Smart monkeys and hi-viz ninjas

In this post I would like to tell you the story behind the two graphics you will see at the end of treemagineers’ Powerpoint presentations.

For one there is the smart monkey…

Smart Monkey
Smart Monkey

This one goes back to the first presentations and the Pocket Guide for Arborists.

I have always believed that as climbers we are an essential voice in making our work places safer, more ergonomic and efficient. Solutions dictated from a desk by an employer or a health and safety or government organisation will often be an unhappy and clunky compromise or coming from an angle that focuses less on practicability in the field.

This is one of the reasons that I objected to the way that tree climbing comps were run ten years ago, which had a touch of a circus with people coming to see the trained monkey performing. Luckily this has changed with the format evolving and also due to climber involvement in the organising and running the competitions.

Having said that I believe that it is important that as a tribe within arboriculture we find means to articulate ourselves and to be coherent and eloquent in expressing our needs and visions.

So, in a tongue in cheek fashion, that is what the monkey is saying: If we are going to be monkeys, let’s at least make sure that we are smart monkeys!

The other one it the Hi-Viz Ninja….

This one goes back to the Historical Development of Tree Climbing Techniques presentation. One image I used in that was the Hokusai print shown below that depicts one of his views of Mount Fuji with three men working on a tree, using natural fibre ropes and axes in the foreground. On my first trip to Japan last year, someone pointed out that judging by their clothing the men in the image belong to a people in western Japan called the Sky People (I would like to apologize in advance for any mistakes I make in the telling of this story, certainly they are then truly mine and not those of the generous people in Japan who were kind enough to share these stories with me).

Hokusai, Views of Mount Fuji
Hokusai, View of Mount Fuji

This group traditionally did all work at height involving difficult access, for example on cliffs, construction sites or tree work. Also, it’s the group from which Ninjas were recruited. Which I thought was so cool, because that makes every arborist a little bit of a ninja!

When I returned to Japan this year I was interested in finding out more about these Sky People… A ninja or shinobi was a covert agent or mercenary in feudal Japan. They specialized in espionage, sabotage, infiltration, and assassination – and unlike the romanticized version we have of ninjas in the West today, without a doubt influenced by films and popular culture, their standing within society was not very high, partly because whilst the tasks they were performing were seen as a necessary evil, it was not exactly the stuff of epics or very glorious – unlike the samurai, who had very strict rules regarding combat and honor.

After a high period as mercenaries and covert agents in the 15th–17th centuries, where they took part in numerous campaigns, they faded into obscurity and poplar imagination after the unification of Japan under the Tokugawa shogunate. This meant that the ex-ninjas needed to find a new means of employment. In due course they became known as the Sorashi, or the Sky People, putting their skills to work to perform tasks in difficult locations at height.

So. As I said above, that makes us all a little bit of a ninja – albeit maybe in a hi-viz vest.

Hi-Viz Ninja
Hi-Viz Ninja

So there you go, now you will know – should you attend a treemagineers workshop or event  – when we get to the end of a Powerpoint presentation what the monkey and the ninja are doing on the final slide.