Representation of Martial Arts and Fencing in “Outlaws of the Marsh”: Critical Analysis

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Chinese martial arts has been in the world since ancient times. However, the martial arts today is not as popular as compared to the olden days. It is believed that a lot of martial arts related knowledge has been lost in the current century which hardly can be found currently. Examples of Chinese traditional martial arts include the use of knife, sword, and fist. All of these martial arts have been improved to sports such as boxing and fencing in the current era. Moreover, it is believed that the Chinese novel has a big influence on martial arts such as “Outlaws of the Marsh” which recorded the 108 outlaws. In the “Outlaws of the Marsh”, it is able to find different types of martial arts. Meanwhile, it is also found that the same parts of the “Outlaws of the Marsh” are interesting which provokes my attention.

One of the characteristics which provoked my attention is Wu Song in the “Outlaws of the Marsh”. Wu Song is ranked as 14th among the 36 Heavenly Spirits among the 108 Stars of Destiny in the “Outlaws of the Marsh”. He is well known for being straight forward and brave as he will never say yes to things that he thinks it is wrong. In Chapter 23, Wu Song killed a tiger which his bare hands. This is one of the most famous stories in the “Outlaws of the Marsh”. According to Chapter 23, “There’s a fierce tiger with a white forehead and bulging eyes on Jingyang Ridge. It comes out at night, and has already killed nearly thirty strong men…” (“Outlaws of the Marsh”, p. 226) said by the tavern keeper to Wu Song. However, Wu Song reacted very chilled by laughing it out and said that “I’m a Qinghe Countryman. I’ve crossed the ridge at least twenty times. I’ve never seen any tiger. Don’t try to scare me with that crap. Even if there is a tiger, I’m not afraid” (“Outlaws of the Marsh”, p. 226). At first, Wu Song doesn’t believe the tavern keeper by arguing with the tavern keeper that he is scamming Wu Song. However, it was further proven as he stood forward Jingyang Ridge and found a notice of “Of late a tiger on Jingyang Ridge has been killing people...” (“Outlaws of the Marsh”, p. 227). Wu Song still acted calmly and think that it is the tactic of tavern keeper that trying to scare his customers to stay at his place overnight. By continuing the journey, Wu Song once again saw a notice of Yanggu Country Notice which stated, “Lately, a big tiger has been killing people on Jingyang Ridge…” (“Outlaws of the Marsh”, p. 227). At this point, finally, Wu Song does believe in the story of the tiger. However, Wu Song continued his journey, which has eventually shown how brave Wu Song is. When Wu Song met the tiger, he chooses to face it instead of running away. Meanwhile, in the story, it is found that “Wu Song raised his staff high in a two-handed grip and swung with all his might…” (“Outlaws of the Marsh”, p. 228), this has shown how power Wu Song is by using his fist which has eventually made the tiger roared. Wu Song also did not give any gaps for the tiger as it is found that “Wu Song was exerting all his strength, and wouldn’t give an inch. He kicked the beast in the face and eyes, again and again.” (“Outlaws of the Marsh”, p. 228). Ended up, the tiger dies under the killing of Wu Song. This small story has really amazed me as a person is able to kill a tiger with his bare hands instead of using a sword, knife or even gun.

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In my opinion, this scenario of Wu Song killed a tiger is believed to be a type of martial art that is called as boxing in the current era. The use of fist in boxing is the same as the scene in which Wu Song killed the tiger with his fist. However, the martial art of “boxing” in this era is becoming more “formal” as it is able to teach the learner step by step. In the Wu Song scenario, the key point of his “boxing” skill is believed to be brave instead of having the steps when he is facing the tiger. This has also further up the debate which one of the key points of martial art is brave as if the older generation does not brave enough to try out different skills, it is believed that there are not many martial arts in this generation or in the society.

