Photo source: charmingthebirdsfromthetrees.blogspot.com/2011/09/from-mighty-oak.html
The following article was adapted from an article written by a judo coach on his blog. I was just about to take a walk in a park to visit some oak tree friends, when I stumbled upon it before I logged off the computer. If you could get past the author's seeming attempt to sound like Mr. Miyagi (or Master Splinter, lol), it's not a bad article. I thought I would share it here. It reminded me of how the magical community needs one another, how we all learn from each other. I guess it works that way in judo, too. A judoka is a judo practitioner.
The author's reference to "the aged and majestic oak" toward the end of the article reminded me of Druids and Druidry (plus I was already in an oaky mood, anyway). Supposedly, the word Druid is based on the root, "duir" from the Celtic tongue, and has a meaning similar to "door, gateway," etc. I've read that Druids buried their wise ones in the trunks of oak trees...symbolizing and/or facilitating their entry into the Other Side perhaps? Wiccan author Patti Wigington interprets the ogham symbol for Duir as meaning, "watch for chances that may pop up unexpectedly, and take what is offered to you. After all, an unknown opportunity is better than a missed one."
Photo source: whyquantumphysicists.com/a-mighty-oak-tree-was-once-a-nut-like-you-and-me/
Many coaches will share personal stories and experiences with their athletes to illustrate a point, and as long as these do not devolve into long-winded war stories they can be useful. But in judo, it is often useful to take oneself out of the equation and instead use analogies to illustrate a relevant point.
In explaining the importance of age-appropriateness in teaching, coaching, and athlete development, you could use an analogy comparing people to trees. When a new shoot is young and tender it needs to be protected and sheltered from animals and abuse, as with small children or new students. But then as the young sapling grows faster it responds well to water, sunlight and nutrition.
From there the sapling grows into a young tree that is strong and flexible, but still green and not matured. This would be a young teenager going through his or her growth spurt. If abused the tree will be damaged or destroyed, but if protected and cultivated correctly it will grow and become stronger.
Photo source: doityourself.com/stry/relocate-and-transplant-an-oak-tree#b
As the young tree turns from green to brown it becomes tougher and stronger. It can withstand stronger winds and even allows young children to climb in its branches. This is the young athlete approaching peak performance while giving back to the community as an assistant instructor. He or she has reached the balance of toughness and flexibility necessary for high performance judo.
As the tree continues to age the wood will continue to mature and harden, but in the process loses some of its flexibility. This is the athlete passing his or her prime and hitting their thirties or forties. From there the wood continues to gray and harden but is still strong and useful. Some of our strongest and most beautiful furniture and building materials are made from aged woods.
But as that wood (judoka) ages, and the flexibility is lost, the training must change. Just as you cannot bend aged wood, there is a limit to how much you can bend aged athletes. The wood may also have cracks that have been repaired and need to be guarded and protected, as with our sports injuries and battle scares. We would also like to think that the young sapling looks up at the mighty oak and dreams of the day that he or she will also be a strong and proud tree.
Photo source: cocreatingourreality.com/profiles/blogs/before-the-mighty-oak-tree
And in the spirit of “mutual welfare and benefit” the aged and majestic oak serves many purposes in modern society. It is wondrous to behold; offers shade and shelter; blocks the wind; can be climbed on by children; and serves as a home for animals and birds. Even in death, and for centuries into the future, the mighty oak, as with so many other trees, is remembered for its fine wood.
Or, how many times have you run your hand across a fine mahogany tabletop, or upon maple gunstock and marveled at the swirls of the grain? This is the legacy of respected judo sensei(s), in that their contributions to society live on for generations within their students.
That, my fellow judoka and aging trees, is how an analogy works. So the first lesson in life is to learn to bend but not break, to weather the storms, and to bounce back after a strong wind. This should resonate with all judoka.