The “problem” of physical activity

I’ve talked about “problems” and problematizing before, so I won’t go into it here other than to say – we create all “problems” we encounter (literally and figuratively)…natural events are not “problems,” but situations. “Problems” are always man-made things.

So on to it!

The Barefoot Sensei taught me this – that movement and habit are formed in habitat.

That is, the two are inextricable. You are bound (literally, as in, tied, constrained) to reflect your habitat.

Even as good as we are at creating our own habitat, the human “World” (which is significantly different from the Earth), we still cannot do other than to live within it.

The “problem” of physical activity is that people generally don’t do it much anymore.

The solutions (in any age that faced this problem) have been typical of the age itself. In our day and age we are highly dialectical – we look at “systems” and “connections” on one side, and we look at “causes” and “statistics” on the other.

Both approaches come up with remarkably similar solutions that boil down to changing some factor(s) in order to get people to be more physically active.

That is, the idea that “change” needs to happen is the common denominator.

But “change” does not need to happen…or it would.

“Change,” in fact, is bound by the same rules that we humans are…since it is an act that we do.

So seeking or recommending “change” is no different (in the general philosophical/ontological approach, or the specific recommendation) from saying that there is a “problem.”

We are trapped in this dialectical ping-pong match, until we find the middle ground…the “mean.”

The the process of finding the “mean” we have to create “mean-ing.” And the only way to do that is to “make sense” of the issue.

Habitat forms specific types of movement. Go into a gym and attempt to do barefooted play-based activity. You will be asked to leave (and then forced to).

Now (and this next bit is entirely your choice, not a recommendation) go outdoors to a nice grassy field…might be a little lumpy…you know, or wet…it’s the outdoors, after all…and do 6 sets of 3 Clean & Jerks with a significant amount of weight.

If you’re in any sort of city, you might get stopped by some parks authority person. If you aren’t, you might suffer serious injury.

The activities aren’t appropriate for those habitats.

Another approach to habitat says that we can “change” habitat to make people become more physically active. This “rats in a maze” approach works sometimes to some extent.

The research on “the built environment” says – Put sidewalks where there were none, and more people walk places (supposedly…at least, more people are using the sidewalk you built).

But none of it address the “problem” of physical activity, or how “change” really happens.

In the method I study, we train with our “problems.” We literally take them into movement. It could be a word or a concept or a dialectical issue. We hold the issue in mind, speak it out loud, sing it, break it into pieces and sound out the parts, break it into parts and jumble them around, look for similar things and their relations to one another, etc. We do this in movement.


Because the seat of knowledge is the Earth, and there is only one path to it – the Heart. The Heart is accessed through movement and focus. Intention. So we focus in movement, and get to the heart of the matter, which is always grounded in earth.

So what is the problem of physical activity?

It is that no one has Heart. I guarantee you, if you can make the pill that gives people Heart that connects to the Earth, you will solve the physical activity “crisis.”

How can I prove that this is the case?

Look at the people who extrapolate on the problem. Most of them are trapped in dialectic. They have no heart. The don’t, themselves, move. It might be better to ask them what stops them…and go from there.

Then look at the people who seem to have no “problem”…regardless of their environment.

What is the common denominator?

They all share Heart. Their own Heart, to be sure, but they all have Heart. They put it into practice. They connect through it. Some of them are connected to Earth, but not all – that is a much more advanced path, and one that’s not very much discussed these days.

So, “problem” solved. Get on with it.

Brought to You By The Makers of Habitat
As far as habitat is concerned, what is it?

It is the Earth. It is the “matter.” It is the “matter,” for instance, in “What’s the matter?” Get down to the “matter” at hand…etc.

It is YOUR Earth. The one right under your feet, right now. Or under the the building that’s under your feet right now.

But it’s also those other things you can see hear smell and touch on that Earth under your feet. Look around you. That’s your habitat.

It’s the texture of your relationships. It’s the smell of fresh autumn breeze (even if that’s only from your Tide liquid laundry detergent).

It is the tangible essence of your own relationship with yourself. All of those things – your histories, your stories, your inner voice, the way you treat yourself.

Sociologists (Aristotle, Mauss, Elias, Bourdieu) have made up and/or borrowed the word “habitus” to try to make a special word for it. But habitat is a better word, because it’s one we already use.

So say it like you mean it. Own your habitat. Let it enter your Heart, and lead you to the Earth.

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Fitness as Cultural Phenomenon – Review

What’s “fitness” mean?

I finally read Karin Volkwein‘s “Fitness as Cultural Phenomenon,” originally published back in 1998 as part of the “German and American Studies in Sport” series put out by Waxmann Press.

Two articles really stand out.

Volkwein’s introduction is arguably the best overview of the concept of “fitness” I’ve ever read – especially in 14 pages! She goes over the historical origins of the concept (“fit for fighting”) and usage of the concept throughout history, along with modern repercussions of the idea of “fitness” (especially capitalization of “fitness” through concepts of the “best body”/aesthetic ideas as well as medicalized and monitored aspects of modern “fitness”).

I also greatly enjoyed George Sage‘s introductory article to the “American Perspectives” half of the book, titled “The Political Economy of Fitness in the United States.” Sage makes it a point to connect “the larger political, economic, and social milieu and its impact on physical fitness activities” (pg. 111). He also focuses heavily on the commodification of the body and of fitness, stressing that the “privatization of fitness” (with no cabinet-level agency or bureau devoted to physical fitness existing in the US government) leads to lower levels of fitness, as marketers seek to make a quick buck off of poorly-informed consumers.

It’s a great book, definitely worth the read for those interested in sociology of sport!

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