Harold Edgerton Stroboscope Photo, 1938

Harold Edgerton Stroboscope Photo, 1938

A Case for Kinaesthesia

Summer is tennis season and while we talk about the mind a lot at Seymour, watching all these incredible tennis players play Roland Garros and Wimbledon got us thinking about the seemingly effortless link they display between thought and action. Some research brought us to an essay by David Foster Wallace about Roger Federer. In ‘Federer as Religious Experience’, Wallace talks about Federer with a palpable sense of awe and admiration, detailing what makes the tennis player so formidable and majestic: his technique, his physics-defying shots etc.; however, it was the section on the kinaesthetic sense that speaks directly to our question. Kinaesthesia is the ability to sense body position and the movement of muscles, tendons and joints. For example, ducking under a low ceiling or walking through a crowded place.

According to Wallace, it’s this sense of kinaesthesia that separates the top players from the rest; it’s what makes it seem as if they have an extra second to return shots, why they’re able to hit those seemingly impossible angles. This phenomenon is developed through hours of training and repetitive practice in order to bypass the conscious mind and rely instead on learned instinct.

We find it fascinating that this relationship between the subconscious and the body can be trained to achieve such incredible feats. The mathematical mechanics of these shots are pretty complex, when using the conscious logical brain to decipher them, that is; however, the non-conscious part of our self can circumvent these geometric difficulties in an instant, with the conscious mind being totally bypassed.

Tapping into that subconscious part of the mind can open up a myriad of opportunities, in many different areas of life. We often think of meditative techniques as the way in to these nether-regions of the mind, however, Wallace’s example shows us the physical side of this too; and shows us just how powerful the connection between the body and the subconscious can potentially be.


W.K. 2014

Published: July 23rd, 2015

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A Case for feeding the genius

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