of yourself. Leave them. Join me on the path of true power. Be my friend, Anakin. Be my student. My apprentice….”
— Star Wars – Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, Chapter 15
The novelization truly redeems the film. Anakin is not a petulant man-child but a young man who is tormented by having seen too much war and having foreseen his wife’s death. Palpatine’s seduction occurs over years. This is the moment where the Lord of the Sith overtly tempts him.
While You Train Here, Listen
Xian:This is stone city. Where many ancient warriors come. While you train here, listen.Kurt:Listen to what?Xian:Just listen. With your mind, your heart, your whole being.
— “Kickboxer” (1989)
Self-protection of Body, Mind, and Spirit
The essence of all martial arts and military strategies is self-protection and the prevention of danger. Ninjutsu epitomizes the fullest concept of self-protection through martial training in that the ninja art deals with the protection of not only the physical body, but the mind and spirit as well. The way of the ninja is the way of enduring, surviving, and prevailing over all that would destroy one. More than merely delivering strikes and slashes, and deeper in significance than the simple out-witting of an enemy; ninjutsu is the way of attaining that which we need while making the world a better place. The skill of the ninja is the art of winning.
— Ninjitsu, p. 3
The author makes ninjitsu sound so appealing. Yet another grand master asserting his martial art is supreme. 🙂
The sidebar now has a blogroll of my own creation. I am still curating the list of blogs and how many to show (currently 10).
They All Have Names
I remembered this quote reading a Mastodon toot by SlyFlourish: