Become Weaker

“This is very kind of you,” said Musashi, bowing his head. “I’m grateful for the good training I received today, but I feel I should apologize for the unfortunate way it turned out—”
“Why? Things like that happen. You have to be ready to accept it before you start fighting. Don’t let it worry you.”
“How are Agon’s injuries?”
“He was killed instantly,” said the old man. The breath with which he spoke felt like a cold wind on Musashi’s face.
“He’s dead?” To himself, he said: “So, it’s happened again.” Another life cut short by his wooden sword. He closed his eyes and in his heart called on the name of the Buddha, as he had on similar occasions in the past.
“Young man!”
“Yes, sir.”
“Is your name Miyamoto Musashi?”
“That’s correct.”
“Under whom did you study the martial arts?”
“I’ve had no teacher in the ordinary sense. My father taught me how to use the truncheon when I was young. Since then, I’ve picked up a number of points from older samurai in various provinces. I’ve also spent some time traveling about the countryside, learning from the mountains and the rivers. I regard them, too, as teachers.”
“You seem to have the right attitude. But you’re so strong! Much too strong!”
Believing he was being praised, Musashi blushed and said, “Oh, no! I’m still immature. I’m always making blunders.”
“That’s not what I mean. Your strength is your problem. You must learn to control it, become weaker.”
“What?” Musashi asked perplexedly.
“You will recall that a short while ago you passed through the vegetable garden where I was at work.”
“Yes.”
“When you saw me, you jumped away, didn’t you?”
“Yes.”
“Why did you do that?”
“Well, somehow I imagined that you might use your hoe as a weapon and strike my legs with it. Then, too, though your attention seemed to be focused on the ground, my whole body felt transfixed by your eyes. I felt something murderous in that look, as though you were searching for my weak spot—so as to attack it.”
The old man laughed. “It was the other way around. When you were still fifty feet from me, I perceived what you call ‘something murderous’ in the air. I sensed it in the tip of my hoe—that’s how strongly your fighting spirit and ambition manifest themselves in every step you take. I knew I had to be prepared to defend myself.
“If it had been one of the local farmers passing by, I myself would have been no more than an old man tending vegetables. True, you sensed belligerence in me, but it was only a reflection of your own.”
So Musashi had been right in thinking, even before they first exchanged words, that here was no ordinary man. Now he keenly felt that the priest was the master, and he the pupil. His attitude toward the old man with the bent back became appropriately deferential.
“I thank you for the lesson you have given me…”

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