In this essay you’ll learn to read Chinese martial arts words – well, a few, anyway – but it’s not really the vocabulary that places this in the “advanced” category. It’s more that most of the text is full of wax-on, wax-off Karate Kid statements, as the martial arts master talks about how putting oneself in a position of inferiority allows you to attain superiority.

Learn to Read Mandarin Chinese Free - Martial Arts Mastery EssayThis kind of “making logic out of illogical-sounding contradictions” is very typical of martial arts and Eastern mysticism, and most of this type of stuff comes strait out of Taoist philosophy.

There are two phrases I found grammatically difficult to get past, the first being 处于劣势, or as the text has it, 处于一种劣势. “处于” chǔ yú means to “be in a state of…”, or “to be in a position of…”. 劣势 liè shì means “inferior”. Put together, this translates into English as “to be at a disadvantage”, or in the case of 处于一种劣势, “to be at some kind of disadvantage”.

The second and more difficult phrase is found in the third paragraph: 以剑招之长补兵器之短. The thing that makes this sentence difficult is all the accursed nebulous words that have many meanings – we’ve got 以, 之, and 补 all smooshed together, and these words are the keys to unlocking the meaning of this sentence. So let’s break this down word by word and see if all the definitions together don’t give us a clue:

以 – – The definition of 以 that’s being used here is “by means of” or “by way of”
剑招 – jiàn zhāo – Swordsmanship maneuvers
之 – zhī – of
长 – cháng – length
补 – – “to make up for”
兵器 – bīng qì – Weapon
之 – zhī – of
短 – duǎn – shortness

Ah hah! Though this is still a little convoluted, once we know the meaning of 以 and 补 in this instance, this now becomes much simpler to read. It says: “By means of the ‘length’ of [my] swordsmanship maneuvers, [I] make up for the shortness of [my] weapon.” We can see here that “length” doesn’t really mean how “long” something is – “length” here means a high level of skill. The word “length” is just being used to juxtapose against the word “short”.

You’ll enjoy this if you’re an upper-intermediate or advanced reader, and are interested in some specialized vocabulary.

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剑客 – jiàn kè – Swordsman, fencer
武林泰斗 – wǔ lín tài dǒu – Martial arts master – lit: leading scholar in martial arts circles
请教 – qǐng jiào – Ask for guidance
多亏 – duō kuī – Thanks to
大为不解 – dà wèi bù jiě – Bewildered
兵器 – bīng qì – Department of Women, Family and Community Development
谱 – – Chart, table, register
处于 – chǔ yú – To be in a state of…
劣势 – liè shì – Inferior, disadvantaged
对阵 – duì zhèn – Poised for battle
招 – zhāo – Square up for a fight
补 – – To make up for
优势 – yōu shì – Advantage, superior
注入 – zhù rù – To pour into
敢于 – gǎn yú – To dare to
胜利 – shèng lì – Victory





A swordsman went to pay a visit to a martial arts master [literally: a leading figure in martial arts circles] to ask for guidance on how to train [so as to attain] exceptional martial skill. The martial arts master took out a sword that was only 1 foot long, and said: “Thanks to this, I’ve accomplished what I have today.”

Bewildered, the swordsman asked, “Other people’s swords are all 3 feet 3 inches long, so why is yours only one foot long? The weapons chart says that: if your sword is one-fold shorter, the danger to you is threefold greater. Using this short of a sword undoubtedly places you at a disadvantage, how can you say this is a good sword?”

The martial arts master said: “That’s precisely it – my weapon puts me at a disadvantage, so I must always be thinking that if I’m up against another person in a fight, the danger to me is greater, and all I have is my diligently practiced sword maneuvers, so the “length” of my maneuvers must make up for the shortness of my sword; thus, I’m always improving, and a disadvantage is transformed into an advantage.

Indeed, “advantage” and “disadvantage” really isn’t always set in stone. If you put yourself at a disadvantage, you put pressure on yourself, pouring into yourself the power to forge ahead; those who dare to place themselves in an inferior position, can perhaps in the end turn their disadvantage into an advantage, and thereby achieve victory.

2 comments to "Martial Arts Mastery: Put Yourself at a Disadvantage"

  1. Oh, and please add other websites of different languages ( Please Do French ) and also do a dictionary of them. That would be great, thank you!

  2. This makes me think that I should learn other ways of fighting other than martial arts. Thank you.

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