Martial Arts in the Rain Books

This is a very general guide to the martial arts featured most prominently in the Rain books. Purists, remember—this is broad brush! Whole books have been written on these arts; my intention here is to give only the fundamentals necessary for an appreciation of the combat styles that appear in this book.

Aikido: Characterized by joint locks, throws, and a focus on techniques from a standing position. Aikido emphasizes flowing with your attacker's energy rather than fighting it, hence its name, whose three Japanese characters together mean, "the way of meeting energy."

Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ): Characterized by an emphasis on ground fighting, and a philosophy of first achieving a dominant position ("establishing your base," as Rorion Gracie puts it) and then using joint locks and strangles to finish off your opponent. BJJ was derived from traditional Japanese jiu-jitsu by the fecund Gracie clan (see The Gracie Way: An Illustrated History of the Gracie Family, by black belt Kid Peligro) and is now practiced all over the world.

Combatives: Loosely, techniques that are simple to learn and apply, that are intended to be lethal or at least disfiguring, and that are not really part of any formal system. The bronco kick Rain uses to dispatch Flatnose in A Clean Kill in Tokyo is one such technique. For it and others like it, I recommend the classic Get Tough: How to Win in Hand-to-Hand Fighting by W. E. Fairbairn.

Judo: Characterized by throws, joint locks, strangles, and a focus on standing and ground techniques. Judo, whose two Japanese characters together mean "soft way" or "flexible way," is perhaps misnamed, as anyone who has been on the wrong end of the art can attest. The culture of judo is more competitive than that of aikido; its founder, Jigoro Kano, intended judo to be taught not only as a course of physical education but also practiced as a sport, as indeed it is.

Karate: Characterized by its emphasis on punches and kicks. The two Japanese characters that comprise the word together mean "empty hand." Karate training consists of sparring and also of kata, or forms, which I once heard aptly described as "the theory of karate"; it's the latter that gives away the assassin Rain thinks of as "Karate" in the Macau Mandarin Oriental gym in Winner Take All.

Kendo: A modern art and sport derived from traditional Japanese swordsmanship. Like western fencing, kendo is practiced and fought with armor (bogu) and non lethal swords made from bamboo (shinai). Practitioners become adept in a variety of slashes, thrusts, and parries, and their skills can translate into dexterity with sticks, canes, and similar weapons with reach.

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA): Characterized by a focus on transitioning among and fighting at the punching/kicking, takedown, and ground-fighting ranges. Popularized by the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Pride, King of the Cage, and other competitions.

Sambo: Characterized by its emphasis on joint lock submissions, particularly to the legs and ankles, this Russian wrestling style is trained both as a martial art and as a sport. The increasing prevalence (and the need to defend against) leg submission attacks in jiu-jitsu and submission wrestling can be attributed to sambo's influence.

Savate: Characterized by its precision kicks performed shod, and including punching, grappling, and weapons. Also known as boxe francaise, or French kickboxing, although purists distinguish. Savate is trained both as a martial art and as a sport.

Wrestling: Characterized by its emphasis on takedowns and ground fighting. If you've ever seen two kids fighting, you have a decent idea of what (unpracticed) wrestling looks like. There are many varieties, all of which have martial applications and most of which are practiced as sports. Among the better known are Greco-Roman, which focuses on upper-body throws, with no attacks to or defenses with the legs; freestyle, which concentrates on takedowns; "folk-style," which includes takedowns and ground fighting; sambo, a Russian art that includes joint-lock submissions, particularly to the legs and ankles; and submission fighting, which focuses on joint locks and strangles to submit the opponent.


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