From the time we're born - perhaps even before then - we are playing with motion. We move around for the joy and experience of movement. We walk, skip, run, hop, crawl, dance, climb and wiggle our way around exploring our environment and figuring out what muscles and joints and fascia feel like. We map out our bodies as we map out our world.
But then a funny thing happens as we get older. Funny curious - not funny "ha ha." About the time we hit puberty, we begin slowing down and trying to look cool and conserve energy and be efficient and not sweat and this insidious thing happens - we begin to forget what our muscles and joints feel like when they move - and then after a while, without even realizing it, we have forgotten that some kinds of motion are possible. And after a while of thinking that a motor skill is impossible, we become correct.
Therapist, Thomas Hanna calls this phenomenon Sensorimotor amnesia, and he attributes a lot of somatic dysfunction to it - see this interesting book about Hanna Somatics ...
We can find lots of examples of this sensorimotor amnesia in our physical practices. For instance, learning a kata the instructor tells us, "take one sliding step forward and end up in a heel-toe stance with upright posture," and we do that and the instructor stops you and tells you to look at your poture and sure enough you are all over the place. You thought you were stepping just so far and putting your feet just so, but your feet end up shorter or farther and turned in strange angles, posture distorted randomly.
It takes some time to figure out how to step one step forward, end up in heel-toe stance with upright posture, because we either never knew we could do that or we've forgotten. Sensorimotor amnesia strikes again.
So, how do you beat that insidious forgetting process? Here's a trick I call The Leprosy Check.
I read somewhere that healthcare folks that worked with lepers back in the day would advise them to make a self-check every few steps. That is, every ten steps or so, they would stop and check to see if they'd knocked up against something and damaged themselves.
When I read that I must have just been reading Hanna Somatics because I immediately thought, "Shoot, we all behave like lepers as we progressively become more and more insensitive to our own bodies."
So I figured a Leprosy Check might help us in our physical practices too - For at least the first few (hundred) reps of a new technique or kata or etc... put a pause in between each step. Pause long enough between each step to figure out if you are in the position you should be in, and to fix anything that is wrong - then do the next step followed by another Leprosy Check.
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