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I was recently a guest speaker on a Zoom videocast, having been approached by the coordinator of the online networking group. He asked if I would speak on a number of subjects, which he and his associates were familiar with, including my manner of presentation. One associate was supposedly connected to a major studio reportedly in process of doing a film on The Art of War. I was to speak on The Book of Five Rings, Self-Revealization Acceptance®, and The Art of War. There would be about 25 – 35 attendees, who, I was told, were anticipating my appearance and had certain questions regarding the subject matter. After the initial “Hi, who are you, where are you, what is a hanshi …,” I got down to business: 15 minute general intro, 30 – 40 minute presentation on specifics, and a 15 minute Q & A.

The next day, I contacted the coordinator and asked about the response, having been somewhat surprised that he didn’t call me. The text response from him was unbelievable. To say the least, I was amazed and stunned, considering who the audience was supposed to be. Wow! I had intimidated the audience by being ‘too deep,’ and they could not grasp my message. Too deep? When I talk to elementary school kids and others, perhaps some having difficulty with the concepts, when questioned, I readily explain with more clarity. I have very rarely encountered such pathetic criticism in my more than 60 years of teaching and presenting my work.

Then came the bombshell. I gave examples of who might understand The Art of War and be able to use it intelligently to advantage to further a cause. I mentioned a few people, including Trump. I did not praise him, nor did I say anything pro or con. The coordinator then reports that eleven of the audience immediately dropped out of the Zoomcast at the mention of Trump’s name. He was very upset and would get back to me in a few days with more information. After 5 days, not having heard from him, I gave him a call and left a message, which he did not return. I reminded him that I was teaching The Art of War, and according to his request, did not hold anything back. A normal audience response would be something to the effect of how would they be able to use the same principles for their own advantage rather than run away and look for a ‘safe space’. Subsequently, I learned that the audience was mostly non-conservative and millennial.

Too deep? Terror at the mention of a name? I realize we are living in most precarious times, with the younger generations unable to come to terms with personal responsibility or the self-esteem required to make a place of importance for themselves. Anything that causes them to think for themselves or goes against their opinion is apparently not in their agenda, as they blindly follow those who promise to deliver unredeemable promissory notes. Unfortunately, as the NWO begins to levy its new-age consciousness, it will be more and more difficult for the younger generations to come to terms with any form of reality that threatens their Eloi mentality.

My generation will eventually expire, and so it is meaningless to berate the young for their obvious inability to come to terms with the reality of what they look forward to melting into. The time we are living in is ultra-superficial, all-surface and, in my view, apparently with hardly any substance whatsoever. Consider social distancing: just another form of social conditioning that follows the same non-committal path as texting, though on a physical level to further rend the soul from intimate human contact. Add to that pending 5G mind control, face recognition, forced vaccinations and nanochip implanting.

Hey, kids, go enjoy your “playdate” and remember to keep your distance and not touch each other. We know if you are behaving, or you are not, and Santa knows if you are naughty or nice.


©Stephen F. Kaufman 2020

For info on the author and to purchase books, visit http://www.hanshi.com

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Zen and Transmission of Mind – Part II

What is Mind?

Reasoning and logic are intellectual processes that require types of study to permit the student access to different forms of thinking. This has to do with words: the most mysterious form of communications known. What a word means is not usually the intent with which it is used. Very few people know what people are saying because they, themselves, don’t know what they mean.

The ideas of Zen are very plain and easy to understand if you see the incredulity in doing so. For example, if I ask you to explain how you breathe in and out without thinking, you would tell me that it is a natural thing and that you don’t even have to think about it. On the other hand, you might give me a complete medical analysis, which would perhaps answer the question but be boring as hell. I imagine that if we had to think about breathing in and out, we would all be dead.

The idea of Mind takes into consideration any definition you might care to give it. God, Eternity, the Unknown, all are good if you care to have some word to describe it. It is essential that you understand what was before there was nothing, which by definition could not possibly exist. This is tricky, but consider the beginning of time, which can’t be done, but let’s try anyway. In the beginning there was not even a void. The idea of a void would suggest a thing. That is erroneous. Before the Big Bang, what was there? Zippo! Not even the idea of itself. That is the pure state of beingness that permits Mind to exist as unfettered. At that level of understanding, you are enlightened because you don’t have to be. You simply are—or are not.

