I’ve encountered so many ‘experts’ and methods that reduce what are the most natural and holistic aspects of our athleticism in an attempt to identify their component parts and so produce some kind of holy grail for understanding movement, when in actuality all that is required is to get out of our own way.
A huge clue can be found in the play of children. How the young of any species plays is an indicator, in movement terms, of what its body is meant to be doing as an adult. Lion cubs tussle and jump and stalk in preparation for hunting. Infant monkeys climb, balance and leap. Human children run, jump, climb, crawl, twist, bound and more. None of these young animals isolates any of these movements unnecessarily – they move holistically, naturally, seemingly chaotically but, eventually, gracefully, powerfully and masterfully. Good movement, after all, is more than the sum of its parts.
Only humans have a disconnect between their movement as children and their movement as adults. Gyms and limited training paradigms based on often limited sports science and reductionist approaches have us performing frankly odd and arbitrary movements over and over in a vain attempt to capture what cannot be captured. Most of it looks very far removed from the patterns built by our bodies during youthful play.
More Than The Sum Of Its Parts
Start by observing the movements of children at play: sprinting, vaulting, climbing, clambering, crawling, brawling… and all done without the need to programme the movements or use terms like ‘sagittal plane’ or ‘fascial lines’, and without the aid of complicated ‘functional’ tools, numbering systems or machines.
The movement of children arises from the need to accomplish tasks during their play; to get somewhere, or avoid something, or chase or escape someone. And that task-oriented movement develops the body and our movement in the most natural way.
Play needs to mature into training at some point, of course, just as lion cubs stop playing and start hunting. One cannot only play, though one must always find time to play. But if your training resembles the movements of children during wild play, you’re most likely doing something right.
And if you are actually capable of utilising the basic human motor skills that enable us to cover variable and challenging terrain – if you can run, jump, climb, vault, swing, drop and do all these ‘complex’ things without too much thought or a predilection for injury – then you know your training is working in the most fundamental sense: your body is performing its prime movement function.
And if you can’t – well, it’s probably time to stop deconstructing and start moving!
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