This is pretty much all you have to read as far as I'm concerned for this topic.
“Do you think the manner in which you came to possess these swords was honorable?” the businessman says.
“If I did not, I would long since have returned them,” Hiro says.
The businessman reaches across his body with his right hand, grips the handle of his sword just below the guard, draws it out, snaps it forward so it’s pointing at Hiro, then places his left hand on the grip just below the right.
Hiro does the same.
Both of them bend their knees, dropping into a low squat while keeping the torso bolt upright, then stand up again and shuffle their feet into the proper stance — feet parallel, both pointed straight ahead, right foot in front of the left foot.
The businessman turns out to have a lot of zanshin. Translating this concept into English is like translating “fuckface” into Nipponese, but it might translate into “emotional intensity” in football lingo. He charges directly at Hiro, hollering at the top of his lungs. The movement actually consists of a very rapid shuffling motion of the feet, so that he stays balanced at all times. At the last moment, he draws the sword up over his head and snaps it down toward Hiro. Hiro brings his own sword up, rotating it around sideways so that the handle is up high, above and to the left of his face, and the blade slopes down and to the right, providing a roof above him. The businessman’s blow bounces off this roof like rain, and then Hiro sidesteps to let him go by and snaps the sword down toward his unprotected shoulder. But the businessman is moving too fast, and Hiro’s timing is off. The blade cuts behind and to the side of the businessman.
Both men wheel to face each other, back up, get back into the stance.
“Emotional intensity”, doesn’t convey the half of it, of course. It is the kind of coarse and disappointing translation that makes the dismembered bodies of samurai warriors spin in their graves. The word “zanshin” is larded down with a lot of other folderol that you have to be Nipponese to understand.
And Hiro thinks, frankly, that most of it is pseudomystical crap, on the same level as his old high school football coach exhorting his men to play at 110 percent.
The businessman makes another attack. This one is pretty straightforward: a quick shuffling approach and then a snapping cut in the direction of Hiro’s ribcage. Hiro parries it.
Now Hiro knows something about this businessman, namely, that like most Nipponese sword fighters, all he knows is kendo.
Kendo is to swordfighting what fencing is to real swashbuckling: an attempt to take a highly disorganised, chaotic, violent, and brutal conflict and turn it into a cute game. As in fencing, you’re only supposed to attack certain parts of the body — the parts that are protected by armor. As in fencing, you’re not allowed to kick your opponent in the kneecaps or break a chair over his head. And the judging is totally subjective. In kendo, you can get a good solid hit on your opponent and still not get credit for it because the judges feel you didn’t possess the right amount of zanshin.
Hiro doesn’t have any zanshin at all. He just wants this over with. The next time the businessman sets up his ear-splitting screech and shuffles towards Hiro, cutting and snapping his blade, Hiro parries the attack, turns around, and cuts both of his legs off just above the knees.
The businessman collapses to the floor.