Stories of the way

The Fortune Teller

The Fortune Teller

Yagyu Munenori was student of kenjutsu and had a standing invitation to any challenger to come to house and face him with bokken. Afterwards Munenori would discuss fencing with his opponent over a meal. For no matter who triumphed, there was something to learn from everyone both from their techniques and the techniques they had seen on the road. In this way he kept up on the various unorthodox styles and surprise waza (techniques) that were being employed around Japan.

One day an extraordinary figure challenged Munenori. He was very thin and held the bokken in a most unusual manner. At this time there were two main heiho (strategies) being employed. One was to run in with a continuous volley of cuts, while the other was to wait cautiously for an opening. This man seemed to do neither but to advance with his sword out in front of him and a bit to the side with this awkward grip. His head was wide open and he was taking a tremendous risk with the angle of his sword and his grip, but he seemed confident. His manner seemed to suggest that he had practiced this awkward posture so long that he lightening fast at it. The man seemed to say ‘No matter how fast you are, my counterstroke is faster’. Munenori was cautious and retreated. The man kept advancing, he was unnerving Munenori who kept giving ground til his back was to the wall and his opponent made a clumsy, half hearted attempt to cut him. Munenori easily countered and tapped the man on the head. The contest was over.

At the meal, Munenori asked the man who he was and was told ‘I am a fortune teller from across the city. I have had no customers for sometime and was quite hungry. I thought I would challenge you and suffer the pain of your beating me but at any rate get a meal afterwards’, but you didn’t seem to want to hit me.’ Yagyu Munenori gave the fortune teller some money as well as the meal, saying most seriously ‘I have surely learned much from your fortune telling kenjutsu.’