Ttt-kkaa. I cracked my knuckles and climbed the stairs to the ring. It was finally my time, the time for the Chahk-ta. A battle to make or break a person. Literally. The crowd was beating on the arena, a simple square concrete slab, with a metallic ring attached to the ground. It had a short 5 stair climb to the top of the slab, and a large ring of about 15 feet across which took up the majority of the platform, with about 3 feet on either side. Enough to where an eager onlooker could catch a leg or a handful of hair if they really wanted to.
The Chahk-ta was a ritual for our people to find a leader, held once a year after the last leaves fell from the great Tsaltu tree. It was said that one being would rise when all others would fall for the greatness of our people. The Chahk-ta was our test to find this leader. To do so, each person who wished to participate would be required to duel each member of the candidates until they fell or quit. When there was finally just one person left standing, they would be required to battle with our five most elite sages, who were chosen as part of our council until the time when a new leader arose.
It had been over seven-hundred years since our last leader, Sak-la, had finally succumbed in battle, his head cleaved from his shoulders by the last chieftain of the Doo-rah in a battle to the death. The Doo-rah had once been a great people, but anointed with the power of the council our leader was nearly unstoppable. We are still uncertain as to how the lone chief defeated him.
I stepped into the ring. The rules were simple. Fight until one person conceded or was incapable of fighting. This often led to several broken bones. I myself had sustained a shattered left fist, which had forced me to learn open palm techniques. I was no longer able to create a fist with my left hand. No fighting could take place outside the ring. A person could concede by stepping out on their own accord. If they were forced out, it was tradition to back off in order to allow them the decision to re-enter.
The chanting grew louder as my opponent stood up. His hands were bruised and bloodied, but his eyes were as fierce as fire itself. His name was Kaa. He was dexterous, strong, and fast. Really the kind of man that swings first in a fight. In most of those fights, he would only need to swing that one time. Last year he had been the first of our generation to battle a sage. We had no bad blood between us, though blood surely would be spilt in a few moments.
“Are you ready?” His voice was like a thunder rolling in before the rainfall, or the breaking of a tree beneath the great elephants of our world.
“Yes,” I tightened my waistband, “are you?” Kaa inhaled deeply as he brought his arms up from his waist until they were above his is head in a circular motion. As he exhaled he brought his hands in toward his chest and clenched his fists, His knuckles would have shown white were it not for the bruising. Instead, they showed a lighter red color,.
“Yes.” The crowd suddenly grew silent. We looked once more into each others eyes before our fighting began. I wondered if I looked as fierce as he did. He made the first move. A series of deceptive short punches to knock my guard down, which would eventually be followed by a hard cross, if he found an opening. I pushed his blows aside, like the wind pushes a boulder slightly away from it’s destination. This forced Kaa to either back off or over extend, at which point he would leave himself vulnerable. Despite his hot temper, he was not brash with his decision making. Kaa was more like a ruthless coal, which would burn the countryside in a calculated, direct route, rather than one of wild abandon. All the more dangerous. I realized I was being backed to the edge of the ring. Despite the rules permitting a person to be forced out with time to re-enter, it was still a sign of weakness to be ungrounded. Often times the crowd would claw at a person who was unfortunate enough to fall out of the ring. Unlike in our duels, the crowd was armed with spears and knives. It was not unheard of for a warrior to lose a few fingers this way.
I changed my approach. As I parried I kicked out with my legs, forcing Kaa to retreat with each punch so as not to be hit. Smart, as my kicks were sure to do more damage than these slight jabs. Kaa was quick to respond though, he allowed his guard to account for light kicks by raising his leg in time with mine so as to lessen to impact. Suddenly I was back to parrying. The hardest part of these trials was endurance. I knew Kaa was tired, but at the same time I could feel my own muscles growing heavy.
Then suddenly things changed. Like when a rope of cloths breaks. Things seem fine until suddenly the rope has broken, and all the cloths are all over the ground. The battle ended in an instant. Kaa took one misstep, and lingered with his jab for too long. I’d parried his wrist away, and my eyes flashed to his arm, still too extended. I kicked out to distract Kaa and force him to step back slightly, and at the same time spun my own wrist around, like a snake coiled, then as his momentum carried him backward I snapped at his wrist with my hand, and pulled him toward me.
He wasn’t ready for it. He was too physically strong for me to take head on, but a moment like this left him defenseless. I quickly kicked my leg up and into his elbow, causing a loud Kkhhhkk sound. Kaa cried out in pain. I recentered myself, and kicked him dead in his center, knocking him back a foot or so, but throwing him more off balance.. His arm hung lifelessly, and his eyes had watered. I ran at him with full speed, jumped, twisting my body for greater momentum, and kicked him in the arm again. His eyes bugged out in pain, and he heaved a sharp, pained breath.
As I landed he fell to his knees.
“Do you concede?” I asked him.
“No” He looked up at me, with the fire growing in his eyes. He raised his good arm and began to rise. I didn’t give him the chance. As soon as he looked down to secure his footing, I kicked out at his good arm, forcing an opening, then palmed his chest with both hands, knocking the wind out of him. Another huge gasp of air, and he doubled over. I moved behind him and pulled his good arm behind his back. I could hear the joint pop. Had he not been gasping for air, he may have been able to overpower me still. Krrrrkkkk I pulled his arm up hard and fast, and his other elbow snapped. Kaa screamed in pain again.
“Do you concede?” I had my hand on his arm still, pulling it further to cause him more pain. He screamed again.
“Yes!” Kaa’s eyes were pooling. I released his arm and caught him before he slumped over. He must have weight 300 pounds. The shamans were waiting outside the ring, by the stairs. I carried him to them—really more assisted his legs from collapsing. The biggest shaman was Kaa’s father, and as I lugged Kaa out of the ring he put an arm around Kaa’s body.
“Thank you,” he said. It was a sign of respect to help a fellow warrior out of the ring. I nodded to him. Better to win with respect for your enemy than to win with pride.