12/7 Congratulations to Andrea Hughes who graduated as a teacher on Friday. She was to have completed her training some months ago, but her final Moderation was delayed because of Covid.
Andrea will be opening a private practice in Altringham shortly and will be teaching the Adult Education Introductory Course at the Wilmslow Guild in September (more).
24/7 A note for teachers: If you are planning to resume hands-on work, let me know and I will post your details here.
23/7 Thank you to everyone who came to our classes this term. A reminder that today was the last class until 9th September! All video & audio of this term is now posted.
A nice quote from Othello; “… our bodies are our gardens to the which our wills are gardeners”.
20/7 I will be available for private lessons from Friday 31st July - Wednesday 19th August inclusive, except for Sundays. I will be taking careful anti-infection precautions. More information about this and other teachers' availability is posted here.
- The most beautiful squat I've ever seen.
- Apropos the racisim at the end of Chapter 5 of MSI, see this new statement by the STAT-affliliated US Society. Thanks to Sue Fleming for the link.
- Thank you to Pam Hebden for pointing out that there is quite a lot in Lulie Westfeldt's book addressing the question of one leg being longer than the other and how the AT can address this. See especially pages 86-7. There are several copies in the library.
13/7 Have you seen this rather good video? It was shown on Channel 4 in 1984, in the days when there were only 4 channels, so many people would have seen it. You get to see many teachers no longer with us, including Dr Barlow (I was in front of his grid and on his table in my underwear too!), Chris Stevens (one of my first teachers) and Danny Pevsner (originator of saddle work) whose wife Gloria some of you met when she came to work with us at the riding stables in Mobberley many years ago.
10/7 I have just received an email from STAT to say that AT teachers are now permitted to resume private teaching provided that certain government and CNHC conditions are met. Links to details: Government, CNHC, CNHC, CHNC update 20 July.
I have contacted teachers in this area and have posted a page on this website with a list of teachers who are available for lessons.
10/7 If you haven't seen them yet, I keep hearing that the AT & Education conference videos are well worth a look.
2/7 Several people have sent me emails expressing their appreciation for Emily's presentation on scoliosis, posted at the bottom of the video/audio page. Sue Fleming sent me this link to a very clear webpage with information about Prof Galen Cranz's videos about her own experience of scoliosis and of how her training as a teacher of the AT affected this. Also, someone mentioned Richard III today, whose severe scoliosis was confirmed with the discovery of his remains under a car park in Leicester in 2012.
28/6 I have been asked about STAT Student Membership. Membership costs £58/year and there is a list of the benefits and information on how to apply near the bottom of this page. I think that MATTS students are probably entitled to join now (possibly at a somewhat reduced rate due to Covid), although you can also choose to wait until we are able to reconvene.
The benefits of a STAT-approved training course are listed on the STAT website here.
27/6 The comprehensive notes that accompany Sue Fleming's game on the video/audio page include the references to the singing and the anatomy books mentioned in the class.f that page.
18/6 In the class today someone asked about when AT teachers will be permitted to resume work. STAT has just sent out an email confirming that we are still not allowed to do so and that we do not yet have a date when this will change. There was a discussion about online teaching and I have written about my views on this here and here. I accept that some teachers may have more nuanced views. The book on singing with drawings of the muscles involved is by Husler and there is a copy in my library.
17/6 A date for your diary. We will be having a special guest in the Thursday Class on 2nd July. Emily Bancroft, daughter of Sallie (anatomy lectures!) Bancroft will be joining us to teach us about scoliosis, a common condition and one that it is very important for AT teachers to know about. You can find more information about Emily, scoliosis and her talk here.
16/6 The STAT "Alexander in Education" Conference, due to take place in July, will instead take place online. The presenters will record their workshops and have them uploaded to a dedicated YouTube channel which will launch on the 4th July, the date of the original conference. Everything is completely free and videos will be available to view online thereafter. Here is a link to an "advertising trailer" for the conference and click this link for information and to join the mailing list and to sign up for the conference. Note that this is also a resource website for AT teachers working in educational establishments.
11/6 Thank you to everyone who came to our classes this week. There were 19 of us on Wednesday and 35 on Thursday. I have posted most of the video and audio clips of the classes and will post the rest shortly.
