Two Short & Sweet Samurai Stories
Today I thought we would look at two stories. More exactly, two Samurai stories!
The first one is an old story often told by Mr. Otake Raisuke (master of the Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu, the oldest verified school of Japanese martial arts), which goes a little something like this:
A long time ago there was a young samurai and his fiancé who were deeply in love. One day his fiancé was walking through the forest when she was attacked and seriously mauled by a man-eating tiger! No matter what the young samurai did, nothing could save her… and she died
From the depths of his sorrow he vowed to revenge his beloved, by seeking out the tiger and killing it.
So he took his bow and arrow and sought out into the forest, month after month in search of the man-eating beast. Searching daily in the forest, the samurai finally saw a sleeping tiger in the distance and concluded that this must be the tiger responsible for the death of his lover!
He drew his bow, took careful aim and released the arrow which found its mark and pierced the tiger’s body deeply. Drawing and mounting another arrow he slowly approached the motionless creature to confirm the kill… only to find his arrow stuck deeply into a striped colored stone which happened to resemble that of a sleeping tiger!
After this, everyone in the village began to talk about how strong he was, because he could pierce a stone with his arrow, and people became determined to test him. However, regardless of how many times he attempted to repeat the undertaking his arrows kept bouncing off the rock.
This was because he now realized that his target is only a stone. In the past his resolve had been so profound that he was actually able to physically pierce a stone with his arrow. However, now under different circumstances, he was unable to repeat the same feat.
Moral of the story?
“A strong will can even pierce stone”. In other words, resolve can serve as a powerful vehicle for achieving seemingly impossibe things.
Now, if you have digested that one, let’s move on to the next.
The following “anecdote” appears in the Hagakure (famous Samurai handbook) which dates back to mid-seventeenth century feudal Japan:
Yagyu Tajima no Kami was a great swordsman and a teacher in the art to Tokugawa Iemitsu, the Shogun during that time. One day, a personal guard of Iemitsu’s visited Yagyu Sensei seeking instruction in the art of swordsmanship.
Master Yagyu said: “As I observe, you seem to already be a master of swordsmanship; pray tell me to which school you belong, before we enter into a relationship as teacher and student.”
The guardsman said, “I am ashamed to say that I have never really learned the art of swordsmanship.”
Master Yagyu replied by saying “Are you trying to trick me? I am teacher to the honorable Shogun himself, and I know that my judging eyes never fail me. I can see that you already are a master”
“I am sorry to defy your honor, but I really know nothing” replied the guardsman.
This resolute denial on the part of the visitor made the old swordsman think for a while, and then he finally said, “If you say so, then it must be so; but still I am sure that you are a master of something, though I know not what.”
“If you insist, I will tell you this. There is one thing of which I can say that I am a complete master. When I was a boy, it appeared to me that as a Samurai I should never be afraid of death regardless of the circumstances. I had grappled with this obstacle for some years but finally overcame it. Death ceases to worry me and perhaps this is what you sense.”
“Exactly!” exclaimed Yagyu sensei. “That is what I mean. I am glad that I made no error in my judgment.
For the ultimate secrets of swordsmanship also lie in being released the preoccupation of death. I have trained ever so many hundreds of my disciples along this line, but so far none of them really deserve the final certificate for swordsmanship.
You need no technical training, you are already a master.”
Now go ponder!