Matajura wanted to become a great swordsman, but his father said he could never learn, because he wasn’t quick enough. So Matajura 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,” pleaded Matajura. “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 Matajura. “When I offer to work twice as hard, you say it will take 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.”
Matajura understood. Without asking for any promises in terms of time, he became Banzo’s servant. Three years passed. Matajura cleaned, cooked, washed, and gardened. He was ordered never to speak of fencing or to touch a sword. He was very sad at this, but he had given his promise to the master and resolved to keep his word.
One day while Matajura was gardening, Banzo came up quietly behind him and gave him a terrible whack with a wooden sword. The next day in the kitchen, the same blow fell again. Thereafter, day in and day out, from every corner and at any moment, Matajura was attacked by Banzo’s wooden sword. He learned to live on the balls of his feet, ready to dodge at any moment. He became a body with no desires, no thought, only external readiness and quickness. Banzo smiled and started lessons. Soon, Matajura was the greatest swordsman in Japan.
From the book, The Last Word On Power, by Tracy Goss.