Drunken Fist Packs a Punch


Published: April 3, 2008

Our lives are rife with stereotypical characters, from the moment we fall in with the kids who are good at hopscotch in kindergarten to dying, surrounded by no less than 22 cats. Some of these characters are rich and meaningful, helping to bring color to our everyday lives. But others leave you sitting alone in your apartment, feeling empty and uncool. The target of my ire this week is the martial arts kid.

I don’t have a problem with knowing a martial art. But I’ve got a problem with the person who wants to make sure you know that they know four martial arts, and they’ll be taking their black belt test in the next week or two. So if you don’t pass the ketchup pronto, you should be ready to face the consequences. The only way to garner respect from such martial arts enthusiasts is to know a martial art yourself.

Many people dabble in martial arts as children, taking a lesson or two at the community center, but sometimes, as you’re getting ready to test for your first yellow stripe on your white belt, your partner messes up and punches you right in the solar plexus, and your nearby parents hear you curse like a sailor for the first time, at age 10. But that’s not the point—the point is that for many of us, the martial arts ship has sailed.

It’s too late, at age 22, or 18 for that matter, to start learning karate. Certainly there are people who would disagree, but situations in which I need to defend my lunch money are largely done with, and trophies begin to seem a lot less meaningful when the reality of the job market rears its barren head. There is, however, a chance to fake it—a chance to pretend to know martial arts—in order to blend in with the cool few who really do.

The martial art in question is Zui Quan, translated literally as Drunken Fist. Since Drunken Fist was incorporated in a Jackie Chan movie, 1978’s Drunken Master, we know for sure it’s real. Drunken Fist is a style of wushu, the catchall word for a Chinese martial art. The pretty obvious gist of the Drunken Fist style is that the combatant acts like a drunkard. Copious staggering is involved, and much of the offense comes from moves using body weight and momentum, as well as strikes with elbows and fingers.

Yeah, you knew your body hurt on those harsh Sunday mornings, but you always thought it hurt from all the drinking. You were just thinking about it from the wrong perspective: your body actually hurt from all the practicing. The various components of a good Drunken Fist style are easily replicated, luckily enough, by hard drinking. First, staggering comes standard with any half decent bender. That shouldn’t be hard to get down. Strikes with the elbows and fingers also should not be a problem. Think of how many times you’ve knocked over your glass with your elbow on a given night, and just pretend that your glass is the object of your sudden fury. Momentum and body weight may be the easiest part of the list. If you’re not falling all over your friends and/or strangers, you’re not even trying, and remember, nobody likes a quitter.

Weave those various methods together and you’ve given yourself the timeless ability to act like you’re absolutely drunk, which worked so well for Jackie Chan that it was worth a sequel. While I can’t guarantee a sequel for you, I can guarantee a certain amount of self-satisfaction from the glowing feeling that comes from fitting in with the rest of the cool kids. Sure, they’ve got belts of various colors and stripes, and all you have is a drinking problem, but as long as real fights don’t start breaking out around you, no one should ever know the difference.