Selection had been harder than anything Dorn had ever experienced in his life. That was of course before he had begun his induction at the advanced training academy. Before he came here he had fancied himself a very capable fighter. As he landed heavily onto the sparing floor once again, he realized there was still so much for him to learn. Any small amount of arrogance at besting the other initiates had long since passed. Master Tong stood over him, his expression passive.
‘You are good cadet, but you are too slow.’
‘That is the first time someone has called me slow Master.’
Replied Dorn, flipping up from the floor with the grace of an acrobat. The other cadets were all quite enjoying Dorn’s beating at the hands of their instructor.
‘The speed of your body is not what ails you. But your mind is trying to keep up, thus exposing your defenses.’
‘I don't understand Master?’
Tong paused to watch a small flock of birds fly from a cherry tree that had grown within the quadrangle of the open aired dojo sparring floor. in the spring sunshine the pink petals were in full bloom and gently fell to the floor like confetti. The cadets had become used to the musings of Master Tong, when delivering a lecture.
‘Young Bruce, when a bird flies, do you imagine it has to think about it?’
All of the students looked on in confusion at the masters lesson in philosophy. Dorn answered him though, sensing where Tong was going.
‘No - it does not think. It just flies.’
Tong was pleased with the answer, and continued.
‘Correct - It just flies. With no thought of how to do it. Flying comes as naturally to a bird, as walking comes to you or I. The bird is master of flight because it comes naturally to it.’
Tong launched a combination of punches at Dorn, which were blocked with relative ease.
‘When you think too much of strategy young Bruce, you stop your body's natural flow. Your attacks and defences should flow instinctively as a bird in flight. without any thought at all. Do not misunderstand me. You are good. Very good. But if you can learn to fight without the shackles of your mind slowing you down. Then you will become possibly the greatest of us ever to wear the armour of guardsmen.’
He had the attention of everyone now. William Defoe raised a hand from the dojo edges, where he knelt with the others observing the combat lesson. Tong nodded to him to speak the question he knew he would ask.
‘Master, how do we learn to fight without thinking - like a bird?’
Tong had been the captain of the guard for long time and his normal place was by the side of his beloved President Black. But he insisted that he also play a hand in the instruction of new recruits. This batch in particular, he was enjoying teaching the most. They would all do well he judged.
‘I do not understate that your training here will be hard for you. It will be so hard in fact I expect some of you to either give up, or be asked to leave. But while you are here, I and the other masters, will drill you in attack and defensive sequences that are only privy to us in the guard. It is our own developed martial art. It is also what makes us the best.’
Dorns body was starting to ache from the days beating from Tong, but he did not show his pains as he spoke.
‘I have not heard of the guard having their own fighting style Master.’
‘It is not something we advertise young Bruce. Our art is a sequence of three hundred attacks and three hundred defensive maneuvers. You will all learn them until you are sick of them. There will be many other important things to learn here at the academy. But this is most important. Once you all master the six hundred sequences, thinking about a fight will be unnecessary. You will become the bird in flight.’
Fin Donnelly raised his hand then. He had quickly become the clown of the group and had gained much affection from even Tong, whose sense of humour was legendary. It was the end of another hard day, and the young cadet wanted to know how much rest they would get before this training began. hopefully they would at least get a good night's sleep before they started.
‘Not that I’m complaining Master, and don't get me wrong, the early wake up calls with the ice water can be quite refreshing. But when do we begin this new training?’
The others including Tong laughed. Only Defoe knelt without expression. He rarely showed any emotion actually. With his pale skin and perfectly cropped hair, he could quite have easily been one of the many statues around the academy.
‘Do not fear young Donnelly, you will not be woken tomorrow with the usual bucket of ice water.’
Everyone looked relieved. Even the deadpan Defoe seemed grateful of this fortunate turn. Unfortunately that was the good news.
‘After all you will not require a wake up call in the morning. Your sequence training begins now.’
After a long day of sparring and other exercise they were all nearly spent. Now though, to everyone dismay, they would have to work. It would be a long night. It would be the first of many such nights.