The Swordsman

Long, long ago there was a master swordsman who had trained his three sons in the art of the sword. He decided that the time had come to retire. The master balanced a wooden pillow over his curtained doorway in such a way that the smallest movement of the drape would send the pillow falling onto the head of whom ever passed beneath it. The master then sent word to his sons that this was the day he would choose his successor.

The eldest son was called first. He walked up to his father’s room. Stopped. Stood silently for a moment. Then ever so slowly took down the pillow. He stepped into the room and then carefully replaced the pillow where he had found it.

Next, the second son was called. He walked up to the room. He gently parted the curtain. The pillow fell. He automatically caught it, and put it back over the door.

Finally the youngest and most skillful son was called. He had the best techniques of all the brothers and was sure that he would be proclaimed his father’s successor. The proud young swordsman thrust the curtain aside and strode confidently into his father’s room. The hard pillow smacked him on his head. He lashed out in anger and sliced the pillow cleanly in two. He resheathed his sword before the two halves of the pillow hit the floor. The youngest son was pleased with his speed and he faced his father with a smile of self-satisfied anticipation.

The old master, however, was not at all pleased with this flashy display, “You are a disgrace to the art of swordsmanship. You are a disgrace to this family. You have neglected all that is important for the sake of technique. Leave this house and do not return until you realize that intuition is more important than mere technique.”

To his second son he said, “You must train harder. You must train more. Each time you train it must be as if it is your last chance to train. Do not waste a moment. You must train as if death was waiting for you around the corner and that the last act you will perform is your training.”

To his eldest son he said: “I have found my successor. I can now retire with an easy heart. You understand what the martial arts is truly about. Here is my sword.”

A great story to show the tradition and power of the Martial Arts. I hope it has inspired some deep thoughts.

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