Old Story

Old Story

Postby DavidJ » Fri Jun 08, 2001 10:20 pm

This story is for Michael, NickC, Audi, Steve James, Bob3, and others here who show an interest in the subject...

There once was a famous retired sword master who was sought out by a young man wishing to learn.

The elder told the youngster, "I will teach you, but only when you are ready. In the meantime there is much work that needs to be done here."

So the young man began doing the chores. A few days later, while sweeping out a courtyard the elder snuck up on him and hit him on the back with a willow switch, and walked off without comment.
"I guess I'm not doing this well enough," the young man thought, so he redoubled his efforts, while paying a great deal more attention to his surroundings.

But keeping a sharp lookout didn't seem to work. Day after day, whether he was working in the orchards or in the fields, the master could hit him with the willow switch! No matter how circumspect he was, the master could still sneak up on him.
"I must work harder still," he thought, "and wear a thicker jacket."

After a few weeks of this the young man asked when his training would begin, and the master told him that he wasn't ready yet.
Several more times the elder again snuck up on him and hit him on the back with the willow switch, and he just couldn't understand it. He was working as concientiously as he could.

More time passed, and once again he asked, "Master, can I begin training now? The house and grounds are spotless and trim."
When again told that he wasn't ready yet, he thought, "Oh, man! What do I have to do? This is getting old."

One morning the youngster was tending the garden when he suddenly moved. The switch that the master had wielded darted through the empty air where the young man had just been. The stroke had failed to connect. The blow fell and he simply wasn't there!

"Come. Let us train," the elder said, "You are now ready."

**************************

Does anyone happen to know where this story is from? I don't remember.

Regards,

David J

[This message has been edited by DavidJ (edited 06-08-2001).]
DavidJ
 
Posts: 349
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2001 7:01 am

Postby tai1chi » Sat Jun 09, 2001 6:15 am

Hi David J.,

I'd say that the story is more of a folk motif, rather than a specific tale --like the Maiden of Yueh, or Ah Ching, etc. The motif is repeated in many tales, especially from the Buddhist tradition, particularly Chan; but it's really cultural now, and you'll find it to be something like the basis of many Hong Kong movies. As you know, the story has several meanings. Not least among them is the idea of "doing without doing," but it's also a lesson in humility, and simply a way to say "just practice, that's your training." Of course, others will find other readings. Anyway, I do think that there must be a historical original to the motif, but I think that's an historical artifact now: i.e., it could be applied to any art.
Best,
Steve James
tai1chi
 
Posts: 253
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2001 7:01 am
Location: NY

Postby Louis Swaim » Sat Jun 09, 2001 4:04 pm

Greetings David,

I think Steve is right that this may be a recurrent motif. However, your story is very similar to one titled "The Taste of Banzo's Sword" in Paul Reps, _Zen Flesh, Zen Bones: A Collection of Zen and Pre-Zen Writings_. I bought my copy ages ago when I was still in high school.

Take care,
Louis
Louis Swaim
 
Posts: 1343
Joined: Mon Feb 12, 2001 7:01 am
Location: Oakland, CA

Postby tai1chi » Sat Jun 09, 2001 6:24 pm

Hi Louis, DavidJ,

thanks for the book referral. I'd never have thought of it. I'd agree that the story most probably has its origins in the Chan/Zen tradition. The book mentions pre-Zen, and that's where it gets interesting. I'm not familiar enough with the Indian (subcontinent) yogic or even general tradition to know whether a similar story might have existed there. In a way, it's likely --because the story itself addresses a rather universal (and 'true') phenomenon. Though, imho, what makes the story specificaly Chinese is the story's subtle Confucian emphasis --it seems-- on the proper relation between student and teacher. Of course, this is not uniquely Chinese, but it's very specific to Chinese martial arts. Well, it's certainly not an intrinsic part of the (American) western ethic. Or, do you know of a similar, non-Chinese or Japanese story?

Best,
Steve James
tai1chi
 
Posts: 253
Joined: Thu Feb 01, 2001 7:01 am
Location: NY

Postby DavidJ » Tue Jun 12, 2001 7:57 pm

Hi Steve, Louis,

Louis, thanks. You made me laugh. I think that "The Taste of Banzo's Sword" probably is the source of the story. I read my brother's copy of Paul Rep's "Zen Flesh, Zen Bones" a long time ago.
I need to go back and read that story again.

I agree with the idea that the motif could be applied to any art. The story does seem to have an achetypical aspect to it. The motif is almost mythic. I wouldn't be surprised if the story originated in a myth.

I think, however, that that kind of relationship between the master and the pupil used to be part of the Western ethic, although it has pretty much died out. It is found in western cultures, for example, in the apprenticeships that abounded in the US during the Revolutionary War period (and beating one's apprentice was sometimes accepted.) But those were more in the area of crafts than in martial arts.

As for a parallel story from the west? No particular story springs to mind, but I have a few ideas of where to look - there might be something in Joseph Campbell's works, for example.

Thanks for the information.

Regards,

David
DavidJ
 
Posts: 349
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2001 7:01 am

Postby DavidJ » Thu Jun 14, 2001 12:10 am

Hello Steve and Louis,

I just reread "The Taste of Banzo's Sword" and it isn't the source of the story, even though they have similar elements.

Oh well...my memory will trot out the information in its own good time. Image

David J
DavidJ
 
Posts: 349
Joined: Sat Jan 27, 2001 7:01 am


Return to Miscellaneous

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest