Mechanical advantage of prevention

rediscoverAikido, Alexander Technique, Learning process, Musician's health

In the previous post I started to discuss one of central elements that training with Alexander technique is aimed towards.  As a new Aikido practitioner (a practice that I started in 2012), my experience with the basics of fencing kata have been very effective in training for expansive and multilayered focus.  Aikido practice and the elements of fencing that help in learning the basic but continuously definable aspects also help to develop a quality of activity that is relational and wide focused as opposed to irrational and narrow focused.

Here are the basic elements in question:

  • Timing
  • Distance
  • Direction
  • Intention

Fencing holds a relationship to art and sport and the process of learning it requires certain specific objectives, rules and parameters.  The need for consistency in fencing is obvious, and in a parallel way, a certain level of consistency is also necessary in any creative practice.  There are objectives, rules, parameters, materials and frameworks that bring value to the creative process and learning them helps the practitioner give birth to new forms and frameworks for their expressive potential.

Continuing the fencing/Aikido analogy, both consistency and ‘unlimited creativity’ or ‘Takemusu Aiki’ share a central premiss.  This central premiss might present in a disconcerting way, or be full of paradoxes and instances for misunderstanding.  In words, this central premiss could be framed in the following way:

Although objectivity is a constructed illusion, the practice of aiming for a shared point-of-view can lead to vital improvements in the moment-by-moment creative skill of dissolving the negative products of the ‘subjective habit of mind’. 

And now is the right time to express something about Alexander technique’s place in building creative consistency and expressing this shared central premiss.  Let’s start with a simple definition that will shed light on the previous one:

The ‘subjective habit of mind’ can be expressed as a fixed point-of-view of our total potential and represents the sole difficulty in overcoming creative stumbling blocks, both physical and mental.

What Alexander technique can provide, at its essence, is a process of giving birth to consistency as we face an unknown experience of ourselves.

Having just expressed something partly esoteric about fencing/Aikido, consistency, creativity, Alexander technique and the nature of the paradox of entering into unfamiliar experiences willingly, I want to assert that my writings/practices are borne of growing experiences that are grounded in a concrete yet living practice of learning human movement efficiency and expansive attentional facility.  Not movement or attention.  Rather, movement within attention and attention within movement.

Just as with learning Aikido and especially as I move up to the humbling level of a ‘serious beginner’, Alexander technique learning can not end with esoteric adventures that are not physically expressible.  In learning and teaching Alexander technique without the use of hands/touch, similar elements as perviously mentioned are present:

  • Timing
  • Distance
  • Direction
  • Intention

All these elements are trainable, attainable, measurable and definable.  In fencing/Aikido the marital aspect is the driving force and in Alexander technique the conscious organisation and efficient facility of the mechanism of the torso in relation to breathing is the driving intention for the practice.

Both Aikido and Alexander technique are preventative practices.  They are also both creative practices that can be practiced with minimum cost by any person.  Do they hold remedial potential for mind and body? Perhaps.  I know of many instances where I was enlivened after Aikido practice or working on my own with simple movements/observations with Alexander technique.

The musician’s hand and breath

If the issue of use of hands and movement of body in relation to breath is central in making music, the same aspects are also trained in Alexander technique in a very practical way.  This practical way may not have been fully expressible by the time F.M. Alexander passed away, but the process of teaching or to put it more clearly a conscious process of teaching which in turn allows the learner to teach themselves combined with the new physiology of the late 20th century which differs greatly from the assumed physiology that is sadly still generally adhered to, a practical way can be practiced by musicians and creative people for the prevention of work related injury.

What are the means?

In the 1932 lectures of Anton Webern on the subject of music and its evolution, he compares music to language.  His words as translated into English are both simple and refined.  In a similar sense, Alexander technique has helped me give a geometrical language for perceiving the language of movement efficiency.  Just as Webern notes the use of tonality as a means for expressing comprehensibility, Alexander technique can use geometry as a means for learning the language of movement efficiency.

In writing about the phrase ‘shorten the spine’, F.M. Alexander relates a very clear geometrical analogy:

An objector might justly say that this is practically impossible, but we are dealing with the use of the spine, and one of the most common defects among human beings to-day is an undue curving of the spine in the use of the self in the acts of everyday life, and naturally this causes a shortening in stature. As a practical demonstration, take a piece of paper, and after placing it flat on another sheet, draw a line along the extreme ends of the top piece, thereby recording the length by the pencil marks on the paper underneath. Now lift the top piece and curve it slightly and replace it with one end touching one line, and without interfering with the curve. It will then be seen that the other end of the paper does not reach the other line.

F.M.Alexander Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual 1946 (Gollancz 1985)

Can the ever mysterious realm of creativity and inspiration be cultivated with something as constructive and measurable as geometry?  I think that this largely depends on the cohesion of the teaching method and the aim and intention of the process.  With movement mastery for musicians my aim is to share every aspect relating to creating the means to answer ‘yes’ to this question.

In the next blog I want to further share some of the basic elements that will help in translating what is referred to as ‘position of mechanical advantage ‘geometry of mechanical advantage’ by Jeando Masoero.  A process that can be applied to moving away from having pain from music performance/practice related actions.

Here is a cute but effective intro to the ‘mechanical advantage’:


In Alexander work we learn to apply the basic principles of the interrelation between the movement between the bony segments of our skeletal structure for training movement efficiency.  The main training partner is our active and inquisitive attention.  But this is the subject for the next blog….