It is never easy becoming a top martial arts exponent in the Chinese martial arts arena. This fact is testified by the countless Chinese movies featuring the lives of past famous practitioners. Through watching these movies, I have been able to glean some important tips on how to gain the equivalent of the Nobel Prize with your fighting prowess.

The steps listed below are guidelines1 to reap maximum success from your martial arts training.

Firstly, it is advised that you have a traumatic childhood, perhaps culminating with personal tragedies that have to be avenged in order to preserve one's honour. This is so that you gain an appetite for acquiring skills in order to kill/maim/frame the person who kill/maimed/framed your village, parents or siblings, or your best buddy.

Next, you have to desire to learn martial arts with your whole being, even preparing to forego sleep or food and drink, and to stand out in the blazing sun and pouring rain for hours if need be. Burning with zeal and full of youthful passion, it is now advised that you leave your small pathetic village in search of someone or someplace where you can gain this knowledge that you so desperately need.

You now need a rough understanding of which sects or schools are the best in the pugilist arena. Shaolin, Wudang and Emei (pronounce Ur-may) are synonyms for Cambridge, Oxford and Harvard (not necessarily in that order). However, they take in only the cream of the crop. That is not to say that if you haven't been accepted that you won't make it. Other less orthodox sects are also open to applications, and since their skills are less well-known, there may not be an efficient counter-skill to combat them.

You may also develop your own set of skills. This is good because then no one will fully understand how you fight until you've beaten them about fifty times. Most top pugilists also go on to develop their own style of fighting, so why not you?

There is then the process of begging for admittance and being proven worthy of joining. Kneeling for days on end in the blazing sun and pouring rain is proof of your mettle, though occasionally the top schools may still turn you away. Do not worry about this. They will usually regret their decision.

After you've gained admittance, hang on in there. Training not a bed of roses. Ok, so maybe it is a bed of roses, but of roses with far more thorns than petals and leaves combined and multiplied by ten. Stoicism and the desire to avenge your parents will come in handy.

At no point should you obey all the rules set by your teachers. Your zeal should drive you to secretly learn all the skill levels beyond what is taught you and even to leave the school on "important" missions to improve yourself. When caught in the act, you have to display enough talent to overwhelm your teachers with awe so that they will overlook your little infraction. Hey, no one un-ingenious ever made it to the top.

Unfortunately, you may also be kicked out for disobedience, or simply for no good reason at all. Do not worry about this. They will usually regret their decision.

When you've left your school, either secretly on an important mission or for overzealousness, it is crucial to bump into an ex-top pugilist. These people can be found in the most dangerous and inaccessible of places. Try falling into a valley from a mountaintop or getting lost in a thick remote part of a forest or a graveyard. At no point should you deliberately look for them, because those who do usually get lost and never reached them. Simply wander around and they will get to you.

Naturally, these ex-Nobel prize winners know how to spot talent when they see one, and guess what, that's you! They will forcefully impart their skills to you, whether you like it or not. Learn from them grudgingly at first. This has the effect of motivating them. However, your respect for them should gradually increase until a few months later, they realise they have an eager student, at which point you may be kicked out again, or they may die at the hands of your sworn enemy.

It is always of advantage to meet a pretty/handsome companion of the opposite gender. This tends to spur one on towards attaining perfection. Although others think this concept is heresy and adopt gender separation as a way of focusing their energies on perfecting their art, make it clear that they have the wrong idea by training with your partner in formations that stagger their imagination 2. They are also useful in treating your internal and/or external wounds with the utmost gentleness and patience.

You have almost finished acquiring all the arts and knowledge you need. In order to finish your education, pick fights with people. Also, gain a precious weapon by stealing, robbing, inheriting or inventing it yourself, and practice both your internal chi and external powers until you have reached your full potential.

You should now develop your own fighting style along the way. Name it after some mysterious mythological creature and an acrobatic stunt, like Phoenix Somersault or Dragon Tumble. Alternatively, substitute the acrobatic stunt with the name of a body part. This pompous, grandiose name should be said just as you are about to unleash your powers. It will win half the fight, as your opponent will say, "Wha-?" and allow you to beat him to a pulp as his brain goes into overdrive. Through all the practice that you've had, you should already know your opponent's martial arts style, so no label he flings should unfaze you.

Lastly, start picking fights with all the right people. Start with the small cronies of your sworn enemy. Progress on to the bigger cronies, finally pitting your life and your skills against the Big One himself. An occasional fight against another reigning warrior (or warriors) will occur by "accident". When you have scalped them, the pugilistic arena will concur that you indeed, are the top dog and the alpha male in the whole troop.

A piece of advice: when you are evenly matched with (or overwhelmed by) your enemy, it is generally the person with the strongest case for righteousness that will prevail in the end. Therefore those intending to be villains should retire into obscurity a decade or so after they've had their heyday, as a new generation would rise up to take revenge for the wrongs they've endured. A small hut with a peaceful view and a small vegetable garden is an ideal retirement place for such people. Becoming a monk is even better, as it discourages those who hunger for violence. As a precaution, continue to hone your arts and use them wherever injustice is committed, so that others are fully convinced that you have turned over a new leaf. On no account should you take in disciples, because they might want to kill you.

Not all of these rules have to be followed, and they do not have to occur in exactly the same order. Find the combination that feels right to you. Now go and conquer the world!

1 These instructions were "tested" in ancient China as viewed in Chinese movies from Taiwan and Hong Kong. It is not the recommendation of the author that the reader of today should adopt this as a foolproof way of gaining credence in the martial arts arena. There are other methods of achieving this now.

2 Lewisham says I think you have missed out the importance of the training montage. Such a feat will rapidly increase skills, allowing more time with your opposite gender friend.

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