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Kung Fu Monkey Style

(Reading Time: 05:27)
Sifu Stan sank into his living room settee, sipped his green tea, and pointed the remote at the TV. He switched to the 24 hour news channel. As usual, all sorts of horrible things were happening all over the world, but the one story the national broadcaster kept on coming back to was the fight between Theo and the monkey cops.

Of all the images - the rapid martial arts moves of the uniformed monkeys, the famous faces of the soap stars who joined in the fight, the hail of debris and furniture strewn down by Theo and his allies - of all these wonderful moving pictures, the best was the close up of the Mayer's expression - a mixture of fear and dismay on the viz of the politician who had the bright idea to fight monkeys with monkeys.

Sifu chuckled. It was hard not to. "A monkey makes monkeys of men," he said to himself. And he wondered if perhaps Theo really could be related to The Monkey King who had created similar havoc in Heaven, making monkeys of even the gods themselves. He was not sure if Theo was right or wrong to do what he did, but he knew that he was his kind of monkey.

Not so very far away, at the top of an ancient oak tree in Burbington Woods, Theo was wondering if he had been foolish to create such a public disturbance.

"Here I am enjoying a quiet life," he said to himself, "and then I get all hot headed and angry and throw my caution to the four winds. Sometimes I wish I did not feel so passionately about justice and fairness and right and wrong. It is too much for a lone monkey to take on the whole corrupt system."

It might have been logical for Theo to think about getting some help in his struggle. He could have thought about setting up a band of merry monkeys who would hide away in the woods. After all, the three monkeys who had come with Mr Grabber to the police ceremony had rebelled and joined in the fight on his side. Even some of the humans had run riot either in the name of justice or possibly because they enjoyed behaving like monkeys. But Theo did not think this way. He had always been a loner. He did not trust other monkeys. Even if their hearts were in the right place, he thought they would always be tempted to do something too cheeky and too silly and get themselves and Theo caught.

The next morning, when Theo visited Neet's garden for his breakfast, the boy came up to him and said:

"I've spoken to Sifu and he says it is more important than ever that you learn kung fu. He's seen the monkey cops on TV and he says they are a strong fighting team."

This time Theo did not miss his martial arts lesson. At six o'clock on the dot he swung in through the open window of the village hall.

Theo and Neet stood side by side. A monkey has different sorts of limbs to a boy and it is hard for him to stand smartly like a martial arts student. His arms are too long and he has to lean forward. If he tries to bow he will probably end up on all fours.

Sifu stood facing the students. Normally he began the lesson with heels together and toes turned out. His legs and back were straight and he would draw up his palms to pull energy into his body which he could release with an elastic kind of force. The students copied him and together they felt a collective pool of power. But that evening Neet was puzzled by his kung fu master:

"Is Sifu not well?" he thought.

The teacher was swaying from side to side. It almost made Neet feel dizzy to look at him. Then Theo started to do the same thing. It was like having two drunk monkeys in the room. This was not like a normal lesson. Kung Fu and playing around did not go together at all.

Sifu and Theo started to circle around the room, still lolling from side to side. Sifu swivelled his neck and eyes, bent forward and dangled his arms. It was most disconcerting. He was imitating a monkey to take the mick out of Theo. Suddenly the real monkey hit the ground and rolled over towards Sifu's feet. He would have tripped the master if he had not jumped neatly over him. The opponents both turned and faced each other. Sifu smiled and bowed. Theo put his paws together and nodded. Sifu said:

"Neet you look quite astonished."

"What kind of kung fu is that?" asked Neet. It wasn't his idea of combat at all. Everything he had learned so far was about discipline and exactness.

"There are many styles of kung fu," said Sifu. "This one is called 'The Drunken Monkey.' Some say that humans copied it from monkeys, but others, myself included, believe that in ancient times monkeys taught it to humans. Either way it seems to come naturally to Theo."

And for the rest of the lesson, the three of them practiced rolling and swivelling, looking deceptively like they were about to topple over, but actually keeping a perfect sense of balance. By the end Neet was starting to understand that it was a slick trick to mislead an opponent and to roll out of harm's way from a strike.

It was almost dark when at 7.30pm, they ended the lesson and Theo slipped out through the window, up into a tree, across onto the roof of the estate agency next door.

At school the following morning, the kids were talking about the news. The monkey punch-up made better viewing than any cartoon show. A boy called George said:

"My dad saw a monkey in the village last night. He called the police and they came round and took a statement."

Neet did not say anything. He hoped the police would not take the sighting too seriously. Lots of people had monkeys on the brain these days.

But that evening two police officers called at the shop and spoke to Neet's mum. They asked if she had seen or heard anything unusual the night before. Anything that could suggest the presence of a monkey in the vicinity. She shook her head.
"This is a very quiet village," she said.

On Thursday evening Neet and Theo joined Sifu in the village hall for another private lesson. This time they trained in 'Lost Monkey' style, in which they pretended to be nervous and uncertain. At times it seemed more like a drama club than a kung fu lesson, thought Neet.

About an hour into the lesson they were practicing standing very still on one leg when a tap-tap-tap at the window began to distract Neet's attention. He did not want to look in case he lost his balance, but curiosity got the better of him and he swivelled his eyes. What he saw made him exclaim:

"Sifu Look!"
It wasn't very polite to interrupt the master, but what else could he do? A monkey was looking in through the window.

Sifu did look. He remained very calm. Theo didn't. He flew at the window, banging on the glass with his fist and screaming at the intruder. Neet had one thought: "It's the monkey cops!" He expected a heavy knock on the front door and a deep human voice to say something like: "Police! Open up!" But the knock did not come.

Sifu went over to the window and said:

"Theo, a student of kung fu must keep his head at all times."

He was forced to repeat himself a couple of times before Theo finally obeyed and jumped back onto the floor. Sifu opened the window and not one, but three monkeys jumped into the hall.

"Are you the police?" he asked. The three monkeys did not reply. Actually they did not understand many words of English beyond the essentials, such as 'Bananas' and 'Bath Time' which they thought meant 'Quick Hide'.

But they did respect a master of Monkey Kung Fu which is why they stood on their hind legs and bowed their heads.

"They don't look like police," said Sifu. And Theo nodded, because he did understand English pretty well, although he could not speak it of course.

He did speak to the monkeys. He said something like:

"Oooh, Aahh Aahh," which meant: "What in all the jungle are you doing here?"

And the monkeys bowed their heads again. Theo shook his fist and raged at them.

"I think," said Neet, "that they want to join the kung fu class and Theo does not want them here."

"I think you are right," said Sifu.

And Neet saw that the situation was getting even more complicated.

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