Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Rowdy 9


So was today going to be another Groundhog day or was Rowdy going to make progress?  Even in the movie “Groundhog Day“ the subject was able to change – though he didn’t realise that for quite a while. Finally it looks like we have arrived at that Groundhog point of realisation! There was progress!

Frame of Reference

Rowdy was immediately working on his dynamics through the turn transition by using the effect from the final exercise we did two days ago – which I forgot to mention in the blog. He was trying to move the body down and into the turn, hold the body down and uphill as the turn develops and  then up and out of the turn at the very end – always in a line corresponding to the fall line. Looking side on at a skier there would be a stop/go action repeated downhill relative to the fall line. He had to think for a while to appreciate that this is independent of which way the upper body is facing during the turn. It is helped by angulation when turns are tight. I’d described this as choosing your  “inertial frame of reference” when skiing and always moving relative to your skis –across the skis because I’ve always wanted an excuse to bring Einstein’s theory of relativity into it. This meant that Rowdy was doing a good job from the start.

I took Rowdy off-piste so he could feel this making difficult snow very easy – and it worked first time. We also re-introduced the chi-hips to facilitate angulation and make everything a bit easier and more effective. So far so good! Then I brought out the camera and it all turned to rat poop…

Rat Poop

The first run on the video clip shows a good effort but with all the old problems cropping up to varying degrees – until that twist with the left leg causes a fall. What caused it to all turn to rat poop then? Well, there had been a few other skiers crowding around and also the terrain was a bit bumpy and steep. The cause of the degradation was simply loss of focus.

Focus and Awareness

The second part of the video clip shows Rowdy focusing much better and so holding it all together much better. When I previously described Rowdy’s problem as being “lack of awareness” I was deliberately avoiding dealing with the issue of “focus” – which is intimately linked to awareness. Focus has to be “internal” with the body and feelings being the total target for attention. This means that if there are people around or difficult terrain then those things are secondary and dealt with almost as peripheral issues. Focus must remain inside the body and you impose your will on your body irrespective of everything that happens to you and whatever emotions you feel.  You particularly don’t allow fear to disrupt your focus – in fact you use it to focus more intently on the things you need to deal with internally. When you stop focusing internally then your unconscious instinctive and defensive actions take over and they are executed with no awareness. You acknowledge fear – which can sometimes be healthy – but don’t focus on it. You do the same with tricky snow or terrain.

Focusing is how you reprogram your unconscious mind and learn new skills. You only “suggest” to yourself to move a certain way and by repeating this the suggestion gradually replaces previous programmed or instinctive movements  – so that eventually this new program runs automatically in your unconscious mind and frees you up to move on to higher level skills. It’s in this manner that awareness moves on to higher levels and perception changes. Very often it’s during long periods of internal focusing that new perceptions arise – simply because we are paying attention and are not distracted by external influences. You have to be fully aware of the whole process for it to work effectively. You have to know that you are reprogramming your behaviour and that your unconscious mind is far more powerful than your conscious mind. You cannot override the unconscious mind in the moment – it must be programmed in advance to get an appropriate response. The same process would be used in “anger management” or dealing with stage fright or phobias.

Pole Plant

I explained to Rowdy to be careful not to use his arms to plant the pole – especially at the end of a turn because it upsets the timing (flipping it to an up/down timing instead of down/up))  When using dynamics the pole is planted by the motion of the body only – after the turn exit – due to falling downhill and down into the new turn. This was the first time Rowdy has properly perceived that the pole is not planted by the arms.

Foot Forward

To assist the chi-hips I asked Rowdy to simultaneously push the outside foot forwards while pulling the hip back. This makes the turn “active” and provides another key internal focussing point. The overall motion of the body with dynamics is more of a proprioception issue – which is often described as a a “sixth sense”. Most of the proprioceptors are in the feet which – with the unconscious twisting of the feet may be a reason Rowdy has constant problems with spatial awareness. Now that we have targeted the turn transition in a clear, precise and isolated manner he is able to focus better on proprioception and the supporting elements of it through his stance. This was aided by retracting the lower leg at the moment of pressure transfer to upper leg. Prior to this Rowdy had not actively relaxed the lower leg once the turn was completed. I pointed out that when you walk – you retract the leg at the end of the stride – it completes a natural cycle.

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