11/6 Here's the link to the semi-supine page on the Mouritz 'Companion to the AT' website mentioned in the class today. This website by Jean Fischer (who has skilfully edited so many of the classic books on the AT and all of FM's books) is carefully researched and beautifully presented and is an important AT resource.
I've listed a few other AT resource websites on my links page, although there are others that I have yet to add.
9/6 Ted Dimon is offering a new series of 8 lectures, starting on 15 June. Full details here.
9/6 At one point in one of the classes recently I spoke about the potential hazards of using Directions based upon concepts that were false, the famous one being that "my head is a balloon", in direct opposition to the truth of the matter, that your head is quite extraordinarily heavy, 10-13 lbs (4.5 - 6 kg) in the average adult.
I pointed out that Walter would often say that we suffer from enough delusions already and ought never deliberately to seek to add to them!
Today, at the encouragement of Alex Murray, I was re-reading the wonderful chapter in Frank Pierce Jones' book 'Freedom to Change' (it is one of only 4 books not written by FM on the MATTS reading list and there are several copies in the MATTS library) called 'Notes on Teaching', that he wrote at the end of his life. I quote; "The purpose of lessons is to sharpen the kinaesthetic sense and to increase self-knowledge and self-control. The purpose is not to help the pupil develop his fantasy life. To imagine, for example, that your head is a balloon (which it certainly is not) is to get further away from reality than you already are and to reduce your chances of ever observing the head relation for what it is and does".
6/6 Anyone with an interest in riding - or even without an interest in riding - might like to take a look at this wonderful film of horse and rider from the late 1800s on the Murray's website. If you read the accompanying article, you will understand much better what is going on, both here and in "hands on the back of the chair".
6/6 The "Shaw Swimming Method" was developed by AT teacher Steven Shaw. Essentially, it is the application of the principles of the AT to swimming. You can get an idea of his work from these links: 1, 2, 3 & 4. He has just sent out a long email with much more information about his work during the 'lockdown', too much to reproduce here. If you would like to see it, email me and I will forward it to you.
5/6 Thank you to everyone who came to the classes this week. There were 16 of us on Wednesday and 30 on Thursday. Video and audio of this week's classes has now been posted.
1/6 The head leads and the body follows - in this wonderful video of a cheetah running.
28/5 Video and audio of this week's classes has now been posted. I hope you all have a good week!
21/5 You can find the latest Statnews online here. Malcolm has several articles in this edition.
20/5 The video of Monday's Zoom AT and science symposium (that was recommended in the class on Wednesday by those who have seen it) is available online here.
18/5 Robin Simmons, who trained with Walter Carrington, qualifying as a teacher in 1971, is offering an online course on the Dart Procedures and the AT, in which he (and also Joan and Alex Murray) has a longstanding interest and great expertise. Information on his Facebook page: "From May 22nd Fridays 11.00 – 11.40 Central European Time (CET), pay what you can (suggested amount $8). Any Alexander Technique enthusiast interested in the Dart Procedures or The Evolution of Movement is welcome. TO JOIN please send me your email address via a private message."
14/5 I commend to you this brief interview with Walter Carrington (29 mins) that really captures Walter at his best. It took place in about 1988. He answers several questions, including when training course readings/lectures on FM's books first began and why, how to let the neck be free, working with children, what is 'forward and up', what is Inhibition and Direction, fear reactions: their causes and how to address them with the AT, different approaches to teaching the AT and the future of the AT.
14/5 Thank you to everybody who came to our classes this week. There were 18 attendees on Wednesday and 28 on Thursday. Audio and video have now been posted.
8/5 Thank you to everybody who came to our classes this week. There were 17 attendees on Wednesday and 30 on Thursday. Audio and video have now been posted.
7/5 Another free Zoom AT and science symposium that looks very interesting will be on Monday 18th May at 5 pm. It will consist of four brief presentations followed by Q&A. You can find more details and sign up here. A video version will be available afterwards for anyone who cannot join live.
14/5 You can see a shortened version of the lecture on Vimeo here.
1/5 Malcolm's talk from 30/4, 'An introduction to MSI' (historical, philosophical, educational context) can be downloaded and viewed by clicking on this link. It's a 300 MB file and takes about 2 minutes to download on a fast broadband connection.
