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The Mastery of Self
« on: December 28, 2022, 01:21:29 PM »
[A copy of this treatise is donated to the Military Studies faculties of L'Universite de Dementlieu for public reading:]


Written by D. Valstahd

"Strength is born in adversity, forged in the flames of purpose, sculpted by the tools of tenacity."

I. Introduction
This piece is written to collaborate any historic and cultural citations I can collect and couple them with first-hand experience, witness and testimony in order to provide an in-depth study on the usage of 'Ki' and the different disciplines and martial schools that derive from its teachings. This piece is aimed to cover all the fundamentals so that those with or without prior knowledge of the subject may understand all components and perhaps be inspired for further investigation on the field. The esoteric practice and perfection of this energy, of one's self, requires absolute dedication, devotion and focus, not only within the body, but the mind.

II. Origin
The main component and backbone of the mastery of self comes down to an intrinsic energy within all humanoid creatures - 'ki' energy. Truth be told, any writings or records on when this phenomenon was first discovered is almost non-existent and remains a contested topic. It is quite possible this energy was dormant within all living things from the very beginning, and it is only as mankind has advanced that we have learned to adopt and manipulate it. The main two advocates, however among the Core as to where 'ki' first originated within living beings comes down to two distinct competitors as it were: The Divinity of Mankind within Zherisia, and the culture of Rokushima Táiyoo.

Out of the pair, it would seem that Rokushima Táiyoo first coined the term of this anomaly and popularised it. The word 'ki' itself stems from the exotic far-distant isle of Rokushima Táiyoo, as the word actually comes from their native language Rokuma. The closest interpretation of the meaning of this word would be "vital force" or "vital energy", however the word is the term to the philosophical belief that there is a life energy with all living things, and likewise a balance of positive and negative energy that exists within the body. The belief of ki is paired together with the tenets of Bushido - a code of honour whereby the people believe following eight virtues from life to death will keep the spirit pure and allow this life energy to be more malleable for manipulation. This is a normalised and revered part of their society and the 'samurai' - a warrior-caste of nobility within Rokushima Táiyoo - follow these eight virtues dutifully. These eight virtues encompass several aspects of life, including mastery of bladecraft and unwavering loyalty to the lord they serve. They do not simply pertain to mastering martial arts, but rather they enforce a way of life, a code to live diligently by. Through this service, it would appear they gain an inner focus and subsequent unlocking of their ki, posing the belief that it may have been them who first established its existence. Similarly one of their deities, or 'kami' as they are referred to, is Hachiman - a god of warfare, strategy, and upholding the divine belief of Bushido.

Some would argue, however, that the true proprietors of the origin of ki would be the Divinity of Mankind of Zherisia. Since the island predates the discovery of Rokushima Táiyoo by almost 200 years, this claim isn't an empty one. The Divinity of Mankind, whilst viewed as a religious order or following of sorts, is more a philosophical tradition with similar machinations of that which reflect the Rokuman Bushido. The Divinity of Mankind, like its namesake would suggest, is the belief and realisation that humankind is itself divine. It is the belief that for this divinity to be achieved, one must devote themselves to absolute perfection in all ways - body, mind, emotion, so on. The innate energy of ki is seen to be a residual effect of this supposed divinity, which over the years has sprung up monastic traditions and followings who hold the belief that harnessing this ki is the pathway to perfection. Their terminology differs somewhat from ki, dubbing the phenomenon 'anima' - an unconscious part of the soul whereby this instritic energy emanates. However, the Divinity of Mankind believes this to be solely attributed with humans and only humans. In my experience however, any type of intelligent humanoid with enough practice is capable of such technique.

Though, the noteworthy conclusion isn't necessarily drawn from the debate of origin. Rather, it is worth paying attention to the similarities of these two beliefs. A religious and spiritual devotion to one's perfection, and from this we can derive further the metaphysical components of ki.

