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The Greatest Swordsman


A young man named Matajuro wanted to

become a great swordsman, but his father said he wasn't quick enough and could never learn. So Matajuro went to the famous dueler Banzo and asked to become his pupil. "How long will it take me to become a master?" he asked. "Suppose I become your servant, to be with you every minute, how long?" "Ten years, said Banzo." "My father is getting old. Before ten years have passed I will have to return home to take care of him. Suppose I work twice as hard, how long will it take me?" "Thirty years, said Banzo." "How is that?" asked Matajuro. "First you say ten years , then I offer to work twice as hard, you say it will take me three times as long. Let me make myself clear. I will work unceasingly, no hardship will be too much. How long will it take?" "Seventy years," said Banzo. "A pupil in such a hurry learns slowly."

Matajuro understood. Without asking for any

promises in terms of time, he became Banzo's servant. He cooked, he cleaned, he washed, he gardened. He was ordered never to speak of fencing or to touch a sword. He was very sad at this but given his promise to the master and resolved to keep his word.

Three years have passed for Matajuro as a

servant. One day, while he was gardening, Banzo came up quietly behind him and gave him a terrible blow with a wooden sword. The next day in the kitchen, the same terrible blow fell again. Thereafter, day in day out, from every corner and at any moment, he was attacked by Banzo's wooden sword. Banzo began to look like a demon. Matajuro learned to live on the balls of his feet, ready to dodge at any movement. He became a body with no desires, no thoughts only eternal readiness.

Banzo smiled, and began lessons. Soon

Matajuro was the greatest swordsman in Japan.