English: From Suikoden of Japanese Heroes (Yei...

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Zenji, Yawara Master

(Photo credit: From the Suikoden of Japanese Heroes)

Ninja on steroids…

pretty much sums up the Yawara.  Nearly everyone knows what a ninja is, but nobody knows the Yawara.  My father-in-law, Zenji, was one of three living Yawara masters still on the planet when I met him in 1979.

While we dated, my husband told me many things about his father, things which left me slack jawed with awe.  When my husband was six years old, he was playing around the neighbor’s trash.  He knocked it over and a bottle broke.  He fell on the glass shards, wrist first.  He told me “Blood was shooting from my vein like a fountain.  The neighbor was a doctor and he came rushing out from my screams.  He couldn’t stop it so I yelled ‘get my father’!  His wife ran to get my father.”  He continued “Zenji came and knelt down beside me. He took some slow, deep breaths and closed his eyes.  He swept his hands over my wrists and as his hands passed, I watched my skin knitting back together right in front of my eyes.  I still have a scar there, but the wound just suddenly stopped bleeding and it closed up.  That’s all I can tell you about that.”

This next story that my husband told is  my favorite of all, simply because it is more impossible than any of the impossible things he did on a daily basis.  “One day, my father taped two loops made of rice paper to the ceiling.  You know how delicate rice paper is, right?  Then he took a rod of green bamboo (one of the strongest materials on earth….virtually impossible to break) and slid it through the rice paper loops.  He then picked up another bamboo rod,  brought it to the center of his forehead, inhaled several times with a rhythmic breathing, closed his eyes and swung at the hanging bamboo.  The suspended bamboo snapped clean in two and both ends fell to the ground.  The rice paper loops were still taped to the ceiling. They had not ripped in any way.”  Shit.  That’s really not possible.

When Zenji was thirteen, his father brought him to a mountain where an old monk lived.  The monk taught him Yawara along with a handful of other disciples.  The training was as rugged and merciless as anything any soldier of Sparta would have had to endure.   Peak physicality was achieved, combat technique was perfected, reflexes were perfectly honed; the perfect warrior. But this was not all.  He became a master of Qi, and in this small realm, it would make him invincible.  It was because of these things that he was requested by his government to travel to China on a special mission.  The stories from this sojourn, he told me himself.  Zenji was sent to China by the government of Japan on a covert mission.  Zenji was sent to spy…

To be continued….