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Thread: Swordnerdism: are asceticism and obssession necessary for true mastery of the sword?

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    Moderator Ken Cheng's Avatar
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    Default Swordnerdism: are asceticism and obssession necessary for true mastery of the sword?

    "Swordnerdism": it's a term coined by our very own Candide to describe some wuxia characters' (particularly Gu Long's) complete obssession with swordsmanship. These characters become absolute masters of the sword arts, but the cost is their humanity. These characters live and breathe sword arts, and the ordinary concerns and desires of human beings are alien to them. Yip Goo Sing, for example, abstained from meat, wine, and sex to maintain his mastery of the sword. Sai Mun Chui Sheut supposedly lost some of his dominance as a swordsman after marrying a woman, fathering a child, and taking up the domestic art of baking. Dook Goo Kau Bai over in Jin Yong's universe also apparently gave his life to the sword, as it seemed that swordsmanship was his only concern in life.

    But then you have counterexamples such as Tse Hiu Fung, Yeung Gor, and Ling Wu Chung, who were able to maintain normal human relationships and concerns while becoming supreme swordsmen. Tse Hiu Fung was not the inferior of Sai Mun Chui Sheut or Yip Goo Sing in the sword arts, but he was a sociable gentleman who obviously had interests in life beyond the sword. Yeung Gor became the greatest swordsman of his time, but did not have to sacrifice his passion for Little Dragon Girl to do so. Ling Wu Chung, about as unascetic as one can get, was a master of the Dook Goo 9 Swords by the end of STATE OF DIVINITY. Then you have the likes of Cheung 3 Fung, whose supremacy in the Tai Chi Sword Technique did not come at the price of his humanity.

    So what is it about "swordnerds" such as Yip Goo Sing, Sai Mun Chui Sheut, and maybe Dook Goo Kau Bai? Why do they need to practice asceticism and divorce themselves from their humanity to master the sword arts when there are examples of other swordsmen who can achieve the same without such a sacrifice?

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    In the United States, we call them workaholics.

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    Senior Member IcyFox's Avatar
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    The explaination is going to be extremely long, so I don't think you're going to get a satisfactory answer anytime soon.

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    I'm not qualified as such to cover some of these characters, but what strikes me about the 'rules of gaining power' in the GL novels is that truly exceptional ability can be gained by a couple of routes.

    We run into 'virgin' or 'ascetic' internal power in GL relatively often; it often is portrayed as offering considerable short-term payback for effort, in that it both cultivates power and avoids those things that might put a strain on focus or affect the body adversely; YGC and XMCX both adhere to this philosophy to varying extents. Yet we also see characters that do enjoy life and its various little temptations who also have considerable ability - LXF is a key example.

    My thought on this is that ascetic power, the 'singular focus' of characters like Ah Fei, Ximen Chuixue, and so forth, is the most rational and 'accessible' path to perfection. Similarly, their focus allowed them (Ximen and Ye, anyway) to live fully in the 'world of swordsmanship', sort of a sub-branch of the Wulin. Ximen always seemed pretty 'current' on events in that sphere, and had knowledge of swordsmanship that allowed him to diagnose 'flaws' in a style after remarkably brief observation.

    So...
    ASCETIC CULTIVATION
    - 'Fast' - not necessarily unnaturally so, it's just there are no distractions
    - 'Focused' - In the first LXF story, GL notes that using *any* sword against XMCX is a terrible idea; he has the focus for a transcendent understanding that negates all but the most wondrous techniques.

    On the other hand, there are examples of characters who do not 'pull away' from life but instead embrace it, and do not noticably suffer from it. The key here seems to be sincerity. Just debauching onesself dissolves capability; it is only through the true embracing of life that this sort of 'worldly power' can be maintained.

    Consider LXF - he is big on the wine, the women, and the song, but he's also a moral individual who doesn't lose himself in them - he has an appetite but it is controlled (His life is 'fulfilling', but he isn't 'ravenous' in his tastes). This sort of 'enlightened enjoyment' of the world, besides making him more capable of interacting with the world, seems not to suffer from the negative influences of visceral pleasures.

    What strikes me now, however, is whether a swordsman can compare. I think in the 'grand scheme' of things, GL means us to appreciate the 'fluid, happy' masters as superior to 'rigid' masters - Li Xunhuan vs. Shangguan.

    But on the microscale of swordsmen, it seems that the emphasis is on the presence or absence of principles rather than enjoying vs. denying life. Then again, personal integrity might well be the 'x-factor' that seperates a debauched failure from a 'lively hero' like LXF. And the central quality that all that asceticism is aimed at; once it's embraced, the 'trappings' of self-denial might be no longer necessary. (Such as how a martial artist must start with rigid forms, but only until he realizes that forms are merely expressions of a more profound principle and he can abandon them).

