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Martial arts techniques refer to the coordinated movements and ideologies that impart a specialized sequence of manipulating spiritual essence (or divine essence for martial arts techniques originating from the Realm), in order for the manifestation of certain phenomena. Some primarily focus on enhancing the physical body's capabilities and characteristics, while others may focus on utilizing the soul as a weapon, breaching the opponent's defenses and wreaking havoc on their soul. At their root, martial arts techniques without the utilization of spiritual essence are nothing but elaborate body movements; it is only when spiritual essence is involved that martial arts techniques are able to retain their mystical properties of "crushing mountains and treading skies".

Oftentimes, martial arts techniques employ elaborately structured mantras containing grandiose descriptions and embellishments of history and mythology. This is due to the cultivator's need of visualizing a certain atmosphere and "mood" for the spiritual essence to designate an attribute towards; otherwise, there would  be no difference between one martial arts technique to another, even if the exhibited motions are different. The differences in a cultivator's perception is what decides the specific qualities of infusing spiritual essence into the body save for the basic enhancement. 

All martial arts techniques - originating from the mortal worlds or the Realm - contain three general requirements for their prescribed effects to manifest in the physical world:

  1. A set of described "parameters" that the martial arts technique seeks to manipulate in order to accomplish its goal. In an example of movement martial arts techniques, the required parameters would be a detailed anaylsis of the terrain, the remaining strength and capability of the cultivator, as well as the duration the technique needs to be persisted. For strength-attributed martial arts techniques, commonly required parameters include the strength of both the practitioner and the opponent, the environment's terrain, and the general tension in the fight.
  2.  The actual "manipulation" of spiritual essence throughout the body that is required to completely and sufficiently alter the "parameters" defined by the practitioner. Contained firmly within the concepts of medicine, the martial arts technique prescribes a specific sequence in which the various acupuncture points and meridians of the practitioner are to be stimulated and dampened, adjusting their physique and state of mind as what is required to complete the martial arts technique. The circulation of spiritual essence is thus optimized for exhibition, and any possible damage on the cultivator is reduced. Martial arts techniques relying on the manipulation of another's soul requires an adjustment of the practitioner's psyche, which is commonly accomplished by persistent visualization of emotion-lad thoughts and memories.
  3. After successfully defining all of the parameters and completing the "manipulation" of their body and psyche, the cultivator needs to "adjust" the output of the martial arts technique to better suit their needs depending on the situation. By adjusting the intensity and quantity of spiritual essence expended, the lethality and magnitude of the technique can be either increased or diminished. However, the degree of manipulation in the output of martial arts techniques commonly have upper limits - up to twice the original output. Any more can result in the phenomena of chaotic spiritual essence, which can trigger massive sequalae and injury onto the practitioner.

Martial arts techniques also possess a minimum threshold on the capabilities of the practitioner's sea of perception. In the case that the practitioner is unable to complete all three requirements in a short period of time, there exists a great likelihood that the practitioner is unable to retain the specific state of mind required the perform the technique, and as such - the martial arts technique fails to properly manifest. When the delay is exacerbated to a certain extent, the practitioner could trigger the phenomena of overflow - the state in which the martial arts technique forcefully seizes all of the resources and capability of the sea of perception in order to fully manifest the technique. During the period of time that a practitioner suffers from overflow, they are unable to perform any other martial arts techniques until the condition subsides. Martial arts techniques are divided into five layers of progression: the Initial Three Points, Five River Stones, Small River, Large River, and Consolidation. Depending on the attainment in cultivation of the original creator of the technique, the requirements of cultivation realms for each layer are dependent on the technique.

Initial Three Points

The Initial Three Points refer to the initial plateau when practicing martial arts techniques. The cultivator is required to fully understand the basic concept behind the structural arrangement of the technique's mantra, as well as the fundamental movements associated with the martial arts technique. Memorization and iteration of the mantra, as well as the historical anecdote accompanying the technique, allows for the practitioner to drastically alter their state of mind and their psyche through artificial experiences of raw emotion and grandious ideology, which then exerts a considerable influence over their spiritual essence. The Initial Three Points ultimately seek the physical manifestation of the three primary concepts that form the martial arts technique's mantra - oftenmost discerned from within the first three phrases or paragraphs.

