The Wooden Hand is an abstruse name for an activity related to Arboriculture but you see in 2012 when I arrived in Japan I learnt that an organisation involved in ISA Japan had obtained the rights to certain words that described my professional life. Tree Worker, Tree Work, Arboriculture, Arborist (among others) had been absconded from my professional life and so too the beginnings of my identity. I was hamstrung in attempts to describe myself professionally. The common Japanese descriptor for those not involved with ISA Japan is tokushubasai, which translates as Special Cutting and the curious nature of using ropes to scale trees and ropes to cut them down felt apt at first, though as my own Japanese improved the nuance felt wrong, worse than Tree Surgeon even, perhaps more like Special Nurse, which relates to Arboriculture in no way shape or form. Am I a Special Nurse that does Special Cutting?
The Wooden Hand moniker felt like an uncomfortable wooden glove at first and when people asked me the concept behind it I couldn’t bring myself to give the whole meaning as it sounded bitter to go over and over about not being able to use normal descriptors, and it wasn’t until my friend Jin Kobayashi laughed and said that it was the Arborists equivalent of the gardeners expression Green Finger that it felt comfortable and funny.
The Wooden Hand is an attempt to connect Climbing Arborists to trees and the culture of Arboriculture and not only through the normal modes of rope technique and safety but in novel and creative ways. If I painted, then the tree is a canvas that I create on and within; though the tree is not the end of the story, that it grows within confines of natural laws allows a conservative yet radical approach to system and technical design.
The Wooden Hand ran a week long workshop in 2015, 2017 and will again this year. People gather from all over Japan and listen to a variety of subjects from male and female presenters and there is always one or two or three international guest speakers. This year Kevin Bingham will join us.
The Wooden Hand is indebted to our friend and fellow Arborist Robert Knott, who has deepened our physical understandings through a subject that we call Body Sense. Body Sense goes further into the intricacies of ‘technique’ than any standard training mode that I know of, it connects our spirits to our bodies and our bodies to the earth and creates the potential for powerful climbing interactions.
The Wooden Hand workshops have been graced and inspired by Arborists, Dancers, Aroma Artists, Photographers, Musicians and this year I will attempt to design a workshop that integrates all of these subjects at locations in Kihokuchou (Owase) in Mie prefecture. Mr Hayami has again agreed to let us use his FSC certified woodland and we will ask permission from Toyoura Shrine. These locations are coastal and the deep blue of the autumnal Pacific quite literally knock ones socks off. We are looking to use a third location this year next to the spectacular Choushi river.
The Wooden Hand is for Arborists, irregardless of affiliations.