It was about feel. The feel of the entire thing. His body knew what to do, all he had to do was feel the parts that made it happen. Feel the flow of his own vitality, his own life, his own "qi", as his sensei kept saying.
Of course, every time that he almost had it, each time he was about to grip on what his sensei was attempting to show him, he found himself on the ground, reeling from his sensei's punch, kick, or... or what? Some of the moves his sensei was performing, they were incomprehensible.
Pulling himself to his knees after a rather ingracious meeting with the mat, Samuel said, "Sensei, I cannot understand this."
The teacher, standing in an obscenely relaxed posture, smiling like a buddha without the faintest sheen of sweat to show for his exertion, replied, "Student, I do not see what is so difficult to understand. You come at me, and I hit you. Or I come at you, and I hit you. What don't you understand?"
Samuel was frustrated, and beating down anger at himself for failing, his master for being so difficult, and the other students, for just sitting so implacably around the sparring area, doing what? Three weeks, he had not seen another one of them spar, or engage in warm ups. It was just him and the sensei, training, training, training. The other "students" had as much value as gargoyles. "Master, I do not understand why I keep getting hit."
"Because you are not blocking. Stand, and try again."
Samuel stood, wiping sweat from his brow. How could his teacher be so relaxed? What could keep him so calm, so sedate? Obviously, that was what his sensei was attempting to show him. Before Samuel had even gained his balance enough to assume a fighting stance, he saw the change in balance of his sensei. A slight change of wieght moving from left to right.
Samuel felt some part of his mind suddenly snap and let go. Unbidden, he felt a rush of warmth move from the core of his being to his left arm, which in turn surged outward, a peregrine clenching its talons about his sensei's wrist, while that same rush of warmth brought his right leg up, rocketing towards his sensei's now exposed side, but no, the sensei's free arm interposed itself, and the teacher used Samuel's own grip for levearge to bring a speeding foot at Samuel's knee.
Samuel's own leg rose up, deflecting his sensei's kick, while his arms worked in concert, the gripping arm twisting the teacher's body around, while his opposite arm pistoned towards the vulnerable kidney's.
Samuel swore he could hear the mental peace that was driving him shatter as suddenly as it set upon him. His clarity was gone with the warmth, and his limbs sumbitted to his consious control again in mid punch. Already set on his course, Samuel followed through, but by the time that his punch completed his sensei was no longer there, his other hand clutching nothing but air.
Air, precious air, tore itself from Samuel's lungs and his ribs gave under the sudden force of a terribly sure foot striking the small of his back.
The pain was intense, and it was like nothing Samuel had experienced- before this training began. Even with the constant exposure to crippling strike after crippling strike, the experience was unique every time. He just did not seem to get used to it.
This time, there was a difference.
He had landed on all fours, directly infront of one of the other "students", the one who's gui bore a carefully embroidered circular insignia, a frothy wave that curled around, which appeared to have been copied from old Zen artwork depicting such waves crashing against dark, craggy shores. Crumpling before that student, his vision blurry and swimming, he saw that the "student" nodded to his sensei.
It hurt too much to turn his head and see if his sensei nodded back, so instead, Samuel crumpled to the floor, taking small, gasping breaths until his diaphragm stopped spasming.
At the edge of his senses, he knew something was wrong.
Before he could even breathe, and while his vision still swam, his hands pushed himself up and rolled him over, a bare foot slicing through the air where his body had been a moment before, passing with the killing grace of a tiger's paw.
His sensei had not stopped when he had fallen.
The teacher continued coming.
"Flow." The student with the decorated gui commanded. "Flow."
The imperitave triggered something. Samuel felt as if his body melted, and then he felt something else take over. From his position on all fours, this "other-being" ruled his liquid form, bringing it to a standing position, the liquid making his body bubbled up from his feet, rising out of his shoulders and falling out, forming arms, and it was gravity, not his own body, that pulled one liquid arm across his body blocking his sensei's punch. It was the momentum from that block that swung across his bubbling shoulders, bringing the other arm outward to block his sensei's kick, and that energy transfered into a kick of his own, his liquid foot smacking into his sensei's torso with the force of a water soaked sandbag. But the teacher did not fall. Faster than Samuel's liquid self could react, his sensei pummelled his stomach, one punch, then two, then three all connected, but the "other-being" driving his actions kept that force from being damaging, instead, he allowed it to force the air from his body, exhaling explosively, removing the stale air that had been holding him back anyway.
A fresh breath triggered another flurry of exchanged blows, Samuel's liquid body feeding it's own motion, working in concert, under the direction of his other self. He could feel the qi pulsing through him, and all of his moves matched it's rhtyhm.
Even so, he was on the ground a moment later, his sensei straddling him, one leathery hand about his throat, the other a fist, coiled to strike.
The fight was over.
But the teacher was smiling.
"Well done my child. Well done. You have just entered a new world."