Now and then one sees a movie where the hero has spent years in some harsh, remote location learning powerful martial arts. Those locations are usually in Asia, in some place vaguely Chinese, but what if a proto-hero came to Finland to train?
I mean, we’ve got plenty of wizened old skinny guys that mutter incomprehensible proverbs and try to teach antiquated methods of manliness, too.
What would a champion-wannabe write home?
* * *
I miss you. It is very cold here in the dark woods. It is always cloudy, and every day it rains. I miss you terribly.
Uh, in case you’re reading this, Bob: Get your filthy hands off my mail.
My new Master is very strict, and expects me to obey his every command. (No, this is not at all kinky.) He’s a white-bearded old man with a cold-cured face and eyes like shiny pebbles, hands like two bunches of gnarled sticks. (See, I told you it wasn’t kinky.) He knows more than I can ever hope to understand. Today he had but to cough, very slightly, and the whole house trembled and icicles fell off the roof.
He, in a typically self-deprecating way, said it was just the ricketyness of the house — wait, is ‘ricketyness’ a word? Anyway, I thought that a joke.
When I laughed, he hit me. Ancient masters are subtle and quick to anger.
It is still my intention to learn the Great Finnish Way, the Way of my ancestors, and to become the greatest martial artist this world has ever seen. That is my humble aspiration.
Say hello to little Tim for me.
* * *
My training is difficult, and sometimes I cannot even see how some lesson might make me better understand the spirit of Finnish martial arts. Just yesterday, the Master went shopping, and returned bearing a stuffed dog and a plastic bag full of dog food. “Do you have anything to say?”, he asked me then.
I thought and thought, but could see no meaning, no secret lesson, no right answer, so I said nothing. He looked at me for a long time and then turned away.
The same thing happened a few times again: he put the stuffed dog outside to act as a guardian animal, or gave it a bowl of dried dog food — and again he asked me: “Do you have anything to say?”
I could think of nothing and said nothing. Strangely enough, after the fifth time this happened he smiled and hid the stuffed animal somewhere. I guess I passed a lesson, but I can’t say what it was. It hardly seems likely that a part of the Great Finnish Way could be to never say a straight-out word on the eccentricities of others.
Tell Tim I’m fine.
PS : I’ve felt a great disturbance in the Force lately; tell Bob that I know he’s been messing with my stuff.
* * *
(Bob: Read no further. I’ve mastered the technique of selective killing by text, okay?)
Now that Bob isn’t reading, Marilyn dear, I can actually tell what I have learned here.
It’s not safe when he might be reading, as you very well know. I will not come back from a grueling journey of self-discovery again just to notice, in the most humiliating way, that my wastrel brother has already dragged down the names of all skills I have learned by using them to threaten drunks, and getting beaten.
Oh, I hope Bob’s hands have been healing alright. I can’t imagine how he thought he could intimidate a gang of seven-foot bikers with “the technique of the Broken Fist”.
Well, anyway. Most of my training has been snowboxing lately. It’s good for endurance. I —
Now that I think about it, I didn’t know what snowboxing was when I came here, either. You surely know shadowboxing, Marilyn, right? Snowboxing is a bit similar — you clean a field of loose snow and fashion it into snowmen. Then you kick and hit and scream at the snowmen, trying to disintegrate them the best you can.
Yes, I know it sounds easy. It isn’t. Not barehanded and barefooted, and not when you made the snowmen the previous day, and notice only on impact that your stern Master had poured water on them during the night. They’re more like icemen then. And then the various sticks and rocks cunningly hidden inside — well, my Master is very crafty.
He says this is what all Finnish children do: build snowmen and then take them apart.
The trouble with this training is that the reflex gets deep into you, and then you go to buy a bit of salad, and pass a child carefully building an intricate snowman family — and only too late you notice that your fists are impacting in snowman faces and groins.
Lately, my training has been disturbed by sudden gravel-cored snowballs flung from the forest. I suspect the children have not forgiven me.
Well, more later.
Kiss Tim for me.
PS. Only Tim. Not Bob.
* * *
My training has gone well. I have already mastered what my Master calls the first steps of the Way of Puukko — that’s the word for a local small knife. Those adept in its use can use it instead of a fork and a regular knife at meals. I dare not, for the thing is wickedly sharp. I just don’t want Bob calling me the Twin-Tongued One, okay?
I’ve been doing a lot of snowman-punching, too — that’s the Way of Keltainen Lumi. Those Finnish words mean ‘the Snow Which is of the Color of Gold’. Master’s been telling me I should use the ‘warmth of my body’ to truly understand the deeper meaning of this way, but I do not understand that, and he has refused to show me. Meanwhile, day by day, the snowmen I fight get bigger and icier.
I hope that the deep secret of the Way of Keltainen Lumi is some way to melt a crack, no matter how small, into ice. That would come handy, especially if I could do it with spiritual energy, or some sort of a steaming stream of liquid ki. It’s no use trying to melt ice with your hands — they freeze that way, and prolonged touch is foolish anyway.
The first time Master had hidden an iron pole inside a snowman was a terrible shock for me: for some foolish reason I had chosen to use a Biting Attack, and so I spent the rest of that day running around with my tongue frozen to an iron rod.
Still, it was a valuable lesson I shall never forget.
Then there’s the Way of Ulkohuussi — which is, ‘the House Which is Outside’. The path to that is cold and difficult, but there is a great feeling of accomplishment and relief waiting at the end — whatever that means. Master is so difficult to understand at times.
Kiss Tim, kick Bob.
* * *
My Master has given me a mission. I am both elated and terrified. A few days from now on, an old rival of his should come to visit. This man is called Master Joulupukki, and I gather his skills are almost magical — he can make animals speak, he hears all the evil that’s said in the world, and the touch of his fist is a blessing to those that are nice, and a scourging blow to those that are naughty.
If I understood correctly, there even is a fixed day here, once every winter, when people offer him small gifts of food, and might receive extravagant material gifts from his tribute- and loot-fattened treasuries. He lives somewhere in northern Finland, dresses in red robes, and is served by an army of gnomish acolytes.
Master doesn’t, of course, expect me to go against Joulupukki — it’d be like going against a reindeer stampede. I’d come back with a lot more than a red nose, right? No, my Master will fight him himself.
My mission is to be watchful and awake up at the roof on the night of his arrival, and to alert Master when he comes. That old man’d better be stealthy — he’d better watch out and not cry if he wants to sneak in.
Tell Tim I’ll bring him that old fool’s red robe as a souvenir after my Master’s beaten him.