Sanity’s Other Side: Three Motifs of the Martial Artist

It’s the other New Year’s special

Bruce Lee photo

Happy year of the snake, readers. The Inverseman here tonight with a quick look into a common archetype in most all pop media, the Martial Artist character archetype. It’s always bound to turn up somewhere that one character is either trained in hand to hand combat or hails from “a middle kingdom” of sorts. So let’s chow down on a few common motifs.

1. It’s not competely foreign


When places like the US, Mexico, or France are way too far off and even you aren’t sure of the culture, where else can you introduce a foreign character? From a country that’s not too far away of course, right on the good old continent. In numerous works of historical fiction, you’ll notice characters “from the mainland” appearing, with their unique and foreign fighting styles as well as their different attire. You as the creator aren’t too in the dark about the culture, and at the very least you might know a thing or two about the popular lore. Of course, given the country of origin, dragons, traditional attire, and tigers will somehow be present regardless of the character’s nationality. Count on it. The martial artist hails from a neighboring land that is just right nearby, kind of like the US using British or French archetypes when they want to “go foreign”.


2. Either reserved and dutiful or hot-blooded and determined


On one hand one character may be the fiery Bruce Lee homage, never backing down from a fight. When push comes to shove, action is the only response. On the other hand, our martial artist may be a stoic practitioner of the arts, knowing full well his or her responsibilities and objectives. There’s not much middle ground unless the story is about martial arts where these personality molds aren’t as relevant unless embodied by a critically important character. It mostly depends on the perception of martial arts from a manly pursuit to an inner intensity required of the practitioner. As such the traits associated are projected onto the character.


3. Training is everything

Ryu official art

If there’s one thing that the martial artist archetype will emphasize it’s training. The hot-blooded fighter will always drive to work harder and the silent one will diligently remember his or her daily routine. Pity to you if you disturb such a character’s training in solitude. Since the martial arts are usually seen as a way for one to face oneself, it’s imperative that the practitioner struggles with himself or herself on a regular basis. While the plot can add superfluous transformations, story-induced instant power ups, and random chances of deus ex machina, it’s always known that the only way to get better at martial arts is to train, and the harder the training the more the progress.  Unless intended otherwise for contrast, martial artist characters are the geniuses of hard work.

Kenshiro offical arts

And that’s my quick look into the martial artist characters that appear all the time. It usually boils down to those themes of training and drive, which are key elements in how we see them. Join me next time when I cram a full pack of dollar dumplings into my cheeks.

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The Inverseman is an evil overlord from an alternate dimension representing humanity's anti-existence who wound up becoming a modest civil servant.


The Inverseman is an evil overlord from an alternate dimension representing humanity's anti-existence who wound up becoming a modest civil servant.

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