Rice Balls & Sweet Bean Paste
January 20, 2007 · 2:58pm EST · Posted by Fujiyama Dojo
Fujiyama Dojo
P.O. Box 20003
Thorold, ON, Canada
L2V 5B3
(905) 680-6389
At the beginning of the Kyoho period, Edo Jidai, a young man named Jimbei of a merchant family, managed to get accepted as a student of swordsmanship by a local teacher of considerable age by the name of Usa.

Jimbei was eager to achieve mastery and prominence, and trained hard every single day in his teacher's yard, but he also grew impatient, for he thought his progress was too slow and resented the endless time he had to spend on each technique. He longed for a change that would allow him to gain skills and prestige much faster, so he could also earn a reputation as master swordsman.

"I am younger and stronger than Usa.", he commented to a friend while they drank tea at a local inn.

"I can be a better swordsman than he ever was. If I was instructed by another teacher, I would he great by now. He is old and cannot do the techniques any more. I am sure of it."

His friend mentioned another teacher named Sasuke-sensei who once had an appointment as the teacher of the local daimyo. He was well renowned, and lived in a village not too far from theirs. He recommended Jimbei go to study with Sasuke. This teacher, Jimbei's friend said, had wonderful techniques.

Full of enthusiasm, Jimbei requested a letter of introduction from his uncle, a prominent man in the area, and off he went to find his prospective new teacher. It was not too hard to find him since he was well known in the village.

Upon meeting him, Jimbei bowed and presented his letter of introduction.

The swordsmanship teacher accepted the letter and after receiving the initial large fees wrapped in a noshimaki1, addressed Jimbei.

"Very well", he said, "You will pay for every technique before I teach it to you. I'll teach you each technique only once and no more. So, be ready to learn or leave."

Jimbei bowed once again, with gratitude.

Soon he began his training, and his progress was well noticed by Sasuke.

"You are very good." said Sasuke, "Your skills are outstanding. My teacher will be visiting me in a few days. I want for you to be with me when he comes by."

Jimbei rejoiced and exclaimed, "I will be honored, Sensei! He must be a great teacher if he has students as great as you are."

"He certainly is.", answered Sasuke, "He is the best swordsman I have ever met, and the best teacher anyone could ever have."

Jimbei went to work washing the dojo's floor and preparing rice balls and sweet bean paste to welcome Sasuke's teacher. He was still doing chores when the dojo door slid open.

"Here is my teacher." announced Sasuke.

Jimbei raised his eyes and found himself face to face with Usa, his old teacher. Usa smiled and Jimbei bowed deeply, pressing his forehead against the floor.

"I'm sorry Sensei!" he cried, "I have been a fool!"

"Indeed you have been." replied Usa, "Not for coming here, but by wasting time in greed and haste."

"I wish I could return to you." he pleaded.

"If Sasuke releases you, you may do so. But you must begin all over again." Usa answered.

"But Sensei..." Jimbei protested, "my techniques have not suffered."

"But your spirit has!" said Usa firmly. "Decide now."

Jimbei hesitated. To begin all over again would mean a setback of four or five years. Before he could answer, Sasuke addressed him discretely while Usa ate the rice balls and sipped tea.

"I wish I could do what you will do.", said Sasuke.

"What?" Jimbei asked.

"To begin again," Sasuke said, "Do you know why I resigned my post as the daimyo's teacher? To train again with Sensei. My spirit was becoming weak. I needed to be humble again, and regain my beginner's spirit. I thoroughly regained the proper spirit once I began washing the dojo's floor and repeating many times the first technique. I'm thankful to Sensei for teaching me that way. Without humility you learn nothing! I was also in a rush once. Haste is a fool's word for life. And it is a sad thing, because once he gets to his destination, he has lost the whole journey. You are a fortunate young man, Jimbei."

So Jimbei decided well and returned to Usa's dojo and trained harder than before. When his friend saw him again, he was surprised.

"Didn't you go to study with the teacher I recommended?" he asked.

"Yes.", answered Jimbei, "But I decided to return."

"What were the best techniques you learned from him?" asked his friend.

"Washing floors and making rice balls and sweet bean paste," answered Jimbei with a smile.

"Is that important?" asked his friend, puzzled.

"More important than I thought," replied Jimbei, drinking his tea and smiling to himself.

"Much more important than I thought."

1. A wrap that usually contained dry fish, but was used to conceal the payment given to a martial arts teacher or a samurai. Money was a vulgar and unworthy thing to them, and they disliked handling it.


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