The Samurai’s Apprentice

It hadn’t been one year, and the apprentice was already approaching his master. “Sensei, I really want to be a samurai. If I work hard, how long will it take for me to get my sword?”

“Ten years,” the master said.

The student nodded with all the respect he could summon. ”What if I work twice as hard, Sensei?”

The master though for a moment, stroke his beard and said, “then, it would take twenty years.”

The student was obviously confused, but didn’t give up. “And if I work three times as hard as anyone else, Sensei?” To which the master quickly responded, “thirty years, then.”

There was annoyance in the master’s voice, so the pupil decided to stop there and never bring that up again. He loved his work and what he was learning so, one way or another, he was happy. If it was going to take that long, at least he was going to enjoy it.

So he did. He trained hard. He ate the pain and the suffering that was given to him. But also learned to laugh and have fun with his own mistakes. After a while, he seemed to be even breaking his classmates drive too.

One day, he was caught cracking jokes with younger students in the break between lessons and was called into the masters chamber. He’d just completed half of the first 10 years he was told, too much to let is all get lost because of a few jokes. He braced for the worst, and walked in already displaying his guilt. “Sorry, Sensei,” he begged, “I should be taking my studies more seriously.”

The master stared. Pointed to the ground, and the student kneeled, then bowed as deep as he could. “I’m sorry,” he said. Though when his gaze was up again, a sword awaited.

“This is for you, Samurai,” said the old master. “You’re one of us now.”

This story was told to me by my #karate Sensei, who heard it from his own. It’s a reminder that martial arts is an expression, not an equation. And unless you let yourself relax, you will always be trying too hard.

I tell myself this story every now and then. For I have a tendency to obsess with my training, which eventually makes it feel mechanical and frustrating.

Thankfully I have these stories to go back to, readjust and move forward again.

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