Hyogen's teacher, nearly 90 years old, was a demon when it came to technical swordsmanship. However hard Hyogen tried to master the details of a technique, the old master would find fault.
"Keep your eyes on your opponent," Hyogen would hear, "Keep your back straight," or "Put the other foot forward."
Near the end of a particularly tough training session, Hyogen was performing suburi (repetitive cuts with a heavy bokken). He found himself staring at the tatami in front of him, immersed in the intricate pattern of the woven straw and the dust motes rising in the late afternoon sun. Just then, the wizened teacher looked over to inspect Hyogen's performance. "Perfect!" said the old man.
Nicklaus Suino teaches iaido, judo, and jujutsu at the Japanese Martial Arts Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and at seminars around North America. See the Art of Japanese Swordsmanship website.