    I'm really interested in others' input; I'm not well-read enough in this to offer much more than supposition.

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    Lets view swordsmanship as a game.

    If thus, I believe that those who forsake everything to master swordsmanship strive to beat the game, even influence part of the game's rules, whilst the others are content to merely play in the game. In this context, those who are trying to beat the game are in a sense looking to a higher ideal. They may not necessarily be stronger in terms of swordsmanship compared to the former, though it is likely to be so in my opinion.

    One fine example is Harry Potter. Haha... while some are content to merely read and enjoy the novels, others are always sniffing out clues, hypothesizing about what is to come, and are extreme fanatics in that sense.

    Swordsmanship is in essence, their passion, their love, their everything.

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    Senior Member IcyFox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Unruly
    I'm not qualified as such to cover some of these characters, but what strikes me about the 'rules of gaining power' in the GL novels is that truly exceptional ability can be gained by a couple of routes.
    ...
    ...
    Something like that. I think he/she has roughly hit it.

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    Senior Member IcyFox's Avatar
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    A suggested answer to this topic can be found here : NULL.


    Edit : The suggested answer is moved here.


    Martial Arts Themes


    This is a new idea not mentioned previously in this theory, but this provides a possible solution to explain the lives/lifestyles and mentality of various martial arts exponents, especially of swordsmen, who appeared in Wuxia literature.

    Although there is a broad spectrum of 'ways' or 'routes' of advancement a martial arts exponent can embark on, their lifestyles can be classified into generalized categories which is labelled with certain properties a number of lifestyles might share, hence such similar lifestyles can be grouped into Themes.

    The major Themes present in Wuxia literature consist of mainly 2 types - the Ascetic Theme and the Non-Ascetic Theme; the former being a lifestyle of extreme obsession with martial arts coupled with a severe lack of worldly desires while the latter being a moderate lifestyle with a wholesome family (optional) and a significant life outside martial arts.

    For the Ascetic Theme, the martial arts exponent's obsession with martial arts and (sometimes forced) lack of worldly desires allows him full concentration on his studies without any distraction in the form of family problems, lust, financial problems, etc. However, because of the suppression of the exponent's feelings and emotions, the exponent is likely to suffer from insanity or depression after prolonged exposure to such conditions.

    For the Non-Ascetic Theme, the martial arts exponent is able to lead a more balanced life and pursue other interests, which may be benificial to his studies, as "the best rest is a change of work". However, in this case, the exponent may fail to understand the finer or more advanced points of martial arts due to the absence of such extreme concentration present in the Ascetic Theme.

    Then again, there is another theme which is somewhat in between, known as the Enlightenment Theme or Self-Cultivation Theme, which is more commonly practiced by religious people who lack the worldly desires but maintain a significant life outside martial arts, which is mainly their spiritual cultivation, which can be used to complement their martial arts. This theme is more rarely seen in Wuxia literature.

    Finally, there is no martial arts theme that is superior to another. A martial arts exponent makes better progress in martial arts if he has the perseverance and talent, and also if he chooses the appropriate martial arts theme which suits his personality, character and philosophy in martial arts.
    Last edited by IcyFox; 11-11-06 at 12:45 PM.

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    Senior Member MysteriouX's Avatar
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    Hmm but you do have to notice that DGQB had to start from scratch to create his ultimate sword arts.

    YG had help from the divine eagle along with the fact that he learned other skills too, LWC had guidance from FQY and he learned the Essence Absorbing Skill and Tendon altering sutra.

    Is it ever mentioned where YGC and XXCX learned or studied their swords? How would you consider YGC or XXCX to someone like LWC or YG? Who would be better with the sword?

    Its the old saying "It's harder to create something completely new then to just copy (learn) from something that is already there."

    And there are psychological and emotional factors to be considered.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Cheng
    "Swordnerdism": it's a term coined by our very own Candide to describe some wuxia characters' (particularly Gu Long's) complete obssession with swordsmanship. These characters become absolute masters of the sword arts, but the cost is their humanity. These characters live and breathe sword arts, and the ordinary concerns and desires of human beings are alien to them. Yip Goo Sing, for example, abstained from meat, wine, and sex to maintain his mastery of the sword. Sai Mun Chui Sheut supposedly lost some of his dominance as a swordsman after marrying a woman, fathering a child, and taking up the domestic art of baking. Dook Goo Kau Bai over in Jin Yong's universe also apparently gave his life to the sword, as it seemed that swordsmanship was his only concern in life.

    But then you have counterexamples such as Tse Hiu Fung, Yeung Gor, and Ling Wu Chung, who were able to maintain normal human relationships and concerns while becoming supreme swordsmen. Then you have the likes of Cheung 3 Fung, whose supremacy in the Tai Chi Sword Technique did not come at the price of his humanity.
    This is not related to your points but I would argue that YG and probably even Z3F are not on the same level as those other guys in terms of swordsmanship because they did devote themselves to the sword like the others but instead dabble in other forms of martial arts.

