Saru Mo Ki Kara Ochiru literally means “even monkeys fall from trees”, and is a an example of karatedo in the kan’yōku (慣用句) category: an idiomatic phrase that draws heavily on symbolism. Because it is not four kanji in length, it is not a yojijukugo (四字熟語) — however, it is obviously allegorical in nature.
[Pronounced “sah-rah moe ki-kar oh-chee-roo”]
We are often reminded that not only is the world an imperfect place, but we, and everyone else in it, is also imperfect. Just like the most agile of monkeys, we too can make a misstep and fall from our personal trees.
And if even monkeys — the most agile of creatures — can fall from trees, then certainly we can make mistakes and be less-than-agile in our daily lives. In no place is this more true, in fact, than in our relationships with others.
Our personal trees are most often the relationships we have with our closest friends, relatives, co-workers, and of course, our partners in life. We are used to moving adeptly in our relationships, navigating the currents of friendship, love, and caring. Yet, despite our experience and our knowledge and — this must be stressed: our good heart and good intentions — we can sometimes fall out of the trees of our relationship.
When we make a wrong step or say the wrong thing — or even do the wrong thing — we are sometimes reluctant to admit this. Sometimes, in fact, we are reluctant to admit this to ourselves. We occasionally have difficulty recognizing our misstep and then taking corrective action as soon as its possible to do so. Yet, we must give ourselves permission to recognize that we too make mistakes, and making mistakes is a part of life. Rather than being so focused on making no mistakes at all, we should focus on making few mistakes, but recognizing them easily, and recovering quickly.
Of course, if it’s possible for us to fall out of trees, then certainly it is possible for those close to us to do so as well. We must accept that this is a possibility, and we must work hard to remember that just because the monkey has fallen from the tree, the monkey is still a monkey — as agile as ever — and the tree is still the tree — as green, and full of life, as ever. We must place ourselves in a position where we understand this, and can exercise the qualities of compassion and understanding that are hallmarks of our karatedo.