From Old ATM Issues 2

FELDENKRAIS AND FALLING BY JEFF HALLER, PH.D

A fundamental principle of Feldenkrais’s theory is that movement performed well is reversible.

One concrete example that comes to mind is practicing tainohenko. One important point is to, after completing the turn and re-positioning the rear foot, keep the weight on the forward foot and not fall backward on to the rear foot. One consequence of keeping the weight forward is that the movement is more easily reversible (on the premise that correct aikido hanmi is not with the weight back on the rear foot).

Another interesting consideration is paired interactions that include uke fall according to gravity at some point, usually rotating, twisting, etc. during that fall. One way to look at reversibility in these cases is, how much of the movement by uke can be reversed i.e., in the movements “forward” and “rewinding”, how much can uke have control over? And with how little rigidity and effort?

The very end of shomen-uchi ikkyo, from about the time uke is on his knees to the time he is lying on his stomach: I notice that these days I don’t fall with a “whump” between these two points in time, and that when getting up, my feet and free hand are place on the mat such that I don’t need to re-position them in order to get back up. The absence of a “whump” seems to indicate I’m not totally or simply surrendering to gravity, and accordingly the lack of need to re-position those body parts in order to get up easily seems to indicate they are be used “well” when going down, as well as being useful when getting up.

The very beginning of shomen-uchi ikkyo, from the time both people’s handblades make contact to the time uke has re-positioned and is putting more weight on the back foot as well as uke’s head is pointing more horizontally than toward the ceiling: Again the absence of a “whump” (by that back foot) seems to correspond with a useful, viable positioning and lack of need to re-position in order to reverse the movement, which in this case is prompted by nage “releasing” or reversing his action also. What often seems to happen when the movement by uke is not done so well, is that the reversal ends up with uke’s arm being very compacted i.e., ending up being too close to nage and needing to bend the arm and/or ending up pressing into nage more than when they started. I wonder if this is caused by uke’s excessive or unattended amount of pressure/extension toward nage. On some rare occasions, uke seems to try to correct for this by extending the hand i.e., pushing once they’ve gotten into that position, as opposed to making an earlier adjustment of re-positioning their foot. So, this could also be caused by uke’s unattended positioning of their foot when receiving nage’s initial cut downward. The second most common “poor” reversal seems to be for uke to return to facing nage, more or less, but having the handblade palm down at around the height that nage had lowered it to. Uke seems be processing the reversal as two separate components: one is the returning to facing nage, the other is to deal with the position of the arm (and relatedly, the distance with nage).

It’s interesting to note that the more erect we are in our posture, the less stable we are in standing. This means that absolute freedom to move is freedom to fall in any direction with ease and grace.

This an interesting alternate way to phrase what Endo sensei often exhorts us to do: explore and come to know for ourselves what it is like to be unstable (as opposed to planting one’s feet wide) and the possibilities that arise, including the suppleness in the rest of the body that is more easily manifested and viable. I would add that these days it seems to come with the rub that one must concentrate and cultivate greater awareness concurrently with striving to carry and use one’s body that way. The possibilities that arise include awkward and other poor ways of using the body, in addition to various uses of distance and taking the interaction between oneself and nage on a different course (which then leads one to encounter the question, how to relate possibilities and suppleness with the kata, or other specific courses? and what is embodied in the kata i.e., what does one experience and gain from the kata?)

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