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02.25.2014 , 06:22 PM | #27
Chapter Thirteen: Flow (Part Five)

In the center of the dueling square, the trio of master and students had formed a rough, but close-knit circle, each standing within arm's reach. Dehros, Torzin, and Ryska each stood resolute as morning turned to day, and more and more of their kind began to populate the surrounding grounds. In all directions, the silence had given way to the gentle rumblings of budding trainees working under the guidance of their instructors. But it would have no effect on the Guardian's lesson. The small arena was isolated in his mind, as well as the minds of his students.

"The Force is about flow. Combat is about flow,” Dehros explained. “Understanding as much is paramount to understanding what it truly means to be a Jedi. But to understand the Force, to understand flow, we must first recognize it, even where it appears to not exist."

"But it does exist, right?" Ryska offered with the slight tilt of her head. "It's just a matter of whether we or not perceive it?"

"Correct," Dehros replied. "The Force exists in all things, organic or otherwise. It merely manifests itself in countless ways. Some unrecognizable to even the most learned Jedi. But I'll leave such musings to Master Karrehl. I've still much to teach you in the ways of combat."

The Padawans offered a pair of firm nods.

"We're ready to learn, master," Torzin declared.

"Of that, I've no doubt," Dehros stated. "Recall that lightsaber combat revolves around motion. And yet, we all know what happens when two blades meet. What's important is that you realize that the absence of motion is not the absence of flow."

"Oh!" Ryska perked up. "Osetto taught us this yesterday. It's like how a sitting rock isn't just a sitting rock, right?"

"That's right, Padawan," Dehros confirmed. "Nothing exists in isolation. For every action, there is a reaction. And many times, they wind up cancelling each other out. But for Jedi, this is not an end, merely an alternative path. When our blades stop, we do not. When our fists meet durasteel, we are not limited by our flesh. The Force bolsters us, but it is not limited to our being. But neither is our reach extended only through distant pushes and pulls. To maximize our skills in melee combat, we must focus on the point of contact."

"I take it that's what you did with the training dummy," Ryska suggested.

"Correct," Dehros answered. "Channeling the Force at the proper moment can improve your attacks as well as your defenses. Done properly, it can maximize or completely nullify damage. Taken to the extreme, it can allow you to break the unbreakable. Master Joren once referred to the skill as Force Resonance."

"It almost sounds like manipulating shatterpoints," Torzin muttered. "But I thought only the greatest Jedi could do that."

The Cathar tilted her head. "Shatterpoints?”

"A shatterpoint is like a fracture in the Force," Dehros explained. "Critical faults that, if acted upon, could totally unravel whatever they exist in. But they are not just limited to objects, nor do they always pertain to combat. They exist in people, places, even events. Perceiving them rests beyond the capabilities of most Jedi, even the Masters. What I aim to teach is something even Padawans such as yourselves can utilize. More application. Less divination."

"How do we learn this skill?" Torzin asked.

"Like all else, with practice," Dehros stated. "With time, you will learn to continue when all else tells you that you cannot. But that does not mean that you can forget how to stop. In fact, it is imperative that you always remember how."

"Absence of motion is not the absence of flow," Torzin recalled.

"Precisely," Dehros replied. "Knowing how and when to stop is as much a key detail in lightsaber combat as any other."

"Because otherwise, we wind up missing a finger or two, right?" Ryska joked, cracking a smile.

"Right," Dehros offered, completely deadpan. The Cathar's smile faded as she pursed her lips. She knew that would have gotten at least a chuckle out of her Master. The Guardian took a step back before widening his stance, planting his feet on the sturdy ground. Extending his right arm, the teacher displayed his open palm to the two Padawans. "I would like one of you to punch my hand. Just like you did with the training dummy."

"Just like we did with the training dummy?" Ryska repeated, unsure.

"You needn't hold back on my account," Dehros calmly stated, still holding out his raised palm. "And I assure you, I offer far less resistance than the dummy."

The students looked to one another, neither sure of their tutor’s direction. Osetto's lessons had only dealt with water and rocks. There was still a measure of discomfort when forced to interact with another living being. In the years prior, lessons had always come at the words of teachers seated behind desks. Anything done in the field was limited to training and conditioning. To have the classroom moved to the dueling squares was a peculiarity hard fought in the Padawans’ minds. But they could not argue the results thus far. Nor could they argue with their respective masters' displays.

"I'll go first," Torzin declared, taking the initiative once again.

Ryska offered a gentle nod, taking a step away and giving the Mirialan some room. The male student and his master shared a brief look, the Guardian maintaining his unwavering resolve as well as his uncompromising stoicism.

Dehros continued to politely offer Torzin his raised, flattened palm. The Padawan shifted his stance. Learning from his previous attempt with the dummy, the Mirialan balanced thought with instinct, moving neither too fast nor too slow. With a calm mind, the Padawan pulled his arm back, balling his fist, before promptly delivering it straight into his master's waiting palm.

Flesh impacted against flesh, with a soft slapping sound ringing out. The Guardian showed no signs of budging, absorbing the blow in its entirety. As the master and student remained in contact, Dehros remained utterly calm and composed. Torzin, meanwhile, felt a shiver run down his entire arm, continuing deep into his core. It wasn't a feeling of pain, but it consumed the senses nonetheless. Withdrawing his hand, the student received a patient nod from the Guardian.