If you missed the Zoom class on Thursday, this talk is essential viewing for students and highly recommended for teachers. From next Thursday, Malcolm will begin reading and commenting on MSI, and I hope to be able to post these here as well. I will also post Karen's 'do nothing, change nothing, notice and observe changes that occur' semi-supine.
30/4 Thank you to everybody who attended the Wednesday and Thursday Classes this week. It was great to see you all, and was an opportunity for people who are far away (even in New Zealand!) to join in. There were 10 participants on Wednesday (this should rise from next week) and 28 participants on Thursday. With the consent of the speakers, I will post some of the talks from the classes on this page shortly.
30/4 STAT has announced that students will be able to claim up to 36 hours of virtual attendance (the 20% of class hours normally set aside for 'theoretical' work in a full-time training) for this term (and possibly more in certain circumstances) towards the minimum 1600 hours required to qualify as a teacher. Teachers can continue to claim these classes as CPD.
28/4 The Wednesday and Thursday Zoom classes start weekly from tomorrow, 10 am-12 pm with a 20-30 minute break in the middle.
Teachers are most welcome at both classes, although the Wednesday Classes will particularly centre around the needs of the students. If you have a reasonably modern device, the technical bit will probably be very straightforward for you.
22/4 You can download a photo of F.M. teaching here. Can you see the incredible contact and fluidity in his hands? They appear as if they might be arthritic, but in fact were not, and had looked that way even when he was a child.
Every first generation teacher that I asked about FM's teaching believed that he was considerably more skilled than anyone he trained, even after they themselves had 50 years of teaching experience. Perhaps that was because he worked it out for himself the hard way, although Pat Macdonald told me that he thought it was at least as much because FM dedicated almost every waking moment to working at it. Pat was probably, after Walter Carrington, the most influential of the first generation teachers. He developed a unique teaching style and was much admired for his skills. After spending six months in Israel having many lessons and visiting the training courses of teachers that Pat Macdonald trained, when I returned to England I visited his training course many times and had at least thirty lessons with him before starting my training with Walter. His particular way of working continues to exert a strong influence on the way I understand the Technique.
21/4 Re. Walter Carrington lectures recorded live (see below post 5/4), one of my pupils sent me this audio file, "Loosening the Grip of Fear". It gives a real sense of a 'typical' Walter lecture. Here he reads from and expounds upon Chapter Ten of 'The Universal Constant in Living'. UCL was, to quote from the Mouritz website; "Alexander's fourth and last book. It contains his most mature and consummate thoughts on what is now known as the Alexander Technique. Alexander shares with the reader knowledge accumulated in the course of more than 45 years of practical teaching experience."
21/4 Re. the webinar series Ted Dimon is offering, explaining the science of the primary control, there are details below as to how to access this live every Monday to Thursday for the next three weeks. Past lectures have been posted on the Dimon Institute's website here, so you can watch it without Zoom.
15/4 In my email to teachers (see below), I invited offers from teachers to contribute to the classes with their areas of special interest and/or expertise that were suitable for virtual meetings and relevant to the training. I have already been approached by three teachers with interesting offers that I will be very pleased to adopt. I would like to extend the same offer to students. Is there something you could contribute?
11/4 Ted Dimon (very experienced AT teacher and all round clever chap) will be giving a series of talks on Zoom about how the primary control works over a three week period beginning on Monday 20 April. "This is a curriculum I've developed over many years based on my book Neurodynamics: the Art of Mindfulness in Action. We will meet Monday through Thursday, 12PM-1PM EST, for three weeks (beginning 20/4 and ending 7/5)." (Note from Peter: this is 5 pm to 6 pm in the UK).
This series will be open to everyone at no charge in order to help people continue their studies during this time." More information
Fun fact: I visited Ted's training course in New York about 15 years ago when he was running it with John Nicholls. John is certainly one of the most skilled and interesting AT teachers in the world and will probably visit MATTS at some point during your training.
11 - 13/4 I have now sent out an email to all MATTS teachers and students to update everyone on our plans for the coming term. I am planning to offer two meetings each week on Weds and Thurs mornings, for two hours each, with a 20 minute break from 29th April our original start of the new term.
