“Don’t step, Just move”

Last weekend I was lucky enough to train with the Russian martial artist and systema master Vladimir Vasiliev alongside other teachers and students from all over the UK and even further afield. The workshop was looking at ‘the Structure of Systema’, for two days we practiced some of the fundamentals of the enigmatic martial art.

 

One of the most inspiring ideas for me came from a few words Vladimir said as we were working on walking relaxed centered way. He would demonstrate with a student in the middle of the hall, talk them through some of the Systema breathing principles and say “Okay, now move”. The first few times as the student began to walk he called them back, “No no, you took a step. Don’t step, just move”…

 

The confusion of trying to discern a difference between the two took me right back to working with my Alexander Technique teacher years ago. The situation and the wording was a little different, I was sat down and she told me to move my arm, rather than lifting my arm. Up and down my arm went, I can’t even remember whether or not I got her approval on moving it in the end, but I can remember the frustration of thinking “but I AM moving!” It seems a little clearer now perhaps, while walking circles round the hall last weekend I felt that a ‘step’ has a beginning and an end whereas to ‘move’ is flowing on continuously.

 

Towards the end of the weekend I was doing some light sparring with a trainee instructor at the club where I had recently begun training and something else came up that took me right back to the early days of my explorations into movement.

 

“I think lots of people are get too fixed on a particular goal” he said while throwing a jab that caught me gently round the jaw “you know, like, I want to hit them there or grab them like that, and that gets in the way of them being able to react”. F.M. Alexander may have called it ‘end gaining’ but the idea is the same, fixation on a goal can obstruct the effectiveness of movement in the face of an ever changing environment, “Don’t step, just move.”

 

For anyone who is curious I can fully recommend Systema training, the freeform drills are engaging, exploratory and a whole lot of fun. It’s added new depth and practical insight into movements I’ve been practicing for years, I’ve only been doing it a couple of weeks and I’m already hooked! And  likewise , even if you don’t train Systema, Vladamir Vasiliev is an inspiring teacher, sharing his skill with a great mixture of humour, humility and a contagious sense of enjoyment in what he does, go see him if you ever get the chance!

 

Sensing your skeleton

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Alot of body work, yoga and exercise largely focuses on the soft tissues of the body – stretching and strengthening the muscles, releasing the fascia and even massaging the internal organs. Whereas the bones, the underlying structure of the body often get less attention. They can be more difficult to sense, often deeper under the skin and often culturally considered inert, associated with death as opposed to the lively nature of flesh. An awareness of the skeleton however, in particular the joints and the blurry boundary between muscle, connective tissue and bone can have huge benefits for health and movement.

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A sense of place?

I sometimes think that one of the reasons the ecological destruction of this planet has been allowed to advance this far is that as a species we have become largely oblivious to the reality of the world around us. In fact maybe this ignorance could go beyond enabling the degradation of our habitat to being a driving force behind it. Read More

Our lost sense of self.

 

“Proprioception:- from Latin proprius, meaning “one’s own”, “individual”, and capio, capere, to take or grasp, is the sense of the relative position of neighbouring parts of the body and strength of effort being employed in movement” – Physiology of behaviour.

Despite not being in my word processor’s dictionary, proprioception is perhaps our most ever present sense – were you for some reason floating weightless in a pitch black, silent, dark and scentless chamber you would still be receiving constant sensory feedback from within your own body. We could not function without it and yet we take the fact that we can feel our own body’s internal movement very much for granted. Research is beginning to show however that some of us are much better at it than others. Also that some of us are much more adept at feeling some parts of our bodies than other parts, and that we can even lose this sense completely from some parts of our bodies. In fact most people today suffer from some degree from what Thomas Hanna called ‘sensory motor amnesia’ or the loss of the sense of what it is we are actually doing with ourselves. Read More

Where is my mind?

“Put your feet in the air and your head on the ground, try this trick and spin it, yeah? Your head will collapse… there’s nothing in it and you ask yourself ‘where is my mind?’” The Pixies.

 

Or even what is it for starters? The word we use stems from the old english gemynd meaning thought or memory. Today, however, the word has perhaps taken on more responsibility. In the Oxford dictionary mind is described as “The element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought.” To me the subtle but key part is that of the minds ability ‘to think, and to feel’.

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