Josip "CezarJ" Cubela

Sensei Sakai, I bow before you with my greatest respect to you and your work. 

My first encounter with Usagi Yojimbo was as a kid. I was playing on the commodore 64 already 2 years, thanks to my brother teaching me how to use it. Once in a while, my brother got himself some new games, and one of them was Usagi Yojimbo. The game was different. It wasn't one of those scrolling action-only shooters, which were very common then. You could bow to the other person or draw your sword and fight. But knowing when to bow and when to fight was beyond my comprehension. There was something more complex behind it, and that made it somehow interesting for me then. I was 6 years old. 

I stand at the comic book store to buy myself some magic cards and see the samurai bunny, which I have played many years before. It was the second TPB issue of Usagi named "Samurai". They didn't have the first, but the vendor assured me that you could read the comic at a later issue, without having much of a problem. I chose to buy it out of curiosity. As I started reading, feelings of nostalgia washed over me. Seeing Usagi trained to become a samurai was intriguing, and I wanted to know more about this rabbit and the world he was living. One by one I collected the comics, enjoying them often, (very often!), always waiting for the next issue to arrive to my store. I was 19 years old. 

The more I read Usagi, the more I asked myself if it was possible to learn something through the use of the sword. So I searched the internet. I was surprised to see that there were some dojos in my area! So I immediately visited one with my friend. That day was unforgettable. Seeing all the blades being drawn out and back into of the saya, the people cutting the air before them, an enemy they have envisioned only in their minds - that was a dream come true. So I started my training there at once. The same day, I didn't carry any water buckets as Usagi did, but I learned the lesson from him that I had to train regularly to become something. I had the will to change myself because of him. I was 20 years old. 

You have to know, until that time, I was very thin, and didn't have much confidence in myself. I was hanging around the computer all the day or watching TV. This changed then. I started with the bokken first, of course, sensei wouldn't allow it otherwise. I was very cautious at the beginning, but learned that without enough determination, I couldn't parry correctly, or my attack just bounced off too lightly from my opponents defenses. With time I learned other things, things that were outside of katas and sword strategies. I learned how to foresee things, be it an item that is about to fall down, or what a persons body language is telling me. I reacted to those things subconsciously, even surprised myself a few times of what I did. And with all this came confidence in myself that I can do things if I want to, something I have lacked. With that newfound knowledge I met my first girlfriend. I was 21 years old. 

I am training since then, and got myself an original Japanese iaito (training sword, all is made exactly like a real katana, except the blade, which is blunt and made of an aluminum/zinc alloy), and I still learn from the way of the sword. I also had the honor to meet and learn for a short time from a real samurai, Sekiguch Komei, soke of the Muso Jikiden Eishin Ryu style. A life-experience that will forever stay with me. 

I still read your comics, paying them the same respect as I pay to my sword. They have changed my life. They have changed me for the better. Now I know when to draw my sword and when to bow to others. 

Sensei Sakai, I bow before you with my greatest respect to you and your work. 

Josip Cubela, 25 years old.  (CezarJ)Shimizu Sensei and Josip Cubela