The Relinquishing of Old Certainties

How certain are you about how you move and why?  Not at all?  A little bit?

One group of students are very certain.  This group have been taught to do something very specific – and then worked really hard at it for a long time.  It usually contains musicians, dancers, sportsmen & women, martial arts experts and so on; people who have invested a lot of time and emotional energy in their chosen activity.

This group have Old Certainties.

The trouble with these Old Certainties is, often, they haven’t been thought through very carefully.   They are repeated, parrot fashion, from generation to generation of student and teacher.  No-one ever stops to ask why, or to reason it through.  No-one checks the basic anatomy is correct.  No-one asks what damage it’s doing in the process.

And sometimes these certainties are very damaging indeed.  At best, they are holding the student back.  At worst they are aggravating major pains and injuries.

It’s a hard thing to face.   Alexander talks of ‘painful dissections’ (*).   If this sounds like an exaggeration, check out a recent blog by my colleague Jen Mackerras.  She wrote a great article dispelling some myths about belly breathing (**), and stirred up a right hullaballoo.

Sometimes, even the rock-hard certainties are stopping you being as good as you could be.  The only way forward is to relinquish those old certainties, and try a different approach.  In the words of FM Alexander:

It behoves every individual to stop … and reconsider every particle of supposed knowledge … and ask himself the plain, straightforward question, “Why do I believe these things?” “By what process of reasoning did I arrive at these conclusions?”(***)

It takes courage and determination to relinquish old certainties and move on.

(*) “Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual”, FM Alexander, IRDEAT edition p.295
 (**) Why belly breathing is Bunkum – it’s a great article for all musicians and athletes.   Most comments appeared on Facebook.
(***) “Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual”, FM Alexander, IRDEAT edition p.268

CNHC and ITM registered Alexander Technique teacher.

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2 comments on “The Relinquishing of Old Certainties
  1. Adrian Bourner says:

    Yup – there’s a very strong ‘tradition’ in T’ai Chi (and in other Martial arts) that one should ‘tuck the pelvis under’ whilst playing The Form (I wonder if that’s where Pilates inherited it from?). I’ve never met a T’ai Chi teacher who had any better rationale for it than ‘my teacher taught me to’.

  2. Hi Adrian,
    That’s a great example. I’ve come across the same thing in dancers who “pull the bottom in”. No-one ever seems to realise that this movement also pulls the legs back – pretty counterproductive when you’re doing something that involves lots of stepping, kicking, and generally lifting the legs forward. Talk about opposing forces! The question that intrigues me – are you still tucking your pelvis under, or have you relinquished that particular certainty?

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