In The Name Of My Father-The Wheel of Life
What man's land is the graveyard?
It is the crowed home of ghosts--
Wise and foolish, rich and poor shoulder to shoulder.
The God of the Dead claims them all;
Man's fate knows no tarrying.
We flow into life, and ebb into death.
Some are filled with life;
Others, empty with death;
Some hold fast to life, and thereby perish,
For life is an illusion.
Those who are filled with life
Need not fear of anything,
For death finds no place in them.
Incense smoke wreathed the red eaves and clung to red-brick walls of the octagonal conference hall of the Black Dragon’s Castle. Aufai was called to the Lord Black Dragon’s presence. The youngster kneeled before his lord as he spoke.
“I am terribly sorry about the death of your father; he died with honour when he met ronin Willowman on his journey for my business. An argument arose between them and was settled in combat. Willowman sent the body of your father back with his regrets. Nevertheless, I have sent a messenger to convey my revenge. The ronin would meet one of my sword masters in a single combat, and this would decide the ronin’s fate.” As the youngster shuddered, feeling cold tentacles coil around his chest, tears glistened on the wind-chapped cheeks. He looked at his Lord with speechless, but his demeanour had already revealed what he had to say.
The Lord could feel the pain of the youngster but he had never unveiled his feeling. After taking a long deep breath, the Lord finally spoke again, “Aufai, it is your right as the only son of your father to revenge his death, but it is the right to send the person of my choice…” “Send me. Let it be I who defends your honour and that of my father.” Aufai replied. His words were cold, solid and filled with every essence of his core of nerve.
July gave way to August; the bright yellow fire ball inched over the watery horizon, spreading its multicolored rays across the sky, sea and earth. The farmer stooped in the fields to shear the golden rice with sickles. Aufai felt the sun on his back, though the rays were not yet strong enough to chase the morning chill from his body. The dampness of the road soaked past his Kung-fu shoes and numbed his feet. With his right hand, he adjusted the three-foot-long metal scabbard that was held against his back by the black sash. The scabbard held his sole inheritance, his father's sword. Aufai looked toward the distant mountain, it was twelve miles away and he figured that would take him most of the day to reach the castle of Lord Golden Eagle where he would meet ronin Willowman, who was the chief commander.
“Practice, one cannot possess skill without practice,” his father would say. “Concentrate on the motion; execute the motion until you could feel the flow within your body and mind.” And Aufai would practice until his hands began to cramp, until he lost every bit of his strength and could no longer hold on to the sword. Only then was he permitted to rest. “Your opponent will never give you the time to rest.” Aufai had practiced with the sword since he was six, but although he was now seventeen, still he was not its master.
The Old Man: “Winning, in-and-of itself, is easy. The person who prepares properly wins! It's that simple. What is not so simple is overcoming the desire to lose.”
Aufai: “Who on earth would want to lose?”
The Old man: “Everybody wants to lose!”
When you get down to it losing is the way to go. When you lose you get a lot of extra attention. The loser doesn't stand out; he/she doesn't have any pressure or responsibilities. He/she just has to go out and lose, probably would have lost anyway, right? So why bother? On the other hand, to win and keep on winning you have to work, you have to maintain your skill, concentration. You have to accept responsibility. In addition the winner has the responsibility of setting an example by which the loser lives vicariously.
Everybody consoles the loser. Everybody lets him know that they know just how he feels. Everybody tries to make him feel better. What they are doing is letting the loser know that he is one of them, that he belongs. Isn't that one of our deepest and most basic needs, to belong? So why mess it up by all that fuss about winning? Just go out and make it look good. But not too good, don't forget, the other guy is trying to lose too.
Winners are treated differently! The winner is congratulated, put on a pedestal, kept at a distance. After all, a winner is different. Common participants don't know how to relate to the winner. They resent the fact that the winner has the unmitigated gall to be better, to strive for a higher level, to disturb the calm surface of every day mediocrity. But then, we can't treat the Winners too harshly! Who are we going to get to defeat the losers? Where else can we get our vicarious thrills? The Winner serves his purpose, so keep him around. Still, deep inside, there is the spark of greatness; the will to win is in all of us. The problem is overcoming the fear of breaking away from the loser's syndrome. The most difficult opponent is yourself! Yes, yourself! Every time you realize that you are beginning to pull away from the loser's attitude there is a moment of panic. A moment when you realize that to stay on course will be a step in the direction of losing the approval of the other losers, a step in the direction of becoming an individual.
