Vertiginous Movement Writing Privates/Groups Classes About

Corporeal Confusion

March 30, 2022

When Sony initially developed the Walkman, the engineers had included a recording function. Akio Morita, the founder of Sony, veto'd the inclusion of what he saw as a superfluous function, insisting that the only utility the Walkman should have was the capacity to listen to music on the go. Why is this? Isn't more options always better than fewer? Normally, yes. But before the Walkman was invented, the idea of a portable music player was novel, and there was worry that if a device had too many functions, the user would not be able to establish exactly what it should be used for, and the idea that had launched the product (Masaru Ibuka, Morita's partner at Sony, wanted a "small device to allow him to listen to full-length operas on flights between Tokyo and the US"). If the device were introduced to the marketplace with too many options, Morita believed that the consumer wouldn't have a clear idea of what the use of the device was and it would never catch on. This decision to limit rather than expand proved fortuitous, as the Walkman did indeed catch on, and ended up changing the way we listen to music.

Sometimes to find clarity we need to remove options instead of opening them up. I think for many people this is what has happened when it comes to our bodies. What is the function of our body? We aren't manufactured products meant for sale. The inherently great thing about a body is that there are so many things that we can do with it. It has no single function. But with so many options, how do we know where to start?

Most of us, especially with the overwhelming hustle required to make sure we can afford to exist in the 21st century, barely have enough time to exercise, let alone explore all the different options that we have available in order to figure out what we enjoy the most. Even beyond this, some of us might be traumatized by what the idea of the words "exercise" or "fitness" imply, forever tainted by the impossible standards of the US Presidential Fitness Test (thankfully discontinued in 2013) or the perceived patronizing (and judgemental!) temperament of the so-called "fitness influencers" that populate social media and television.

Contemporary culture seems insistent upon drilling the concept of efficiency into our core values: we don't have time to waste, we must hustle to make money, to accomplish our goals, to make sure that we have arrived at an impossible level of success before our best friends are even capable of deciding what their goals truly are. Wake up early! Do a juice fast! Put in the work! While some of these mandates might end up being helpful to you, they don't allow any space for you to actually find a home within your body: the current fitness industry wants you to look at your body as another machine that can be trained to accomplish specific tasks without any sort of waste. But in this, is there space for pleasure? Is there space for curiosity? Is there any space to encounter the unknown?

The current fitness industry (the current WORLD) also insists that there is no room for the unknown. There is an idea that we must dominate and control the unknown rather than surrendering or opening ourselves up to it. The unknown is scary, uncontrollable, and if we can't control something, how can we expect to fit it into our schedules? The common suggestion is always just to pick something and stick to it, because if you don't stick to any sort of practice or habit, you'll never see its results, and results are what we're after, right?

There is an irony in the fact that all fitness influencers are pushing products; they are part of the cacophony contributing to the impossible number of options. So many options, how can we even pretend to use a logical approach in discerning what is right for us? What if what I pick and spend time with ends up being the wrong fit? I should just not make a decision at all, right?

What if I were to suggest to you that the key to starting to enjoy your body comes from not trying to pick and choose what is "right" for you, but rather opening yourself up to the idea of just experiencing your body?

So perhaps there's irony here as well. I am by no means a fitness influencer, but I am an individual who makes his living teaching what are ostensibly "group fitness" classes. So do I have something to sell? Yes. I won't try to hide that. I want you to come to my classes. But I don't want you to come to my classes and blindly, unquestioningly follow everything that I have to say. My body and your body are different bodies. I can't possibly have all the answers you need. I would argue that, sometimes, there aren't even answers to be had (and this is a good thing!).

I truly enjoy teaching skill development classes. I love seeing people put in work and get better at whatever it is they've set their minds to, and I love being able to play a part in self-betterment. But I also recognize that that is not the be-all-end-all of what "fitness" can be.

Even above "self-betterment," I believe in the idea of embodied experience. I spent most of my confusion-addled 20s trying to completely obliterate my relationship with my body, living entirely in my head, feeling like my flesh itself was a prison. I wanted a way out of this prison. My own experience has led to the realization that the way out actually required me to dive in: to feel free of the body-as-prison, I had to learn how to actually inhabit my body, to use my body, to feel at home in my body. My body was not merely a vessel for communicating intellectual activity to and in the world at large, but actually held an expressive capacity in itself.

What happens if we approach the world of movement without any specific goals? Opening ourselves up to exploration, experimentation and tasks can help us figure out how we inhabit and operate in our bodies without trying to shove a square peg in a round hole. A shockingly large majority of individuals, when asked why they want to start exploring fitness pursuits, will answer that their primary goal is to "get in shape." On the surface this seems like a simple answer to a silly question, but if you look closer you'll find this answer is vague & lacks any definiable qualities. What shape are you trying to get "into"? What does "in shape" mean to you? To the world? There comes a point where you have to actually start making decisions ("what do I mean by in shape"?) before you can start making decisions ("how do I want to get in shape?"). This can easily lead to decision fatigue and you find yourself aborting your fitness journey before it begins.

So my suggestion to you is: don't make a decision. Open yourself up to the unknown. Explore how you can use your body without trying to accomplish anything in particular. You might be surprised at what this experimental approach reveals to you. You might feel awkward, you might feel uncomfortable, you might feel joy, you might feel excitement, you might feel scared, but it is my hope that you feel something.

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Mike Kitchell, 2020-2022