Director Shunichi Nagasaki and screenwriter George Iida ponder the delicate balance between fierce confrontation and moral reflection as related to the realm of defensive martial arts in this thoughtful tale of two students divided by their disparate beliefs. The decade is the 1930s, and the setting is a secluded dojo on the southernmost Japanese island of Kyushu. As watchful sensei Eiken Shibahara (Shinya Ohwada) reinforces the defensive aspect of the martial arts to his three most dedicated students, a military police force led by the forebodingly stern Captain Tanahara (Hakuryu) arrive to forcefully eject the peaceful group. The confrontation fast turning physical, principled pupil Giryu (Akihito Yagi) responds to the absurd orders by successfully defending himself against the grim-faced Captain. Aggressive fellow student Taikan (Tatsuya Naka) mocks Giryu's passive stance, and after the officer wounds third student Choei (Yuji Suzuki), Giryu is left to die after being forced over a cliff. But Giryu isn't out of the fight just yet, because as the traitorous Taikan teaches Captain Tanahara's men how to adopt martial arts for combative purposes, the more traditional student is generously nursed back to health by a kind local family. Later, Giryu and Taikan clash in the ultimate battle of corruption versus tradition.