The great swordsman Yagyu Tajima-no-kami became a teacher at the shogun's court. One day, one of the shogun's personal guards came to him and asked him to give him training in fencing. The master looked at the man and said, "As I observe, you seem to be a master of fencing yourself. Tell me to what school you belong before we enter into the relationship of teacher and pupil."
The guardsman said, "It shames me to confess it, but I have never learned the art."
"Are you trying to fool me?" asked the master swordsman. "I am a teacher to the shogun himself, and I know my eye never fails in its judgments."
"I am sorry to defy your honor," said the guardsman, "but I really know nothing."
The resolute air of the guardsman made the swordmaster think for awhile, and he finally said, "If you say so, it must be so. But I am still sure you are a master of something, though I do not know of what."
"If you insist, I will tell you," said the guardsman. "There is one thing of which I can say I am a complete master. When I was still a boy, the thought came upon me that as a samurai I ought in no circumstances to be afraid of death, and I have grappled with the problem of death now for some years, and finally the problem of death ceased to worry me. May this be what you sense?"
"Exactly!" exclaimed Tajima-no-kami. "That is what I mean. I am glad that I made no mistake in my judgment. For the ultimate secrets of swordsmanship also lie in being released from the thought of death. I have trained ever so many hundreds of my pupils along this line, but so far none of them really deserves the final certificate for swordsmanship. You need no technical training. You are already a master."
- related by Daisetz Suzuki