For example, the full mantra of the elementary movement martial arts technique <Cloudmist Steps> that is found within the Three Lotus Sect's Sun and Moon Pavilion:

The clouds under the heavens and earth are swift and fierce, fleeting and tangible, vivid and illusory. Treading upon the clouds, obscuring the mist of the heart, and linking the soul with the impassable skies - the walker stands firm!

Under the heavens, unsurpassed by all above the earth. Illusory to all, but vivid to none. The concealed heart finds no adversary!

In this mantra, the Three Initial Points are highlighted in bold, and are encapsulated in [brackets]:

The [clouds] under the [heavens] and [earth] are swift and fierce, fleeting and tangible, vivid and illusory. Treading upon the clouds, obscuring the mist of the heart, and linking the soul with the impassable skies - the walker stands firm!

Under the heavens, unsurpassed by all above the earth. Illusory to all, but vivid to none. The concealed heart finds no adversary!

The <Cloudmist Steps> refers to a movement martial arts technique reliant on the combination of illusory movements as well as raw agility to provide for a sequence of deceptive movements that allow for the cultivator to evade direct attacks to their body. The primary intention of the martial arts technique is to dissuade any direct attacks onto the cultivator's body through deception and calculation, and the Three Initial Points of the martial arts technique particularly emphasize on the wording of any, as the three highlighted concepts are [Clouds], [Heavens], and the [Earth]. The words by themselves serve little effect whatsoever in regards of physical manifestation, but the grandiose nature of the phrase when the words are pieced together, affect the practitioner's psyche to reflect that of the magnitude between the heavens and the earth, as well as the physical natures of a cloud; a mass aggregate of mist that is not restricted in shape or form.

The Initial Three Points' benefits are strictly limited to the enhancement of the physical capabilities of the cultivator. Speed, strength, agility, as well as the overal endurance of the practitioner are enhanced only during the period of time that the technique is implemented. The magnitude of these enhancements are dependent on the nature and purpose of the martial arts technique, as well as the practitioner's depth in their practice. Furthermore, these benefits are mostly passive - imparted by the changes in the attribute of their spiritual essence after their psyche was influenced by the technique's mantra.

At this stage, most if not all martial arts techniques exhibit similar enhancements of raw physical ability, making it insufferably difficult in discerning the martial arts technique employed by a practitioner at this stage. Only at the threshold between the Initial Three Points and the Five River Stones does the martial arts technique begin to display any external cues - such as peculiar light, sounds, and changes in ambient pressure and temperature - that are unique to each martial arts technique.

As such, many cultivators are unable to break through the boundary of the Three Initial Points before they attain the Spirit Building Realm, nor does any martial arts technique have a Five River Stones boundary below the Spirit Building Realm.

Five River Stones

The Five River Stones refer to the five secondary, but most important concepts and principles that form the martial arts technique. The Five River Stones are the plateau in which cultivators can translate the worded concepts of the technique's mantra into physical manifestations in the world - such as causing fires to spart, materials to freeze, the wind to blow, etc - given that they do not directly create nor destroy matter - or break the laws of nature. Relying on the strengthened ability of their soul to directly influence surrounding atmospheric spiritual qi, the cultivator can transfer the altering attribute of their spiritual essence onto their surroundings, which then generates the physical manifestation of the martial arts technique. The Five River Stones seek to make the most advantageous use of the practitioner's enhanced soul, and also represent the phase in which martial arts techniques become "miracles". The five secondary concepts that constitute the Five River Stones can also be found within the technique's mantra, usually accompanying the same phrase as the Three Initial Points.

