Living the Martial Way
At the age of four, Ranma was taken from his mother to go on what his father called a "training trip". The logic Genma gave to Nodoka was that in order to make Ranma the best possible martial artist, they had to go to as many places as possible in order to study different styles. Nodoka had not wanted to be removed from her son's life, but she knew of her husband's passion for martial arts and his desire to instill that same passion into their son. Reluctantly, she bid them a fond farewell, with Genma's word of honor that she would be told the moment he and her son returned.
What Nodoka did not know, was that Genma only used martial arts as an excuse to avoid doing any real work. He was a skilled fighter; there was no doubt about that. But he lacked the discipline and morals of a true martial artist. He had supported Nodoka and Ranma by defeating masters and claiming the signs and heirlooms of their dojos, only to sell the items back to them at obscene prices. And while this earned him a fair income, he spent most of it on sake and other vices. Furthermore, his actions made him quite infamous in the area, which was his main reason for leaving.
His explanation for bringing his young son with him was true; he did want to train the boy. But he also saw ways to use Ranma as a bartering chip. Over the years Genma used his son in many ways, and abused him in many more. Ranma was equal parts tool and son. Genma would convince the child to beg people for handouts. The times they bargained for shelter in exchange for chores, Genma would have Ranma do the work with the excuse that "It's good training for the boy." The people they came across were not stupid, and the pair was never able to stay in most towns for more then a few days.
For Ranma, his childhood ended the day he left his mother. In addition to their daily sparring matches. Genma would regularly beat Ranma with little provocation, and would often be so drunk while committing the act that he would not remember doing it. This is not to say that Ranma's life was entirely horrible. Whenever they came to one, Ranma and Genma would stay at a dojo. Genma refrained from his earlier methods of income, and would even leave Ranma under the care of the local master, often for days at a time as he went off on "journeys of self-reflection". It only took until Ranma was six years old to realize why Genma always had extra money when he returned from these trips.
Ranma loved staying with the masters and learning from them. At first all he expected, all he wanted, was fighting techniques. And he was immensely talented in that respect. Even from a young age, Ranma had great physical coordination and near-total recall. This allowed him to learn strikes, blocks, combinations, techniques and katas in a fraction of the normal time. And by carrying what he learned from one school to another, Ranma learned several different arts including Karate, Akido, and even Tae Kwon Do. And fortunately, Ranma quickly learned the difference between what his father called "The Art" and what true martial arts was. It happened at one of the first dojos Ranma stayed at.
Ranma was practicing the kata he had just learned, making sure he was executing it properly, when the dojo's master, Sensei Amano, approached him.
"Good morning Ranma."
"Good morning Sensei Amano." Replied Ranma as he bowed.
"I was wondering Ranma, what has your father told you about martial arts?"
The four year old's face lit up at the chance to praise his father. "Pop says that the Art is the most important thing a man can do. That only real men can practice it. And that I should ignore everything else. Oh and that I have to practice it all day everyday to make sure I never lose because real men don't lose fights. And-"
"I see," interrupted Amano. "Ranma, I'd like to show you something about the core of martial arts." Amano pointed to the front wall of the dojo. "Tell me Ranma, can you read those kanji?"
Ranma looked closely at the kanji written on the wall of the dojo. "No sir, what do they say?"
Amano knelt down and looked the young boy in the eye. "Those are the founding principles of our school. 'Self-Control', 'Perseverance', 'Integrity', 'Courtesy' and 'Indomitable Spirit'. And there are other rules that we follow, rules that come from these principles. 'Help those who can not help themselves.' 'Never abuse your skills.' And 'Never bend in your beliefs.' You see Ranma, we follow these rules not because we have to, but because we understand the position we are in."
"What position is that?"
"As martial artists, we are stronger, faster and more skilled then most people. Because of that, we have a responsibility to use our abilities with discipline. That discipline grows over time as the student's ability grows. Do you understand why I'm telling you this?"
"Because…because you don't want me to hurt someone?"
Amano smiled. "Yes Ranma, that is exactly why."
"I understand Sensei. I want to learn more. Will you teach me?" Ranma's enthusiasm was infectious.
"Ranma, it would be my pleasure."
Ranma was able to stay with Amano for another week before his father had them on the road again. In that time Ranma had shown an eagerness, and an aptitude, not only for the philosophy of martial arts. But also for more academic topics. History and anatomy being near the top of the list, and though he had trouble with the other sciences, he still was able to learn them quickly. Ranma's near perfect memory aided him here as well, he only had to read a book once and he could remember the content, sometimes even the exact wording. Ranma also showed a love of fiction and his natural dexterity granted him a great talent at calligraphy. Ranma was so torn when he had to leave, that Amano gave him the novel the boy was currently reading as a going away present. Genma sold the book in the next town claiming that they needed money for shelter, only to spend it on sake. When Ranma protested the sale, Genma beat him claiming that the novel was so much crap and would only distract him.
