‘Movement’ is our subject and our study. It is the gross umbrella under which every element of our investigation concerns itself, whether through physical, intellectual, or spiritual paths. Movement is all encompassing; there can be no ‘outside’, as it cannot be contained.
Movement is the very nature and underlying condition of our experience. Whilst tempting to synonymise it with Life, this would also be reductive. Life, as well as death, are major movement aspects, but aspects nonetheless.
For the sake of rudimentary clarity, examples of other efforts to theorise this condition are Qi, Ki, Prana, Dao, Logos/Flux, Will, and Energy.
Movement can only be experienced. As an experience, it is necessarily objective. Therefore, any attempt to concretely define ‘Movement’ – whether for a convenient point of reference or perhaps an end-word – should be avoided. It negates the nature of the subject itself (objective experience) – it becomes denatured.
Movement cannot be reduced. Just as Science, Religion, and Philosophy are an interpretation – a filter – of ‘Life’, any attempt to replace the term ‘Movement’ with another would produce at best a mis-leading representation, a synthesis, an opinion, an aspect; a part cannot represent the whole.
We should apply this critical perspective whenever dealing with definition.
We can, however, describe our experience. Our every action, reaction, and refraction is a representation of our movement experience. Everything I produce related to this subject is a synthesis and presentation of my own experience.
[Movement] is a fluid term which involves an interplay between both involuntary/inarticulateand voluntary/articulate movement.
- ‘Voluntary’: intentional movements thought and articulated. Characterised by awareness, deliberation, and conscious control.
- ‘Involuntary’: as well as relating to our autonomic nervous systems, this also includes our habitual daily movement patterns (sitting, walking, standing, navigating our environment).
Our ‘perspective’ is the filter through which we comprehend our selves, the world & beings around us, and our position within and in relation to this world. All experience is filtered through our perspective and translated into an understanding. Our perspective/s are not fixed, and therefore our understandings also change. Our understanding is the basis of our logic and expression.
A ‘Movement Perspective’ is a perception of one’s existence from the departure point of ‘Movement‘ as it’s irreducible condition. As such, it will both affect and determine your actions, reactions, and refractions of your experience. It will inform not only any current or prospective physical, spiritual, or intellectual practice, but also self & social conduct, experiential & educational orientation, and ethical and ecological outlook.
The term ‘movement perspective’ is, again, not a fixed or exclusive term. It is neither a category or school of thought, nor a method or system of thinking. It is rather an understanding, whether expressed through movement-oriented terms or others – that movement is an irreducible condition of experience and existence.
Whilst developing your movement perspective does not require a physical practice, without one there would be imbalance; although generally considered intellectual properties, research, theorization, and calculation are too (no less and no more) facets of physical practice. Further, there are experiences accessible only through the body, and those unique to the mind.
This is by no means an isolated phenomenon.
Your physical practice need not be oriented toward developing your generalist movement potential to inform your movement perspective. Consider, however, that your physical practice carries extremely high potentiality to affect your perspective, and vice-versa.
A simple summary of the cycle: your physical practice informs your perspective and your perspective informs your physical practice in return. They do, therefore, reflect and refract each other.
Hold reconciling your physical practice and perspective in high priority.
A Movement Practice is a self-directed effort to develop qualitatively in relation to one’s movement perspective. It is, therefore, both an inward and outward exploration characterised by process, exploration, and growth. It is the manifestation and embodiment of your philosophy of Movement.
Whilst a dedicated physical practice has the potential to deeply affect and inform your movement practice (Movement is a subject most immediately experienced throughout the vessel of the body), it is neither an integral nor necessary aspect of a movement practice. Even a physical practice solely directed at developing generalist movement potential (as opposed to within the context of a specific discipline or sport) remains a purely physical practice if it is not used to inform something beyond itself.
Due to the nature of the subject, one’s Movement Practice will always be in flux; changing from influence to influence, experience to experience, changing with locations, conditions, interests, moods, age, and uncountable other factors.
As a personal practice, no two Movement Practices will look the same. Whilst some may value travel as a method to develop connection to and understanding of Movement, others may be more inclined to pick up a book or write an article. Some may find a greater understanding of Movement through intellectual pathways, others may grow from emotive experiences, others perhaps from sensual exploration and experimentation.
Whether your movement practice is characteristically more outward (perhaps with a focus on developing meaningful social relationships) or inward (whether toward personal development or more spiritual orientations), there is no “correct” or “incorrect” Movement Practice. All that defines it is the ultimate relationship of these efforts with one’s Movement Perspective. And that is, as always, at the discretion of the individual.
This should always be remembered.
An individual’s deliberate and consistent effort to develop specific motor skills and patterns or general physical experience in adherence to a given objective context and/or subjective effort. Whilst most easily associated with sports and disciplines, physical practice is ultimately directed and defined at the discretion of the individual.
Physical practice is often most clear in disciplines whose desired output directly reflects (or is in some cases synonymous with) that practice. The physical practice is both of and for itself: consider the dancing of a dancer, the boxing of a boxer, the surfing of a surfer, the climbing of a climber, the lifting of a weightlifter. The physical practice highly reflects their discipline.
In other cases, the physical practice is simply a support for or facilitator of the discipline. In terms of ‘a support for’: a dancer, surfer, or climber may use weight-training as part of their physical practice, but the weight training is not of and for itself. Its function is to support their discipline at large. In terms of ‘a facilitator of’: consider the bodybuilder whose practice, although largely characterised by resistance training, is simply a facilitator for muscular hypertrophy.
