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.
[This message has been edited by DavidJ (edited 06-08-2001).]