The old man entered the shop quietly.

His feet took him to the back table which he had been going to for over 30 years.

No longer did he think to go. It just happened. As usual he was the early one. Like his style of play, he would settle in and prepare himself for the upcoming match. This would entail slowing his breathing and clearing his mind. Though he had been playing the same opponent for over 30 years, it still felt like the first time.

His friend would not arrive until seconds before they were suppose to play. He would order his tea, even though the server had been bringing the same tea for the past 20 years, and bring out his good fortune piece, which happened to be a stone found on the mountain slope during a visit to his daughter’s home. This stone would always be the first one he would use. The old man accepted this.

The board’s 19 intersecting lines could still exert a strong emotional charge in the old man. Each intersecting line where he or his friend would place their stone pieces would open up new avenues for exploration. He no longer needed to travel. The game did it for him.

The bowls were placed on the table. One holding 181 pieces and the other 180. The old man preferred black for he was able to lose himself in the deepness of each stone as he prepared to place them. When he had white, he often felt he was being forced to reflect on his past which he had no intention to do.

He felt white was for younger people.

His friend did not have a preference. He was younger by 10 years, younger by 30 in wisdom, younger by 50 in patience. The old man had long given up on expecting change to come to his friend. He still loved him.

Black goes first. The old man was white. His friend placed his special stone on the board leaned back and smiled with great satisfaction. “My friend, today I feel lucky.”

Every day the friend said this to the old man. And every day the old man smiled down at the board, knowing the hardships his friend had gone through. He picked up his white piece with his fingertips and placed it on one of the 361 intersections on the board. As he always did he replied, “My friend today you will be very lucky for I shall capture all your territory and free you from possessions.”

It would be two pots of tea later that they would mutually agree the game was over.

Neither no longer needed to count who won or lost. The friend would get up thank the old man and leave. As was their custom, the old man would reflect on the meaning of the board before putting the pieces away.

Today the snow fell gently.

Todd Hardy has studied and taught a variety of martial arts over 38 years and trained with many people from around the world. Would you like to comment on what you read here? Contact him at [email protected]

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