The Japanese tea ceremony is a complex, ritualistic, almost religious procedure which requires training similar in many ways to the mental training undertaken by martial artists.

Around three hundred years ago, a teamaster in Kyoto was walking through the busy streets when he accidentally bumped into a samurai and brushed against his sword with the back of his hand. To the samurai this was extremely disrespectful, as the sword was like his soul, and he demanded that the teamaster fight him in a duel. The teamaster tried to apologise and explain that he meant no disrespect, but the samurai was irate and demanded that they should fight at dawn the next morning at the city gates.

The teamaster knew that there was no way he could defeat the samurai, but he could not dishonour himself by failing to meet him in combat.

He went to a friend's house and asked to borrow a sword, but he was told:

"You have never been trained in the use of weapons, what use is a sword to you now?"

The teamaster asked his friend what he should do the next morning, and heard:

"Meet your death with honour, and as a testament to your time on earth, perform the ceremony of tea making."

The following morning, the teamaster went to the city gates. He found that a crowd had gathered, and the samurai was standing waiting in his armour, his sword at his side.

"Before we fight" said the teamaster "I will perform the ceremony of the tea."

Saying this, he knelt down and lit a small fire. He boiled some water and, with great care and concentration, sprinkled some powdered tea into it. He then whisked the tea clockwise and anticlockwise.

Upon seeing this, the samurai was amazed. He had never seen anyone so calm before a duel. He walked over to the teamaster, bowed and said "I have killed many opponents. Often they have begged for forgiveness, or offered me gold to spare their lives. Some have tried to run away from the fight and screamed like children before my sword. You face certain death, and you make tea.

"Please, teamaster, forgive my short temper and take me as your student in the tea ceremony so that I may learn to face death with such dignity."

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