There’s a fish I can’t take my mind off of for some reason right now.

I caught this fish a couple months ago. I happened to be having a good day that day and I had a handful of catches. And there was this one ugly fish that I’ve never met before and had little idea of what it was, so I gave it to a fellow angler who was not having such a good day. Then I came home, did some research on the fish, and regreted that I gave it away.

This fish captured my imagination ever since.

His name is John Dory.

He goes by another name, St. Pierre.

He looks like this.


When he broke out of the water with my jig, I thought I caught some kind of garbage. It took me a while, but then I realized it was his extended long mouth hanging from the hook. What looked like umbrella frames sticking out was his dorsal fins. I was shocked to realize that it was actually a fish!

Despite the shabby ugly weird looking, this fish is reported to be really delicious. Japanese sites praise its delicate sashimi, liver and eggs. Other Western sites loved it for meunier, baked, porched, or any style of cooking, especially Mediterraneans.

But this fish is definitely weird in a lot of aspects.
I was so interested in how this fish has turned out to be like this.


dory08The name is definitely weird.

John Dory… Is that the guy lives around the corner? I mean, isn’t that a name of a person? How did a fish get that name? It makes it hard to eat the fish when named “John”.

He also goes by some different names. One is St. Pierre…
OK, now he’s a saint? I never knew a fish with such a holy name. It seems that this fish has some legends that let all the way to Bible.

The scientific name is Zeus faber… Zeus! …As in Greek God… The mighty creator!

….. Who the hell is this guy!?

dory03The extending big long mouth is definitely weird.

dory04I know some other fish have the same kind of telescoping mouth. That is why I was able to recognize that it was the fish mouth that was hanging from my hook. But his mouth is very dynamic. And, I hate to say like this but can’t help, it gives such an ugly look when open or closed.

It’s really an amazing structure. It’s a kind of like a system that those recreational vehicles might have for storing things in a little space or something. Also, it kind of reminds me of the mouth of the Alien.

When the mouth is shut, it’s so neatly folded that you would never think it would extend to reach you if you are his prey. This mouth extends and opens to catch its prey in a blink of an eye. A deadly weapon.

[fancy_header3]BODY SHAPE[/fancy_header3]
It is definitely a weird evolution.

dory07John Dory is laterally so flat. But looking from the side, the body is almost round with such big fins. The face is oddly big too.
How about that long spiny dorsal fins sticking out? It looks like a hair style of punk musicians. What are they for? Mating? I don’t think so. Both males and females have those. Defense? Maybe. A big black spot on the side of the body looks like an eye of a bigger fish.

dory02And you know what? He has got some secret weapons too. He has tiny but nasty thorns lined up at the base of the fins around his body. They really mean serious threat. Again like a punk bracelet.

What would he have evolved these thorns for? All I can think of is one possibility —

He didn’t like to be filleted…..

That’s got to be it. That’s why he developed thorns for the defense. The thorns are lined up right where you would want to get your blade in. He may be the only fish in the world who has taken the counter measures for the chef into the consideration of his evolution.

I found his hunting behavior on YouTube. This is definitely weird.

He is stalking!

This hunt was not successful, but does he ever succeed in hunting like this?

He is staying with his side down, hovering. This is probably to keep low profile. But he’s exposed, so this is not ambushing. He’s hovering around, trying to look harmless, occasionally closing the distance or maybe letting the waves close the distance accidentally, and just waiting for that moment to make a move, patiently.

This was new to me. I’ve never seen an animal hunt in this manner. Then it reminded me of something.

This fish has a hunting strategy like a Japanese marshal art called “Iai”!!!


Hunt like “Iai”

iai01“Iai” is a Japanese unique marshal art which was developed in the 16th century. The modern practice follows the original form of the art, which starts from sitting position, drawing the sword from its scabbard, striking the opponent, removing blood from the blade, and then replacing the sword in the scabbard. But the modern practice never uses sparring. It only uses the forms. But with a real sword. And the training is associated much with Zen spiritual practice. It is sometimes called “moving Zen”.

It might sound more like a spiritual and ritual practice rather than marshal arts. But the original form, I think, was a lethal swordsmanship. Iai was developed in the chaotic violent time before the peaceful ruling of Edo Samurai government which lasted over 200 years.

The art was definitely designed for the close quarters. The other modalities of swordsmanship are based on the battle situation in an open field. They all start with the swords drawn from the scabbard, already confronting your opponent. But Iai starts in a normal life. In the situation like sitting in a restaurant, talking with someone in a room, where you don’t even know if you are going to confront with the opponent. When they strike, they draw the sword and strike the opponent in a lightening speed before the opponents know they are killed.

When your opponents have swords in their hands and ready to battle from a certain distance, Iai doesn’t have much advantages. In those Samurai time, carrying swords in the scabbard is a everyday thing. When you have swords out of scabbard you are in a battle. Iai lies between the everyday life and the battle situation. Just a moment ago you can be chatting with a Iai master like in everyday life, and the next moment you are attacked before you can draw your sword and fight with all the sword techniques I have practiced. Iai must be deadly and dangerous, because you never know who does Iai and you won’t be ready. I’m sure it was an effective method of assassination as well.

zatoichi-takeshikitano1To master Iai, you would need to be very calm, grounded and highly aware of the surroundings. You must conceal all your offensive aura. If the opponent senses that you are attacking or anything funny about you, you might lose all the advantages. And when you move, the movement should be smooth, quiet, lightening quick and precise. I think that’s where all the Zen training comes in. You have to be always present as calm sea in multi-levels, body, mind and spirit.

A Japanese movie director, Takeshi Kitano, made a movie titled “Zatoichi”, a story about a blind swordsman. The swordsman is characterized as a Iai master. If you see it, you will get an idea of Iai.

I have let this article take off as it carries. I never expected it reached this far. I was just talking about a fish. I’ve made fun of this fish but I do respect it just like any other life forms as nature’s creation. It’s just so fascinating that we have such wonderful diversity of life on this planet.