Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Range of Movement

In every field, the individual with the greatest range of articulation, expression and movement, will stand out from the others. In fact, when a new prodigy comes along who is an exception even among the exceptional, the impulse from the organizers of the competition/event, is to disqualify their participation rather than honor it. They are likely to say, “That move ought to be illegal -- because nobody else can do it, and how can we have a fair competition if everybody can’t compete on the same level -- by being able to do it?” Thus they circumscribe the range of possibilities, and proclaim within those familiar parameters, that they have determined the greatest -- because of their preconceived idea of what that ultimate possibility can, and should be.

That is frequently the problem now when we watch the erratic judging at the Olympics and there is a great controversy on one performance. Some judges will proclaim, “You can’t do that.” When challenged why, they will even more emphatically proclaim, “Because you can’t possibly do that.” Meanwhile, the coach of the perplexed and disappointed competitor will insist, “But she just did.” Denial is not only possible at the highest levels of expertise but is actually quite predictable because of their unshakeable belief in their “expertise.” That’s always been the common reaction whenever something new has come into being. The new information so violates everything one has thought to be true in this world, that he is more apt to deny or ignore one new experience rather than disrupt the whole lifetime of familiar experience and expectations.

One is not conditioned to recognize the new -- but only to accept the old as though it were the new, being discovered for the first time, just as Galileo, Copernicus, Newton did. But that is not the same as discovering the new as the new, freshly. That concept is critically important in being in the shape one hasn’t been before. He has to break new ground for himself. It sounds like a tremendously ambitious undertaking but it’s not; it is merely thinking the unthinkable -- moving through the range one hasn’t moved before.

In observing many people in their fitness programs, despite the great pains and effort they make to convey their purpose and objectives, what has always struck me about the grossly out of shape, is how little they exhibit movement at the wrist, ankles and neck. That such movement is even possible, doesn’t seem to have entered their realm of possibility -- but it is the range of movement at those joints, that is the most productive and predictive of the well-conditioned body. Making a fist, and then bending that fist at the wrist as acutely as possible and trying to extend that range beyond the movement obtained before, is the most instructive example of muscle contraction -- at a joint which is most productive and safe to do so.

The shocking realization is that rather than requiring weights or resistance to achieve that effect, the farther one moves at that joint, the greater the resistance the contraction produces to further contraction. The same is true with all the muscles of the body. The greatest contraction is not caused by the greatest amount of resistance used but by knowing in what extreme range of movement requires the muscle to be fully contracted. That contraction -- shapes the body.


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