Kumori - Journal Entry 13
Excerpts from “The Book of Ways,” considered by the few who have read it to be the most comprehensive manual of swordsmanship ever written:
To fight a thousand duels and always emerge triumphant; is this skill?
To know the eight thousand sutras as you know your own voice; is this learning?
To answer every challenge and avenge every slight; is this honor?
The answer is “yes,” and the answer is “no.”
The master once sat aboard a ferry crossing a wide river. Aboard the ferry with him there was a samurai who declaimed loudly to the other passengers of his martial skill. He asserted the supremacy of his own style, the Seven Thunders School, over all others, and bragged of having won fifty duels. The townspeople and peasants aboard the ferry nodded and smiled nervously, but their acquiescence did not satisfy the samurai, who spotted the master sitting quietly, unresponsive.
“You are a man of war,” the samurai said, “surely you must have an opinion.”
“I did not witness your duels,” the master replied coolly, “and I have not heard of your school, so I cannot speak with learning. I am a student of the School of No-Sword.”
The samurai took offense at this. “The Seven Thunders School is unbeatable, and I will prove it! ‘No-Sword’ school indeed! You wear two like any bushi. If you have any pride as a warrior, you will answer.”
The master nodded, and pointed to an island in the middle of the river. “Very well, I can prove to you on that island the merits of the Way of No-Sword.” The samurai agreed, and the other passengers, afraid of the samurai’s swagger and clearly violent temper, urged the boatman to steer them toward it. As they approached, the samurai leapt from the boat and began to wade to the shore of the island, his katana clutched in his hand, eager to fight. After he had gotten a few yards from the boat, the master took the tiller from the boatman and began to steer away, back toward their original destination. He shouted over the water to the bewildered samurai, “See? This is victory with the Way of No-Sword! When you have learned humility, perhaps I can teach you!”
Draw only to cut. Cut only to kill. The way of the sword is not the way of half-measures, and hesitation is the path to defeat. In the moment of the draw, and the moment of the cut, you must be wholly committed; the man who fears death will die, the superior man who is ready to die will be victorious. Meditate on this, and make it part of your own heart.