Something In The Way They Move
A man’s shoulder swagger and the sway of a woman’s hips may be seen as an attraction in the game of love motivating us to action for evolutionary reasons but they’re of no benefit in a game of tennis.
I watched some Wimbledon tennis matches and was struck by how self-contained the players Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in particular are. Their limbs and senses all seem to be going in the same direction as if their body, mind, heart and soul are in tune. They must wait for the right moment to hit the tennis ball, too soon or too late won’t bring the desired result. I’m inclined to think that tennis players are in some ways like artists. The work they produce has inner elements and outer elements. The inner part is their spirit and emotion and the outer part is the working of their arms and body almost like tools. Fans can see beauty in a backhand, a volley and many other manoeuvres on the court.
Roger retains his composure in all situations and he is able to adapt and move around obstacles. His aging body is now revealing limitation. Novak sometimes becomes absent to himself, losing concentration and control over the tools of his trade. Then he gives himself a severe thrashing and takes out his frustrations on his racquet. It is not ideal because when that moment passes he has to begin over again. The old proverb: “A bad workman blames his tools” comes to mind but that doesn’t fit here as he is Number One in the world.
There are many tennis players whose energy needs more obvious conscious direction to achieve greatness. Some like Rafa Nadal have rituals to focus their mind. These look like superstitions to some but Rafa insists he is not superstitious.
Elite athletes have coaches, trainers and medical people including psychologists to keep them performing at their best. Being coddled by so many helpers might keep them from being self-reliant and resilient.
The Olympics this year brought to our attention the importance of mental wellbeing for elite athletes and by extension for all of us. People like Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka withdrawing from competition and media interviews to preserve their mental health and wellbeing makes them good role models for people in other high pressure careers and jobs.
When I was working you wouldn’t admit even to having a headache because you would be belittled as having female biological problems that would surely lead to erratic behaviour. No man or woman would admit to a mental health issue because you could kiss your career goodbye. Genetic discrimination in employment and insurance were issues to fear also.
Bringing mental wellbeing into the open for discussion is a good thing and hopefully talking about one’s mental health won’t be seen as a weakness but a chance to prevent a breakdown.
The Irish Centre for Funambulism and the Galway Social Circus through play and fun activities teach about the body, movement and self-awareness for all ages and levels of ability and disability. People can try funambulism, the art of wire walking with a balancing pole. Wire walking requires focus, self-belief and courage and is a fun way to practice your balance, mindfulness and self-awareness.
Standing still requires staying power and endurance. Methods and exercises have been devised and researched to be proven able to help us to achieve things we didn’t know we could. I happened across the Abramovic Method which included sipping a glass of water for an hour, counting grains of risotto rice in a pile mixed with black lentils for several hours, slow-motion walking and mutual gazing. These exercises are intended to expand one’s mental and physical limits, self-control and willpower.
I am discomfited by people who go to extreme ends and have decided to carry on as I am, unimproved.
Movement is one of the signs of life. Free-form dancing or social dancing is refreshing and joyful. The physical movement connects people to each other. Classical dance such as ballet, choreographed to tell a story has the heart and mind engaged with the body to carry the audience along emotionally with the story. Flamenco dance is about emotional connections while the purpose of Irish step dance is performance. Mime and hand gestures are seen as a conversation in Denmark and India, telling a story with sign language and music. Traditional African rhythm uses the body which carries their history and the voice for ritual and performance.
People generally use their energy in movements natural to them; some are self-contained, while energy is more dispersed in some other people. We can speed up or slow down depending on the situation we’re in. We can adjust our energy when we are in the presence of another person’s energy.
Each of us has our individual walk that we might adjust because of the shoes and clothes we wear or the ground we are on or the job we do. In a family there may be similarity in their movements. (They may have ‘the same gimp’ or characteristic way of walking.)
When I left home my brothers and sisters were children, the youngest 3 years old, so, whenever I saw them again in the process of growing up I paid close attention to them. The time came when we were all grown up with our individual ways, voices and walking styles. One of my brothers has a gait like our father. I visited my nephew, David, on an occasion he was working on Grand Cayman Island. He walked ahead of me out of the airport and I was surprised to see how he walked like his father, another of my brothers.
People in the know say that shoulder swagger is a sign of energy and vitality in a man. The pace of his walk with arm movements a slight distance from the body highlights a positive masculine quality. Research shows that a woman is seen as more attractive when she takes small steps and sways her hips when walking. James Taylor wrote a song about it: ‘Something in the way she moves’.
I wouldn’t want anyone to dislocate a shoulder or hip because of this!