Movement Spectrum

I am a physiology, neuro, movement geek. I am a student of Physical Culture.

There are things (within physical culture) that I am good at, there are things that I am working on to get better at them, and there are things I either haven’t tried yet, or things I don’t care about enough to try.

After an off-line discussion with a friend about movement, I had a thought that I would try and write down some quick thoughts on “all things” movement.

First off, understand that this is far more a note to jot some ideas down than a Magna Carta. As I learn, re-learn, grow, un-learn and discard practices, tools, techniques, etc. I amend my thinking.

Secondly, understand that I am no movement “guru.” I have trained with a few over the years, and want nothing to do with any of that kind of thing.

So, onward into the breech…

Simplistically, there are three categories of movement: there is movement that you do alone (keep it PG-13!), movement done with a partner (PG-13 damn it!) and group movement (sigh…).

There are several types of approaches to movement: play, studious, progressive, segmented, flowing, and professional (as in, you get paid for it). All of these approaches can (and do) overlap. There are most probably other approaches I don’t know or haven’t really thought about. Remember, this is a note, a jot, not a manifesto.

There are a number of fields of movement study: martial, dance, gymnastics, group sportive, acrobatic, climbing, arboreal, locomotive, individual sportive, performance art, and about a humpty-gazillion more.

Environment plays a huge part in the types, ranges and “rules” of the play. The things you might do in a forest are going to be different than what you might do on a beach, in the water, on a cliff face, or in an urban setting. Though, as in most things, there will be cross-over.

A person can either be more of a generalist – in terms of study and acquisition, or a specialist. This line – from generalist on one end to specialist on the other is not two single points on a graph. It is a spectrum. Though to be fair, IMO, most people fall more on the specialist end than the generalist side.

As a student of movement, a person has to understand that most movement disciplines can take months, years, decades, or a lifetime of study to master. Also, that any specialization carries with it the chance of over-specialization, movement compensation and limitation.

A student of movement should also know that generalization, is, to a HUGE degree, a myth.

There is NO WAY possible to be a TRUE generalist, because the fields of “play” are simply too vast. A person might “master” a small handful of “tricks” from a few of the fields, but never the field itself – as that would make him a specialist. You want to master hand balancing? There are something like 30-50 different hand balances in yoga alone (maybe more). Now add in the hand balancing work of gymnastics. There will be a little crossover in places, but a lot of distinct movement. Now add in acrobatics. B-boy, or interpretive dance, etc. Get the picture?

Love grounded flow-locomotion? Unending possibilities. Now add in high-level rugby play. How much time for practice would you need to do both? And do them well?

From “generalist” to specialist is a spectrum with many stops and levels. Movement play is a matrix of possibility, interest, and commitment.

Personally, I love martial art, especially those of Judo, submission grappling, boxing and Muay Thai. I love flowing ground based locomotion, tumbling and yoga. I enjoy Olympic lifting, strength training, kettlebell play, basic gymnastics (ring and floor), basic Parkour. Though, while I enjoy and play them, I won’t claim any particular expertise with them.

In my youth I was a decent amateur fighter. I played baseball, volleyball, tennis, and some track events. But just because I did them in my past doesn’t mean that I am a volleyball player, a hurdler, or a javelin thrower now. And while I sprint, and am pretty fast – at 51 – I am nowhere near what I was at 16, 18, or 25. Same goes for fighting. I train, but no longer compete. I keep my skills as high as I can, but am coaching more now than banging away in a ring or cage.

I play with arm balances, and handstands, but, compared to a lot of the “big name movement gurus” I freely admit to being barely passible at them. And, realistically, and without ego, I most probably move better than 95% of the people in the world. The top 5% move like butter over a hot skillet.

And that’s okay. It is time and process. I am as good as the time I spend playing the movements. This should be obvious, but I’ll state it: the more time I spend, the better I am at those things. The inverse is also true. This will be true for you as well.

Which brings me to interest. I personally have an interest in combat sports, but no real interest in “traditional” martial arts – though I’ve played more than a few of them in my past. Upon occasion, I “dance,” but don’t have much interest in learning the nuance of jazz, modern, tap, ballet, or B-boy.

As I said before, I love ground-based, flow locomotion, but with a family, full time job, teaching schedule, etc. I only have limited access to teachers of say, Capoeria, Parkour, or Ginastica Natural. So, access also limits interest and thus the possibility of acquisition and mastery.

Interest – or lack of it – then plays a part in whether I am more of a generalist, or more of a specialist. As it will for you.

It’s relatively easy to be a specialist. In sport, look at powerlifting, olympic lifting, marathon or ultra running. In life, look at an office worker, lawyer, banker, or baker. And while a person can be more of a generalist, and there are examples from life, movement methods and sports with large palettes, no one can be a true generalist, no matter what is claimed.

Where are you on the spectrum?