A Martial Philosophy and Story
All the great masters ceaselessly maintained that “The highest mastery is winning without fighting.” They believed that their art was meant to protect life, not serve as a method of killing. For them, nothing could be easier than using their overwhelming superiority to crush an aggressor. Therefore, ridding oneself of an assailant without wounding him is no mean feat. After all, wouldn’t true proficiency consist in discouraging or reconciling with a potential adversary? Or, as the Chinese proverb puts it: “An enemy you vanquish remains your enemy. An enemy you convince becomes your friend.”
Someone who cannot control himself when faced with danger runs the risk of becoming aggressive and overreacting violently. In this way he falls right into the hands of his adversary. Sometimes he even sees threats where non are present. The person who remains his own master in all circumstances can confront any situation in total lucidity and with all his means at his disposal. To react violently is an easy solution; the truly clever feat is remaining calm.
Here is a story that illustrates this point:
A samurai sat alone at his table in a remote inn. Despite the three flies buzzing around him, he radiated a sense of extraordinary calm.
Three ronin (masterless samurai) entered the inn. Their envy was excited by the magnificent pair of swords they saw the lone samurai carrying. Confident – they were three against one – they sat at a neighboring table and began trying to provoke the samurai. He remained imperturbable, as if he had not noticed the three ronin. Far from being discouraged they became more derisive. All at once, the samurai caught all three flies buzzing around him with three rapid movements of the chopsticks he was holding in his hand. Then he calmly set the chopsticks back down, completely indifferent to the alarm his gesture had caused among his neighbors. In fact, not only did they shut up but they immediately took to their heels in flight. They had just realized they had tried to pick a fight with someone of formidable mastery. It was only later they learned, to their terror, that the man who had so easily discouraged their belligerent intentions was the famous master Miyamoto Musashi.