III. Disciplines
From the usage of 'ki', we derive the two archetypes by which those capable of manipulating it are classified under. Like how one would identify a trained wizard from a blooded sorcerer in terms of arcane sciences, there are two main deviations of those who aim to wield this energy: the body and the weapon.

    a. The Body
These teaching and methods are what one would know as monks, martial artists, ascetics or pugilists. They come under many different terms and phrases but ultimately embody the same aspects. I could write another thousand editions on every single monastic order, tradition or philosophy but for the purpose of this piece, these types of users will be grouped together. Those that follow 'The Body' are those that focus, enhance and utilise their ki energy specifically within themselves to empower their body. A follower of this path chooses not to wield a weapon, for they make themselves the weapon - enhancing their bodies to otherwise inhuman capabilities. Because of their devout focus upon their bodies, they often do not adorn any type of armour, as this supposedly disrupts their inner connection. This is typically the easiest way to distinguish such a user.

b. The Weapon
These teachings are almost the direct opposite of their counterpart - those that follow 'The Weapon' are those that train rigorously in order to make their weapon the focus of their ki energy, the instrument by which they expel their energy for enhanced efficacy and focused precision. They train their bodies and mind so that they can adapt their chosen weapon so effortlessly become a part of themselves, so much so that they can act through it like an extra limb. The chosen weapon of the user is often a sentimental choice, and typically one that reflects the personality and identity of the user. It's rather difficult to distinguish a weapon master in the field by anything other than being on the receiving end, as there is no real indication of this unseen energy other than the brutal efficiency of their blows. 

IV. Conditioning
Now we know the source of the power, the two paths in which to train, the next question remains - how do you train and harness this energy? This is where this brand of martial specialisation develops into its own. The obvious and short answer would be practice, but one must specifically understand what it is they are attempting to learn in order to reap the benefits. This section will detail out what to practice and how it is achieved:

The mastery of self comes down to three core elements - body, mind and emotion.

These key aspects are what enhances and strengthens one's ki and their ability to manipulate it. Depending on your monastic tradition, your mentor or otherwise these aspects may have hundreds, if not thousands of different interpretations across the Core, but these three things are at the core of any specialist's training. Not only are they important individually, but they are part of one another. They work in unison in one another, and strengthen each other. In order to achieve perfection, a balance must be struck between all three. Strength of the mind is nothing without the emotional control, or the physical body to use it. Raw strength will not realise it's full potential without the clarity of mind and the emotions to guide it seamlessly.

    a. Meditation
The first measure by which one can gain control and balance over one's self would be meditation. From an outsider's perspective, it is difficult to see why sitting around would achieve harmony, but there is much more to meditation than one might initially perceive. There are many forms of meditation, some more appropriate for certain types of personalities than others, but the main aspect that they all attempt to achieve is, thusly, transcendence. The rhythmic breathing and otherwise stillness of meditation is not simply to promote calmness, but instead absolute focus. An absence of feeling, from within or from one's surroundings, allows one to achieve deeper consciousness. It is used to develop an acute awareness of one's self, their subconscious, and a mindful perception. One must concentrate upon themselves, something simple like their breathing, until they think no more. Through enough training and persistence, one can eventually harness the instritic energy within themselves through this state of complete clarity. In a rather paradoxical sense, once you are reduced to nothing, you can become anything, and once this breakthrough aligns for the user, they begin the process of being able to manipulate their ki.

b. Balance
The second measure is striking a balance in their training. Those key three aspects that were touched upon previously come into play here. In order to achieve mastery, one must be able to incorporate the body, mind and their emotion seamlessly into their offensive and defensive. The best analogy I have heard this explained comes from an old mentor of mine: think of yourself as waves upon the sea. A sea can be calm, still, ready - or it can be fierce, thunderous, unrelenting. It can gently guide a vessel or it can sink one. This, in turn, this is the control you must possess in combat. A calm stillness as you parry, block or deflect incoming blows from a combatant, then a raging blow when you command the offensive. Everything is transient when it comes to a fight, and a true practitioner knows exactly when to manipulate his subconscious, body and feelings at the perfect time. The ability to 'flow' from these states, from one to the other like water would, is how one can achieve a deeper focus.

c. Repetition
The third, but by no means the least, measure is repetition. We are what we repeatedly do. We become our habits over time, slowly and certainly. The practice and training of ki is no small feat, and nor is it easily obtained. It is through adversity that you find true strength. It is when your body and your mind ache with every movement, that you become stronger than yesterday. This discipline requires absolute devotion to master, and I cannot rightly estimate a timeframe in which one can expect results. These breakthroughs are determined by the user, and whilst the principles remain the same, it is ultimately a personal journey of enlightenment. Patience is upmost required in order to see results, though be warned that the journey to perfection has no destination. It is both a blessing and a curse to find an inner strength within ki, and also to realise how much further you have to go.

