Two Short & Sweet Samurai Stories

By Jesse | 8 Comments

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.”

____

That’s it.

Now go ponder!

About the author

is a self-titled Karate Nerd™, best-selling martial arts writer, unreasonably handsome elite athlete, autodidact, karatepreneur and carrot cake aficionado. He really thinks you should become a Karate Nerd™ too.

8 Comments

  1. Anna

    January 11, 2010 at 9:31 am

    Hello, I just stumbled across your website looking for samurai stories for a magic routine. It is a very nice website.

    I like both of these stories a lot. The first, I think has a very truthful and valuable message, although I was slightly sad that the samurai’s resolve came from wishes of revenge….

    As for the second story, I have been working on this for some time now, but overcoming fear of death is indeed a difficult quest, especially when one is granted such a wonderful life…I keep working on it.

    Keep it up, I love your website! Shall visit again.

    • Jesse

      January 11, 2010 at 3:38 pm

      Thanks Anna!

      I hope you found them useful!

  2. edgar ...

    October 15, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    been surfing your site for hours now. loads and loads of articles i like. thank you for sharing.

  3. Gerry

    January 3, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    So someone who has no technical swordsmanship training, yet doesn’t fear death is more deserving of a certificate than those who have spent years of training, but still are smart enough to fear death? Please…

    • Leo

      January 3, 2012 at 6:18 pm

      That’s easy to say in the age of desktop warriors, where certificates are handed out to any moron just for the right amount of money and worship. Personally, I’d love to have a teacher with this attitude, even if I were to never get this certificate in my lifetime.

    • Peter

      January 22, 2013 at 3:58 pm

      Gerry, there is great logic in your comment, but I bid to differ with you. Bushido teaches the samurai not to fear death. It is the most ultimate warrior code of honour, where abnegation dictates day-to-day actions. I personally admire the story, because every warrior should have no fear of being hurt or being killed, no matter how hard it is.

  4. Viking

    January 23, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    I was watching the History and it tells a third story of four British chaps walking along in the road. Some Satsuma Samurai came the other way and they failed to clear the road.

    Quite reasonably the Samurai killed 2 of them and injured 2 others.

    The British asked for justice by execution of the Samurai. After a year it was clear that they where not going to give themselves up despite not fearing death. So the the british aso quite reasonably put a gunboat in the harbour and shelled the samurai town.

    Where is the honour in killing strangers for not using the road properly?

    Where is the honour in killing to service the greed of your owner?

    Psycopaths are always respected they are normally the aristocracy of each each country, things have moved on and psycopath skills are not so highly sought after anymore. If they where we could be king/shogun etc.

  5. Matilda Bati

    October 22, 2013 at 3:48 am

    thanks Anna . I like the story

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