Effortless Action (or the concept of Wu-Wei)

Wu- Wei:  The concept of Effortless Action

If you can’t move, you can’t help us.”

Coaches may not say that exact quote, but that is the bottom line.  Every sport revolves around the ability to move, including running, throwing, cutting, catching, pushing, pulling, crawling, climbing, etc.  These primal, fundamental patterns are ingrained at young ages and nurtured throughout the developmental stages of pre-pubescence to professional levels.  Why do some seem to move with little to no effort while others seem to struggle?

I can only offer this explanation as conjecture, but it seems that the more a kid plays,  the earlier a kid plays, and the more variety of playing, the better athlete they tend to be.  I have no scientific proof of this so don’t look for any references, but I have the luxury of our “lab” at ASF and anecdotal experience  to lean on.  For those of you who grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, you likely remember how your “training” was the backyard.  There was always that one kid that was faster than you. In fact, it was my informal introduction to speed and agility:  Small = fast…or you get destroyed!  I am more and more convinced that it was those after school games that introduced young kids to the trifecta of early athletic exposure (young, frequency, variety).  Those kids tend to be the best overall athletes as they get older and display Effortless Action when it comes to sport performance.  For years, they were honing their skills to the point that everything appears to come easy.  However, it only appears that way because of the years and years of Deliberate practice, albeit unintentional.  They have reached a state loosely based on a concept called Wu-Wei, in which there appears to be a state of non-doing, non-effort.  It is a concept that master musicians, among others, tend to display.  They just seem to flow through a performance as if they are not even trying!  It is an awesome sight to behold.  What do you think?  Is there anything that you can relate to this state of effortless action?

On a somewhat related thought, I love this quote from the great Vern Gambetta:  Human motion is beautiful to observe. The older I get and the longer I coach the more I have a sense of wonder at the intricacies of the connections, rhythms, and varied tempos of running, jumping and throwing and all the various permutations. The bodies ability to constantly self-organize, to adjust according to the movement problem it has to solve is amazing. The wisdom of the body is wondrous and infinite; there are no limitations – just possibilities. As coaches we need to focus on the possibilities and take advantage if the wisdom of the body. Think connections and flow to facilitate what the body can do, don’t get in the way.


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