Moving into more grey areas, the physical practice of a guitar player can be characterised by finger independence & coordination, tactile sensitivity, timing & rhythmicality, however the physical practice does not characterise the goal: the goal is to play good music, not simply train these individual attributes. A chef practices a variety of movement patterns which continually improve with practice, however the goal is not to become better at wielding a knife or working with edibles, but rather to cook creative and good tasting food.
In order to define more intently, I propose that ‘physical practice’ is highly determined by the context and efforts of the individual. I might enjoy walking for long distances and consider this nothing more than a pleasure, whereas another might define this as the physical practice of a hiker. I may be paid to lift heavy weights and exert a lot of energy as part of my job – another person will pay to lift heavy weights and exert a lot of energy and define it as their physical practice.
Consider these viewpoints carefully when positioning physical practice in relation to a ‘Movement Practice’. Physical practice is an aspect, and as such should not be weighted too heavily. If you are unsure of this separation, simply as yourself the question: “if I had no physical practice at all, would I still have a movement practice? If the answer is no, then you are perhaps too heavily invested in physical practice and could benefit from dedicating time to explore other movement aspects such as music, travel, cooking, or social relationships.
This should be reflected on deeply.
[Attributes, Skills, & Qualities]
These terms relate to the progressive development of a physical practice, although they can also be applied to a movement practice at large. Their function is not simply to categorise, but rather propose different perspectives through which we can interpret, focus, and develop aspects of our practice. They provide a convenient frame within which to organise your current physical practice or place new elements as they come, as well as the opportunity to come equipped with an appropriate mentality and methodology for the task at hand.
I must emphasise that no movement innately belongs to any of these categories, but is dependent on the practitioner and their practice (we will see later how the separation between ‘attributes’ and ‘skills’ is more permeable than exclusive). The human body adapts to both the absence and presence of stresses and in the initial stages of learning any new movement pattern, attributes are weighed upon greatly as our body works hard to find the most efficient (less demanding) pattern. This is the case even if the goal of the movement is not the development of attributes; consider how learning the guitar can create fatigue in the hand and learning to speak a new language an aching in the muscles of the jaw. Fatigue (and it’s ‘side-effects’ on attributes) is part of the process of building our cortical map. These categories, therefore, are to be applied at the individual’s discretion. Consider the following a limited conceptualisation of this triad extended into sub-aspects (further divisible):
Attributes (physical POTENTIAL of the body). As a visualisation, consider the amino acids of a protein profile. Some proteins are incomplete with deficiencies in certain amino acids, whereas others are more complete. We want to develop the most complete ‘profile’ as possible with a focus on TRANSFERABILITY and POTENTIAL. Attributes such as:
Skills (the ability to do a defined task well). In the early stages of skills development, the skill will be weighed heavily by the necessity to develop particular attributes in order to make the skill achievable. Skills such as:
- Riding a bicycle
- A kick-flip (skateboarding)
Qualities (developmental aspects of movement on the character & mindset). These qualities often develop without our knowing, however by bringing awareness to them and viewing them as objective tools means we can hone and apply them elsewhere: they become transferrable. Whilst often attained throughout the journey of achieving a skill, the mindset can be taken to the acquisition of new skills in turn. Transferrable qualities worth noting are:
- Patience & acceptance
- Awareness & reflection
- Diligence & work ethic
- Stress & frustration management
As these terms are entirely permeable, we can cast a different perspective on the same movement allowing us to draw out further experience and learning where, from another perspective, it may have already “dried up”. Here is a case study in the form of the skill, ‘handstand’:
The handstand is fundamentally a skill. It requires the ability to perform a huge amount of tasks simultaneously and correctly. In the beginning, however, it is weighed on heavily by the necessity to develop certain physical attributes. This will happen as a ‘side-effect’ of the training progression, but we can also adopt a more Attribute-based perspective to focus on developing necessary strength or mobility to assist the process. On the flip-side, if I were concerned with developing shoulder mobility and stability (attributes), I might consider using the progressive skill ‘handstand’ as a framework within which to contextualise those developments. As strength and mobility attributes improve, this will coincide in developments of what we term ‘balance’ and, under the conditions of balance, specific developments in bodily coordination too.
Throughout this process a variety of Qualities have been at play, expressing themselves in varying degrees at different stages of the process. A growing awareness of the body, understanding of the skill, reflection on previous mistakes, a development of patience and, with this, a growing investment in the process rather than the goal: de-ambitioning.
Once I gain mastery of the handstand, Attributes become a diminishing return. I have already developed the required attributes to sustain the skill and so I can choose to progress laterally or linearly. Perhaps I progress linearly – I begin playing with looseness of the body instead of rigidity and find that I am almost a beginner again. Now, I call upon the Qualities perspective, I apply my Awareness, Patience, and Frustration management to assist me on my new journey: I develop tools for my practice, rather than tools for the sake of tools. Perhaps I progress linearly toward the 1-arm handstand and find myself lacking in shoulder stability. I take the Attributes perspective and apply (and develop) the concepts and methodology I use for the Attribute ‘Stability’ and any others that I may require to progress on my journey.
Take these perspectives as frameworks alone. Apply them to your practice as you see them beneficial.