Feel the weight

I was at a bit of a loose end yesterday. This period between Christmas and New Year is a bit of a dead time, especially when you’re newly-arrived in a country and don’t have strong social networks yet. To be honest, I would have preferred to be working, but the office is closed for the week, and the heating is off, so that wasn’t an option. I also had a bit of an urge to travel deeper into Wales than I have done so far; in my walking around the lanes I’ve felt something of the place, the qi of the land (which is very different to that of China), but I haven’t yet felt the deep connection with the earth which I used to have. Perhaps going inland, closer to the hills, would help re-establish the connection…

So, I headed off on impulse to Y Gelli Gandryll, otherwise known as book-town Haye-on-Wye. Not only would that take me through the Great Forest and the Black Mountain, it would lead me to a town packed full of bookshops… Perfect!

So, off I went. It was a good drive through wild country, with small hamlets huddled amongst the hills. There were some moments of great views, but to my great disappointment there was heavy mist most of the way, so I couldn’t really get a feel for the land. Never mind, it was nice to be travelling through winding hill roads with the steppe music of Hanggai as a soundtrack.

I only bought one book in the end, one for which I’ve had an eye open for some time. I’m dipping into it at the moment, and I’ve already found one quote that I wanted to share:

In talking about muscle relaxation, Tortsov told a story out of his own life: in Rome, in a private house, he had the opportunity of watching an exhibition to test equilibrium, on the part of an American lady who was interested in the restoration of antique sculpture. In gathering up broken pieces and putting them together she tried to reconstitute the original pose of the statue. For this work, she was obliged to make a thorough study of weight in the human body, and to find out, through experiments with her own body, where the centre of gravity lies in any given pose. She acquired a remarkable flair for the quick discovery in herself of those centres which establish equilibrium. On the occasion described, she was pushed, and flung about, caused to stumble, put in what seemed to be untenable positions, but in each case she proved herself able to maintain her balance. Moreover, this lady, with two fingers, was able to upset a rather portly gentleman. This also she had learned through study of centres of weight. She could find the places that threatened the equilibrium of her opponent and overthrow him, without any effort, by pushing him in those spots.

Sounds like a taijiquan manual! In fact, it’s taken from the chapter Relaxation of Muscles, in Constantin Stanislavski’s An Actor Prepares.

It als reminds me of one element we worked on in the one systema class I’ve attended, in which we tried to find points on our partner’s body that would collapse their structure… I am convinced that somewhere in systema’s history one or more stage-trained people contributed insights from the actors’ craft!

OK, enough philosphizing; time to post this, have a quick lunch, and get out to enjoy the winter sunshine at the Worm’s Head

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