For example once again, the full mantra of the elementary movement martial arts technique <Cloudmist Steps> that is found within the Three Lotus Sect's Sun and Moon Pavilion:

The clouds under the heavens and earth are swift and fierce, fleeting and tangible, vivid and illusory. Treading upon the clouds, obscuring the mist of the heart, and linking the soul with the impassable skies - the walker stands firm!

Under the heavens, unsurpassed by all above the earth. Illusory to all, but vivid to none. The concealed heart finds no adversary!

In this mantra, the Five River Stones are highlighted in bold, and are encapsulated in [brackets]:

The clouds under the heavens and earth are [swift and fierce], [fleeting and tangible], [vivid and illusory]. Treading upon the clouds, [obscuring the mist of the heart], and [linking the soul with the impassable skies] - the walker stands firm!

Under the heavens, unsurpassed by all above the earth. Illusory to all, but vivid to none. The concealed heart finds no adversary!

The secondary concepts of the <Cloudmist Steps> can be analyzed in this format:

The phrases [swift and fierce], [fleeting and tangible], [vivid and illusory] refer to the martial arts technique's specialization in implementing deception into what would constitute a mere enhancement of a cultivator's speed. The first phrase [swift and fierce] mentions a drastic increase in a cultivator's speed compared to their original capabilties, whilst [fleeting and tangible] and [vivid and illusory] are contradictory pairs that emphasize the martial arts technique's specialization in deception. Particularly, the relation between "vivid" and "illusory" refer to the technique's ability to conjure shadowed, fluttering movements that are "fleeting" and appear "tangible" to describe chaotic movement, as well as possessing the concepts of "vivid" to disguise the fact that they are "illusory" and in nature, deceptive of the original sequence of movement.

The phrases [obscuring the mist of the heart] and [linking the soul with the impassable skies] refer to the <Cloudmist Steps>'s primary specialty of deception, and seek to minimize the flaws of the practitioner when employing the movement martial arts technique. The [obscuring the mist of the heart], particularly, seek to reinforce the nature of deception on the technique's part once more, by reducing the predictability of successive movements by generating a thin layer of mist to shroud each and every motion of the practitioner - and thus reducing the number of visual cues that could be utilized to decipher a person's pattern of movement. And finally, the phrase [linking the soul with the impassable skies] is meant to be a passive reinforcement on the practitioner's state of mind, by forcing their psyche to contain a minimum threshold of pride and arrogance on their capabilities to mask the flaws hidden underneath to a certain extent (designed not to inflict permanent harm).

The benefits of the Five River Stones are more varied than that of the Initial Three Points. Because each of the secondary concepts constituting the technique are severely open to free interpretation by part of the practitioner, the magnitude of their influence over their surroundings differ from each cultivator. There is less of a physical enhancement on cultivator's ability compared to the direct manipulation of the atmospheric spiritual qi whose attributes have been altered to resonate with the practitioner's spiritual essence; the latter allows for a limited degree of manipulation over the world's elements - exploitation of the natural laws are permited, but severely limited. All benefits and displays of the Five River Stones are external - allowing for each martial arts technique to be differentiated from the other by their visual and physical effects.

The prowess of a martial arts technique and therefore its "quality" is determined by the type of wording utilized by the creator of the martial arts technique. If the wording of the Five River Stones adheres to a grandiose, thematic concept but the wording implemented restricts the practitioner's interpretation to a narrowed range of concepts and definitions, the martial arts technique is considered to be that of subpar quality. Conversely, a martial arts technique can be considered as superior if it can perfectly translate the adhered concept into three initial definitions and five secondary concepts, even if the thematic concept was rather limited in a direct comparison with the former example. Martial arts techniques that are considered "divine" are those that can perfectly translate a grandiose concept into the Five River Stones - that most practitioners of the technique can embody the manifestations of the technique without external revelation. 

