Hayashizaki temple is dedicated to the master of the same name who lived in the sixteenth century and created the art of iai (the art of drawing the sword). During the Edo period, a great number of adepts spent time at this temple in order to fulfill a kind of vow: to go beyond the bounds of their art by devoting one or several days exclusively to the practice of iai in order to honor the gods and make progress by surpassing their own limits. Nakayama Hakudo, one of the greatest masters of iai of the twentieth century, spent a day at this temple fulfilling such a vow. In a period of twenty-four hours, he succeeded in drawing his sword ten thousand times. To achieve this, he practiced constantly, without sleeping, only drinking rice congee from a bowl placed within reach of his hand. In the temple’s registry, a considerable number of persons are listed who drew their swords between thirty and forty thousand times. The three adepts who went the furthest stayed for seven days and drew more than ninety thousand times, which is to say more than an average of thirteen thousand times a day. If we may go by the experience of Nakayama Hakudo, we can say that these adept, could pretty well not have slept in the course of seven days of continuous effort. Nakayama explains that when he trains in his dojo, he succeeds on the best days in drawing two thousand times, but then the next day he has to put in twice the effort to arrive at the same result. Are we capable of imagining what sort of effort it look for the person who kept up at least this sort of effort for seven days? These facts help us to gauge the gap that exists between our way of thinking and living and that of the warriors. All the traditional techniques that we have inherited in the budo tradition were created through this kind of exceptional exertion of energy, which adepts persevered in over several centuries. Following the tradition, they sought fusion of mind and body by going to the limits of physical effort, until they reached the point of having the feeling that it is through the mind that the body is able to continue with its movements.
-Kenji Tokitsu, Miyamoto Musashi His Live and Writings, pg 290-291
I read this passage today and it made me think…how many of us show that kind of dedication to our craft? Can you imagine spending seven days to accomplish 90,000 pistol draws? Or devoting an entire day to doing 10,000 practice reloads?