Beauty with a Purpose

Some of the Japanese masters of the sword were also highly skilled in other arts.  There is a phrase:  ‘Life-giving Sword, Death-dealing Sword’, and some incidents in their lives illustrate it.  Kojuro was a young sword master, who was also a beautiful dancer.  He was from a noble family, and on one occasion went on a picnic with two girls of the imperial house, with two attendants not trained in arms.  The father of one of the girls had incurred the enmity of another courtier and Kojuro learned privately that this man was determined on revenge. He had no chance of killing the father but it was possible he might try to assassinate the daughter.

The picnic went well until Kojuro noticed a movement in a little clump of trees not far away.  He suspected this might be two or three rogue samurai commissioned to kill the girl.  If there were three of them who made a rush he would find it difficult to defend her. One of the attendants had a brought a small koto, a sort of harp, for one of the girls.   Kojuro now said to her, “Play for me and I will dance a ritual sword dance.”  She began to play and he danced with matchless skill, advancing and retreating in the complicated steps of the dance.

As he neared the clump of trees he caught a glimpse of three men hiding there, but gave no sign.  They watched him, fascinated, thinking that the steps of the dance would take him back to the starting point, and they would then make their rush.   As he neared the clump of trees Kojuro’s steps became slow and solemn.

Suddenly his sword flashed out in two lightening strokes into the necks of two of the men.   The third one managed to get his own sword out, but was immediately disposed of.

Kojuro wiped his sword on his face-cloth, returned it gently to the scabbard and danced his way back to the little party.  They hardly realised what had happened.   One of them said afterwards that the beauty of the dance had been so perfect that the murderers could not break into it.

©   Trevor Leggett

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