Learn the Strength of Willow Trees

by: Shaw Funami

It is the middle of January, now. It is getting to have some warm days that make us feel that spring is no longer far out. There are trees starting to grow buds. There are no leaves, yet. One can see lots of leaf buds on branch tops. Soon we will see some colorful lines on the small buds, which will eventually bloom into beautiful flowers. Trees will grow and regain young leaves.

Big trees look very strong. They open their thick and strong branches to the sky. They resemble strong and masculine men. In contrast, there is a tree which looks like a sensitive young woman. Willow trees are the ones which make us imagine women. There are willow trees everywhere in Tokyo. They seem to be prosperous in Asian countries. Because it looks weak and quiet, Japanese people used to believe that a ghost would always appear under a willow tree at night.

Are willow trees that weak? It looks weak and quiet for sure. However, they have fundamental strength that belongs the other side of the usual definition of strength. Usually, people would imagine firm, solid, thick, hard, big, heavy, or stable objects when they think about strength. It is like imagining a big and solid tree standing in a forest. On the other hand, softness, flexibility, elasticity, thinness, or lightness is supposed to belong to sensitive category. A willow tree would belong to this category. That is why willow trees carry a weak impression.

However, having equivalent functions as other big, hard, and masculine style trees, the willow tree's strength is different from others. While big trees with strong branches can be damaged by occasional strong winds like a hurricane or typhoon, it seems damages on willow trees are almost none. Their branches are thin and flexible. Their leaves are not thick or solid. They are blown by the winds and change positions with the direction of the wind. That is why they do not have any damage from strong wind.

Suppose a car hits a hard and solid tree branch hanging low on a street. The car will surely damage the branch hit. Now suppose willow branches are hanging low to the ground. The car would touch and swing their branches, but it would damage neither its branch nor its leaves. It teaches us a meaningful definition of strength. They are strong because they are thin, flexible, and light.

There are martial arts which use this theory of strength. Tai-chi, Judo, and Aiki are the ones. Masters of these fighting arts do not take on their opponents attack. They do not counter powerful attacks. When their opponents push, they pull. If their opponents pull, they follow to push. As soon as they find their enemy has over-pushed or pulled, they will apply their force to the same direction as their enemy to break his balance. This is the essence and mechanism of why smaller, thinner, and less powerful people can defeat big, masculine, and more powerful people.