Ch. 1 – Physical Self Awareness

Marvin Minsky said “In general, we’re least aware of what our minds do best, we’re more aware of simple processes that don’t work well than of complex ones that work flawlessly.”

“…it is comparatively easy to make computers exhibit adult level performance on intelligence tests or playing checkers, and difficult or impossible to give them the skills of a one-year-old when it comes to perception and mobility…”

Most adults don’t realize how much of what they do in their daily activities are full of habits of repetition.

The simple explanation is that we have developed motor skills. What actually takes place during these tasks is not so-much muscular although that’s a part of it but independence of motor actions. Fingers, feet, body movement, arms, legs etc. all participate but the common element or single characteristic that ties them all together is repetition and knowing your limitations.

Our brains were trained in childhood and some theorists say we have a genetic predisposition and that many complex movements are achievable because of millions of years of development. But it’s simpler to imagine that we learned them in childhood. What about the brain of an adult? Why is it slower to learn? Because it wasn’t designed that way. The growing years are the formative years and things are in acceleration compared to what occurs after we reach adulthood. So, do we let this knowledge defeat us or can we use it to our advantage?

The brain is often portrayed as mysterious when in actual fact what we do know is substantial. The ability to improve at any physical discipline including sports, dance or music, counts on training. But is there any activity, process, chemistry or measurable transformation taking place in the act of training. Yes growth and rewiring of brain synapses and the creation of neural networks that did not exist before occurs. So here is where this knowledge of slower brain growth comes in. We know that by repetition we can eventually make progress. But is it enough to merely repeat something over and over. Is their some approach that will enable muscle memory and enhanced coordination?

The study of improvisation can help. By studying improvisation you are also studying composition and that is where the deconstructing which I speak about later is so useful.

What about independence? Can you pat your head and rub your tummy? Humans are adaptive creatures. Our oldest ancestors I’m talking pre neanderthal probably could use their toes for more than just walking or putting on nail polish. There are degrees of independence and we can learn to achieve that through exercises.
A challenge for many beginners is this simple exercise. Put your hand on a surface with your fingers curved like holding a ball. Try lifting alternate pairs of fingers. We call our thumbs 1 and our pointer 2 etc. Try lifting 1 and 3 and move on to 2 and 4 and finally 3 and 5. You can reverse the pattern and see how well you manage. Keep your fingers and wrist relaxed.