Thursday, June 16, 2005

Dialing It In

I’ve recently hit on a way of explaining fine-tuning movement that seems to work in class, so I’m trying to put down the analogy here in writing.

Imagine scales of measurement, such as meters, centimeters, millimeters. When we move our bodies, we have various different scales available to us to dial in the precision we desire.

Too many people only see movement as a single block, when in fact our bodies employ a sophisticated system of levers and counterbalances. Within an integrated whole there are subsets, specific aspects that can be accessed and addressed.

The first level is the macro. Imagine having a yardstick. These are large-scale movements that get you where you want to be using big levers and gears such as the legs and hips. These heavy-duty structural components are responsible for the overall position of your body; your alignment in the direction you are facing and your alignment with gravity.

Once in position you switch to the micro-measurement to dial it in precisely, going from yardstick to millimeters to implement smaller gears. The main control is the foot, which with small rotations pivoting from the ball or the heel can adjust weight transfer or open or close the gross angle of the hips. These shifts from the ground transmit to the whole body.

The waist is also a small gear set in the chain, using abdominal muscles to align the spine. This can be together with or sequential to the foot micro-alignment. The foot’s direction of alignment extends upward through the waist, our center, to control the upper torso.

The process of moving involves constant shifting of weight and balance, a weighting and unweighting of the left and right sides of the body. In Serrada, for example, we frequently use a forward weighted stance, which means our energy will be grounded through the front leg. This will be the result of positioning with our primary movers. Our fine-tuning adjustment will therefore come from the rear leg.

Rotating on the ball of the foot tends to widen one’s base whereas rotating on the heel narrows it. Using the ball also adds one more link to the energetic chain from the ground up, a small but significant difference.

Take a technique and walk through it, then think about what are the large movements and how the small ones interact. An analogy sometimes used is cracking a whip. Whips taper from thick to thin and the energy increases speed as it moves down in diameter. It is not purely sequential as many people think of it, however, because even as the tip of the whip cracks, it is still linked dynamically to a live, moving and responsive hand at the other end, not separate but integral.

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