Sunday, March 25, 2007

Forgetting the Sword

Those who are carrying a sword as a symbol of their authority or political power, holding on to their positions, tend to forget that one's worth can only be discovered by oneself, by gazing at and examining the soul. Yamauchi Yodo was well aware of this. He possessed two fine swords of the Kamakura period, one forged by Kunitoshi and one by Masamune, which he gave away very easily. He once left his residence incognito and in joke exchanged his swords with a painter who acted for him as a guide, saying he felt more comfortable without the heavy swords. Yodo's retainers, worrying about their lords attitude toward swords finally presented him with a magnificent but light and slender sword according to his fancy. On the following day, Yodo, carrying the new sword through his belt, left his residence alone on his horse to pay an acquaintance a visit. But Yodo, to the shock of his entourage, returned home without his sword. He had already exchanged it with his acquaintance for a hanging scroll made by the Neo-Confucian scholar Rai Sanyo, with which he was particularly pleased. - from Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu: The Iai Forms and Oral Traditions of the Yamauchi Branch. Kyoto: Maruzen. 2004.

Nicklaus Suino teaches iaido and other martial arts at seminars throughout North America. Information about his seminars can be found at He teacher iaido, judo, and jujutsu at the Japanese Martial Arts Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, home of the University of Michigan.

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