    I also want to point out that there's a big difference in gaining power in the JY world and in the GL world. In JY's world, a swordsman becomes more powerful mostly by increasing his physical abilities. The difference between a higher level swordsman and a lower level swordsman is mainly due to a difference in physical ability. In GL's world, the top swordsmen tend to be about the same in terms of martial arts and the differences in power are due more to mental abilities. In Gu Long's world, a higher level swordsman will be able to pick a better oppurtunity to make a move, be better at predicting his opponents' actions, stay calmer,have a greater killer instinct, etc...

    With regards to those differences between JY and GL, how would you evaluate how having lives outside of their swords would affect them?
    Last edited by Wu Wudi; 08-11-06 at 01:41 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Unruly
    Consider LXF - he is big on the wine, the women, and the song, but he's also a moral individual who doesn't lose himself in them - he has an appetite but it is controlled (His life is 'fulfilling', but he isn't 'ravenous' in his tastes). This sort of 'enlightened enjoyment' of the world, besides making him more capable of interacting with the world, seems not to suffer from the negative influences of visceral pleasures.
    LXF wasn't really a pervert. He flirted a little but he was one of those rare one woman guy in GL's world. LXF just solicited many prostitutes because he was trying to drive his girlfriend to marry his best friend.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MysteriouX
    Hmm but you do have to notice that DGQB had to start from scratch to create his ultimate sword arts.

    YG had help from the divine eagle along with the fact that he learned other skills too, LWC had guidance from FQY and he learned the Essence Absorbing Skill and Tendon altering sutra.

    Is it ever mentioned where YGC and XXCX learned or studied their swords? How would you consider YGC or XXCX to someone like LWC or YG? Who would be better with the sword?

    Its the old saying "It's harder to create something completely new then to just copy (learn) from something that is already there."

    And there are psychological and emotional factors to be considered.

    We can't really say that DGQB started from scratch since we really don't know much about him. Who knows if there weren't a figure in DGQB's life like DGQB in YG and LHC's lives?

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    Senior Member MysteriouX's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wu Wudi
    We can't really say that DGQB started from scratch since we really don't know much about him. Who knows if there weren't a figure in DGQB's life like DGQB in YG and LHC's lives?

    True, I forgot to consider that, but I am just saying that perhaps YG and LWC only became powerful without having to give such fanatical dedication was because a figure such as DGQB had already laid down most of the foundations already.

    Since we dont know much about DGQB, perhaps the reason he dedicated himself to swords was because the person he cared for he lost early on in life. I seem to recall that Yue GuChong dedicated to his swords after his loved died when he was young. While Ximen Chui Xue only met someone of his heart later in life.

    Maybe facing such loss or emptiness forced them to dedicate their lives to the sword.
    Last edited by MysteriouX; 08-11-06 at 03:05 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Wu Wudi
    LXF wasn't really a pervert. He flirted a little but he was one of those rare one woman guy in GL's world. LXF just solicited many prostitutes because he was trying to drive his girlfriend to marry his best friend.
    Are you talking Liu Siu Feng? If you're talking about that 4 eyebrowed dude, then I think he is NOT a rare one woman guy in GL's world. He is a mutiple woman guy. Let me see..... He was interested on that one gambling girl in Book 6. He was interested in Beef Noodle Soup in Book 7. He was interested in Oue Yang Ching in book 2 and 3. He was interested in mutiple girls in Book 4. He was forced to do it with Yei Lin in Book 5..... I'm not very convinced that Liu Siu Feng is a one woman guy....
    法王正欲回掌相击,突听嗤嗤轻响一股柔和的气流涌向面门,正是一灯大师使出一阳指功夫,正面拦截。法王一直没将这白眉老僧放在眼内,那料到他这一指之功,竟是如此深厚
    此时一灯大师的一阳指功夫实已到了登峰造极、炉火纯青的地步,指上发出的那股罡气似是温淳平和,但沛然浑厚,无可与抗

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    Quote Originally Posted by Whsie
    Are you talking Liu Siu Feng? If you're talking about that 4 eyebrowed dude, then I think he is NOT a rare one woman guy in GL's world. He is a mutiple woman guy. Let me see..... He was interested on that one gambling girl in Book 6. He was interested in Beef Noodle Soup in Book 7. He was interested in Oue Yang Ching in book 2 and 3. He was interested in mutiple girls in Book 4. He was forced to do it with Yei Lin in Book 5..... I'm not very convinced that Liu Siu Feng is a one woman guy....
    Oops, I was talking about LXH, the legend who's never missed with his dagger!

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    Senior Member IcyFox's Avatar
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    You guys are off the road. This thread is limited only to how the swordsman's lifestyle interacts with his martial arts.

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