The Weds class will be mostly for students and the Thurs class will be for teachers and students, as before. I do not think that virtual meetings are a viable substitute for hands-on work for new students (see here and here for why). So in the Weds class we will be sticking, mostly, to "theoretical" work and semi-supine talk-throughs. The Thurs class will include these and a small amount of practical work (Malcolm has some fun ideas). It is possible, but has not been confirmed yet (see update 5/4), that some of this can be counted towards training hours. I do not plan to charge anything for the classes initially until we see how they go, and after that I may suggest a very modest charge for students.
I am not "set against" practical virtual work, despite the fact that I believe it will mostly prove to be unhelpful, since I expect that we will be meeting again before too long and can then set right anything that has gone wrong. So if any of our students are very keen to pursue this, they are welcome to contact other training schools who provide this to request to join in with their online work. I will be posting advice about which courses to approach, and why, soon.
9/4 Some years ago, we took Fergus (our greyhound, and previous Thursday Class mascot) to a 'fun race' at a dog racetrack. Watching the other dogs run made Fergus beside himself with excitment, and he set up a howling sound that we never heard before or after. Some of the other dogs may have been concerned about his lack of poise (although he did reach 43 mph on the track that day) and here is one possibly preparing himself to give Fergus a 'turn' by practising 'paws on the back of a chair'. You can see at a glance that he must have had very good paws!
9/4 I thought it might be interesting for you if I continue with a series of introductions to the "First Generation" (trained by F.M.) teachers who were still alive when I was training. The one that I met last and knew least was Erika Whitaker. She trained on the first course from 1932, but lived in Australia until she was about 90, before returning to the UK in 1988 to live in Edinburgh near to her daughter. She gave a masterclass at the major (280 attendees) Manchester conference in 1998. Most of the other surviving first generation teachers were at the conference too, with an average age of over 80. Several future MATTS teachers were at the conference (including Gill Thorndyke, Liz Hulse - and also Sarah Rutherford!), and MATTS opened a couple of years later. When I spoke with Erika on the telephone in Australia to arrange her masterclass she told me; "Just don't stiffen your neck. That's all it is, really". Sounds simple!
Fun fact - Malcolm made a commitment to STAT Council that the conference would happen in Manchester, even though he knew that he would be spending the summer in Canada. I'll leave you to work out the rest!
Here is another short video of her being interviewed. It is interesting to hear her speak about the changes in Alexander's approach to teaching over the years as he came to discover what we all now know - that people cannot change their habitual reactions if you are rushing them or unkind. Someone who trained with F.M. earlier, informally, was Margaret Goldie, with whom I had many lessons - and she was famous (infamous?) for continuing with the earlier way of working with pupils. But that is for another post...
It is a little worrying to hear Erika describing F.M. as a dear old gentleman by the time she met him in 1928 - when he was rather younger than I am now!
5/4 Walter Carrington gave lectures on most training days over the course of at least 50 years. Some consisted of readings from Alexander's books and other relevant books (with extended commentary), and some were talks (usually without notes) on the principles of the Technique or on teaching the Technique. Many of these were recorded, and by the time I was training in the mid-80s Walkman tape recorders were freely available and during lectures at least five were lined up on the floor in front of him!
Some of these talks were selected to be included in the two books 'Thinking Aloud' and 'The Act of Living', but there were hundreds - if not thousands - of others. Some of these were typed up in the pre-computer days and circulated as photocopies. Here is one of them, 'On Stiffening the Neck', from 1972.
You can read Walter's obituary from 'The Times' here.
31/3/20 I've just come off a two hour Zoom meeting with STAT Heads of Training from around the world. An amazing technology! There seems to be consensus that Zoom provides an effective platform for some of the more academic parts of training (lectures, reading, anatomy, etc.), masterclass formats and possibly a certain amount of set self-observation homework. You do not need any significant technical skill to participate. You just need a device (ideally a desktop, laptop or tablet - a phone's screen is a bit small, but not impossible) that has a webcam, speaker and microphone and to answer an invitation that I will send you to join at an allotted time.
Perhaps we could meet virtually on Wednesday and/or Thursday mornings? I'll come back to you all on this in a couple of weeks or so.
31/3/20 Brickies: Labourer in Bangladesh. How's this for skill?
