Class opened with a general warm-up moving into balance studies. Our system--the human body--is constantly refreshing its balance as minute toe, ankle, knee and hip adjustments keep us from falling. But consider what happens when you are pushed or bumped: Larger compensatory actions kick into gear: arms swing wildly, hips and/or legs jut revealing our strategic preferences for problem-solving. How do these underlying habitual patterns interfere with or aid intentional movement?
Balance studies began with standing on one leg on a firm surface, on a soft surface, with eyes open and then closed. Our effort was to notice the “physical thinking” taking place that allows us to maintain our balance as conditions vary.
Our studies moved a step further as we attempted to balance on an unstable block. In addition to the added level of difficulty, fear became a factor as losing one’s balance had more serious repercussion: a greater fall. Twisting torsos, windmilling arms, hip dances—all combined in automatic action as students tried to keep their center of gravity in adequate relation to their feet.
We then addressed the emotion involved in our experience of being off balance by purposely falling backward off a still taller block into the waiting arms of classmates. For some, the activity was little more than an impromptu amusement ride. But for others the very idea of falling backward was enough to trigger all kinds of body signals, from giggling to subtle trembling to the quick action of hip flexors in a self-protecting sitting response.
Our final experiment was the Olympic Stumbling Competition: a controlled and rated fall down a long and padded incline—an exercise that proved surprisingly difficult as students worked to play the line between maintenance and a loss balance.
Our experimentation illustrated a key aspect of Physical Intelligence: one’s sense of balance. Paying attention to often ignored but fundamental sensations allowed us to tap our own physical system/experience as a means of revealing some of the assumptions and patterns that form the underpinnings of all other movement.
The second portion of class involved looking at progress on student projects. After last week's assessment of the “rough sketch” mock-ups, students were expected to bring their developing prototypes several steps further. Specific areas for problem-solving through analysis and hands-on experimentation were suggested. Designs will have to be more clearly defined and engineered for next week's peer review.