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Darkeness on the Edge of Town

kyudoA martial arts student traveled to a famous Kyudo (Zen archery) dojo in Hawaii. He asked the sensei if he would consider teaching him what he could about making the arrow hit the target.

The sensei rose from where he had been kneeling, raised his bow high in front of him, and slowly lowered it, expanding his chest as he drew the string. He let the arrow fly. A moment later, it quivered in the center of the target.

"Awesome!" said the student. "You must be the best archer on the island!"

"I don't think so" said the sensei. "My teacher is a fine martial artist and taught me all I know."

"Perhaps I should visit him!" announced the student.

He crossed to a nearby island seeking out this amazing Kyudo master. He was interested to find the sensei was an old woman who also drew the bow with grace and strength and let the arrow zing to the center of its target.

The student, without thinking, applauded loudly and said, "That was great! What more can you teach me that your other student did not learn?"

The sensei raised her bow again with a new arrow and led her mind to the place where the previous arrow was. The arrow flew and split the first arrow.

"Wow!" exclaimed the student. "I must learn from you! You are the best!"

"Unlikely," replied the sensei. "I suggest you see my teacher on the other side of this island, beyond the mountain."

The student hiked for days to find an old man living in a small cabin in the hills. He arrived at night to find the sensei tending a small fire outside, the only light for miles.

The student inquired about the secrets of this teacher's art.

The sensei rose from the fire and let an arrow fly into the darkness. "A leaf falls in the night," was all he said.

The student lit a lantern and walked through a field to find a maple tree at the edge of the woods with a leaf pinned to its trunk with the arrow.

The student was astounded. "How could you have shot this leaf in the dark? How could you see?" he demanded on his return.

"I closed my eyes," said the sensei. He bowed and sat back down at his fire.


From our book "The Peaceful Way - A Children's Guide to the Traditions of the Martial Arts" by Claudio Iedwab & Roxanne Standefer, published by Inner Traditions 2001.