Small River

The Small River refers to the ability of the martial arts technique to impose changes onto the environment of its own accord, without any additional infusion of spiritual essence on the part of the practitioner. The Small River is the plateau in which all processes associated with the martial arts technique inflicts lasting changes onto the nearby environment, as well as serving as the major declaration of the martial arts technique's claim; this breaks the natural law of mortal worlds, and if the technique is sufficiently developed to a certain extent, can trigger tribulations from the heavens in response. Relying on the increased resonance between the cultivator's soul and that of the mortal world, the martial arts technique can manifest a minor portion of the technique's mantra and its supposed claims by translating them into direct fluctuations of nature. The concept usually embodied by the Small River is one of the mantra's concluding phrases - particularly one regarding the magnanimity and grandiose effects of the technique.

Continuing the example of the <Cloudmist Steps>, the elementary movement martial arts technique of the Three Lotus Sect's Sun and Moon Pavilion, the full mantra is as such:

The clouds under the heavens and earth are swift and fierce, fleeting and tangible, vivid and illusory. Treading upon the clouds, obscuring the mist of the heart, and linking the soul with the impassable skies - the walker stands firm!

Under the heavens, unsurpassed by all above the earth. Illusory to all, but vivid to none. The concealed heart finds no adversary!

In this mantra, the Small River is highlighted in bold, and are encapsulated in [brackets]:

The clouds under the heavens and earth are swift and fierce, fleeting and tangible, vivid and illusory. Treading upon the clouds, obscuring the mist of the heart, and linking the soul with the impassable skies - the walker stands firm!

[Under the heavens, unsurpassed by all above the earth.] Illusory to all, but vivid to none. The concealed heart finds no adversary!

Regarding the Small River of the <Cloudmist Steps>, the primary phrase of emphasis is [Under the heavens, unsurpassed by all above the earth]. This notation raises the claim that during the period of time that the martial arts technique is activated, all other movement martial arts techniques cannot surpass it regarding the combination of illusion and swift movements. Attainment of the Small River would then allow the practitioner of such a martial art to embody its accompanying claim through the sheer influence of their soul onto the mortal world - as those beyond the late stages of the Core Formation Realm would then have attained the necessary prerequisites to manifest a miracle of such fashion. The concept of the Small River is a restatement of the benefits accrued from both the Five River Stones and the Initial Three Points - and renders them immune to any debilitating effects or conditions, for the <Cloudmist Steps>'s Small River is to remain "unsurpassed" by all martial arts techniques of the same branch.

The Small River's sole and exclusionary benefit is to ensure that the martial arts technique's mantra's wording is embodied to a certain extent. This primarily relies upon the specific structural arrangement of the wording as well as the vocabulary used; mistakes or locations of ambiguity within the mantra can cause the Small River to reinforce a different aspect of the technique than what was originally intended, forcing the practitioner into a semi-permanent, disadvantageous state. The Small River is miraculous to a certain extent in that should the practitioner possess enough of a lifespan to witness the creation of a new martial arts technique of the same branch as the former, and the former's mantra employs terminologies including the phrase "unmatched under heaven", then by nature of the cultivator's increased connection with the mortal world, the Small River adjusts the former martial arts technique to be superior over the latter that is newly created. Should a martial arts technique's wording not employ such grandiose elements, then the benefits of the Small River are not so profound nor effective as one that does claim to be "heavenly potent". This factor is also one that is placed into consideration when evaluating the quality of a martial arts technique, and is also the threshold where many seemingly "divine" martial arts techniques fail to maintain their magnificent effects.

Large River

The Large River refers to the martial arts technique's ability to directly proclaim omnipotence over other martial arts techniques regardless of whether they are of a similar archetype or not. Compared to the Small River that can only dominate over martial arts techniques of the same specialty, the Large River can contest against any techniques that belong to the general archetypes - be it physical or spiritual. Attaining the Large River takes nothing but inspiration and enlightenment, as well as extensive knowledge and skill in wordplay and interpretation of certain texts. The minimum threshold of the Large River is the Nascent Soul Realm, and is also the stage where the structural arrangement of words and the vocabularly used is of paramount importance; one misinterpreted word or a claim either lacking in grandiosity or overdosed on pretentiousness can cause a practitioner's martial arts technique to become hollow - and fail to deliver its claims. The key to unlocking the secrets of the Large River can certainly be found within the mantra of the martial arts technique.

