A young man wanted to learn the art of sword fighting. He went to the greatest instructor in the land and said, “Please give me admission and teach me sword fighting.”

The instructor gladly accepted him a student and said, “Young man you can stay with me and learn this art.”

In the days that followed the instructor gave him many odd chores to perform. The chores were sweeping the floors, cutting vegetables, cooking and the like. But there was no mention of the sword or the art of fighting with it.

The Instructor
The Instructor [Illustration by Shinod A.P.]
The young man got desperate, approached the instructor and said, “Great teacher kindly begin my lessons.” The instructor agreed.

The next day when the young man was cooking, the instructor came from behind and hit him with a wooden sword and vanished. The young man was taken by surprise. The next day too the same thing happened. The young man now started preparing himself mentally to counter any such surprise attack.

Next time when the instructor came to attack him, the young man was able to dodge the blow of the sword. He was very happy with his performance. He asked the instructor, “Now have I learnt the art of defending myself?” The instructor did not respond to his question and walked away.

Such surprise attacks became common and the young man got more and more skillful in countering the attacks well.

One day the young man saw the instructor engaged seriously in a task and a sudden desire crept into his head. He thought, “Now let me catch the instructor unawares and attack him.”

He took the wooden sword and attacked the instructor without a sound from behind.

But lo! The instructor was fully prepared for it. He took a shield lying near, turned around and defended himself most skillfully.

Realisation struck the young man that moment. He thought, “How great is this instructor. Today I have learnt the real secret of sword fighting. He has taught me that swinging the sword and learning the opponent’s moves are not the essentials of sword fighting. What is important is to read what goes on in the opponent’s mind and to counter his movement and his thoughts too.”

The young man continued to take instructions in all humbleness and with newer insights trained well to become a great sword fighter of his country.