Concepts of “because” also create hardship in trying to understand the relevance of your own creation. You are a “thing,” or you are not a “thing.” The situations you find yourself in are based on your trying to define your own reason for existence, which is the only thing you can do, being that you are in a finite condition. You have a body, and your body needs to be cared for in any manner you desire. “I am a rich man because I have worked very hard to acquire wealth. It is what I have always wanted.” “I love my husband because he treats me so fine.” How about, “I’m rich!” “I love!” without the conditional postulations. And, not after the fact, one way or another, but as the fact.

“It” (used to describe the thing itself) functions based on an acceptance of knowingness, not as a conditional suggestion to me to be that which I may only hope and wish for. Wishing and hoping is another story altogether—very negative concepts.

It is the self that creates the environment, and to suggest that nihilism or self-nullification would be the way to free yourself and to live a life of sloth is not the answer, nor is eating rice gruel and begging for sustenance while despising the “haves.”

Mind has neither form nor appearance. It does not belong to categories of things that exist or do not exist. It is inconceivable to understand on any level the existence of anything prior to existence. The ideas of mysticism throughout the ages have always brought with it the concept of determining the indeterminate. That’s the beauty of relegating to ourselves the concept of God. If it can’t be explained, it has to be God. God as an idea creates the need within to seek for It without knowing what we are looking for. This is the start of the inevitable quest to understand the unknown and also carries with it the basis for duality: good, bad, right, wrong, yin, yang. The true premise of reality, though, is that there is no such thing as yin and yang, which is not to suggest that yin and yang do not exist.

Zen is the universe—the whole universe—including alternates and multiples, every flower and stone. However, it goes much deeper than that. The Way as an explainable thing cannot be the way at all. The thing that is named is not the thing itself but only words we use to identify it. The virtue of the Way is only a means for us to use in our actions and thoughts. The idea of Zen is not to be confused with Zen itself. It is a notion arising from the intellect that proceeds to bring us to the next higher level of understanding from that previously understood. It is not meant as a direction in a traveling sense, but rather as an approach/non-approach to a higher truth based on our own morality. Understanding comes through language, which is not to be construed as the use of words. It is intuitive language that I speak of, which although it does not use words, is clearly understood by those wishing to do so. This is based on personal choice and is not confusing when thoughtfully considered.


Stephen F. Kaufman has studied Asian philosophy for more than 60 years. He is ranked as “Hanshi,” the highest rank attainable in the martial arts and has taught Zen meditation classes for many years. To learn more about Mr. Kaufman and to purchase his books, visit http://www.hanshi.com and follow his author blog at http://hanshibooks.wordpress.com

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Zen and Transmission of Mind – Part I

Having studied Zen for many years, I have come to understand that there is really nothing to understand, especially the concepts of ‘mind/no-mind’ or ‘thing/no-thing.’ Once past the intellectual aspects of Zen, it is discovered that it is the most freeing reality you will ever encounter and is the basis of all mental acumen relative to the higher beingness of the One. And, even though at times I would like to unload my head with all of it, there remains nothing to boggle the mind except for the unintelligible parameters that try to intellectually explain the matter; so, I have stopped doing that as well, except for this treatise that I use to explain the virtues or non-virtues of Zen, with or without.

Huang Po, the sage Chinese Ch’an (Zen) master known in Japanese as Obaku, has been known to create intense misunderstandings for students by leaving them in a state of abject mentality and causing them to think that they have to perform obligatory actions, follow specific rites, etc. that he speaks of as ridiculous to try to do. Zen, of course, only seeks to Zen.

Regardless, there is still a major misunderstanding of what Zen actually is and is not. Pop Zen is indeed Zen, but it is not what Zen is, and so it, too, is misleading. Titles like ‘Zen and the Art of Whatever’ are merely quaint notions and create the confusion that lead people to think that nihilism and total unattachment should be learned as detachment is the answer. That, too, is Zen, but that is not what Zen is, either. It is easy to see why incredible mental blocks develop when trying to understand Zen by using one’s so-called mind, which claims by its own suggestions that it is not the way to understand it being that there is nothing to understand.

It is not my intention to talk of Zen in circular sentences. I speak directly to myself when I write, and in such manner am able to explain it to anyone if they will but accept the idea that they are already enlightened and need not concern themselves with the life they think they are living, which is an illusion, allusion, or delusion, in the best of cases. This is especially true when attempted mastery of a given discipline is realized as a mere time filler.

