The Inkless Pen
For many years during the early 18th century Sumi Nashizo, an influential shodo master, wreaked havoc on the stability of the shogunate with his claim, substantiated by influential witnesses, to be able to perform a notorious style of Fudebakudo known as "The Inkless Pen." Similar cases had already been recorded in European courts at the time of the crusades, probably having originated in Persia. The case of Sumi is particularly relevant because, more than two centuries after his death, his personal effects were found in a lacquered box. The so-called "inkless pen" was shown to be nothing more than a simple 2B pencil. Yet despite this proof of its fraudulent nature, the myth of the inkless pen of Fudebakudo remains to this day.
The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword
One of the most common prejudices facing students of modern Fudebakudo is the now infamous mantra "The pen is mightier than the sword." This saying is often wrongly attributed to Fudebakudo by teachers with little practical experience beyond their own martial arts who are not aware of the subtle understanding of ma-ai, or mutual distance, that Fudebakudo requires. Basically, Fudebakudo regards the sword to be considerably mightier than the pen at distances of less than six feet (approximately 1.7 meters). An anonymous yet celebrated Fudebakudo master of Japan's Kamakura era (1185-1333 A.D.) wrote a short poem which is now held to be a seminal and profound expression of Fudebakudo philosophy on this matter:
But a sword
Dipped in ink,
That's a good compromise.
It is well known that Fudebakudo masters, drawing on the tradition of Zen, often torment and bemuse their students with koans. Sometimes a single koan is thrown before a student to disrupt reliance on the intellect as a tool for understanding reality. At other times, a whole line of koans is used as a test of equanimity. Koans, once understood, are usually not discarded but instead left behind on the Way as both obstacle and encouragement to those who follow. Fudebakudo students recognise them as tokens indicating that an enlightened master has passed ahead.