Tag Archives: Martial Arts Tales

What Say You, Dog-Faced Foe?

18 Jul

It was once said that all good myths are, to some extent, based upon reality. I do not know whether the following actually occurred or is similar to Aesop’s famous fables, a story that relates a lesson.

A great battle between two warring Daimyo was drawing to a close. Both sides had suffered extreme losses. On a remote section of plateau, away from the core of the battle, two opposing Samurai encountered each other from a distance of about one hundred feet. The one samurai had his sword drawn, the other had an arrow set in his bow ready for the killing flight. Surely, the sword-bearing samurai, having a great distance to cover in order to reach his opponent, was about to die. Now, the myth ensues:

 The Archer called out to his opponent:
“What say you dog-faced foe?”
To which the Samurai replied:
“Whose only thoughts are of his Ancient Mother.”
After hearing this reply the archer returned his arrow to its quiver and spared the life of the samurai.

 Why did this occur and what is its significance?

First, it must be remembered that samurai of old were not only skilled in the martial arts, but were also skilled in other arts, including poetry and calligraphy. The preferred form of poetry was Haiku. Haiku has a rigid set of rules concerning structure. It is generally a short poem that is intended to convey an emotion or vision to the reader without specifically detailing the emotion or vision. A favorite activity was for one person to start a Haiku and for another to finish it. Such was the exchange above.

The encounter illustrates that the Samurai facing death still retained his composure and calmness and was able to furnish a reply that deeply touched his adversary. To face death and think not of oneself, but of one’s “ancient mother” is indeed profound.

Second, the story also illustrates the concept of Bushi No Nasake – “The tenderness of a warrior”. Many mistakenly believe that killing for a samurai was automatic once a battle commenced. In actuality, a warrior could spare the life of his adversary. However, mercy could not stem from a blind impulse. It must be rendered with due regard to justice and backed with the power to save or kill. Remember that it was a Samurai’s honor and duty to die in battle, thus, if his life was spared, it must be for a noble reason, less the life would be one of disgrace for both warriors.

Today, sadly it appears that such a concept of Bushi No Nasake is the exception and not the rule. At its heart, the concept recognizes the characteristics of honor, respect and the value of human life. Given today’s headlines reporting stories on domestic abuse, child neglect and such new phrases as “road rage” and “thrill-killing”, it is clear that humans no longer respect each other. People no longer cloak themselves in that blanket known as a sense of honor. If one cannot comprehend honor and respect, one cannot understand true mercy and the strength of character required to outwardly manifest same. The only response becomes one of aggression.

As karate-ka, we have the ability to self-govern ourselves to avoid such aggressive behavior. We test ourselves routinely through our training (particularly kata training) and as such, no longer have to prove anything to ourselves, or others. Thus, we can act with compassion in situations that others would meet with aggression.

When training, please remember to bear in mind the concepts of Bushi No Nasaki, compassion, tenderness, honor and a sense of justice within one’s own actions. Justice can and should never be compromised. The qualities are difficult to grasp, but through the enlightenment of karate training in general and kata training in particular, are never lost. The end result of any human encounter can ultimately involve devastating results, one must have the strength of character to properly access the encounter, to then apply the appropriate response and finally, to live peacefully with the result. Please remember too that this applies to all human encounters, work-related, social, economic, fleeting, etc., not only martial encounters.

In closing I remain, a dog-faced foe, embracing Bushi-No Nasake

   szmitowski_print_small   HANKO-DEF-R-reverse

Sensei John Szmitkowski

lab collage-3   For a refreshing and innovative discourse on kata and bunkai, please feel free to visit Sensei John’s Kata Laboratory and “THINK * SWEAT * EXPERIMENT” using this convenient link: http://senseijohn.me/category/kata-laboratory/

seiza - ringwoodFor details on how to “cyber-participate” in Sensei John’s most recent group Sanchin Kata session, please use this link: http://senseijohn.me/category/a-sanchin-pilgrimage/

A Matter Of Perception

12 Jun

Perception affects not only the manner in which we practice karate-do, it also affects our daily lives. The ancient masters, sages and storytellers knew the power of perception. In fact, oral traditions and myths told of the ramifications of how perception shapes our world.

Here is but one mythical tale from the oral traditions of Goshin-Do Karate Do that illustrates how perception can alter the manner in which you perceive your karate-do and world around you. It is called the Daimyo and the Samurai

In feudal Japan there was a powerful daimyo, a warlord. Amongst his many retainers, the daimyo had an extremely loyal Samurai whom he favored. The samurai had accompanied the Daimyo to the Shogun’s Court in far off Edo, many days journey from their home. One day the samurai received an urgent message advising that his father, also a very distinguished samurai loyal to the daimyo’s family, had fallen gravely ill. Being in a hurry to attend to his dying father, the samurai desired to mount his horse and rush home. The samurai found that his horse had become lame and could not make the long journey home. Worried about seeing his ill father, the samurai made use of the daimyo’s favorite horse. This was a serious crime punishable by beheading.

When the daimyo heard of the samurai’s use of his horse, he declared, “The samurai and his father are loyal retainers of my family, what a devout samurai to be so concerned with the welfare of his father that he risked his own life so as to attend to his ill father.”

Business at the Shogun’s Court had concluded and the daimyo returned home to his castle. The samurai went to see his master and they walked in the daimyo’s gardens. The samurai saw the most lovely cherry blossom. He picked it and offered it to his master as a token of his appreciation, saying, “Amongst flowers, the cherry blossom; amongst men, you, my Lord and master.” The other samurai that were in attendance were shocked that he dared to pick a cherry blossom from the daimyo’s favorite tree. The daimyo took the proffered cherry blossom and praised the samurai for his generosity.

As happens in all human relationships, the daimyo and the samurai eventually had a falling out. The daimyo angrily and publicly chastised the samurai, “You impudent servant, you disgraced me by making use of my horse.” “You insulted me by picking my own cherry blossom and giving it to me as a present.” In the presence of the daimyo’s court, the samurai was ordered to commit seppuku (ritual suicide). (See Endnote #1).

seppuku

I hope you enjoyed the tale. Respectfully submitted,

   szmitowski_print_small   HANKO-DEF-R-reverse

Sensei John Szmitkowski

  lab collage-3 For a refreshing and innovative discourse on kata and bunkai, please feel free to visit Sensei John’s Kata Laboratory and “THINK * SWEAT * EXPERIMENT” using this convenient link: http://senseijohn.me/category/kata-laboratory/

  seiza - ringwood For details on how to “cyber-participate” in Sensei John’s most recent group Sanchin Kata session, please use this link: http://senseijohn.me/category/a-sanchin-pilgrimage/

ENDNOTES:

1. I had heard this fable several times in the Dojo. I was able to locate a similar tale, which you may also enjoy reading. It is called “The Thief Of The Peach” and may be found in: Furuya, Kensho, Kodo: Ancient Ways (Lessons In The Spiritual Life Of The Warrior/Martial Artist (O’Hara Publications, Inc., 1996)   p. 48.

For a refreshing and innovative discourse on kata and bunkai, please feel free to visit Sensei John’s Kata Laboratory using this convenient link: http://senseijohn.me/category/kata-laboratory/

For details on how to “cyber-participate” in Sensei John’s most recent group Sanchin Kata session, please use this link: http://senseijohn.me/category/a-sanchin-pilgrimage/

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