V. Results
After discussing the disciplines, the methods and what is required, it is only appropriate to present the results. What is the benefit of this practice? Why should I devote myself to this over more conventional methods? These questions, and more, shall be answered below.

    a. Enhanced Mobility
In my studies and observations, those who follow The Body can expect to see unparalleled movement and agility, the likes of which one would barely begin to comprehend. Their step is lighter, faster, and quicker than the rest. They can parry and catch arrows mid-flight with inhuman reflexes. I have seen master ascetics run laps and laps around their opponent, witling them down slowly with a flurry of strikes, in comedic but terrifying fashion. Never challenge a monk to a foot-race, trust me.

They also have an uncanny grace in combat, able to dodge seamlessly between blows with enough practice and determination. Their body and mind is one, allowing them to move acrobatically in a skirmish, making them incredibly evasive. Wearing any armour, from what I understand, severs this connection however, and so they usually adorn the lightest clothing possible.

b. Enhanced Precision
Those that follow The Weapon have deadly proficiency in their favoured weapon, rivalling that of even elite swordsmen. The more experienced the user, the more this bond grows stronger, and allows their strikes to be even more true. Naturally, due to their specialisation in a singular weapon, normally this precision is only with their favoured weapon.

c. Fatal Accuracy
Those that have battled with, or against, masters of their weapon will know this next part all too well. Those that follow The Weapon can enhance their bond to the point of being able to strike at vitals with deadly efficiency. When a weapon master lands a decisive blow, the results are often devastating, leading to puncturing wounds or decapitating blows. The strength of this ability seems to be, generally at least, relative to the size of the weapon that the user wields - I suppose this would only be logical; the bigger the instrument, the more ki it can expel in a single blow.

d. Augmented Body
This phenomenon exists with the masters of The Body, and is one of the hardest to put into words. The most experienced disciples are able to augment their body in supernatural and otherwise impossible ways, with a few examples I have witnessed below:

They are able exhume poisons, venoms and diseases from their body, remaining completely vitalised even when exposed to such substances, as if it never entered their system.

They are able to harness their ki in such a way that they can replenish themselves, able to heal their own wounds to a moderate degree.

They are able to enter a trance so deep, their very self can become ethereal, similar to that of a master arcanist's spell. Coincidentally, master ascetics appear to be incredibly resistant to sources of magic, arcana, divine blessings or otherwise. A very select few can reach the epitome of transcendence, achieving a state of near-permanent clarity that protects their mind from any altering magics indefinitely.

e. Manifest Energy
Lastly, those of The Boy are capable of manifesting their ki beyond just the augmentation of themselves. They are able to use their bodies as a source of power, and thusly manifest their ki outside of themselves, transmuting that into other forms of energy.

The most common example of this is evident in their supernatural ability to encircle and emblaze their own bodies to deliver incinerating blows and kicks, conversely they can wreath themselves in a similar nature, which will burn any unwanted attackers. I haven't seen any evidence of mastery of other elements (ice, lightning, for instance), but I suspect this might be down to one's training and monastic practice.

Similarly, some are able to manifest and concentrate their ki in a spherical ball of force, and project it at their foes. This is a peculiar sensation to be struck by, like sheer energy - imagine being struck by something incredibly dense and heavy moving very quickly, and that's about the closest interpretation I can give. Needless to say, it can be effective.

VI. Conclusion
This brings the overview to a close, unfortunately given the wide spectrum of ki and it's capabilities, it is difficult to condense into words and even harder without generalisations. Martial disciplines are, of course, best in practice and visually witnessed, and I encourage any readers to find followers of The Body or The Weapon for further insight, or even begin fostering some of these techniques for themselves, or through a mentor. After all, as tradition dictates, these are not just combat practices but ways to perfect one's self and their living.

Certainly, it is not a replacement for contemporary military tactics and stratagem, but rather an alternative - the time investment to train every rank-and-file soldier via these methods would be extraordinary no doubt, and thus it is best left to elite skirmishers, captains or lieutenants.

However, this concludes our journey; consider it introductory - perhaps I will revisit the subject in even greater detail at another date.

« Last Edit: December 29, 2022, 06:42:15 AM by Sanguine »