"Very good," Dehros emotionlessly offered. "Now, try again. Only this time, do not make contact. Try to get as close as you can without touching."

"Without sacrificing speed or power, right? Torzin suggested.

"Correct," Dehros replied. "Balance and control are foundations of being a Jedi. Anyone can throw a punch or swing a blade. Many still can choose to do nothing. It takes effort to start and stop before any damage is done. This type of conditioning strengthens the union between the body and mind. Cultivate it, and many more avenues of instruction open up. Are you ready?"

Torzin offered a confident nod. Winding his arm back, the Mirialan took careful aim at his master's still-raised palm. Taking a series of calm breaths, the Padawan found his center before throwing his fist forward. The student's punch cut through the air, only slightly diminished compared to its predecessor. After the briefest of moments, the Mirialan's green fist came to a stop, a sizable gap separating the two Jedi's hands. Backing away, Torzin readied himself for another attempt, reaffirming his stance as he drew his hand back. He released another punch, this time stopping closer to his master's palm.

The Padawan tried again and again, inching ever closer with each attempt, never truly making contact. His motions were a mixture of starts and stops, each flowing into the other despite their disparate movements. Each punch was thrown and released without any semblance of effort, but stopping them before they could strike absorbed the Padawan's attention. It required calculation, for a wandering mind would have resulted in failure.

But he would not fail. With each attempt, with each throw of his clenched hand, the student drew closer and closer, until only a sliver of air separating his fist from his master's palm. Pausing for a moment, Torzin looked Dehros in the eyes, receiving a subtle look of approval.

"Fine work, Padawan," Dehros calmly stated. "Now let Ryska try."

"Of course, master," Torzin dutifully replied, backing away with a brief bow of his head. Taking the Mirialan's place, the Cathar maneuvered herself in front of the waiting Guardian.

Ryska studied the Human's open palm, biting her lip with a look of hesitation. "Should I try to not hit it on my first try, or…"

"You should throw a normal punch," Dehros instructed. "That will allow you to calibrate subsequent attempts. Remember. Knowledge is knowledge. Experience is experience. From every action we take, there is something to learn."

The Cathar gave a quick nod, planting her feet upon the solid ground as she readied her first strike. With a deep breath, she clenched her fist, drew it back, and drove it forward. Her knuckles impacted against the Human's palm, releasing the same slapping sound as Torzin's blow. Also similar was the shiver than ran down her arm and into her chest when her fist came to a sudden stop. Meanwhile, Dehros maintained his constant stance and demeanor.

Retrieving her hand, Ryska prepared for her next punch. She recalled her first strike, remembering her precise motions. Reach. Speed. Arc. Each component had something to tell, and compiling them would no doubt provide a sufficient answer. Proper calculation, however, seemed just beyond the young Jedi's capabilities. But she would not allow herself to be deterred.

As her fingers clenched tighter and tighter, the Cathar called upon the knowledge she possessed. Drawing her hand back, she took in a deep breath, releasing it as she drove her fist forward. It's journey was fast and brief, coming to stop in a matter of moments. And not entirely of its own accord. Despite her best efforts, Ryska fist only came to a stop after lightly pressing into the Guardian's awaiting palm. Retrieving her hand, the Cathar scratched the back of her head in embarrassment, forcing a soft chuckle.

"I guess this is why you wanted us to use our hands instead of our training sabers," Ryska joked.

"You guess correctly," Dehros bluntly replied, completely deadpan. Once more the Cathar's smile faded. Only this time, it was accompanied by a drop in her shoulders, and a dip of her head. "Do not be discouraged. Try again."

The Padawan recovered as well as she could, shifting her stance for her second attempt. She tried clearing her mind, standing upright as she readied another punch, but there was something missing. Biting her lip, she felt almost everything slip away. Every lesson, every instruction, she was left frozen in place with nothing to call upon. Looking to the Human, he offered no support, only his usual cold stare. Looking to the Mirialan, however, yielded far greater results.

Torzin carried a determination in his green eyes. One not entirely selfish. It spoke of his own efforts, but those of his fellow student as well. It spoke of belief.

Clenching her fist, Ryska stared at the Guardian's palm with renewed vigor. She would not admit defeat. Emulating Torzin, the Padawan let herself be guided by instincts, throwing a punch but stopping it with a sizable distance between her fist and the target. She repeated herself, throwing punch after punch, inching closer and closer to the Human's open palm.

With each attempt, she drew closer, until finally, the pale-brown fur atop her knuckles lightly touched the Human's skin. Holding her fist in place, she looked up to receive a single nod of approval from the stoic Guardian.

"Very good, Padawan," Dehros offered.

"Thank you, master," said Ryska alongside with a nod of her own, backing away to stand beside Torzin.

The Human's words warmed the young Cathar, but they paled in comparison to the swell of pride she received by looking at the Mirialan. Torzin offered a gentle smile, an acknowledgement of her deeds. She had known success, and her success had been known. Locking eyes with her fellow Padawan, the girl lightly scratched the back of her head, cracking an embarrassed, but appreciative, smile.

"You both did well today," Dehros spoke up. "It's obvious you've taken your Masters' words to heart. The foundations have been set. From here, we can continue on to more advanced lessons."

"We're ready," the Padawans said in unison.
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