Steve Perry Talks Teräs Käsi, Walks Silat Serak
At last Steve Perry will reveal ourselves to... ourselves.
Taigei - June 17, 2005
It took about a month of research to put together the About Teräs Käsi and Teräs Käsi Citings pages, and during that research I found several old sites and public posts by Steve Perry, interviews, but no current email address to which I could send the questions teräs käsi fans have been mulling over. That was over a year ago.
Had me at "Nice page."
June 14, 2005, my inbox looked as it did any other day: TKO applications, topic reply notifications and community mailers from SWG official forums. But that day there was one email sent through the teraskasi.net contact form with "Steve Perry" in the From column.
Could be anyone, I thought, resisting a fight-or-flight reaction. Opened the email, read "Nice page. Steve," and knew from the sheer economy of words: It's HIM!
Exorcising the whoop-there-it-is dance demon who suddenly possessed me, I rose with great dignity and gave the TKO /bow2 to the open email on screen, knowing Perry would feel and acknowledge my respect through vibrations in that which binds us all: Highspeed internet.
Suddenly felt dread, like an unannounced guest stopped by before I'd straightened up the place.
Must... resist... urge... to... gush...
Took hours to write and edit3 a considerate two-paragraph email that basically said, Hello from us TK fans of whom you probably weren't aware, could I pick your authoritative brain about TK? To which Perry replies:
"Nice to hear from you. I guess since I made the art up, I'm probably as authoritative as anybody."
Yes, yes! That's you! Father of teräs käsi. Father of us all. Surely we don't need to tap Reaves for collaboration over some TK questions.
"I've made up several over the years for various novels, the most extensive one being the 97-steps of sumito."
Most enjoyable, the Matadors series. Best scifi martial arts, IMHO. Strong resonance with TK. Let's talk TK!
"Oddly enough, the way I found out about the computer game Masters of Teras Kasi (sorry, my mail doesn't like adding the umlat) was when I saw an ad for it on the back of one of the SOTE comics I did."
Yes: SotE is the best SW novel ever and the Dark Horse SotE:Evolution series... uuuh, does he think we're TK fans because of MTK?! OMG I have to tell him who we are! Have to tell him about SWG! eerrgh! Must... resist... urge... to... gush...
"Kinda came full circle when Reaves and I were working on the Medstar books and I wanted to have a martial arts teacher and found Phow Ji, who came out of somebody else's brain. I figured I could use him."
Aaah, yes. Phow Ji. Feeling calmer, now. Paul Ens and Pablo Hidalgo HoloNet News article, so that IS where Phow Ji came from. Reaves. Medstar duology. Yes. Calmer now.
"If we do any more books, I plan to have another expert."
Yes! Take every opportunity! Publisher says MedStar III, you write Teräs Käsi Origins.
"Got a new book coming out from Ace in January of '06 in which I show the creation of the martial art the Matadors use, the 97-steps."
Sumito genesis! Whoop, there it is! Er... >:-( ... TK.
"I'd be happy to answer any questions you or the fans might have, time permitting."
Ah! Good. Very kind. Very obliging. Uh, right. He probably wants me to send questions so he has something to answer. Damned smart, this guy.
Master, sir... I've been wondering... what is Teräs Käsi?
After discovering a partially composed email about TK fandom (started in case Steve wanted to hear that sort of thing) somehow got sent instead of saved, and calling my best friend to rake him for not creating that unsend email button he talked about five years ago, I managed to pull together a list of commonly asked questions:
Taigei: How do you envision teräs käsi originating and spreading in the Star Wars universe?
Perry: I figured that teras kasi came to pass by somebody trying to come up with a more efficient fighting art, probably as an answer to one that was already around, which is how most of them seem to be created. The originator (whom I haven't thought about, really) would have been an adept in other arts, and he (or she) would have looked for holes in those and devised ways to fill them.
Got your butt kicked by a Jedi, you'd want to come up with ways to keep that from happening again.
Taigei: By what principles do teräs käsi practitioners live?
Perry: That depends of the depth of dedication and training. Viewed strictly as a fighting system, the art is aggressive rather than passive -- the best defense is a good offense. When in doubt, go in and hit. Phow Ji, for instance, was pretty much a sociopathic thug, but he stopped at the mastery of the physical.
I haven't gone into depth about mental and spiritual development, but it would tend to be a bit more aggressive than the Jedi arts. Meyer Baba's non-violence of the strong: Peaceful, as long as you leave me alone, but when threatened, one's response matches or exceeds the threat.
Taigei: What do you imagine it would be like to walk into a teräs käsi school or monastery?
Perry: Probably a lot like any other school or secluded order. To reach the highest levels, you would need total dedication, as in any classical fighting art. Somewhere between zen and the Shaolin, maybe.
Taigei: Can you describe how a teräs käsi would move and fight?
Perry: When I came up with the art, I had already begun studying pentjak silat Serak (last word, the "k" is silent) a family/village art from Java, Indonesia, so a lot of what I was seeing in my mind was similar to that, of course. Phow Ji's match in the Medstar book is typical -- a silat player in our style almost never backs up; when attacked, they go in, and they attack the attacker's weapons as they close. You want to see how our silat works, you can get one of Guru Plinck's tapes from his website: http://www.pencaksilat.com Look carefully, you'll spot me in them.
Taigei: What might a teräs käsi uniform look like? Would there be an indication of rank incorporated with the uniform?
Perry: We don't wear uniforms or rank insignia -- not necessary in a small group. In a large group rank pins or patches would be more useful, and probably any of the classical ones would work -- colors, stripes, etc.
To work out, you'd want something durable and comfortable. To practice for the street, you'd wear old street clothes, so you could learn to move in what you'd be wearing when you needed.
Taigei: In your books, and in collaborations with Michael Reaves, teräs käsi skills are attributed to the characters Zan and Zu Pike (SoTE), Phow Ji (MSI) and Darth Maul (DMSH). That's two mercenaries, a psychopathic killer and a Sith. Why so many teräs käsi bad guys?
Perry: Well Zan and Zu Pike (or Pikkel) aren't really bad, they're just mercenaries. Could work for good guys as well as bad. But the art is effective, and so anybody looking for that would tend to gravitate to it. It allows a weaker person to defeat a stronger one, so that would be attractive to women.
Plus the Jedi usually get to be the good guys.
Taigei: What relationship do you imagine between teräs käsi and the Force?
Perry: Since the Force permeates everything, naturally a teraskasi adept would be tuned to it, if not as much as a Jedi. At the higher levels, most martial arts start to look similar -- there are only so many efficient ways to move, after all, and if you are a biped, they have to look alike.
Many classical martial artists are spiritual, and some deal directly with spiritual energies -- kendo, aikido, kyudo, tai chi. Ki or chi, or in silat, tenaga dalam, are all inner energies.
Taigei: What relationship, if any, do you imagine between teräs käsi practitioners and Jedi?
Perry: Friendly and sometimes not-so-friendly rivalry. You always want to test your art to see if it works, and against somebody who is adept. No thrill in beating somebody who can't fight.
Taigei: The Star Wars Encyclopedia (1998. Del Rey. Stephen J Sansweet.) has an entry for teräs käsi which states:
If you were invited to write a Star Wars book which included the early history of teräs käsi, how much of the above description would you use?
Perry: I don't have any trouble with Steve's encyclopedia entry -- dunno who wrote it, but it's as good a description as any, and pretty classical in martial arts genesis stories. I could use a lot of it -- like I said, most martial arts were developed as an answer to something else martial. Being able to keep up with a Jedi would be a good goal.
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