Martial Arts Parables

Story-telling is a powerful skill and has been used by many cultures to share knowledge and culture with both young and old. Stories allow us to reflect on difficult issues, help us draw our own conclusions, and give us a sense of comfort knowing that others before us have used those same stories.

The Tea Master and The Ronin

 Some advantages of including the use of the parable in martial arts training:

  • The parable allows us to transmit knowledge without the listener needing to have endured the same hardships as the protagonist.
  • The parable can always have minor details modified to suit the listener without having the takeaway lesson altered too greatly.  
  • The 'realness' of the characters, their struggles, and their growth increases through introspection and reflection.  
  • Even the most non verbal closed-mouth instructor can rely on the parable to speak for him. 

The effectiveness of the parable is much more pronounced with younger students of the martial arts than other media available. Other books or treatises on martial art knowledge might not be entirely accessible or appropriate for children. Which young child would have the tenacity to read the Art of War, or Go Rin No Sho? Even the very readable Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa is literally a tome. Then there is the questionable presence of violence which may be inappropriate for the younger audience.

In one of my favourite parables 'The Tea Master and the Ronin', a version available at, A Tea Master finds himself at the wrong end of a challenge. The Team Master seeks the help of another swordsman to help him perhaps survive the upcoming encounter. In the version I read a few years ago, there was a beautiful embellishment about how difficult it was for the Tea Master to try and train in the way of the sword. Finally, taking a break, he was able to use his tea ceremony to calm and center himself. In a stroke of genius his teacher requested for him to abandon all other thought when facing off the ronin; to focus himself like he was in the tea ceremony, raise his sword and prepare for his end.

Such a parable when told well gets the listener on the edge of his seat. Who cares if the parable has nothing to do with Aikido or even Tea Ceremonies. You can feel the injustice, and you can feel the desperation of the Tea Master. And miraculously, you can understand the need to establish simple solutions to address what seems like a monumental problem.

The Tea Master lesson can be applied to areas where conflict resolution or problem solving is necessary, and can help establish with your students that such conflict is more common than your average ronin. Having simple tools and innovative thinking helps people establish self esteem, confidence, and is the cornerstone of any self-defence and anti-bully program.


Colin Wee
Joong Do Kwan Chung Sah Nim
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