Sheep-jutsu and the man of granite

John had been a farmer  for his entire adult life (John’s name has been changed).

His hands were like concrete shovels, his arms and back were like rock, and his face looked like weathered granite. He was pleasant to chat to, polite, and always jovial, even though his life at that point wasn’t much fun for him.

He had come to see me because he had a really bad lower back ache. It was constant. However, he said to me, “if you can just fix my shoulder that would be good enough, as with the sheep shearing season about to start I at least need to be able grab a hold of the sheep, and at the moment I’m not sure I could even manage that.”

He went on to explain that for the last five years his right shoulder, I think it was the right, would cease up after the shearing season had finished, but this year he didn’t even feel he would have the ability to start the season, let alone get through it. 

Now, I could have just fixed his shoulder and his back and sent him on his way. However, I knew that the real fix for his shoulder lay in the technique he used to shear the sheep. However, how was I, an Englishman on a small island off Scotland, having never even touched a sheep, and quite frankly glad for the situation, going to tell a farmer of maybe 50 years that he was shearing sheep wrong.

So I didn’t. Instead, I taught him the essence of martial arts. 

Basic Taijutsu, as my Grandmaster would call it. Natural body movement. Or to be exact, natural body movement of the warrior spirit.

He got it perfectly. He understood the natural laws of balance and nature in life to see that using your entire body, mind, and spirit effectively and efficiently was a better option than using just your right arm and shoulder to heft a beast of that size into a position that it didn’t want to be in to be sheared of all its wool. I doubt there was one of those sheep that got away from John, but collectively they were destroying his back and shoulder.

I fixed his shoulder and back and after the shearing season had finished his shoulder was still good. He said shearing was much easier, quicker, and the sheep seemed more relaxed. 

However, going back to the period of time that I treated him, he did return the next week because his back had started to ache again. I had to fix it again a couple more times after that before I discovered the root cause of his back ache. I asked him how many pairs of wellington boots he owned and how long he had owned them. He smiled sheepishly in that proud way that men seem to display over an item of attire and said that he had worn the same trusty pair of wellies for the last five years.

I didn’t need to see those boots to know the soles and heels would have been well worn down to one side and would be acting like two large wedges placed unevenly underneath both of his feet. The structure of his ankles, knees, and hips would be destabilised and the weakest link in this arch like structure was his sacrum at the lower part of his back. The sacrum, which is the same shape as a keystone on a bridge and central to the integrity of an arch, also means sacred in latin as it is considered so important to the balance the body and its overall health.

John told me of a retired farmer who was the go to sage on all things farming who always said, “when you get a sore back, buy a new pair of boots”. When John replaced his boots his lower backache disappeared too.