‘The Empty Hands’ is the almost literal translation of the ‘way of empty hands’ (空手道), otherwise known as Karate-do. As strongly urged by a Karate expert father, his daughter was trained when much younger, to be a brown belt karate prodigy. However, in a fit of frustration, after losing in a competition signed up on her behalf by him, she abandons training, estranges from him, and wastes her life in simple jobs not fitting of her full potential. She even has an affair with a married man, choosing to believe in his hollow promises of a happy future together.
When her father suddenly passes away in the dojo founded by himself, she saw it as a chance to carve it up as many rooms, to finally be able to slack as a landlord. Yet, mysteriously, 1% more of the dojo was willed to an ex-senior Karate assistant teacher, who also helped to train her when as a child. Having her faith in her affair lost, she was about to further waste away when the senior challenges her to fight in any one match, after which he will hand the dojo entirely to her, even if she does not win.
Motivated, she trains hard, and despite a bloody match, wins, as she recovers her fighting spirit, self-worth and direction. Through breaking of the body, her heart was healed, by learning to stand strong again, to do better, to not let herself down. Even if one’s hands are empty, unarmed, having lost much, one can still be full of the right spirit to strive on. Victory against the opponent is secondary, while conquest of self is primary. Thus did the Buddha teach the latter as the greatest victory. The actual fight she had, even with support, was one she had to face alone, against herself, her ego. Even competition in sports is essentially a challenge to actualise personal potential, and to accept potential defeat without being disheartened, along with victory without egotism.
Her late father was the one who secretly arranged the senior to issue the challenge – to rekindle her interest in what he long saw to be the vocation best suited for her, as an honourable, disciplined and skilled Karate instructor, worthy of carrying on his teaching lineage. As in perhaps all classic eastern martial arts, there is a strong code of integrity that first has to be learnt during training – virtues (武德) must come before the fighting itself. It was through being reminded of what she learnt but did not absorb well, that she finally realised the worth of her father’s training, that extended beyond the dojo, to the rest of her life.