A samurai once came to see the legendary master Miyamoto Musashi and asked to learn the true way of the sword.
The master agreed to take him under his wing. Having become his disciple, the samurai spent all his time, as instructed by the master, carrying and chopping wood and fetching buckets of water from a distant spring.
He did this every day for a month, six months, one year, three years. Any lesser disciple would have run away, but the samurai was made of sterner stuff.
At the end of three years though, the samurai had had enough. “What kind of training are you giving me, master? I have not touched a sword since I got here. I spend all my time chopping wood and carrying water. When are you going to initiate me?”, he pleaded.
“All right,” the master replied, “Since you desire it, I shall now instruct you in the true technique.”
He ordered his disciple to go to the dojo and there, every day from morning to evening, the samurai had to walk around the outer edge of the tatami, step by step around the hall without ever missing a foot.
So the samurai walked around the edge of the tatami for a year. At the end, he said to his master, “I am a samurai with long experience of swordsmanship. In the past, I have learnt from other masters of Kendo. Not one ever trained me as you are doing. Please, teach me the true way of the sword.”
“Very well,” said the master, “Follow me.”
He led the samurai far up into the mountains to a spot where a tree trunk lay across a deep ravine.
“There,” said the master, “Now, walk over.”
The samurai had no idea what his master wanted to achieve from this command. Glancing down, he recoiled and couldn’t bring himself to cross the dizzying chasm.
All of a sudden, they heard a tap-tapping sound. A blind man, paying no attention to them, walked past and tapped his way with his stick firmly over the abyss.
The samurai understood. “If a blind man can walk across like that, I ought to be able to do so too,” he resolved.
And his master said, “For one whole year, you have walked round and round the edge of the tatami, which is much rrower than that tree trunk. Surely, you can cross over!”
This time, the samurai strode over to the other side.
His training was over. For three years, he had built up the strength of his body; for one year, he had developed his powers of concentration in one action; and at the last, facing death at the edge of the abyss, he received the fil training of mind and spirit.
Above all, the samurai had learnt that the most important training takes place on a very subtle level. Every experience should be judged and valued for the lesson it holds.