A young man, old enough to shave, was walking home from work one evening and took a back street behind the local super market, which he usually didn’t take. He saw that there was a martial arts dojo on that street and as he walked past the door a man came out with a gym bag in one hand and a wooden bokken training sword in the other. He was middle aged, with glasses, of very average build. He looked like he could be a dentist or a barber, except for the wooden sword.
“Practicing some sword fighting?” The young man asked, flippantly. “Pretty sweet. I didn’t know they had sword fighting schools around anymore. Now, if I ever get into a sword fight I’ll know where to come.”
The older man smiled faintly and replied, “if you ever get into a sword fight, it will probably be too late.”
The youth paused, and then, a bit irritated, asked, “Come on, you really believe you’ll ever get in a sword fight? What’s the point of practicing something you’ll never use?”
The older man stopped walking and quietly looked the young man in the eye. Then, without any warning, he dropped the gym bag, both hands seized the hilt of his sword, and before the young man could blink, the sword was poised less than an inch from his temple. The older man had moved like lightening. His face was a mask of rage, and every muscle in his body was taut and straining. He had swung with the speed of a snake and the force of a home run, but had stopped less than an inch short of cracking the young man’s skull
The youth leapt back, spluttering and tripping, and fell over backwards, while the older man relaxed, his face became calm and peaceful once more, and he stood once again with the sword held in his left hand, hanging by his side. He was completely at ease as if nothing ahd ever happened.
The youth scrambled to his feet and ran up in his face. “What the ---- was that? You wanna get your ass kicked, old man? Think you’re really smart and cool? I wasn’t ready that time but if you wanna go I’ll take that stick and shove it up your ass. I ought to ------- stab you…”
“The point is this,” the man said in a low, calm voice, easily cutting through the torrent of expletives. “You experienced fear just then. The only way you know how to respond is with anger and threats. You were afraid, and then ashamed of being afraid, then afraid of being afraid, and then full of hatred towards the one who frightened you. But you do not even know why you were afraid.”
“Of course I ------- know why I was afraid. You swung a ------- stick at my head.”
“It was not the supposed danger to your life that frightened you. If you were working on a construction site and a steel girder slipped and almost struck you, you would not be afraid like that. You would not respond with anger at the piece of metal, even though your life would be just as much in danger. You were afraid because you were created to be loved, and in that instant, you felt hatred. If you trained with the sword you would learn how to stand in the eye of the storm, with hatred swirling around you, and remain at peace. Instead, you can only become what you fear. But the fear does not leave you.
This seems to me something worth learning.”
He carefully tucked the corner of a worn black sash back into his gym bag, before picking it up and continuing to his car.