Combat is an Art form

Chapter 1: Setting the stage

Makoto Rindou. She was hot headed, confident, and infinitely ambitious to improve upon her fighting skill. She took every opportunity she could to learn all she could about fighting. And after traveling the tournament circuit, she had proven herself to be the best female fighter in all of Japan. Then, she took on mixed competition, and found a place among the higher echelon. She was now ready to take on the next big challenge; fighting around the world.

She had made a decent amount of money on the winnings from the various tournaments she had competed in, but something even better happened. She managed to catch the eye of a man that was interested in helping her. He approached her after her latest fight.

"Miss Rindou, may I have a word?" he said in a very polite tone. He was a very business looking man, clad in a very well kept three piece suit, expensive looking shoes, wire frame glasses, and of course, the briefcase.

Makoto toweled off the sweat from her face and turned to face him. "Huh? 'Miss Rindou'? Cut the formality. I'm just Makoto. What's on your mind?"

The man smiled and adjusted his glasses. "I wouldn't dare be rude, but if you insist, Makoto. I would like to talk to you about a few things. But first, allow me to introduce myself." He reached into his suit coat and produced a business card. "I am Noriyama Michinoku of Strength and Honor."

Makoto took the card and instantly recognized the company logo. Strength and Honor happened to be her favorite brand of training gear. When she had finally laid her father's old dogi to rest, she started using S&H products and took a real shine to them. "Hey! I love your stuff! When I reopen my family's school, I wanted to stock it with all your gear."

Noriyama lit up with pride to hear that. "Really? That sounds great. Well then, with that said, I think you would come to enjoy what I am about to say." He and Makoto sat on a pile of mats nearby and he spoke while she took in some water. "We at Strength and Honor had taken notice of you during your rounds of the tournament circuit. Aside from seeing that you are indeed a very capable fighter and no doubt the best female fighter in our country, we also noticed that every time you went out to fight, you were always in one of our keikogi."

Makoto simply nodded and looked down at the one she was wearing. No small wonder there. She loved Strength and Honor's keikogi and wore hers in training and in fights. Noriyama continued.

"Since you have won pretty much every conceivable sanctioned fighting tournament there is here in Japan, my company has sent me to make you an offer." He opened his briefcase and retrieved a stack of papers to present to her. "Strength and Honor would like to offer to sponsor you on a whirlwind tour of the world. We want to send you from country to country to face fighters around the globe."

Makoto nearly exploded. She couldn't hide the joyful expression that then dominated her face. It was like a dream come true. To hop from place to place and fight people from other cultures and styles. To learn everything she could take in about other fighting styles, other cultures' views of fighting, and about her own strengths and weaknesses. To her, it was the opportunity of a lifetime.

The huge smile faded almost as quickly as it had come. Makoto was not the smartest girl in the world, but she did have common sense and street smarts. She looked at Noriyama inquisitively. "What's the catch? There has to be some rub here."

Noriyama simply smiled and took the stack of papers from her. "Here on page two are all the details. You will have as much time as you want to look over the contract or have someone do it for you. The gist of it basically states that we send you around to different fights, challenges, and tournaments worldwide, and in return, you wear our karate gi with the logo visible and use our gear. Essentially, you would be our advertising poster girl as we move forward toward marketing our products worldwide."

Makoto's head started swimming. She got lost in thought over this sudden situation. I get the chance to see the world and learn so much and all I have to do is train and fight in the gear I use all the time anyway? It definitely sounds too good to be true. She looked back up at Noriyama. She couldn't help but to still feel a little suspicious. "What are some of the other details?" she asked, with an almost worried look on her face.

Undeterred, Noriyama pulled out his smartphone, brought up the picture gallery, and handed it to Makoto. "These are the primary pieces of equipment we would have you using." The first picture was of a relatively plain looking karate gi, just the type Makoto liked best. No frills, but very comfortable and easy to move around in. The only difference was that it had a large shoulder to shoulder sized Strength and Honor logo on its back. The other pictures were of gloves, headgear, kick pads, punching bags, training dummies, and other kinds of sparring gear, all with the logo clearly visible.

She had a "kid in a candy store" look on her face at seeing all that gear. But something got to her, and an eye brow shot up. She looked to Noriyama again and asked, "Aren't there rules against logos and stuff on fighters' uniforms in organized fights?"

Ever the business man that he was, Noriyama didn't even flinch at the question. He replied, "Here in Japan, yes. There are many rules and regulations in place with regard to such blatant advertising like that. However…" He tilted his head forward and adjusted his glasses again, almost as if for dramatic effect. "In other parts of the world, such regulations are not commonplace." He flipped through the stack of papers again and landed on a page with these rules then handed it back to her. He continued, "And rest assured, our market research team has done its homework on these rules. In the event that your travels should bring you back home for a fight or to one of the countries on this list with advertising regulations in place, we also have gear set aside that are in full compliance with the regulations."

Makoto's mind started racing again. "You guys have thought of everything."

Noriyama nodded and smiled again. "Also, there is one other thing I wanted to turn your attention to." He took back the stack of papers and got to the last page. "This section here makes it clear that you don't necessarily have to go out there and be an indomitable fighting machine. You by no means have to maintain a spotless winning record in order to keep our deal. I added that to make sure we didn't come off to you as hard lot of masters, cruelly pushing you to succeed. Just do what you have been doing before you even met me. Go out there and look good in your fights. Represent Japan and Strength and Honor with poise and dignity. Even if you were to lose, it would merely show that even the best are not infallible."

Wow… They really DID think of everything. Makoto was taken aback by it all. In her heart she knew this was a once in a lifetime chance, and she certainly didn't intend to squander it. "Let me sleep on it, ok? Run it by the family?"

Feeling success, Noriyama couldn't help but smile wider. "Of course. And keep this in mind. This is an opportunity like no other. How else would a small town girl with big time dreams get a shot like this? We give you a globetrotting fantasy and you give our product worldwide exposure. Win win, as they say."

Makoto certainly couldn't argue with his point. She had pretty much made up her mind already, but at least wanted to get her family's opinion.

"One other thing," Noriyama said, derailing her train of thought. "How is your English?"

"Oh, just fine. I took it up from my first year of school. Why do you ask?"

He smiled again. "Good. I ask because if you do decide to come with us, your first few stops will be in the Caribbean and the US." With that, he handed her back the paperwork, gathered the rest of his things and stood to leave. "You have my card. Take all the time you need to decide. But please, get back to us as soon as you have. And thank you for your time, Miss Rindou." He turned toward the door of the arena and left.

Makoto was stunned into silence by how much she was loving this whole situation. She wasted little time in getting home to discuss it all with her family.

Author's Note ~ For the sake of familiarity, think of Strength and Honor in this story as kind of Japanese version of the company Under Armour. Also, and this may be obvious but I'll mention it anyway, whenever I have lines that are bolded and italicized, it means someone is thinking something that is part of the story. I tend to use it a lot, so I figured I would give fair warning ahead of time.