Kings, Queens and Giants

Once in a while you just run across people who have all the natural gifts. The one bar I was bouncing at seemed to only attract giants, as an example. More than one night saw me yelling at two fellas to sit down and shut up, all the while trying not to stare at a bicep that was at my face level, and larger than my head. Giants exist. I’m a martial artist, and to me that has always meant being able to slay giants. When someone is bigger and stronger than you, you learn to not just be fast, but to be fast and precise. You learn the vulnerable places and how to use them. Most importantly, you learn to be indomitable in will. I learned all of this because when I grew up, I learned that giants weren’t friendly. I learned that they were demons in human form, monsters to be killed before they destroyed life after life.

To contrast the giants, the world has kings and queens, too. Thousands of years of natural selection bred warriors and they still exist. I ran across a guy yesterday who was the perfect example of the idealized Irish king. Extraordinarily tall, craggily handsome, rich, friendly, red haired and hugely muscled. His bearing was that of a person who had endured only the best of disadvantages in life, never suffering for anything, and now facing the world with superb confidence, sure to succeed in any endeavor. The rugby club sticker on the back of his SUV told me that his bearing was earned by more than just birth. Like I do with everyone, male and female, I sized him up. What would it be like to fight him? With fists in the ring? On the mats, wrestling…or with steel in hand? He would be better than me at everything. Faster, stronger, more agile, more athletic.

I like sports, now that I’m an adult and am past the insecurities of childhood. I don’t care to watch sports, but I think participation in sport is a worthy thing. To be good at a sport, to be a good competitor, is an ideal worth attaining. People who put down sport as being less worthy than martial arts are wrong. They, like a lot of people, suffer from a misunderstanding of what a martial art is. Or maybe I do. Perhaps it’s just me who feels this way. I think the difference is pretty clear. Sports are things that will always be won by the giants, by the kings and by the queens. Everytime someone admires someone who won a contest, no matter what the contest is, it’s a sport. If a person can be elevated or admired for performance in an activity, it’s a sport. That’s pretty general. Obviously I’ve left myself some holes in that reasoning, but consider this…

Who you consider to be worthy of praise in the larger HEMA community appears to be who wins or places in tournaments. If that doesn’t define a sport community I don’t know what does. If you can teach but can’t win tournaments? Your ability to teach will be called into question. Read the forums if you don’t want to take my word for it. Sure, exceptions exist. I’m sure someone can find some. I can’t think of any off-hand. HEMA is a world that is coming to belong to the Giants, Kings and Queens. Nothing wrong with that. It’s how the world works. It’s even how most things that call themselves martial arts work. Even the so-called “reality based martial arts” tend to live in a world of fantasy, and have their own giants, kings and queens. They tend to wear camo, though. And again, like the King I ran across, they are mostly wonderful and worthy people.

Martial arts to me, is a thing different. The world is run by giants, kings and queens. That’s not just the way it is, it’s the way we all prefer it. We make it happen time and time again. I’m fine with that. But should that giant turn dark, like the giants of my childhood? Should those kings or queens make a claim on or lean to harm that which I care for? My arts are the arts of giant killing, of king-slaying and queen-slaying. It’s a worthless art to study, likely never to be used. Sometimes it might be warped into “self-defence” and find some good use, but that’s not it’s purpose, not it’s intention. From the first time I learned to make a fist, it was to strike down a giant. My sword was meant to pierce a kings heart, and no other. It’s an art that I will never use, but it’s also an art I must pass on, because it might be needed in future.

There is no pleasure in looking into the face of a kindly King, and imagining only the twisted giant he might become. There will never be any victory, or even survival, in bringing down such things. But I can bring it down. So can those others who are also martial artists. What we can do you won’t see, and you can’t admire. You can if you know what to look for, but if you have an eye only for kings and queens, you will find us to only be dwarves.




  1. If necessity is the mother of invention, then disadvantage is the grandmother.

  2. From one dwarf to another…;)

  3. For some reason this post reminds me, in the best of ways, this one passage from Chesterton:

    According to most philosophers, God in making the world enslaved it. According to Christianity, in making it, He set it free. … In this way at least one could be both happy and indignant without degrading one’s self to be either a pessimist or an optimist. On this system one could fight all the forces of existence without deserting the flag of existence. One could be at peace with the universe and yet be at war with the world. St. George could still fight the dragon, however big the monster bulked in the cosmos, though he were bigger than the mighty cities or bigger than the everlasting hills. If he were as big as the world he could yet be killed in the name of the world. St. George had not to consider any obvious odds or proportions in the scale of things, but only the original secret of their design. He can shake his sword at the dragon, even if it is everything; even if the empty heavens over his head are only the huge arch of its open jaws.

    which I always somehow associate with this one:

    The timidity of the child or the savage is entirely reasonable; they are alarmed at this world, because this world is a very alarming place. They dislike being alone because it is verily and indeed an awful idea to be alone. Barbarians fear the unknown for the same reason that Agnostics worship it—because it is a fact. Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.

    How it connects to the practical martial arts side of your post, I haven’t the faintest clue, but it is in this context (inter alia) that I sure am glad you posted this.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.