Yagyu Matajuro was a young member of the Yagyu family, famous for the family tradition of swordsmanship. However Matajuro’s father was disappointed in his son’s tendency towards laziness and banished him from the dojo. Matajuro resolved to seek out a master and return as a great swordsman.
Matajuro journeyed to the Kumano shrine in the province of Kii, where he had heard of a great teacher called Banzo. The monks at the shrine told him that Banzo lived as a hermit in the nearby mountains, and showed him the trail to follow. Eventually he found Banzo asked to be accepted as a student.”How long will it take me to learn swordsmanship?” he asked. “The rest of your life,” was the reply. “I can’t wait that long. I will accept any hardship, and will devote myself completely to the study of swordsmanship.” “In that case, ten years.” “What if I train twice as hard?” tried Matajuro. “In that case, thirty years.” “Why is that? First you say ten then thirty years. I will do anything to learn, but I don’t have that much time.” “In that case, seventy years.” Sensing the direction of the conversation, Matajuro capitulated and agreed to work as long as it took, and do anything he was told. However, for the first year all Banzo had Matajuro do was to perform simple physical tasks such as chopping wood.
After a year of this Matajuro was disappointed and demanded that Banzo teach him some swordsmanship. Banzo merely insisted that he chop wood. Matajuro went to the woodpile and was chopping, but inwardly he was furious. He resolved to leave Banzo the next day. But while he was chopping Banzo crept up behind him and struck him painfully with a wooden sword. “You want to learn swordsmanship, but you can’t even dodge a stick,” he said.From that day on Banzo would creep up on Matajuro and attack him with a wooden sword. Eventually Matajuro’s senses became heightened, and Banzo had to change tactics. Now Banzo would attack repeatedly, even when Matajuro was asleep. For the next four years Matajuro had not a moment’s rest from the fear of unexpected attack.
One day, when Matajuro was stirring some food on the fire, Banzo crept up and attacked him by surprise. Without thinking Matajuro fended off the blow with the lid of the pot without taking his mind off stirring the food. That night Banzo wrote out a certificate of mastery for Matajuro.