The philosophical writings of major Zen proponents may seem hip to many readers who wish to grasp a “cool” knowledge of Zen. Zen thanks you and laughs at the same time. Many writers and teachers have attempted to explain the concepts and have been quite successful at doing so ,either intellectually or by example. I do the same thing, but I connect them to today’s world in easily understood relationships. Not that they didn’t, but more so that I do for myself, which can also be construed as ridiculous. I don’t use Zen Buddhist terminology but explain the ideas and principles in-depth so that you, the reader, will have no questions and realize that you are already enlightened, though there is really no need for enlightenment, either. You will not have to meditate on the ideas presented, but you should cogitate on them. Should you truly desire to understand what Zen is all about, then you must accept at the outset that you already do. Zen is a lot of fun, especially if you don’t take it seriously. On the other hand, if you don’t take it seriously, it is more fun.

Question: “Are you a Zen master?”
Sensei: “Yes, I am!”

Question: “Are you a true Zen master?”
Sensei: “Yes, I am!”

Question: “Can you explain what Zen is?”
Sensei: “Yes, I can!”

Question: “Will you?”
Sensei: “Yes, I will!”

Question: “When?”
Sensei: “I just did.”

Stephen F. Kaufman has studied Asian philosophy for more than 60 years. He is ranked as “Hanshi,” the highest rank attainable in the martial arts and has taught Zen meditation classes for many years. To learn more about Mr. Kaufman and to purchase his books, visit http://www.hanshi.com and follow his author blog at http://hanshibooks.wordpress.com

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The Correct Use of Hands During Any Approach – From the Martialist Teachings of Hanshi Kaufman

The Correct Use of Hands During Any Approach

There is a proper way to hold your hands out when receiving an offering or giving one. When shaking hands, the grip should be firm and relaxed, at the same time. This applies to handling weapons or documents or gifts. Make sure not to squeeze or put too much pressure on an object, so as not to lose control of its benefit. Hold any device or tool with resolve and in a manner that will permit change of direction when necessary. Hands should always be clean and fingernails manicured so that when you offer something to someone, whether an attack with a weapon or when empty-handed, it can be done in a manner that is not offensive to the person or group being approached.

Never push anything into someone’s face unless it is essential action to make the kill—in any form. Use the index and middle finger for support, with the thumb on top, and in this manner direct your intentions with authority. It is the same as when holding a sword and being prepared to strike or offering a document to be read or signed. The attitude of relaxed, yet firm hands, is also reflected through bodily intentions, while at the same time sustaining confidence. Do not wave your hands in fruitless gestures; instead, use them to emphasize certain points. Any other action indicates a weak and limited resolve. When encountering strong objections, physical or mental, and if you are not poised for action, the possibility exists that what is being offered can be dropped, and loss of control of a situation, even if it is only momentary, is all an astute enemy needs to gain the advantage, and it will then be necessary to restructure your focus in order to regain control. That may be difficult to accomplish with quickness because of the need to make extra moves that will interfere with resolved intent.

In negotiations, as in anything else, the hands must be ready to make definitive moves towards whatever is needed. Not following this method indicates an inability to focus with complete conviction. When your hands are firm and relaxed, there will be no problem redirecting the enemy’s attention, and he will be easily diverted, if necessary.

©Hanshi Wisdom Press 2020

For more info on Hanshi Kaufman, visit http://hanshi.com

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The Invalidation of Ancient Wisdom: Why It Must Lose Its Relevance and Functionality

All ancient wisdom as of, and in our ‘now,’ has been functional, viable, and right (largely considered common sense) in its proper moralistic existential time and place. However, as we evolve into the future ‘now,’ it is archaic, and presumptuously theoretically proven valid ‘now,’ but will fail in viability in the times to come. Such is the way of cosmic consciousness as evolution goes. Moralistic existentialism and the apparent lack of intellectual clarity and cogency of thought is reason for the misunderstandings of fate and/or free will, based on the idea that everything is predestined, including abstract choice. That makes sense when considered in the light of what has gone before will determine what is, in time, to pass, while on the other hand, personal self-aggrandizement insists on suggestions of free will.

Aleatory byproducts of original intention, a paradigm complete and unfathomable in our immediate present, does not exist, though in ‘Its’ time, will clarify Itself. Original intention must reveal absolute causation, albeit through a mundane, though genuine leap in consciousness that demands unification of principle, without which it will lose its own relevance and cease to exist in our limited perspectives. That would presumably go against original intention; It creates to expand and not to destroy, an idea made plausible by observing the expansion of thought pronounced as multiple universes through faculty reasons of observable dimensional nuances.