Moreover, the martial art of wrestling is also widely found in the “Outlaws of the Marsh” such as the competition platform against the Sky-Supporting Pillar. In Chapter 74, Yan Qing, which is ranked as 36th among the outlaws, has found that he learned wrestling as he claimed that “Since childhood, I have followed Lu Junyi the Magnate and learned from him the art of wrestling…” (“Outlaws of the Marsh”, p. 748). Moreover, he also said that “I have never met my match. Now there is a good opportunity…” (“Outlaws of the Marsh”, p. 748). This has shown that how powerful Yan Qing is in terms of wrestling and the good opportunity that he mentioned is actually the competition against Sky-Supporting Pillar. The entire chapter of Chapter 74 is found to be mainly about the wrestling competition. In the scenario, there are a few things that amazed me as I found that the wrestling competition back in ancient is similar to wrestling competition in the current era. For example, it is found that there were “gold and silver trophies and prizes of skills and satins” (“Outlaws of the Marsh”, p. 752), this is similar to the current wrestling competition which has prizes too. Moreover, it is found that “The referee asked Yan Qing to sign a waiver, then pulled out a list of rules, which he read…” (“Outlaws of the Marsh”, p. 753). The referee has also highlighted “No dirty tricks” (“Outlaws of the Marsh”, p. 753) which has amazed me as this is similar to the wrestling competition nowadays in which competitors are bound to rules and regulations, and waiver is needed to sign before entering the game. The wrestling competition in the traditional is actually similar to the competition right now after reading Chapter 74 of “Outlaws of the Marsh”. This is believed to be the continuation of the tradition of martial arts as competition is a way to exchange experiences of martial arts in my opinion. Moreover, wrestling competition has also turned into a type of sports competition in the current era.

In Chapter 44, Deng Fei has described the characteristic of Pei Xuan as he claimed that “he’s a man who would never commit the slightest wrong…” (“Outlaws of the Marsh”, p. 450) and “He’s excellent with a pair of swords” (“Outlaws of the Marsh”, p. 450). This characteristic has provoked my interest as a person is interested to play double swords. Moreover, Deng Fei described Pei Xuan to Dai Zhong and Yan Lin by promoting Pei Xuan as their leader. In the entire story, Pei Xuan was described as a person which is the Ironclad Virtue that showed his personality of honest and upstanding. Pei Xuan has also performed as it is found that “Pei Xuan performed a dance with his two swords. Dai Zong was fulsome in his praise.” (“Outlaws of the Marsh”, p. 451). This has eventually shown how powerful Pei Xuan is in terms of playing with two swords. The reason why he provoked my attention is that the specialty of him using double swords, instead of one sword like others. However, there is also able to find people who are better in the sword in the story, such as Li Zhu with the nickname of Mr. Golden Sword and Bao Daoyi, which both ranked higher in terms of martial arts as compared to Pei Xuan. Although both Li Zhu and Bao Daoyi are good in sword, they used a sword in terms of using it with spell and magic. Hence, Pei Xuan can be considered as the one who is good in sword but used it in a normal way which is similar to the real situation. The use of sword has reminded me of the martial art of fencing in this current era which is also considered as a type of sports nowadays. It will be more awesome if it is able to see people to play with two swords during the sports of fencing.

However, the “Outlaws of the Marsh” has always been a debate whether it is a real story which recorded the people in ancient times. It is believed that the novel is a nonfiction novel, only with a few characteristics which is real in the real life, such as Song Jiang, which is one of the main characteristics in “Outlaws of the Marsh”. The entire story is believed to be a reference for martial arts although the story is non-fiction. For example, the story in Chapter 23 described Wu Song’s boxing skill in terms of killing a tiger, the story in Chapter 74 which highlighted the wrestling competition as Yan Qing defeats the Sky-Supporting Pillar and the story in Chapter 44 which described the fencing skill of Pei Xuan. These stories have explained how traditional martial arts in ancient. What is amazed for me is that competition of martial art in the ancient as found in the story is also similar to the current era which we consider as sports competition nowadays. It is believed that the older generations are those who started with martial arts by finding all the steps that have become guidance for us in this generation. In order to ensure the hand down of martial arts to the next generation, it is believed to be important to highlights the importance of martial arts, as it is also found to ensure the health of a person by practicing it.

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Representation of Martial Arts and Fencing in “Outlaws of the Marsh”: Critical Analysis. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 15, 2024, from
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