Jian is my focus, and I get criticized for passing on “single drop of red”. This is because most people’s awareness of the concept comes though late 20th century wuxia, is a fantastical genre from its foundations, where new iterations have to top prior treatments. But Iearned this as a real martial principle, inadvertently, during stretching before a class, and only by inquiring persistently after an off-hand reference. Single drop of red is ideal all fencers should aspire to: not messy, not frantic, just precise, determinative, and maximally compact and efficient. Researching the notion, I learned its an idiom that is ancient, first appearing in Classical poetry, referring to the rare women in a male domains. (Think Mulan—this idiom was still used until recently to refer to women in the workplace.) Jian was always the weapon of scholars and women-in-particular, because it is subtle, indirect, and the most versatile short weapon. By contrast, direct and powerful is more suitable for single-edged cutting swords wielded by practitioners with greater physical strength. And when people tell me it’s a fantasy, I remind them hitman "Kid Twist" (Abraham Reles), whose actual job was to do that irl. In real Chinese fencing, single drop of red refers to the epitome of the art as inserting the blade into the abdomen to a depth of a few inches, to pierce organs, such that all of the bleeding is internal, and the only indication of violence is “a single drop of red”. Modern era (early Republic) fencing blades are more flexible spring steel—slicing tendons is the primary objective, such that the blades don’t have to be too heavy or stiff. In the thrusting context, the blade is just stiff enough to pierce, but the bending before piercing creates a “pop” that arrests the momentum of the thrust, such that not impaling is guaranteed, and the blade can always be quickly withdrawn. Impaling is considered a low level of technique because of the high chance of losing the blade—by definition, when impaling, the fencer gives us nearly all control of the blade, and only has a single vector to successful withdraw it—very difficult and not worth the risk. But most of this is oral history, which I pass on because research and practice have reinforced it’s utility, even only as a principle for a real world scenario that will never happen because swords are now an archaic weapon. Thus the art is preserved for its own sake, as something value, worthy of deep study.

I think there are other, less direct examples of mythology, history and oral history having a function of different domains in martial arts, across styles. I see a parallel in the modern re-contextualization of Helio vs. Kimura, where we can look at in a broader context, and see what it led to, to understand the utility of that match. (Don’t forget that it was trivial for Helio to prevail against Kimura’s top student:) It could even be said to become sort of a founding myth of modern MMA. It helps contextualize why Royce vs. Shamrock II is an example of the highest level of martial capability, on both sides. It’s also useful for martial artists to know that history and see how it spurred multiple generations of improvement that led to a new flowering of the arts in the current era, improving all martial arts by forcing all arts to similarly advance. It’s a very famous, modern example of the interchange of ideas and how martial arts advance.

There should be a formally acceptable answer here if this can be answered in a general sense, constructed on well reasoned, strongly supportable arguments. It should also be an opportunity to examine this tradition in various styles, and where it might be useful, and where it might be counterproductive. (For instance, oral tradition that leads students to overestimate their own abilities is never a good thing, for the students or the arts.) It’s a delicate balance.

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    Maybe it's because I had a beer earlier tonight, but I'm having trouble following your question. Fundamentally, are you asking if legend/history can actually help in a practical way, rather than just being something to inspire, or to inform about a martial art's roots? Sep 5 at 0:39
  • @MacacoBranco Most would share your view of me being hard to understand (including myself) but yes, you've nailed it. I wanted to give two examples of how legends/history and informal advice can help or hurt a the arts, or a given art, in practical ways. (For instance, in the Chinese tradition, the "medicine show" aspects sometimes send the wrong signal—getting hit with a sledgehammer in the chest, with a cinderblock in between, is a magic trick based on physics, and no the same as getting hit in the chest with a sledgehammer. But the example I gave about fencing I do find instructive.)
    – DukeZhou
    Sep 5 at 3:39
  • @MacacoBranco I referenced Reles to show that sometimes legends are not as unrealistic as they seem at first glance. In practice, no one should do it, but as a principle, it's the epitome of that art, which is all about fine point control and economy of movement.
    – DukeZhou
    Sep 5 at 3:39

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