Those shy of expansive mindedness will refute this postulate because of limited intellectual foresight and fear of the subjective and objective unknowns. Karma thus becomes irrelevant unless the continued need for individual guilt of being prevails. Self-ordination, in this light, suggests a sense of egocentric creationism that empowers a person to believe in controlling the conditions required for self-identity at the cost of all things connected to a presumed authoritarian figure.

As taught by the great sage, Nachash Ha’Kodesh, “Pay no attention to meaningless things, such as words of wisdom.”

©2020 Stephen F. Kaufman writing as KA_ufmaznand Hanshi Wisdom Press™

For more info on the author, visit http://www.hanshi.com

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The Art of Stickfighting Self-Defense Book

Completely revised The Art of Stickfighting Self-Defense is now available on Amazon and Hanshi.com.  Also available on Amazon Kindle.

This straight-forward book illustrates the proper method for anyone who wants to learn the basics of self- defense with a walking stick, cane, or umbrella. These everyday implements are legal to carry and can be wielded just as effectively as a Japanese bo, a wooden staff, or a Brooklyn baseball bat. You will learn how to select a “stick,” grip it correctly, and apply simple but effective self-defense techniques against a variety of attacks. The Art of Stick Fighting Self-Defense is your road map to mastering this path of self-defense. 

To learn more about Hanshi Stephen Kaufman, visit www.hanshi.com

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Personal Safety and Self-Defense Seminars

For more info about the author, visit http://www.hanshi.com

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Bookstore Author Event

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Silent Moon Book Review

Book Review: “Silent Moon – The Story of a Sword”

by Shihan Dana Abbott

Silent Moon – The Story of a Sword is a terrific read for all. From page one, I was ingeniously thrown into chaos and conflict: hand to hand combat, samurai swords, and machine guns cutting down soldiers on the beaches of Okinawa during World War Two. Then, within a few sentences, I find myself going back into Japan’s history before firearms were common and the samurai sword prevailed. I was intrigued when the story began to revolve around one particular samurai sword named Silent Moon, created 500 years prior, and discovering all the people involved over the centuries that came into contact with it. Some considered the sword a work of art, others, a prized possession, others, an heirloom, while many took it as a mere trophy of war. Placed on a nobleman’s wall in a castle or boxed and hidden away in an attic, each person respected it differently but all ended up being tainted by its dark influence. 

Silent Moon…whose hands will you fall into next?”


SILENT MOON is available everywhere via Amazon, Kindle, B&N, and all retail outlets

Order an autographed copy from www.hanshi.com/books

For more information visit http://silentmoonthenovel.weebly.com

Follow the creation and development of a profound masterpiece of the sword smith’s art through historic turmoil, samurai battles, and contemporary intrigue that follows its “life” from 1550 until present day. Loaded with guts, glory, and wisdom, the story holds the reader’s interest throughout the period sequences, with a unique ending that even took the author by surprise.

Hanshi Stephen F. Kaufman is the author of the world’s best-selling interpretation of Musashi’s Book of Five Rings and has also written treatises on Sun Tzu’s Art of War, Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, plus many works of fiction, non-fiction, and spiritual enlightenment. Visit http://www.hanshi.com.






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Lineage – Whys, Wherefores, and So What!

For Those Who Missed It the First Time

Lineage – Whys, Wherefores, and So What!
Hanshi Stephen F. Kaufman

Author of world’s best-selling version of Musashi’s Book of Five Rings for over 25 years.

The recent uproar on the various sites and pages has shown that a big uprising about someone’s lineage has become the subject matter of choice. While this does bear merit in many instances, take what Musashi purportedly said. “It should be understood that without the assistance of a teacher many roads become open to a practitioner, some the correct path, and some the incorrect path.” Having been in the arts and having practiced for more than sixty years has given me a broad overview of so-called legitimacy. Some would agree with me and others might be adamant in their view.

