Once: The evening sun cast long shadows on the hidden Shaolin dojo.
The young boy they called Grasshopper was tired from many hours of practice, his knuckes bruised and raw from constantly punching posts and tiles. He was secretly hoping for the bit when he would get to play with the sharp swords and the throwing stars.
The sensei breathed in deep of the fragrance of the lotus blossom. He was older than the willow trees on the slopes of Mount Fuji, and the years had given him much wisdom.
"Tell me, grasshopper, which is the most difficult chess piece to master?" asked the venerable sensei.
"The knight?" asked the apprentice, hesitantly. "Because its leap is so unpredictable, like a dragon?"
"Wrong!" said the old man. "The knight is a simple beast. It's move is always from one colour to the next, and its move is always the same length. What is more, the knight is free from the first move of the game. Try again."
"The queen, because she must not be advanced too quickly?"
The sensei smiled gently. "A good answer, little one. But not correct. The most complicated piece is the rook."
Grasshopper was puzzled. "But the rook is so simple! Up and down, left and right."
"You still have much to learn before you can attain mastery. Observe this game of chess. By move 7, white had castled bringing his king rook into the game."
"By move 10, he had cleared all his pieces from the back rank so that his rooks could see each other."
"By move 15, both of his rooks had open or half open files to work with."
"By move 16, one of his rooks had reached the seventh rank."
"Black achieved none of these things. He never castled, never grabbed an open file, never joined his rooks together."
Grasshopper nodded. "I see, master. Yet white then gives away both of his powerful rooks. Why does he do this?"
The sensei smiled, in that infuriatingly smug way that he had. "Indeed, for he had driven the black rooks into such passive positions that mate was assured. Rooks make excellent attackers but very poor defenders."
"That is enough for today," says the sensei, wearily. "Remember, true mastery comes when you have learned to handle rooks. And when you can walk on the rice paper without leaving a mark, it will be time for you to leave."
"And maybe then I'll let you play with the swords and the throwing stars too."