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THE POOR FISHERMAN

Okinawa is rich in moral stories, and karate masters enjoy telling of the poor fisherman, whose shrine stands today in a small town south of Naha. This poor man had borrowed money from a Japanese samurai during the days of Japanese occupation. When the day came to pay his debt the fisherman had nothing to offer, and the samurai, enraged, drew his sharp sword. As he prepared to cut the fisherman down, the poor man cried out, 'before you kill me, let me tell you that I have just started to study the art of the empty hand, and the first thing they taught me was "never strike in anger".' The samurai was so taken aback by this statement that he freed the fisherman.

It was night when the samurai returned home, and on entering his house he saw a stream of light coming through his bedroom door. He tiptoed to the room and peered round the door; there he saw his wife in bed and lying next to her, to his horror, he saw another samurai. Drawing his sword, he was preparing to charge the stranger when the fisherman's words came back to him, 'If you attack, never be angry. If your angry, do not attack.' He left the room and then loudly announced his return. His wife came out to greet him,followed by his mother dressed in men's clothing. She explained that she had dressed as a man so as to frighten away any intruders.

Hakugin Do (Fisherman's Shrine) image

Hakugin Do (Fisherman's Shrine)

The following year, the fisherman came to the samurai with the money he owed. 'Keep the money,' said the samurai, 'It is I who owe you, not the other way around.'

We see, then, in Okinawan karate, not only the blending together of the two great martial traditions of China and Japan, but also the spirit of the Okinawan nation. The peaceful stoicism of a people who have faced the continual occupation of their island by greater nations is embodied in the theory and practice of karate. The discipline of constant training leads the Okinawan karateka to a state of implacable calm, and the practice of kata leads him or her to the most profound goal of all the martial arts: the enlightenment (satori) of the spirit and character of the practitioner.

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Original author unknown

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