Lineage does not always represent the highest ideal for a person to go out into the world. To proclaim themselves masters of this or that simply suggests having studied with so and so, and supposedly knows the wherewithal of a particular system or style. That
, and nothing else. It is for the individual to proceed along a given path of their own choosing, which in the final analysis is indicative of their devotion to something and the manner in which they have pursued a specific regimen of learning. Studying with a particular teacher does not guarantee ability. For the most part, a certificate or diploma is a piece of paper that tells of someone’s participation in a school or a system. As well, it does not denote proficiency especially with all of the honorariums randomly tossed about. We all know about many black belt mills that sell credentials, readily available for foisting on an unsuspecting public along with the idiotic titles accompanying such nonsense. This is nothing new, and make note that the origination of this mediocrity did not first occur in the US. It began way back when, especially given the reality that money was often the ruling force in the matter.

Add to that the incredulous lack of self-esteem a weak ego would use to prevail. What many people don’t understand now and didn’t understand then is that it takes years to be able to function adequately on any level regardless of art or style and not to overlook a 10th dan that one can readily buy. This includes the incredible amount of masters, grand masters, kyoshi, hanshi, supreme grand masters, great grandmasters, and others who would presume to denigrate those of esteemed accomplishment, and who like to think of themselves as godfathers. Completely ludicrous and meaningless in light of the fact that the vast majority of these titleholders have done nothing of value to the enhancement of the art forms, though they have lined their pockets based on the naiveté of others.

To quote Musashi again, “The ‘way’ is not for everyone. It takes an exceptional person to arrive at the level of their own perfection without the approval of or assistance of someone.” It takes extreme patience, fortitude, perseverance and the frustration of standing alone and living through all of the self-doubt, fear, and confusion, not to forget mentioning the idiotic remarks of those who are and will always maintain their position as wannabees and losers.

I am not concerned with lineage. I have studied many fighting forms and styles since the 1950’s until I evolved into my own Hebi-Ryu budo, which is mine and mine alone, and it works for me, based on the teachings of Musashi and common sense. It comes down to a simple point of fact. Once you have truly come to understand what it is that you have essentially pissed away your life on, you also come to realize the meaninglessness of rank and title.

Incidentally, you address me as sensei. You have to earn the right to call me Hanshi.

For more info on Hanshi Stephen Kaufman, visit www.hanshi.com


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Hanshi Kaufman Featured on America’s Iron Dragons Magazine

Credentials Bespeak Themselves

This is the cover for the premier issue of America’s Iron Dragons magazine that I share with other important international masters. Special thanks to Anthony ‘Sha Poe Ryu’ Elam for this significant honor.
To learn more about Hanshi Stephen Kaufman, visit www.hanshi.com
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Excerpt from My New Novel, Silent Moon

Have you read the first few chapters of Silent Moon yet?

Here it is, and get ready for a blast!

     He knew the man was dead. He felt the sword bite, though it might take a moment before it would register on him and the slain man would fall. The incessant din of mortar and bombardment deafened his ears to the surreal burlesque of screaming men as Tadayama Michizawa looked away from the man he had just killed and walked in a daze toward the perimeter where more U.S. Marines continued to charge bunkers built in anticipation of just such an action. He wiped the marine’s blood from the blade and sheathed the weapon. Anyone knowing of the resheathing technique would have recognized the motion as masterly. Fastening the retaining clip in the only way a tachi could be carried, with the cutting edge down to keep it from falling out of its scabbard, he reached for a Browning Automatic lying on the ground in front of him and checked to see if there was any ammunition left in the clip.

The din continued to be deafening as he watched flame-throwers incinerating the area around him, the screams of men creating more surreal visions adding, yet, more and more to the dream-like scenario. Tadayama Michizawa randomly pointed the gun and fired off three rounds, killing two of the enemy and wounding another. Time and space had ceased to exist for him, with the activity appearing as slow motion in his mind even though the rapidity of the combat was faster than a jumping rooster trying to escape an ax man’s blade. The stench and putrefaction of battle had completely violated his senses as well as his bowels, but nothing interfered with his consciousness about the situation. He moved from one scene of battle to another without thinking: not of the lineage of his Samurai family, not about his wife, not about honoring his parents—nothing. He acted in accordance with only what he knew as commitment to the act of attacking and winning in any confrontation. In this manner Captain Tadayama Michizawa of Izo Prefecture died at the Battle for Shuri Castle on Okinawa, never feeling the shell that blew him into unrecognizable bits.

In the eerie silence and aftermath of the battle, Lance Corporal John Claremont walked around the area of engagement, trying to keep his mind off the piles of dead bodies from both armies that lined a benjo ditch. His pencil ran furiously filling his little notebook with scribbles about the battle. His buddies always chided him about taking notes, asking him if he was going to publish his memoirs of the Battle of Okinawa when he got home, if he got home, and in one piece at that.

