All skills are the same skill.

June 6, 2018

 

 

Some years back, there were two distinct skills that I wanted to improve; my sea-kayaking and my salsa dancing. I even had a particular daydream about circumnavigating Cuba; kayaking in the day and dancing at night.

 

Critically, though, I saw these skills as quite separate things. I saw their improvement as a kind of technical refinement that would take me in two very different directions.

 

Then I started Alexander Technique and came to realise that sea kayaking, salsa dancing and a range of other things are actually different aspects of the same thing; the manifestation of use of the body (and therefore of the mind).

 

Experience had already provided some evidence in this direction.

 

'Rolling' a kayak is the technique of returning it to upright after it has turned upside-down (while still sitting in it, of course). One learns quite quickly that one of the factors involved is allowing your head to come up last. Not easy if you are in a hurry to breathe.

 

'Dipping' a dance partner is inviting the lady to lean back beyond her point of balance so that she is relying on you to keep her off the floor. One learns quite quickly that she will come back to upright much more readily if she allows her head to trail behind her body. Not easy if she is in a hurry to get back to standing.

 

There were other similarities too; like how the torso rotation that is the key to effective forward paddling of the kayak is much the same action as the shoulder-shimmy in dance.

 

The more I looked, the more I saw. Kayaking was actually dancing while sitting in a boat and holding a paddle. And dancing was kayaking without having either!

 

This revelation meant that I could practice, and enjoy, sea-kayaking and dancing all the time

 

 

So, instead of technical improvements in different skills just branching off in diverse directions, I now saw that those lines also led back to a common intersection. All those lines met up in an area of fundamental importance; awareness, and therefore control of what the body was doing.

 

'Fine-tuning' is a waste of time without that core competence. It would be like, as the saying goes; "measuring with a micrometre, marking with chalk and cutting with an axe".

 

I have therefore found that Alexander Technique is a kind of pre-Technique. In an ideal world, its what people would learn before the learned how to kayak or dance or whatever. Those overt skills are the fine-tuning that comes after the more covert fundamentals.

Conversely, experience of teaching Alexander Technique principles aids in the coaching of activities that the coach herself might be singularly unable to perform.  Vivien Mackie, an Alexander Technique and cellist of International reputation, gives an example of this in the attached video. In it she describes how she successfully coached a tennis player by teaching him the fundamentals; in fact, things so fundamental that some might not event regard them as part of tennis coaching.

I'll have to ask her to have a look at my sea-kayaking!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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