Saturday, September 09, 2017

3D Martial Arts (And An Old Tale)

Here's a visually dazzling site that includes a catalog of some Japanese budo (martial ways), ceremonies, calligraphy and stage performance arts. While the computer graphics and 3D renderings are impressive, the descriptions, interviews and demos provided are comprehensive and well done. Of the non-martial-art themes featured it was the art of the Tea Ceremony — Sado (also called Chadō) — that caught my attention. Tea Ceremony has a long history in Japan which was influenced in part by Zen; Zen also influenced the development of Japanese martial arts. This inspired the fable of The Samurai and The Tea Master:

A tea master came into the service of a nobleman named Lord Yamagouchi. He poured and prepared tea for his master gracefully and with perfection. Lord Yamagouchi was so pleased he presented his esteemed tea master with the robes and rank of a samurai, which was quite an honor. Occasionally, the lord took his tea master with him on trips.

On one excursion, the tea master found himself in a precarious situation while out and about by himself. After turning a corner, he was confronted by a samurai. Appalled, the samurai questioned why the tea master wore the robes of a bushi (warrior). The tea master explained that his lord presented him with the outfit and rank.

Outraged, the samurai then challenged the tea master to a duel to test if he was worthy of this accolade. The tea master, being who he was, could not reject such a challenge. He agreed to the duel, which was to take place the next day. Terrified, the tea master quickly enlisted the help of a local swordsman to teach him the art of combat. But the tea master was no warrior and a crash course in swordfighting proved to be futile. Having an idea, the sword teacher simply asked his charge to do what he knew best — to prepare him some tea. The tea master kneeled in seiza and cleared his mind. With the dignity, grace and calm required of any master he prepared the tea.

"That's it!" exclaimed the sword sensei. "What do you mean?" replied the tea master.

"You don't need to learn anything from me. When you meet your adversary tomorrow just pretend you're preparing tea. Your state of mind when you perform the tea ceremony is all that is required. Just hold your sword like you hold your chashaku (tea scoop)." The tea master could not comprehend how his respectful ceremony would prepare him for a fight to the death, but with no other recourse he took his teacher's advice and prepared for the showdown.

The following morning when he met his opponent, the tea master performed exactly as his sword teacher had instructed. The samurai had expected to see a quivering wreck of nerves, but instead his eyes fell upon a quietly confident, unshaken opponent. In fact, he thought that this was an entirely different person than the one he encountered the day before! So awed was he by the man before him that he bowed respectfully, asked for forgiveness, and retreated from battle without once raising his sword.

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