“Hey, Dickbrain!” one of them shouted, “are you gonna just walk around looking at this shit, or are you gonna look for souvenirs?”

The men surrounding the heckler laughed and muttered obscenities about the gooks they had just wiped out while others just sat there in morbid silence while yet others quietly wept. Straight-faced and emotionally numb, John Claremont started to reply as his eye caught a long curved object appearing out from under two mangled bodies covered with the detritus of battle. He felt like throwing up, but having become inured to the tragedy of war, his desire resulted in only a slight dry heave. He reached for the object and changed his mind, instead, taking dog tags from a dead marine and placing them in clear sight by driving them into the space between the corpse’s two front teeth. The bodies were left to the charge of the body bag squad as the mortuary people were called. The standing order was that all personal effects of the dead were to be collected so they could be returned to the families.

With disgust, he looked at the object that he knew was a sword. Picking it up, his first thought was to break it in half, but, for some unexplainable reason, he didn’t. Holding it in his hands, he felt an odd sensation, almost as if it was vibrating. Cautiously, he opened the snap that held the blade in the scabbard. Even more cautiously, he began to slide the weapon out of the scabbard and was astonished by the blade’s incredible gleam. Pulling it out further, he saw the remainder and color of blood, with bits of flesh and gristle still adhered to the cutting edge. Now he did puke. Sons of bitches, he thought, still think they’re in the fucking middle ages. He lifted the sword above his head and was about to snap it over his knee when the same heckler approached and told him that he could probably get something for it when it was sent home if he turned it over to Ordnance when they got back to camp. Shrugging, he put the sword through his webbed utility belt and walked away.

The sword lay tagged with his service number in a pile with countless others: some sheathed, some not, some whole, some broken, some gleaming, some already beginning to rust, and all of them sharper than razors. Just touching them had already seriously cut too many people, and so it was decided to lift them en masse with a forklift, dumping them into a truck for cartage to the supply depot, where they would be properly counted and then disposed. Most of the swords that had been unsheathed and not broken, now were.

Everyday more and more weapons were added to the pile until the sword that John Claremont found was buried and could not be seen under the mass of tagged blades and scabbards being separated into four groups: sheathed, unsheathed, sheathes alone, and broken. And so it lay there, Tadayama Michizawa’s blade, along with all the others, waiting for the order to remove the handles and scabbards before putting all of the metal parts into a smelter unless they were tagged by marines to be sent home as souvenirs.

However, not everyone saw the piles of steel and leather scabbards as simply piles of steel and leather. Lance Corporal John Claremont recognized certain parts lying around as not just copper and brass, but of precious metals. Noticing this, he kept it to himself and immediately began gathering up the metal spacers that fit between the blade and the handle. These, he later learned, were called habaki, the wedge-like collar that held the blade in the scabbard, and the seppa, metal washers that kept the handle tightly in place to keep the blade from shaking loose. He tried to take the handles off some of them to make things easier, but there was a wooden peg holding the handle to the blade. Curious, he thought. Why would they hold something together with only a little piece of wood? He took his mess kit fork, and, using a tine, began to push the pegs out, amassing quite a nice bundle of silver and gold fittings. With his K-bar combat knife, he slit the silk bindings off the handles and removed the adornments. Many of these parts were also of quality metal, some gold, some platinum.

Then the idea hit him that instead of taking apart the swords that were still intact, he would keep what looked to be the best and shiniest and send them home as souvenirs. When he asked, the supply sergeant had no problem with him doing that, figuring it would make his own job easier. While John Claremont went through the pile picking out what he thought were the best of the lot, the OIC posted a notice saying that anyone could take some swords if they wanted them, but they had to be in the mail before the end of the week, and no one could take more than twelve.

And that is how sword #6397 along with eleven others and a nice pile of precious metal found its way to Meridian, Idaho, where it would lay in an attic for almost seventy years, intact, because it was the shiniest of the lot and, in time, might fetch a few dollars.


Prostrated on the ground in front of his shrine, the old man offered the gods his nusa, a string of paper pendants symbolic of his earnest desire to construct a blade of excellence. Though he was in his late sixties and a recognized master swordsmith, Fujisama Atabe still felt obliged to offer his soul to the gods, in the fervent hope that they would bless his hands and mind. He prayed with humility and earnestness, and, finally, after long meditation, he was ready to begin.