Fortunately these moments are easily recognized. They come hard on the heels of a compliment from a spectator or another player. It's the moment when someone says to you “nice move” or “good attack” and you say to yourself “yes it was”. At this point a little voice (your shadow) lets you know that you've gone far enough! You've impressed the other losers, don't carry things too far. Everybody knows you’re good, if they think you’re too good you can't be one of them. This is the enemy! The voice of mediocrity is imploring you to stay with the fold. It's warm and safe here, there's no need to risk your nice safe position. This is the voice that the winner must silence time and again.
We need to understand that the normal tendency is to lose. After-all winning is hard work with dubious rewards. If winning is, indeed, foreign, then our objective should not be to win. We need to learn to concentrate on specific objectives. Work to accomplish a certain goal. Cut the variables to a minimum by working toward small advantages. Keep your objectives in mind! If you are occupied with specific goals it is difficult to be distracted by the voice of mediocrity.
Above all, you must accept that it is right to strive to fulfill your potential! Remember, no one else will ever know if you back off at the crucial moment. No one, that is, except you and the other losers, and that's what they want.
Aufai's father had once a reputation as a skillful swordsman. It was during this time that the feudal Lord, Black Dragon, sought him out to retain his services, and appointed him chief instructor to teach his warriors.
The sun was at midday, and a warm breeze blew across the rolling hills. The mountains looked much closer than they were, and Aufai guessed he should reach them before sunset. He stopped to drink from a small stream, but as he touched his lips to the cool water, an old memory flashed through his mind and he thought of the time his father had caught him drinking from the well outside their quarters. “Do not drink until you have finished your practice, drink when you are through practicing.” As usual, after his daily practice, Aufai was permitted to ask questions.
“When is a motion considered a flow and becomes perfect?”
“When the motion becomes effortless.”
“When do I know I have mastered the sword?”
“When you have mastered your own body and mind.”
“What if the opponent is more skilled or is stronger than myself?”
“Find a way to defeat him.”
“There is something you must find, the essence of your spirit.”
“If I cannot?”
“Then my son, you must learn to lose with honour.”
So it was Aufai, a teenager of seventeen, who was sent to meet Willowman. The sun was beginning to set as Aufai arrived at Lord Golden Eagles Castle. A guard was toiling outside when Aufai arrived.
“May I help you?”
“Is there a swordman called Willowman here?”
“Would you relay a message to him that the Lord Black Dragon's swordsman has arrived.”
With that the guard left and Aufai stood erectly under the lone tree. A large man came out; his face was crisscrossed by at least ten sword scars. He must have fought many vigorous battles with countless swordsmen. He held a great sword which was nearly four feet in length. The blade was extremely thick and was obviously quite heavy.
“Are you from the Lord Black Dragon?"
“Why did he send one so young?”
“It was my father you killed.”
“I am sorry for that. He was a skillful swordsman, but strength failed him in the end. He died with honour.”
“I am sorry too, let us begin.” said Aufai staring at the man.
Aufai backed away a few steps from the Willowman. They turned the point of their blades downward. Their right palms holding the sword hilt, their left palms covered their right palms, and then they bowed deeply to each other in a warrior’s salute. Both men's eyes were fixed on each other as they slowly drew their swords. They stood there against the setting sun, swords poised. Even before the two straightened a sudden flash of white, then the sound of clanging. They both retreated one step. Willowman charged in and slashed three times, Aufai was barely blocked each slash. Once again Willowman sprang forward and slashed his sword from the upper left corner straight downward against Aufai's defending sword. His attack was swift and powerful, Aufai had difficulty in parrying and diverting the blows.
Aufai realized he was no match for Willowman's strength; he must rely on his own techniques. Aufai returned with attacks of his own, but was unable to pierce his opponent's guard. He immediately reverted to defensive tactics.
The engagement broke off. Aufai circled his opponent, placing his back to the setting sun. There was one technique left; he must use it before his opponent overcame him. Aufai drew forward dropping his guard slightly and leaving himself exposed. Willowman made a great cry like the sound of a thunderclap and took the opportunity and sliced his blade into Aufai's left side. Aufai knew that he couldn’t avoid it, and the only choice Aufai had left was to block it with all his strength. However, to Willowman surprise, Aufai chose not to block it, and instead, simultaneously, Aufai brought up his sword from its waiting position into Willowman's abdomen. Willowman's eyes widened in disbelief and howled and kept on howling as he fell forward to the yellow sands.
The setting sun had prevented Willowman from seeing Aufai's last manoeuvre. Aufai sank to his knee before the body of his opponent. He cupped his own wound, and his life spilled through his fingers. The evening was incredible beautiful, only the sunset was too near!