Continuing the example of the <Cloudmist Steps>, the elementary movement martial arts technique of the Three Lotus Sect's Sun and Moon Pavilion, the full mantra is as such:

The clouds under the heavens and earth are swift and fierce, fleeting and tangible, vivid and illusory. Treading upon the clouds, obscuring the mist of the heart, and linking the soul with the impassable skies - the walker stands firm!

Under the heavens, unsurpassed by all above the earth. Illusory to all, but vivid to none. The concealed heart finds no adversary!

In this mantra, the Small River is highlighted in bold, and are encapsulated in [brackets]:

The clouds under the heavens and earth are swift and fierce, fleeting and tangible, vivid and illusory. Treading upon the clouds, obscuring the mist of the heart, and linking the soul with the impassable skies - the walker stands firm!

Under the heavens, unsurpassed by all above the earth. [Illusory to all, but vivid to none. The concealed heart finds no adversary!]

The phrase [Illusory to all, but vivid to none. The concealed heart finds no adversary] compounds upon the statements declared prior and manifested in the Initial Three Points and Five River Stones of the martial arts technique. As such, the Large River has a basis to declare the statement that the <Cloudmist Steps> is [Illusory to all] and [Vivid to none], for the physical manifesta of the martial arts technique cannot be denied once it has manifested in the mortal world. The Small River's effects only proclaim the technique's efficacy over all other movement martial arts techniques that employ a combination of swift movements and deceptions, but the Large River compounds the effect of [Illusory to all] as the springboard to triumph over all other martial arts techniques - even those specialized in the separation between illusion and reality. The mixture between ambiguity and clarity of possible interpretations within the phrase [The concealed heart finds no adversary] allows for <Cloudmist Steps> to thrive even after newer martial arts techniques are created over time. 

In order for the Large River to display much prominent effect, the mantra of the martial arts technique cannot be overly ambiguous, nor can it be overly pragmatic and down-to-earth in its descriptions. In the case of the former, the Large River's basis is too loosely defined by the preceding stages of the technique, and cannot truly stabilize its manifestations and declaration on the mortal world; the logical argument that predicates its creation is too weak in defending itself. In the second case, the Large River's basis is far too defined and while it can defend itself from any attacks on its argumentation, there is little potential for the martial arts technique to develop itself when newer ones are created - ruining the benefits of the Small River in the process. Because the cultivators at the Large River stages are mostly of the Nascent Soul Realm and beyond, a single misused phrase or decrepit vocabulary can result in the martial arts technique ruining its future potential, and developing multiple martial arts techniques simulatenously becomes an insanely difficult challenge at the later stages; each technique proclaims to be "unmatched under heaven", causing the attainment of the Small River and Large River to be more difficult than ever.

Consolidation

Conslidation is the stage in which the practitioner of a martial arts technique embodies that figure illustrated in the historical or mythological anecdote that accompanies the mantra of the technique. It is the stage in which all grandiose statements and claims of the mantra and its accompanying "examples" are all brought to fruition by the combination of the cultivator's will and the attunement of the technique's fluctuations and the atmospheric spiritual qi. There is no other known method of attaining Consolidation other than receiving it as a natural byproduct upon breaking through into the Divine Dao Realm if purified during the Mortal Tribulation Realm, or culminating in the Seven Falls Realm.

External Martial Arts Techniques

External Martial Arts Techniques are essentially martial arts techniques that are either incomplete or lacking any of the stages beyond the Three Initial Points. This may be due to the original creator of the technique passing away before they could complete it, or the martial arts technique's mantra is far too grandiose in its wordings and cannot be practiced to its supposed theoretical capabilities, hence nullifying the effects of the Five River Stones, as well as the Small River and Large River. Additionally, many martial arts techniques are mistaken as external martial arts techniques during the Initial Three Points, though the distinctions are made clear rather soon.

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