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The Test

     There once lived an old sword master in Kyushu who was about to retire from teaching kenjutsu.  He had three sons and before he retired, he had to select one as his successor.  So he invited his best friend to his house to help with the election.  Upon the arrival of his friend, as was the custom in those days, he invited him to have a cup of tea.  While they were drinking their tea and talking, they decided to play a small game with the three sons as a sort of test of their martial arts training as well as their physical ability.  They placed a large heavy pillow above the door to their quarters so that when the door opened the pillow would fall and hit the person who entered.  Upon completion of this task they made ready and the father called out to his youngest son to come to his aid.  After two or three minutes with no response, the father called out again, and in a loud voice the son answered, "Just a minute, Father."  The father and his guest smiled at each other while sipping their tea.  In a few minutes the son came to the door, opened it and stepped in.  At the moment he entered the room down came the heavy pillow.  But before it could land on his head, the young man jumped aside drawing his sword with lighting speed, cutting the pillow in half.  Then after looking all around the room with the sword in hand waiting for further action and feeling the danger had passed, he replaced his sword in the saya and kicked the two halves of the pillow out of the way.  He then turned bowed to the guest and then to his father asking what his father wanted with him.  The father introduced him to his friend saying, "This is my youngest son.  As you can see he is fast as the hunting falcon."  Dismissing the youngest son, he instructed him not to say a word about what had happened to his brothers.  They then called for their next son.  The next oldest did not respond immediately, but it was not necessary to call him a second time.  Arriving at the door, the son knocked and upon hearing  his father reply, slid the door open and stepped in.  Again, the heavy pillow came crashing down.  The young man reached for his sword, but, instead of drawing, he caught the pillow in his hands.  Turning his head to his father with a bewildered look, he replaced the pillow above the door.  Bowing to his father's friend then to his father, he asked what service he could be to them?  The father introduced him saying, "This is my middle son, he has the eyes and calmness of a tiger before the kill."  Instructing his son as the one before him, they called for the eldest.  Now the oldest son came at once and knocked on the door.  The father called to him to enter, but the door did not move.  After a second or two the father again bade him to enter.  This time the oldest son slid the door open a foot, smiling at his father and his father's friend.  The son reached up through the doorway, took the pillow down, stepped through the doorway and replaced the pillow above the door.  Turning to his father's guest and giving him a long and low bow, and then turned to his father and also bowed.  At this time the father remarked to his friend.  "This is my oldest son, Kira, he is almost as wise as I.  We think we are different only because we agree to think so."  The friend bowed to the oldest son and said, "You have learned your lessons very well, you are surely your father in his youth.  Your father has been the needle, and you the thread.  Now you have become the needle."  At this the friend bowed again, said his farewells, and departed.

This story was taken from the book "IAI The Art of Drawing the Sword"