• Octopus Academy

The Body as an Independent Learning System - Gidon Sagher

עודכן ב: 1 אוג 2019


When you go down to the beach in Brazil, in addition to the amazing view, one sees a lot of people playing two kinds of volleyball. The first version - the volleyball that you are familiar with, and the second - the same rules except that you cannot use your hands. The second version requires a very high level of skill even for a single move. What is interesting is that it is not a limited group of talented people that can play, but that many people on the beach join and play too. I asked one of the players how he learned to play - “from the ball,” he answered me.

After you pass the obstacle of improvised volleyball courts and sit down next to the water, you see behind the crashing waves crowds of people sitting in a row on surfboards waiting for another attack of waves. When it arrives, it looks as though all of the surfers were born with their board in their hand. Their performance level, men and women, is extremely high. I took a surfing lesson from Kauli (?), one of the veteran surfers (50 years old, surfing from age 8), and a friend of his. He told me that if a big wave shatters on me - I need to dive under the water and when I come up from the water, I should protect my eyes from the surfboard. That’s all he had to tell me about surfing. Afterwards, he showed me once how to paddle, how to dive with a surfboard under the water, how to sit on the surfboard and finally, how to surf a wave. “Did you see?” He asked. “Now it’s your turn.”

That entire day until sunset - I fell into the water. At the end of the day I was able to surf for a few seconds on the board. “You’re already surfing,” he said. I asked him for another lesson the next day but he refused and said that the sea is the surfers’ teacher. “We’ll go tomorrow as two surfers, not as a student and teacher.” And so, over the next few weeks we surfed, and he gave me a quick tip from time to time. “Release your shoulders,” “stand now,” “breathe.” When I watched him surf, sometimes the water looked more solid than him. The synergy between him and the water made it appear as if they were a single being. The currents pushed away while he pulled inwards with equal strength. It seems that over the years, the waves have carved into his consciousness, and his personality has melted into the water of the sea. Despite the seasalt, this is a different kind of purity.

Time is an important commodity in order to make enough mistakes and learn from them. Mistakes are an important commodity and in order to accumulate enough of them, one must be active. It is impossible to surf without falling off the board, to play tennis without losing the ball, to fight without getting hurt, to dance without losing  speed. That is called experience. Time allows environmental resistance to blend with reactions and to be cooked in a sauce of mistakes and learning. An experienced person, like Kauli, that gives you a bit of clarification or a small suggestion every once in a while, gives you a small taste of a prepared dish. An unequivocal correction is rare and will appear only at the beginning of the journey, or when the fire becomes too big (and can burn the dish), or when there is a real danger.

Brazilian music is always joyful. But joy also comes in different shapes and shades (there is also sorrow and pain in joy), so to the styles of music. The music goes into the body and emerges from it as a dance: samba, faguji? hashe? , forró. Dances are danced alone or with a partner and the difference between the two is vast. I do not understand much about dance, but I ended up at an interesting performance. Less people in Brazil are skilled at dancing samba than at dancing forró, or, in other words, most people dance in pairs, and less dance as individuals with fixed steps in relation to the music’s rhythm. In partner dances the man leads and the woman is led, two completely different abilities and at first glance it seems that it is harder to lead than be led. A man who leads will always do so according to his personality and his legs, but a woman needs to adapt each time to match the leading partner. The lead and the response to it exists without any time lapse, and is supposed to be free of any thought or will. When you see a woman dancing well, every partner will be seen leading and be led be led by her, and sometimes she will add style and movements that integrate without threatening the lead of her partner. She dances as though she is one with her partner, he pushes her and she pulls him with equal strength.

In Israel, at the beach in Tel Aviv, I also saw surfers, or as my brother once told me “in Israel there aren’t surfers, there are only people disappointed with surfing,” there are not good waves. I have also seen people playing the national game for years - matkot. The speed of the ball and the precision combined with strength of each hit is amazing. I asked one person playing how he became so good at the game and how he learned. “I just played,” he said, “and improved with time.” “The sky is the limit.” The body itself learns how to react and is the best teacher when the following conditions exist: environmental resistance, action, time. Environmental resistance is made up of the forces exerted upon us within a certain structure. Resistance from the ball, waves and currents, resistance from a partner or any other thing. Environmental resistance is the “sand paper” of ourselves or of our consciousness. There is no way to deceive the environment, the environment pushes us to our limits. What can be done, what not, and when. Environmental resistance will knock us off the board if we do not find balance, it will knock the ball into the sand if I did not kick precisely, it will make the hammer hit my thumb if I do not hold the nail correctly, and it will punch me in the face if I do not dodge in time.

In places where there is no specific environmental resistance to the field, or when it is being simulated, rules of the game actually do not exist, thus rules must be invented in relation to nothing. Of course reactions by their very nature must be in relation to something, and therein lies the problem. Sometimes one can solve the problem by inventing new environmental resistances, but that is not the point of this article. The action is the attempt to integrate into the environmental resistance in a way that will achieve the purpose of the game. When a warrior faces real resistance, like an enemy attacking, he must respond without wasting any time. He must be like Kauli surfing the wave. Here there is room to expand, since there appears to be a problem merging with environmental resistance and also to achieve or control it.

When it comes to a sequence of reactions one must build them one on top of the other, and through this achieve the power of innovation. For example: if I caught a wave and stood on the board, there exists the option to ride it to the shore, or to surf towards the sides, jump with the board and then return to the wave. In both options I merged with the environmental resistance (the wave) but in the second option the action was more creative. There are many ways to react to environmental resistance, which leaves room for self expression. The action is supposed to stem from courage and not from fear or or an involuntary reaction. Fear causes paralysis, because there is a constant fear of the question “perhaps this is not the way to act,” “maybe there is another way” and until I do know what is the best way to act, better to not do anything. An involuntary reaction is a way to protect one’s self from really dealing with the issue, and a successful initiative neutralizes the  involuntary reaction. Even when we do not know the right course of action, creativity is an important tool that stems from innovation and experience. There is a sentence that I like: “Ships anchored in the harbor are safe, but that is not what they were built for.” One does not need to worry about mistakes. The environmental resistance shows us where I finish, and the reaction is attached to that separation of mine and of my surroundings until it is dissolved. In Portuguese there is a word “ginga.” It is used in war, in dance and many other situations. There is no precise translation for the word, and no one that I met could explain the meaning to me simply, but I think I understood it.

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