Wednesday 1 July 2015


By Michael Carta

The year is 1604 in feudal Japan during the early stages of the Edo period. Master swordsman and military leader Kazuhiko Wada is overseeing the interview process for new recruits for his growing school. Kenji Ishii is his most senior student and proved his worth in many battles. Seated in front of them is an orphan who demanded to be interviewed.

“What is your name, lineage, and gift for consideration?” Kenji recited robotically.
“I do not tell strangers my name, my lineage is hidden, and I bring only myself for consideration.”
Kenji could not help snorting in reaction to the ridiculous response. Kazuhiko however, smirked since he had been sitting through dozens of these interviews from annoying, begging, weak peasants with family connections. Everyone wanted their son trained in his school after he helped the Shogun take power, but truthfully none of them were warriors. Their spirits were pampered from spoiled upbringings, integrity cannot be bought.
“How dare you insult master Wada with your ignorant response… you should leave before you are no longer able!” Kenji barked sternly as his hands flew like lightning to the hilt of his sword.
“Relax my old friend, relax.” Kazuhiko said calmly while putting his hand on Kanji’s shoulder. Instantly Kenji’s aggression vanished as he returned to his original posture. Surprisingly, the orphan did not move or flinch even when Kenji was about to attack. This greatly interested Kazuhiko. “Tell me, why are you here little one?”
“I wish… I do not hope, but I wish. I wish for a better day, a better life, a better world. I know I can do something, I just do not yet know how. I wish for the training to make waves like you have! With you wishes come true. I wish to learn strength and understanding. I wish to know what it means to wish…”
“You can leave now” Kenji said unsympathetically while motioning towards the door.” The orphan slowly bowed toward Kazuhiko, got up and left completely ignoring Kenji.
Kenji turned to Kazuhiko and said: “You do realize that one was a girl, right? She cut her hair to look like a boy, but you can tell in her voice the truth. She is probably only ten years old, too small to even wield a sword!”
“Yes, I noticed.”
“Then why did ask her a question? Why not provide a small punishment and send her on her way? We do not have time for beggars, thieves, or lost causes. She was very rude and strange with all that talk about wishing…“
“I do not believe she is any of those things.  The quality of one’s mind is not contingent upon their gender. Instead, we should consider the strength that it took for her to come here while concealing her identity. It was very risky for her and yet she was calm and collected.“
“Deceit is hardly an admirable quality. Have you forgotten we are in a time of war? We do not have time to train every orphan you feel sorry for.“
“Then I will train her myself. I do not feel sorry for her, but I do feel that there is potential and that is a rare thing these days.”
“But sensei, you are a teacher of teachers, not a fundamentals instructor! Such a task is below you and should be insulting! I do not understand your judgment and implore you to reconsider. Surely one of the Shogun’s sons would be more suited to be your apprentice? Not some lowly peasant girl-child!”
“Haha, Kenji… I have always enjoyed your persistence and forward mind, but I do not need you to understand my judgment. Instead, you should trust in my decisions… for, are you not one of them my friend? We should never forget who we are, or where we came from. Perspective is everything, do not limit yours.”
“I… I never meant to… I trust you fully with my life, sensei. Please forgive my foolish questions.
“Do not worry Kenji; hope does not exist until you believe in it.” With that the old man rose from his kneeling position to his feet without any visible strain almost as if he was lifted up by some mysterious force. He walked down the hall to where the girl was standing; his feet made no sound as he walked and his head did not bob up and down. She noticed his shape getting closer out of the corner of her eye, but made no movement to acknowledge. Instead, she slowed her breathing and stared forward at the wooden wall.”
“Come, boy.  Your training begins today, but it will not be easy. You will live and die at my command and pledge your loyalty here and now. This is your only chance to change your mind; deserters are hunted, caught, and executed. Bow and come forward, or bow and leave- chose. “
“I am not a boy.”  She stated following her bow as she stepped forward. She was small, yet her eyes were fierce.
“You were a boy five minutes ago, who taught you the black magic?” He asked with a toying tone.
“The group of old men would not see or consider a girl, so I had to be a boy. Now that I am your student and have pledged my loyalty, you should know my name is Kaijuko! I am the feared woman warrior of the North!”
“Kaijuko? Monster girl? Haha! So, you were an orphan and gave yourself a bandit’s name. You have a strong spirit; if you live I will make you a true Kaijuko… Though, you have not killed, but that will change, you will change. From this point on you say only: yes sensei, thank you sensei- no matter what the command. What say you, girl?”
“Yes sensei, thank you sensei.”
“Good! You were an orphan, but now you are a pupil of the Tomonuro Ryu, the most feared and respected sword school in all of Japan. Let us practice our misogi, the art of mental purification. We must learn to unlearn what it is that we think we know and embrace the nature of our world. Remember those who are skilled in combat 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. You must meditate on this and find an understanding for yourself.”
“Yes sensei, thank you sensei.”
“We will study water. For, it is the source of all life. It can be subtle or raging, dirty or pure, soft or hard, shapeless or structured, cold or hot. Your mind must also adapt to these contrasts if you are to be invincible.”
“Yes sensei, thank you sensei.”

“Thus it begins…”

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