Ombre dal Jigoku
“Some men will tell you of their duels as if they were counting stones on the shore.
I cannot do so.
I do not know how many duels I have fought, and I cannot tell you how many breaths I have taken.
To number them dishonors the brave men who have fallen before the sword, and transforms the instinctual into something contrived.
Dueling is a natural art, one which must be practiced before all other things, and one whose reward for perfection is nothing more than life itself.
Wielding a sword should be as natural as being alive.
The sword must live within you.
The stances are its walk, and the rhythm of the swing is the speech of a warrior.
Honor is the heart of the duel, the breath and the blood of the sword.”
- From the introduction to Kakita’s The Sword
“A duelist learns the limits of his mind and body, so that he may bypass them for one perfect moment.”
– Kakita Toshimoko, Kakita Dueling Master
“A skilled swordsman can defeat one enemy.
A skilled teacher can defeat thousands.”
– Doji Hoturi, Crane Clan Champion,twelfth century
“The secret of swordplay is not the swift defeat, not the prolonged strike and block.
A pure stroke will defeat any technique.”
– from Kakita’s The Sword
“Those who are skilled in dueling do not become angered;
those who are skilled at winning do not become afraid.
Thus the wise win before the fight, while the ignorant fight to win.”
– Kakita Shimazu, twelfth century
“Only a fool initiates a duel he cannot win.”
- Doji Kishio
’’Two dozen children waited in orderly rows on the polished wooden floor of the dojo.
A middleaged man in a simple blue kimono stood in front of them.
“Today we learn to master our breath,” he told the assembled children.
“Prepare yourselves, my students.”
From somewhere near the back of the room, stifled llaughter emerged from a pair of boys.
The sensei’s face did not change, but he strode quickly to the back of the room, his eyes bearing down on the students like a hunter seeking prey.
“Someone is amused.
Please, share this entertainment with the rest of the class.”
After a moment one of the boys spoke.
He was immaculately groomed, dressed in clothing which, despite the plainness of training garb, was unmistakably of very high quality. His voice held exactly the correct amount of respect, no more, no less,
“Sensei, we are here to learn how to duel.
All you’ve taught us for the last week is how to breathe.
When do we get to use swords?”
The young man’s eye sbrightened eagerly as he said the final word.
The sensei nodded slightly, as though to himself.
Perhaps he uttered a small sigh, although the students could not be sure.
“Iaijutsu is about more than swords, my student.
It is about mastery of the body, mind, and soul.
Without that mastery, you will never be able to understand iaijutsu, never be more than a crude brawler no matter how many hours you practice with your blade.
This year you begin to learn to master yourself.
Next year most students will be allowed to touch bokken, and in the third year you may…perhaps…be allowed to draw a sword.
Of course, for some students it takes longer for them to master themselves, and they do not get to use bokken until their third year and swords in their fourth.”
The student gulped, and the sensei permitted himself a faint smile.
“Now, shall we focus on our breathing? Or do you wish to wait four years before you touch a