The Mountain and the River

A long time ago, there was a great mountain.  It had been there for as long as time had been, unmoving and stoic, reaching high into the heavens. To look upon it was to gaze at strength and power, for who could ever move something so big as a mountain?

Far away at the other end of the valley stood another mountain, only it was a mountain of ice and not rock.  Now because the world was always changing, the mountain of ice  began to slowly melt, shedding pieces of itself as the air got warmer and the world was shrugging off another ice age.

After many years, the huge mountain of ice, and others like it, melted and formed huge lakes.  Many rivers of melted water fed into this lake, and as it began to grow larger and larger, it finally overflowed its banks.  At first it was just a trickle, but then more and more  rushed over the bank until a torrent of water was  rushing down the valley right towards the mountain of rock.

Now because the mountain was so hard and so strong, the water could not go through it, so it wound its way around the mountain instead.

After many many years, the water formed a mighty river, and because it did what water is supposed to do, the river flowed through the valley, around the mountain, and made its way to the sea far, far away.

Over time though, the water from the river slowly but surely wore away at the base of the mountain, and carved a cavern out of its base. After more years than anyone could remember, the river had gone right through the mountain and out the other side, in its relentless search for the sea.

But what had happened? Was the mountain not stronger than the water? Did the water defeat the mountain?


There was no argument between the mountain and the river.  The mountain did what mountains do – that is, stand majestic and powerful, unyielding  and unmoving, reaching towards the heavens.

The river, too, did what rivers always do – that is, flow towards the sea.

The river yielded to the power of the mountain, and the mountain too, yielded to the power of the river.

Though it appeared that there was a battle going on over who would be the stronger, there really was no battle at all; there was only harmony and balance as the mountain and the river danced together, yielding yet unyielding, powerful yet soft.

This is the true path of the martial arts; it is not about being the mountain, stoic and strong and unyielding in its power. Nor is it about being the river, rushing and pushing everything in its path. It is about being both, in balance and in harmony.

Too often in life we are convinced that we must be the mountain; never giving in, never yielding, standing strong and not taking anything from anybody, and our own egos become our “argument.”  How dare they do that to me! Who do they think they are treating me like that? I’m not going to stand for this!

Or perhaps you think life must be like the river – rushing noisily along, pushing everything in its path, and once again our own egos become the argument;  Get out of my way! I don’t have time for this! Who do you think you are?

Remember, there is no competition between the mountain and the river – they were merely doing what the creator meant them to do, yet they existed in harmony with one another, the hard and the soft, the Yin and the Yang, in spite of their great differences.

Now imagine the world if we could all live like that………


About Nick Lagrasta

Chief instructor, Classical Martial Arts Centre, Umaka Dojo, Shelburne Ontario
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