The Old Man was standing feet apart, low facing a block with a short log top side up sitting at it's center. He had his arms raised high over his head holding a two headed axe. He suddenly dropped his arms sending the axe head down straight through the log splitting it perfectly in two. He grabbed another, positioned the log and repeated. His technique was the same every time he chopped a log. Hands high, back straight, standing feet apart low. As he dropped the axe he would raise up slightly with his legs then down again just before chopping. Perfect.
The Dad saw The Boy watching The Old Man and called him over to another pile of logs. He made The Boy stand feet wide apart, legs bent low, back straight and handed him a heavy wooden axe handle with no axe head. The Dad positioned The Boy's arms and hands high over his head with the handle held high and said, "Hold this high just like this, watch The Old Man, but don't move until I come back." Then he walked away with The Boy standing low holding a headless axe handle over his head high, not moving.
The Old Man continued chopping wood, and The Boy did not move. His legs began burning. His arms were asleep. His feet tingled, but he did not move. The Old Man kept chopping. After a forever time The Dad returned and removed the handle from The Boys hands and helped him lower his arms. The Boy winced in pain. The Dad grabbed him by the shoulders and lifted him up on his feet, then caught him to keep The Boy from falling. He sat on a log with The Dad sitting next to him. "What was that?" The Boy asked.
"It's called Riding the Horse." The Dad replied, "Tomorrow we practice again."
In the Morning The Dad led The Boy to the pile of logs again and had The Boy touch his toes for another forever time, then had him stand again feet apart low with his back straight. This morning he handed him an axe handle with a heavy two headed axe head attached. He raised his arms high and placed the axe in his arms high over his head and said, "Don't move until I come back." And he walked away.
The Boy stood in this position with the axe high over head for another forever time. This time however he didn't suffer from as much pain as the day before, and his legs did not go to sleep. He just stood, hurting all over instead. The Dad returned and lowered his arms, stood him back up and said, "Later we chop wood." Then handed him a bologna sandwich from The Grandma's kitchen. It was tasty, then he washed it down with some water.
After The Boy had eaten some lunch and regained his limbs The Old Man, and The Dad took him to the wood pile. The wood pile was endless. It seemed to stretch out forever into a cavern of splinters and knots. The Boy can't remember how long this pile had been sitting here, only that it was part of the landscape. The Old Man said something to The Dad and The Dad spoke to The Boy, "I will explain, but you watch The Old Man and remember what you see, savvy?" The Boy nodded his affirmative.
As He watched The Old Man stand with his feet apart and raise an axe high over head, The Dad said, "This position is called Riding The Horse."
The Old Man then dropped his axe straight down chopping a small log perfectly in center, cutting it in two. "This is called, Chopping Wood." Said The Dad, "It is what the whole exercise is named after."
Then The Dad said, "Notice how when The Old Man begins his drop, the lower body and legs raise as the arms and upper body drop. This is the crest of a surfers wave ready to smash upon the rocks below." The Old Man chopped again, perfect. Two pieces.
"Are you ready for a demonstration Son?" Said The Dad. From out of the ether The Old Man produced a Katana, a Japanese sword, and tossed it to The Dad, who in one stroke unsheathed the sword raised it high and brought it down onto a log. This all happened in one smooth stroke. The log was now in two perfect pieces and the sword was back in it's scabbard. The Boy didn't even notice when or how that happened. "This is the reason we chop wood," said The Dad. The Old Man was clapping and laughing.
The Dad handed the axe to The Boy and said, "Chop wood." then walked away. The Old Man winked at The Boy and followed the Dad. The Boy began chopping.
Peace and Balance,