And so it went. For the next eight years the pair traveled across Japan. Stopping at every dojo they found. Ranma could usually count on at least a week or two at each dojo. He made it a point to ask the master about the dojo's library as soon as Genma took off on his "Introspective journey." Ranma's intellect and desire for knowledge was always welcomed. He would spend the days adding to his physical skills, and spend his nights adding to his mental ones. Ranma would often have discussions with the masters while perusing the library or as was more often the case, while working a calligraphy brush. His simple calligraphy soon became wonderful pieces of art which he was more then willing to leave with the dojo in thanks for their kindness. Many masters would also give Ranma a few books from their collection, which he would then donate to another dojo once he had read them. And as he left the dojo, each and every one of the masters he met would tell Ranma "You are welcome here any time young man. We hope to see you again. Be well." Ranma always promised to return as soon as he could.
After the loss of his first book, Ranma quickly learned not to tell his father about the other gifts. And when an attempt to discuss martial philosophy with his father only earned him harsh words and harsher blows under the pretense of "Real martial artists don't need to think, they only need to know how to fight." Ranma did not tell his father of his mental studies. The young boy grew up quickly, developing a persona that he used to pacify Genma. Pretending to be a chip off the old block, Ranma would parrot back Genma's ideas of the superiority of martial artists, the uselessness of intellect, and the weakness of women. The latter being the most common theme of Genma's ranting, drunk or sober, and was the hardest for Ranma to even pretend to believe. After all, many of the masters had daughters who were just as skilled as Ranma himself, if not more so. And after befriending them, he could not wrap his mind around the idea that women were nothing more then "a distraction from the art" and "were only good for cleaning and making children." Thankfully, Ranma was able to drop the pretense when Genma left him alone.
After eight years, Genma suddenly announced that they were returning to Nerima. At twelve years old, Ranma was smart enough to understand why. They, or rather Genma, had worn out their welcome at every dojo and town they could find. Genma was returning to Nerima because there was no where left for him to go except for home. But Ranma was torn. He knew that if he returned with his father, he may not get another chance to visit all the dojos for quite some time. More so, this was his chance to be on his own and to earn his way honestly. He disapproved of his father's thievery and cheating. And had refused anything gained illegally since he was seven, be it food, clothing or shelter. He even once threw a stolen book into the campfire to prove to Genma that he would not be bought.
It took quite a bit of arguing, and even more physical combat before Genma agreed to allow Ranma to travel on his own. He agreed mostly because he lost the fight and could not force Ranma to come with him. And also because he felt that he could get by better on his own. Genma and Ranma went their separate ways. Genma left his son with instructions to go to the Tendo clan dojo immediately upon his return to Nerima. Ranma went as far as to get the address from his father, so that he could write to Genma so his father would know that he was alright.
And so Ranma struck out on his own. He made it a point to return to each of the dojos he had visited, and was always welcomed back with open arms. All of his friends and masters were pleased to see how he had grown. While Ranma had gained a great deal of physical growth, his mental and emotional growth was outstanding. Ranma retraced the steps of his first journey. He only stayed at each dojo a few days, just long enough to send a letter to both his family and the Tendo dojo and to sometimes receive a reply, but making it a point to return to each school as he had promised to. With his last stop being Sensei Amano's dojo. A young man of sixteen was greeted with surprise and joy. Ranma stayed up long into the night telling his first teacher about his journey. Amano was a captive audience, and was proud of Ranma's morals towards Genma's actions, and of his decision to travel alone. When he left Sensei Amano's dojo a few days later, Ranma headed to Nerima.
Four years after father and son had separated; there came a knock on the door of the Tendo home.
I hope you've all enjoyed the first chapter. More is on the way. Please feel free to contact me with any questions and comments you have. I am more then willing to discuss why I chose to write Ranma and Genma the way I have. In the next chapter, you will see similar changes in the Tendo family. I've received a lot of comments about this chapter, so I revised it slightly. I do not plan to involve the Jusenkyo curses or the amazons. My motivation behind this fanfic is a more realistic view of the Ranma universe, with the focus being on the characters themselves. Thank you for all the reviews. I appreciate those of you who took the time to generate such thought out responses. With special thanks to HeeHaw, Crystishake, and Nysk.