Posted 28 March 2013 - 08:46 AM
Ok, I didn't explain the motivation of Izumi in detail in my story outline. He wants to show the world that his father's techniques/school is the best because he keeps hearing of other inferior swordsmen boasting of their prowess. His father is humble and never shows off. His father's father fought and defended the village from marauding bandits many decades ago and was a hero, but never used the sword since. His father never used the sword either. Izumi hopes to honor his father, and grandfather, by proving that their school/method is the best. So it was never about fame for himself, but to honor the family name.
The theme is about good intentions going completely awry. What starts as a simple desire to honor his family ends in a bloodbath and even the murder of his own father (with an ambush of arrows, not a fair sword duel). Instead of learning the lesson of humility as his grandfather and father had tried to teach him, Izumi goes on a warpath to kill all challengers, and their families.
So the central question is "does Izumi really want to be the best swordsman in Japan?" The phrase "really want" refers to what is really best for Izumi, and not simply referencing his desire. So the answer is "no". Izumi's intent is to honor his family name. What is best for Izumi is to honor his family's wishes and learn the lesson of humility. The elder cane master/grave attendant, who defeats Izumi and breaks his hands, does not appear until the very last part of the film (only after he overhears Izumi's vows of vengeance), and is not a major player in the tale--he's only there to provide the twist ending.
This is a very "Japanese" type tale, which are often disquieting and filled with irony. By the way, this tale is inspired by the true life history of Miyamoto Musashi, the greatest swordsman in Japan. He started dueling after seeing a public challenge issued in his home town. His string of victories led to his father's murder by relatives of defeated opponents. He reigned supreme as the best swordsman in Japan. However, he was defeated by only one person--a staff master. I just added the irony and message of humililty into the mix (since this lesson's topic is "the message").