Major Skill Chunks
I ain’t too bright. It’s been said that if something can’t be explained to a child, then its worth, heck, its existence, is questionable. I say Amen. Consider me that child.
And I say movement isn’t that complicated. In fact, here’s some groovy concepts to chew on…
1) Your body learns movement faster then your brain.
2) Your body wants to move. In more ways than your brain can imagine.
3) The body listens to the brain, even when the information is contrary to the body’s purpose. So sometimes the brain has to watch its mouth.
Too bad our brains work in many ways to jeopardize the body and what it is made for. One of those ways is to market movement and strength. Our brains seem to believe that to sell movement, we have to limit it and package it. Now this, in itself, isn’t always a bad thing. But then our brains crave a little validation. Suddenly we need to tell other brains that there should be no other options. Buy our package! The others don’t count. Recently this has been known as the Rippetoe ethic.
Or maybe the brain chooses a tool or program and simply ignores other options. Hey, we all have preferences for genres, and certain styles and gadgets can often dominate our attention. We can all be seduced by something amazing. Just keep an eye out for that dogma biting your assma. Dig what ya wanna dig, but let your stubbornness relax so some other forms of awesomeness might permeate its shield. A great deal of what you aren’t embracing might even support what you love.
The Holistic Athlete understands that movement is what the body, this glorious organic machine we’re all given, is for, and that the point of that movement is to form a relationship with mind, soul, planet and tribe. Without waxing profoundly (read: boringly) about the deeper processes of this relationship, join me, will ya, in exploring what our machines do. I’ve discussed the Bodytribe ideas of Movement Groups before, so now lets see the ultimate point of any of those movements. The skill groups of the body (although, in recent discussions, we might change the name to the Major Skill Chunks).
This isn’t new thought, but often the skill lists that already exist are long. I think MovNat is up to 13 skills (and dismisses a bunch of stuff as “unnatural.” Unnatural? All movement generated by the body is completely natural. It might not all be productive or safe or beneficial, but it is STILL our body, our organic machine.).
Too much for my tiny noggin. Keeping things simple, all physical movement can be thought of as 6 general categories, which we’ve discussed before (Push, Pull, Hips, Spine, Overhead, and of the optional Spice category). But these movements all exist to allow us to build our skills. In other words movements in themselves are simply tools for increasing skills, not skills themselves. And the 5 Foundation Skill categories are…
Stand: This takes care of movements of running, walking, carrying, overhead pressing… ya know. Where the body is upright, creating support, flux and stabilization from a standing, upright position (even if it is upside down).
Get up (formerly called ‘Sit’): The process of down to up or up to down, which might be the hinging and straightening of the knees and hips (if you guessed squatting, lunging, deadlift, etc… you win!), but also includes climbing… getting up or down off of something.
Fall: Oh, a brilliant category that is so often ignored. The skill of absorbing force. Landing, catching and, of course, actually falling. This might be the most forgotten category for adults. I recently had someone tell me that this category was superfluous because it was a muscle action, sometimes known as explosive or accelerated eccentric action, therefor not a skill. Not a skill? Two important things to consider… we all need to understand how to do it, and most folks can’t. Ask any marital arts instructor… I’ll bet they’ve got stories of how any beginner doesn’t know how to land or fall.
Crawl: These days this category gets press with the recent focus on ‘primal’ movements. But labeling movement ‘primal’ just seems like a fancy way of selling ‘human,’ but with connection to a different chronology. Again, that just gets too confusing. Ya wouldn’t tell an eight year old that crawling, rolling and tumbling are primal. To them, that’s just what the body does, among other things. Crawling, as a skill category, is getting connected to the ground using as many body parts as you can. If all the limbs are involved in connecting to the ground, it falls in this category. From very real crawling, to pushups and a handful of asanas.
Flow: Moving with grace and mastery. Your strength is not complete if it doesn’t lead to good movement patterns. Your mobility is lacking, no matter how great your range of motion becomes, if there is no quality and beauty in the movements. Many folks I’ve had the honor of working with find that breathing seems to be an important skill on its own. Absolutely. I’d put it under this Flow header.
Flow is where we start as humans, yet it is the skill we will spend the rest of our lives attempting to master.
Oh yes, I’m sure your adult brain is creating all sorts of additional categories (chunks) already (“what about throw?” “There’s always jumping”). I’ll bet they’ll fit nicely as a subcategory of any of these 5 Major Chunks. If that just chaps your hide, if you crave stats and heavy analysis and the days when you memorized everything Gary Gygax ever wrote, then by all means, create your massive, cross-referenced and complicated skill list. But this is simple human movement. In fact this list is how we learn movement from day one, although backwards than how I list it here. Here’s what I’m on about…
The Human Experience, Day One: Ya can’t do much. Heck, you don’t have fully formed knee caps. But as a little bundle of humanness you still crave discovering your place on this planet. Walking and talking are so far away as to be unreal, but you will still participate, damn it! Your arms and legs and fingers and toes and feet and hands will go anywhere they can… in there, over there, around there, up there.
We begin our quest to experience life with movement, but the only skill we have is Flow. Taking what freedom we have and going with it. Experimenting with space and filling up as much of it as we can with the little we’ve got. It is a big bummer that as we gain the potential for so many more movement discovery options, we actually limit ourselves into adulthood. Not the body’s choice, these limitations, by the way. And let’s remember that.
Half way through the first year: Knees in, Flow on and muscles forming, this big blue party fun ball called earth has more to offer us. So we add direction to our Flow. Hands and feet are now our own personal wheels, and baby, we’re going for a ride. What’s over there? Under here? Around that? Who are you? We can start answering these questions. Movement is knowledge, damn it!
But… what’s up there? Crawl, grab, pull, struggle… and Fall. This allows the muscles to strengthen, and our bodies begin to understand directional relationships even more. Movement is wisdom… and Strength!
75% through the first year: Falling was fun and all, but having a bit more reliance on these two chubby planks under our butt seems important. If we bend them, we can hang out in this upright, seated position for a while. In a few decades we’ll look back with envy at these mad Get up and squat skills, but for now we’re still trying to simply not fall over. And we’re beginning to dream of going somewhere on just 2 wheels instead of 4.
The first year ends with us in the upright boogie. Standing! Holy cow, have you seen what we accomplished in the first year? We’re up, and moving! Suck it, gravity. Who’s the boss now?
It has been said that we learn more in the first 2-3 years of life than we will the rest of our lives combined. Movement, and acquiring the strength to move, is not just a big part of that process… it IS that process. Movement is the tactile experience of the planet. Let’s not let that go to waste as our chronology (and sometimes waistband) expands. Move and learn.
Let’s expand on that. Move WELL and learn well. Move poorly and learn poorly. Move productively… well, you get the idea. Your lessons will reflect your movement choices. If we’re busy just to be busy, as is quite common in the fitness world right now, then the lessons are minimal. But movement with purpose, strength with intent…your humanness becomes defined. You Become, not just exist.
So many choices! Get moving. Are you a collection of movements only, or are your movements improving your Major Skill Chunks?