Arm Standing Exercise for Butoh
"Listen to the voice of God of Gravity" is one of the basic ideas in Noguchi Gymnastics by Michizo Noguchi. The arm standing exercise has been developed by myself and Butoh dancer Mika Takeuchi while practicing and teaching Butoh. This exercise is one of the derivative exercises based on his idea of "God of Gravity". Because we have 8 million gods in the Shinto religion in Japan, and our body weight clearly dictates our movements, it could be one of such Gods.
The standing upright is a good exercise to feel what is going on in our body, but because there are many factors such as bones, muscles, and tendons interrelating one another, it is not an easy task to perceive clearly the involved body parts one by one : There are too may variables to process effectively.
We have developed some other exercises aiming at perceiving the weight of our body with a limited number of variables: The arm standing exercise is one of such exercises containing only the fingers, hands, wrists, elbows, shoulders, shoulder blades, etc. of our forearm while lying on one's back.
"Corrected-sitting exercise (Tadashi Za)" in the cross legged sitting is another exercise for checking and modifying the vertebrae from the neck to the sitting bones (ischia). Because we are not very much sensible to our back area, and it is not easy to discriminate each part of the back area without being touched, the arm standing exercise should be practiced first as an easier exercise, followed by "corrected-sitting exercise" after developing your sensibility enough in your back area.
The arm standing exercise is as follows:
- Lie down on the floor on your back. (If you have back problems, you may keep your knees bent. It is not necessary to stretch your knees, and the so-called gsemi-supineh position is often desirable for people with back trouble. If you still find this position painful, stop doing the exercise.)
- Stretch your arms wide open [with your palms facing up] along the floor.
- Rest your arms on the floor.
- Try to touch the floor with all of your nails in order to stretch your arms farther.
- Release tension from your entire body and take a rest for a while.
- Slowly lift your forearms, keeping your elbows on the floor, until each arm forms a right angle.
- Keep breathing normally. Try not to close your throat when you move your arms.
- Slowly lift your entire arm. (Fig.1) Donft move in a hurry. This is a precious moment to perceive your arm weight for an encounter with gthe god of gravityh in terms of Noguchi Taiso.
- Continue lifting your arms, raising your shoulder blades off the floor.
- Stretch your arms all the way upward. Keep this position for a while.
- Release tension from your shoulders and allow your shoulder blades to rest on the floor while your arms are kept straight upward.
- Feel your shoulder blades on the floor and try to locate the point on which the weight of the arm rested.
- *Most people find it difficult to "feel their shoulder blades". I would add the following explanation: Your shoulder blades are like a foundation upon which all of the weight of your arm weighs. It is also advisable that the instructor hold the lying personfs arm and give a slight pressure toward his/her shoulder blade so as to perceive the point more clearly.
- Try to suspend your arms up in the air with as little muscle tension as possible. Keep your arms in this position for a while. (Fig.2)
- When you feel tired, release tension from your shoulders and lower your elbows to the floor gradually. Feel how heavy your arms are while lowering your arms.
- Rest your elbows on the floor. Then, release tension from your elbows, allowing your forearms to lower gradually.
- Rest your arms on the floor. Feel that your body is more relaxed and tranquil.
- Repeat the exercise a few times. Try to keep your arms up with as little muscle tension as possible.
If you have any interesting findings or discoveries about the relationship between the weight of a body part and its movement patterns, you can proceed to at least one of the three courses:
- Keep enhancing your sensibility deeper and deeper by using much smaller movements.
- (toward the direction of Sensory Awareness, Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais Method,etc.)
- Allow your arm(s) to dance by dropping or leaning/ twisting by using the arm weight.
- (toward the movements based on Noguchi Gymnastics' ideas)
- Taste sentiments or emotions within a body part.
- (My elbows feel sad when extended...because of the accident and the operation...
- Toward psycho-somatically embedded emotions.)
When I do Butoh dance, I feel that I am or my body is tossed about by those embodied emotions and/or unfamiliar feelings or impulses. Most of them are not so distinctly articulated, and I would shake or twitch my body impulsively as if pushing them out to my body surface, or they would endanger whole my existence. An authentic Butoh time...