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Talent, Training, and Technique: A Primer for Wanna Be Rolfers™

Sitting around the city campfire (coffee shop, 16th and Pine, Philadelphia) this morning with the visiting Judith Peterson M.D., I told Judith that I was trying to write this blog about the role of talent in the structural and movement integration practitioners’ world of work.

I was still smarting a teeny bit from a dressing down I received recently from someone who criticized my way of working on a problem as “not scientific”.  The reason I was smarting a teeny bit was because I knew I had tried to explain how I had done something and hadn’t really revealed how I had done it. Never mind that “my way” of telling had actually worked for the Rolfer who had asked the question, and she was able to complete the question with her client. How did the Rolfer who asked the question get the picture?

I say she had talent, she took some hints and ran with them, using her previous training, her skill, and her talent. So what is this talent? We have some clues.

With my Rolfing work as with Judith’s rehabilitation doctor work, there needs to be an inherent sense of how things go together, the ability to almost play with the parts, including what is missing for the person who has presented themselves to be worked with. Thinking and figuring out is a part of the work. Being indignant about what has happened to the person is a part of the work. Being able to creatively picture a whole person with their goals ringing out of their true selves not held back by some mental or physical creation is a part of the work.

In fact, I won’t take a person on to work with if I can’t picture them as working in an integrative way at their level of ability. I believe this sort of Pollyanna skill is a talent, and I cultivate it. Another way to see it might be, “How can this work” rather “How is this not working”.

Another part is being able to physically deliver (with the Rolfer’s own physicality) deliver the picture, the whole package. Ida Rolf wanted people who had big hands, and had folks send in a picture of their dominant hand holding a twenty-five cent piece. She also wanted a certain look around the junction between the neck and the thoracic spine.

These physicality requirements of IPR’s were a long way from what I am talking about as talent, but at least the person didn’t come into training with her as lacking in those important aspects, and had possibility of kinesiological gifts and talents without a propensity to injury.

A Rolfer is able to fix things as well as balance and integrate. Of course, the balance is the hallmark of structural integration, the integration of the main segments of the body with each other in the field of gravity, and it is not an easy thing. We might liken a Rolfer’s lack of the integration hallmark to someone who learned to play the piano really well, except that the piece didn’t quite make sense, it didn’t go together. Or the quarterback could throw the ball a mile, but lost vision in the last 20 yards, couldn’t get the ball into the end zone through the red zone.

A Rolfer can get any kind of joint to work, no matter what the long bones have gotten themselves into for the way they were pulled around by the soft tissue. By the way, “deep” for a Rolfer is getting those bones, soft tissues, and joints to agree on a number of levels—-for the person wanting the agreement.

Now, can I name names on kinesiology and anatomy and origins and attachments, and talk about things that to the hidebound might seem unrelated? Yes.

Am I willing to put up with science nerds taking over Rolfing? No.

Do I want to have meaningful scientific studies around this form of alternative/complementary body/mind work?  Oh hell yes.

Now, since we got that out of the way, let’s review some ways to tell talent.  In music if your parent cries when you play the violin, you must look around and see if any one else is crying before you decide you are god’s gift to the music world.

Likewise, in Rolfing school, make sure you go to several different teachers and take what they say to heart, and actually do the curriculum to the best of your ability, and be teachable, before you let loose your newbie critique on them.

Teachers can be very different, even though at the Rolf Institute the curriculum is well thought out and thorough. Ask around and find out who is the best fit for you. There are options. Like in the artistic world, you may have to go to RISI at a time you don’t like and to a place you don’t care for to get the teacher you want.

At the end of the training go out and try to perform, do your best work, structurally integrate anyone you can get your hands on who is not a medical problem.

People have begun so with the beginner training, as it exists, in a blossoming of talent toward full use of the training. Start thinking, as you go on in your early practice, about your Advanced training and Rolf Movement teachers, and in the meantime, revel in talent as it appears.

BTW Judith Peterson, M.D., is a real writer who will have a new and most interesting sounding book coming out this February on the anterior cruciate ligament, treatment and prevention of injury, including how gender issues have gotten into this important subject.  Here’s the one from two years ago, still a great book:




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