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Morality in Karate

~by O’Sensei Richard Kim (excerpt from The Weaponless Warrior)

During the Satsuma occupation of Okinawa, a Japanese samurai, who had lent money to a fisherman, made a trip on collection day to Itoman Province where the fisherman lived. Unable to pay, the poor fisherman fled and tried to hide from the samurai, who was famous for his short temper. The samurai went to the fisherman’s hut and, not locating him there, made a search of the town. As his search for the fisherman proved fruitless the samurai grew furious. Finally, at twilight, he came across the fisherman cowering under an overhanging cliff. In anger he drew his sword. “What do you have to say?” he shouted.

The fisherman replied, “Before you kill me, I want to make a statement. Can you grant me this humble request?”

The samurai said, “You ingrate? I lent you money when you needed it and also gave you a year to pay, and this is how you repay me. Out with it, before I change my mind.”

“I’m sorry,” the fisherman said. “What I want to say is this. I have just started to learn the art of the empty hand and the first thing I learned was the precept: If your hand goes forth, withhold your temper; if your temper goes forth withhold your hand.”

The samurai was astounded to hear this from the lips of this simple fisherman. He put his sword back into his scabbard and said, “Well, you are right. But remember this, I shall be back one year from today, and you had better have the money ready.”

Night had fallen when the samurai returned home and, as was the custom, he was ready to announce his return when he noticed a shaft of light streaming from his bedroom through the door which was slightly ajar. He peered intently from where he stood and could see his wife sleeping and the faint outline of someone sleeping next to her. He was startled and exploded with rage as he realized it was a samurai.

He drew his sword and stealthily crept towards the room. He lifted his sword and was ready to charge into the room when the words of the fisherman came to him. If your hand goes forth, withhold your temper; if your temper goes forth withhold your hand. He went back to the entrance and said in a loud voice, “I have returned.” His wife opened the door and came out with his mother to greet him. His mother had his clothes on. She had put on his samurai clothes to frighten away intruders in his absence.

The year passed quickly and, come collection day, the samurai made the long trip again. The fisherman was waiting for him. As the samurai approached his home, the fisherman ran out and said, “I had a good year. Here is what I owe you and interest besides. I don’t know how to thank you.”

The samurai put his hand on the fisherman’s shoulder and said, “Keep the money. You do not owe me anything. I owe you.”

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