Resilience Rooted in Martial Arts: Lessons from the Poem ‘Good Timber

Occasionally, a piece of literature strikes a deep, resonant chord, transforming your perspective and amplifying your understanding of life. For me, it was the insightful poem ‘Good Timber’ by Douglas Malloch. As I immersed myself in the riveting verses, I found a profound connection between the poem’s central theme and the transformative principles I learned in martial arts.

‘Good Timber’ beautifully illustrates the growth of trees and men through struggle. A tree that basks in ample sunlight and rain, never grappling with harsh elements, remains a “scrubby thing.” Likewise, a man who has yet to taste the grit of toil or the necessity of hard-earned sustenance remains unrefined, undeveloped. This principle of growth through struggle is uncanny to the journey every martial artist or warrior undertakes.

Within the confines of a martial arts academy, the mat becomes an arena of personal evolution. The intensity of practice, the constant push against one’s limitations, can feel like being a tree under the onslaught of a storm. Yet, as the poem implies, “the stronger wind, the stronger trees.”
Like the hard-fought battle for sunlight, air, and water that trees endure, martial arts compel us to confront our weaknesses, fears, and comfort zones. In this confrontation, we grow – not despite the pressure but because of it. The struggles faced on the mat, the hours of grueling practice, and the relentless push toward perfection mirror the trials the poem illustrates.

Malloch’s line, “The more the storm, the more the strength,” embodies the martial artist’s creed. Just as the strongest and tallest trees emerge from the densest forests, weathered by countless storms, martial artists grow in resilience and strength through continual trials.
Much like the patriarchs of the forest, the seasoned martial artist proudly bears the marks of their struggles. Each scar, each bruised knuckle, or strained muscle stands testament to the battles overcome and the growth earned.

The poem and my martial arts journey taught me the value of endurance and persistence. The common law of life, as Malloch beautifully puts it, is that the journey toward growth is often paved with trials. However, these trials are not hindrances but catalysts that transform the raw potential into refined strength.
“Good Timber” speaks to everyone who has experienced the transformative power of struggle, but it resonates on a different frequency for a warrior. It encapsulates our journey, affirming that the pressure on the mat is the crucible in which we forge our strength and resilience.
For those of you who find yourself in the eye of the storm, whether on the mat or elsewhere in life, remember the lesson of ‘Good Timber’. The storm is not an obstacle; it’s the vehicle of your transformation.

“The tree that never had to fight For sun and sky and air and light, But stood out in the open plain And always got its share of rain, Never became a forest king But lived and died a scrubby thing.
The man who never had to toil To gain and farm his patch of soil, Who never had to win his share Of sun and sky and light and air, Never became a manly man But lived and died as he began.
Good timber does not grow with ease: The stronger wind, the stronger trees; The further sky, the greater length; The more the storm, the more the strength.
By sun and cold, by rain and snow, In trees and men good timbers grow. Where thickest lies the forest growth, We find the patriarchs of both.
And they hold counsel with the stars Whose broken branches show the scars Of many winds and much of strife. This is the common law of life.”

Douglas Malloch

As a highly experienced coach, Alan Baker specializes in guiding individuals on their journey toward personal and professional excellence. With his deep understanding of the human potential and a passion for unlocking greatness, Alan empowers his clients to overcome challenges, cultivate resilience, and tap into their hidden talents.
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