In Stanley Kubrik’s film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, the chimpanzees, actually humans in chimp costumes, are at play in a boneyard. With one mighty downward stroke, one bone, or another resting upon it, is launched upward. It rotates, hangs in the air and morphs from bone into spaceship. The mythical ape has come in contact with the laws of physics and a principle of movement. A movement that is launched rather than guided continues itself.
Dwight Gooden, a gifted pitcher for the New York Mets won several hometown, opening games in a row, until, sadly, he didn’t. What happened out there was the question on reporter’s lips. I was aiming the ball, Gooden said. Really? Now, to the average man or woman facing a Gooden fastball, that might well be a prayer. Let his aim be good. But, when Gooden or any of the rest of us try to aim a ball or any launched object, we lose control. We lose rhythm. We lose freedom. No. Don’t aim. Don’t guide. Launch. Swing. Give up your precious sense of control. It is costing you dearly.
Students of violin are taught to launch their bow in mid air, even to launch the arm without a bow in their hands. The launched object the arm, the bow, rides on one neurological pulse arising from the cerebellum. It bypasses the neurological patterns of worry and concern. It continues until the limits of range of motion are reached and it recoils. A launched movement activates both agonist and antagonist muscles, and carries within it a factor of safety. That which is launched by the muscles recoils.
Today, teacher, pitcher, singer, tennis player, violinist, launch your arms, your voice, your very self. According to the revered teacher of Alexander Technique, Walter Carrington, it is hard to resist the temptation, at some point in a lesson, to whip (his word) the student out of the chair. Oh hell, why just once? Launch the student; give little or nothing more than an impetus. Move the hands not the student. You’ll find in both yourself and the student a loss of overt control that results in a gain of freedom, of release, of élan. Today, singer, student, teacher, find in your arms, your fingers, your hands, and even your voice, the quality of ballistic movement (ball-istic if you remember Mr. Gooden). It will revolutionize, if not your pitching, your performance and your teaching. Anyone who embraces it in their thinking and their imagination will find new ways to apply it and be richly rewarded. It is by far the most important thing I have ever learned.