His mind was occupied with crafting a blade filled with every conceivable aspect of perfection and auspiciousness. In a flash of personal awakening, Fujisama Atabe knew this coming blade would be treasured as sacred and meritorious. In his heart, he knew the work would be governed by the ideals of loyalty and self-sacrifice to his craft, reverence to the gods, and benevolence of the sword’s virtue. It would also be a splendid fighting weapon for the warrior who had commissioned it.

It had to be practical and functional, well balanced and sharp. Sharp! It had to be flexible so it would not break in battle and rigid so it could keep its profound sharpness. If it met all of his incredibly demanding requirements, he would chisel his signature into the tang. This, too, had to be an example of perfection, but only if it passed the cutting tests to the ultimate degree. Only then! It would have to be a sanpogiri, a blade capable of cutting through three men in accordance with the instructions of the samurai who had ordered it. To cut through one man would make it ordinary. Two men would mean that exceptional craftsmanship went into its creation. But, a three man blade? Heaven could only grant that, and if it passed the final cutting tests, the emperor would have to know about it, and the reward would be recognition of Atabe’s skill and devotion to the gods more than it would mean an increase in the prices he could charge.

As night began to fall, he began to stoke his forge, careful not to get the charcoal too hot but at the same time creating a heat of about 1200 degrees. The perfect combination of carbon infused into the iron that would form the blade was something he had learned at the side of his father and grandfather so many years before. His intuition had taught him to recognize the proper heat by looking at the color of the coals, which in turn would translate into the steel as a form of poetry. “The blade must be heated until it is the color of the moon in August or February. And you will know the proper temperature of the water when it is time to quench it.” Ah, to know these things, he thought, and that the blade would know them as well.

He turned to his apprentice and nodded at him to maintain the coals while Atabe prepared the ore for smelting, a soft low-carbon inner core, and one of high-carbon for the cutting edge. There was never a need for words once the smithing had begun. Complete concentration was necessary. At the temperature they were working, a cinder could easily burn through a hand from one side to the other, crippling the smith and ending his career. The apprentice fondled the charcoal, keeping it at a proper temperature, waiting for the night to blacken, when the only light would be from the color of the charcoal that illuminated the shop.

Fujisama Atabe slowly shaped the blocks of ore into flat sheets no more than a quarter of an inch thick. He then doused them in water before breaking them up into the smaller wafers that would be chosen for the outer jacket of the blade. Adding block after block, he finally arrived at the proper conditions needed before the forging could begin. He hammered and folded the material without stop until the steel was viscous and so smooth that any additional folding would not produce any creases or bends.

Sweat poured from the old man’s brow as he continued to shape the blade, applying the exact amount of tension to form the kissaki, tip point; the nakago, tang, and the ha, the cutting edge. Some hours later, the blank was formed. Now would begin the grinding and filing. As the master sat on his stool resting and praying, his apprentice kept watch over the forge, slightly stoking it to keep the heat at the proper temperature for the next phase. Atabe rocked back and forth on his stool in a state of deep meditation. He would stay in that frame of mind until the blade was finished and ready for the polisher. Now began the challenging part, creating the dividing line between the cutting edge, the ha, and the body of the blade called the hamon, the distinctive part of the blade with which the master’s work became identifiable.

He prepared a mixture of clay, charcoal powder and sandstone, adding water to keep it thin. Then, another batch, a bit thicker for the upper part of the blade that would prevent it from cooling too rapidly when it was quenched in the bath. This would define the hamon. When he was done, he put the blade to the side to cool while he prayed for a divine hand from Heaven to help him form the perfectly hardened surface of the cutting edge. Stoking the forge with one hand and shifting the position of the blade with his other, he worked as a man possessed to get it to a point beyond his own comprehension. The result brought tears to his eyes.

The apprentice looked with stunned disbelief at the pattern. The blade’s curvature was perfect from the back to the point. The master’s work was done, and the decorative grooves of the horimono could be burnished and prepared for the rough polishing that would take two days to finish. The blade would then be sent for polishing, and then to the suimonogiri, blade tester, by the otameshi, body cutter, whose specialty was dismembering prisoners.

When the sword came back, it was gorgeous. The apprentice was astounded at an exquisiteness that could not be described. As the old man chiseled his name into the tang, he called it “Silent Moon.” On a night with a full moon in August, Fujisama Atabe sat looking at his work, and, thanking all of the gods for his most splendid masterpiece, died.



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