The Tree

By Timothy J. Connell

Choyokan Dojo is situated atop a large hill at Morningstar Farm. Overlooking lush farmland, apple orchards, and surrounding forrest, it is unmistakingly characteristic of many rural New England areas. The most striking physical feature, however, is a massive oak tree adjacent to the Dojo. When I first visited and began training at Choyokan Dojo nearly two years ago, I immediaely noticed this massive tree. I admired its size, shape, and remarkably good health. I studied its broad trunk, numerous massive limbs, and voluminous leafage.

Presently, when coming to or leaving from the Dojo, I often take a few moments to glance toward “The Tree.” I coin it as such as I have never encountered a larger oak tree in the New England area, although I have spent a fair amount of time in the wilderness.

If this magnificent tree could speak, what tales could it tell? What questions could it answer? Did the tree begin as a shard cast away from another oak? Perhaps it was planted by a farmer to provide shade for livestock. If one reflects, one can only ask how this tree battled the torrents of a heavy rain in its hillside location. How many times was it partially uprooted by storms, only to regroup, reassess, and reroot itself, stronger than the previous time? As a young sapling, I am sure its battles were many.

As the tree grew stronger, its properties allowed it to be strong, yet flexible when necessary. It prospered regardless of its beginning, growing not only upward, but erstwhile broadening, expanding its limits and horizons.

From its broad, thickly barked trunk, to the smallest vascular skeleton within its energy synthesizing leaves, this majestic tree symbolizes many things to an aspiring martial artist at any discipline. Being strong, rigid, and powerful is equally as important as being flexible, supple, and forgiving. Perhaps most important is the ability to weather many storms, come through them unscathed, and learn from our experiences, not unlike “The Tree.”