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Hatsumi sensei calligraphy 2 copy

One day in 17th century Japan, Jirozaemon Ono, a master of the Itto-ryu style of swordsmanship, who had won the fame of the public as being unrivaled in the art of war, was not feeling at ease after hearing rumors that Munenori Yagyu was without equal in his abilities with the sword. So, he decided to pay Munenori a visit. He was shown into a drawing room, where he was kept waiting for some time. Jirozaemon elaborated on how he would see through Munenori’s ability, yet Munenori did not appear. He almost got tired of waiting when suddenly Munenori opened the sliding door, just behind Jirozaemon’s seat, and attacked him with a wooden sword. Jirozaemon blocked strike with the hilt of his sword and said, “It is rash of you to attack me suddenly. Fight fair!” Munenori replied instantly, tossing aside his wooden sword, “Your art is quite admirable. Splendid. You are a skilled swordsman, but it is a pity that you are short of master-hand in the spirit. You need more practice.” Jirozaemon, with his ego and pride hurt, became angry and asked him curtly why he thought so. Munenori answered, “You have come to beat me as you think of yourself as the best swordsman in the country. That’s the reason why I said you were poor at heart. If you had won in the fight, could you have been able to get out of this mansion alive? I am a feudal lord holding a fief yielding more than ten-thousand koku (one koku=5.119 bushels of rice). If I had been killed by you, my retainers would have killed you. Your fame would have been destroyed. That’s why I said you were short of master-hand in the spirit.” Jirozaemon left Munenori’s residence embarrassed. Munenori won the duel without fighting. The mystery of swordsmanship lies in his attitude.


  1. interesting, thank you.
    How accurately translated HIKEN?

  2. Moral of the story: “Get rich; hire body guards. Don’t bother studying classical Japanese martial arts.” (and hope you never get targeted by a skilled killer willing to sacrifice his own life to have you killed)



  3. My moral of the story is different: Study a classical martial art, face your inner demons (read: ego and the need for public appraisal), meditate, and be humble. Never stop searching for improving your self, your skill and your mind stilling.

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