I will tell you the story of the samurai who came to see the legendary master Miyamoto Musashi and asked to learn the true way of the sword. The master agreed. Having become his disciple, the samurai spent all his time, as instructed by the master, carrying and chopping wood and fetching buckets of water from a distant spring. He did this every day for a month, two months, one year, three years. Today, any disciple would have run away after a week or even a few hours. But the samurai went on, and in the process he formed his body. At the end of three years he had had enough, however, and asked his master, „What kind of training are you giving me? I have not touched a sword since I got here. I spend all my time chopping wood and carrying water. When are you going to initiate me?”
„All right, all right,” the master replied. „Since you desire it, I shall how teach you the true technique.”
He ordered him to go to the dojo and there, every day from morning to evening, the disciple had to walk around the outside edge of the tatami, step by step around the hall without ever missing a foot.
So the disciple walked around the edge of the tatami for a year. At the end of that time he said to his master, „I am a samurai, I have a long experience of swordsmanship and I have met other masters of kendo. Not one ever taught me as you are doing. Now, please, teach me the true way of the sword.”
„Very well,” said the master. „Follow me.”
He led him far into the mountains to a place where a tree trunk lay across a ravine, a dizzying, deep chasm.
„There,” said the master, „walk over.”
The samurai had no idea what his master meant; when he glanced down he recoiled and couldn’t bring himself to cross.
All of a sudden they heard a tap-tap-tapping behind them, the sound of a blind man’s stick.
The blind man, paying no attention, walked past them and tapped his way firmly over the abyss, his stick in front of him.
„Aha,” thought the samurai, „I’m beginning to understand. If the blind man can walk across like that, I ought to be able to do it too.”
And his master said, „For one whole year you have walked round and round the edge of the tatami, which is much narrower than that tree trunk; so you must be able to cross.”
He understood, and strode to the other side.
His training was finished: for three years he had built up the strength of his body; for one year he had developed his power of concentration in one action (walking); and at the last, facing death at the edge of the abyss, he received the final training of spirit and mind.
by Taisen Deshimaru,
from „The Zen Way to the Martial Arts”