28/3/20 Karen McCarthy has set up a WhatsApp group for teachers and trainees who would like to keep in touch during the 'lockdown'. Text her your mobile phone number if you want to be added to the group. Karen's number is 07502-377-199.
28/3/20 As the Covid-19 lockdown is set to last a minimum of 12 weeks, we will not be able to re-open the full-time MATTS training course at the end of April as originally planned. However, once we get the go-ahead, I hope to re-open the Wednesday and Thursday classes without delay, after which we can discuss the best date to move to a full-time training.
28/3/20 A potential trainee has just asked me about a reading list. I explained that, although reading is not an alternative to practical work, an understanding of the theoretical principles and a knowledge of the history of the AT is usually considered to be about 20% of the training, so it's good to get a head start. If you've not yet read Lulie Westfelt's book, it's very readable, even entertaining, and gives a good overview of the history, Alexander's personality and the theoretical principles. Do also read Majory Barlow's review of the book and her reposte to Lulie's complaints about F.M. in the Appendix.
Here's a link to the training course reading list on the old MATTS website (soon to be updated). All of these books are in the MATTS library.
27/3/20 Malcolm just sent me this pdf file of a charming article about Alex Murray from the most recent issue of PAN, the Journal of the British Flute Society. Musicians, and those of you who have already made the "pilgrimage" to the Murrays, as well as those who still hope to do so, should find this particularly interesting. Alex is an expert on the history of the A.T. You can find and download his book Alexander's Way, which is a major work, here.
27/3/20 Video - Marjory Barlow (1915 - 2006) talking about F.M., the principles of the A.T., the principles of training as a teacher and of teaching. There's plenty more by Marjory online, this is just somewhere to start. She trained with the first group of trainees, starting at the age of just 17 in 1932, and continued teaching until the end of her long life. I had more lessons with Marjory than any of the other first generation teachers apart from Walter Carrington. She was always warm and kind - and utterly dedicated to her work. Marjory's lecture reviewing Evolution of a Technique in The Use of the Self is here.
Video - Walter Carrington (1915 - 2005) presents the Alexander Technique. In this first of two videos you can see him at work in 1985. I'll post the second video in due course. This was filmed after the 'afternoon class' for students in their final five terms. I was in my last term in the 'morning class' at that time, and so do not appear in the video.
Walter trained with Alexander from 1936 - 1939, and in Alexander's last several years he entrusted Walter to run his course, F.M. only coming in occasionally to give 'turns'.
Walter (and later with Dilys) trained by far the largest number of teachers of any training course, and a great many of their teachers are still teaching today, including Malcolm and myself - and of course the Murrays. Jane Osgood completed a post-graduate term with the Carringtons. The earlier MATTS trainees (such as Gillian Thorndyke, Liz Hulse, Pauline Leng) visited him in London as a group. Did you know that some of our current students also experienced Walter's work?
27/3/20 As a result of a positive report (written by MATTS graduate Julia Woodman, now head of the Edinburgh training course for teachers) about the effectiveness of training at the Bristol Alexander School, STAT is planning to revise training course rules that currently stipulate a minimum four day/week schedule. This may allow us the possibility of scheduling the course in other formats. For example, instead of running the course four days each week for 33 weeks per year, we could opt to run it for three days each week for 44 weeks per year - or perhaps in some other format. Something to discuss when we get together again.
27/3/20 Have you all seen the MATTS video from 2009? Newer students won't know many of those present, but it does include Pauline and Malcolm. I wasn't there that day.
27/3/20 Due to Covid-19, Bruce Fertman's workshop in April has been cancelled with the intention of rescheduling in the future.
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Information about Wednesday and Thursday Zoom Classes
The classes will resume on 9th September. If you do not have Zoom invitation links for the classes, please email me for them. There will be a very modest "suggested contribution" for classes from next term so we can pay a small sum to presenters, more details to follow shortly.
Video and audio clips of previous classes are posted here.
Both classes are suitable for students and for teachers. However, the Wednesday Classes will tend to prioritise the needs of students whilst the Thursday Classes will tend to prioritise the needs of teachers.
We request that non-MATTS teachers try to come on Thursdays rather than Wednesdays if possible.
AT teachers are now permitted to give individual lessons subject to government guidelines. Some teachers are re-starting work now and some are not. You can find information about local teachers' availability for lessons here.