Peter Hermse attended the MBS Foundation Seminar VIII in June 2013 after sustaining a collarbone injury in his Judo practice. He underwent surgery just days before the course and discovered that with the MBS work his post-operation recovery went unusually rapid. In addition, MBS turned out to offer a deeply interesting process of self-directed inquiry and exploration.
In conversation at the close of the seminar, Peter recounts his experiences of re-learning to use his shoulder as part of his entire system, and how he is now finding new movement-based learning opportunities in Judo, running, and all sorts of daily activities – from parking a car to entertaining a young child. After a relatively brief exposure to Mind Body Studies, Peter has quickly identified a fundamental principle of the training; in his words, “It’s a very funny experience – an awakening – to see that the brain gives limitations, but therefore also possibilities. If you don’t mind the limitations and just think of possibilities, well, you can go a long way.”
How did you first find out about this training?
My experience with MBS and Feldenkrais started when Tessa (Peter’s wife and current MBS student) was doing her first seminar. She came home and told me about it and experimented on me a little. Tessa has been changing through all of the seminars, and I wanted to understand better what she is going through. Then, one week before seminar eight started, I broke my collarbone in Judo and had surgery. That put everything in a completely new perspective for me.
To give you some background, as part of the surgery, they had put a little titanium plate on my collarbone with six screws in it. The surgeon had said to me that I shouldn’t move in particular ways, because that could hurt or damage the repairs he had made. With that in mind, I came to Bad Tolz thinking, “I can do this, I can’t do that… I can’t do that.” Well, I’m not a person who listens very well to a surgeon when he says, "you can’t,” because I want to try and I want to feel for myself.
Could you describe your experiences during the training, as you continued to participate in the group classes?
Mia showed me that it was possible to move my arm in any direction.
My mind stored that, and I realized that what the surgeon had said to me was not about any real things, but about things that maybe could happen. That way, he had made me afraid of some of my movements.
With the things Mia taught me and showed me, I went home after the seminar on Sunday and experimented with a whole lot of movements, and during the day, the movement improved, getting better and larger.
“Just by thinking about what I really wanted to do, instead of thinking about what movement I should make, I could do the movement.”
That evening, I was playing with Eydie, the young daughter of another MBS student, and I made funny faces for her. One minute out of the blue, I put my fingers on either side of my head, and made a very silly face – and Eydie laughed. I hadn’t realized that I was making a movement that I hadn’t made before. When I had thought about making the movement, I was afraid, and the surgeon had said it would hurt. But when I just did the movement, it was fine.
Over the next days, the more movements I made, the more I realized that I could do everything. There were no limits – the limits were just in my head. The only limit I have is that I mustn’t do too much, that is, not put too much weight over my head.
The day off, was interesting, too. Tessa and I went for a drive, and at one point I had to park the car in a difficult position. From the surgery until that point, I had only driven right-handed. Because of the difficulty of the movement, I had to use two hands. But at that point, I wasn’t thinking about using two hands. I was only thinking, “Oh, I have to park the car.” I did it without thinking that I was injured. I just parked, and later I pulled the car out and drove away. Only then when I was driving, I suddenly noticed, “Oh, I’m driving with my left hand!” This was exactly one week after surgery, and I could drive with two hands or just left-handed. Those were all things that made me realize that just by thinking about what I really wanted to do, instead of thinking about what movement I should make, I could do the movement.
I think if you want to do something and you really love it, you just focus on doing it and not on the limitations or pains. I think having pain and dealing with it and living with limitations can become a really bad habit. In a strange way, it can make you feel safe. It can become familiar. So I think after an injury it’s important not to get stuck in the idea of “Oh, I’m injured, I had a surgery, now I have to walk with crutches.” When you just keep talking about how bad you feel, you keep confirming it, it gets in your mind.
When I went into surgery, I had thought recovery would take six or seven weeks, and the doctor talked about getting physiotherapy– but it’s been six days instead of six weeks, and I have complete movement. It is still broken, it still has to grow – no heavy lifting – but I can function in a functional way. That’s really nice!
How was it for you to first experience MBS training?
Well, I had felt MBS and Feldenkrais things before, as Tessa had showed me really well. When she prepares a new ATM, she experiments on me, so I knew a little bit about what MBS could do and what it does in your mind. I knew that it’s really up to you – that you have to do it yourself. A practitioner can make you do something, but then when you leave, you have to make the movements and make the connections yourself. With Mia showing me, I found out what I could do. That made me realize, “Oh, I could do a lot of things.” I think my experience with Mia was the best explanation you could ever have. You notice such big differences, and your brain stores that, and then you can work from that point on.
“You also have to think, why is this difficult for me, or where can I improve it? Where does my movement stop, and why am I stopping the movement there? Is it in my shoulders or in my back or in my pelvis? Then, when you realize that, then you can get rid of that limitation and change the whole movement.”
Have you noticed any particular connections between what you’ve done with MBS and your Judo practice?
MBS movements are sometimes very similar to movements in Judo. All day (during the seminar), we did the movement with the right arm in the window between the left knee and left arm – almost the basics of rolling in Judo. There’s a lot of movements that you can compare.
More generally, I think I’m much more aware of how I make my movements. Even in Judo, when you have to make a shoulder throw, you can dissect the whole movement into parts. You also have to think, why is this shoulder throw difficult for me, or where can I improve it? Where does my movement stop, and why am I stopping the movement there? Is it in my shoulders or in my back or in my pelvis? Then, when you realize that, then you can get rid of that limitation and change the whole movement.
There was a nice story that Mia told me about Judo in Japan. Historically, if you broke your collarbone in Judo, the Sensei would come over and set the broken bone so quickly, even before the body realized that something was broken. And so you don’t get the limitation. You still have to be careful, the bone still has to regrow, but because the fixing happens that quickly, there are fewer limitations in the mind, so the movement is less affected.
“It’s all about you and your mind and your body, and not what someone else tells you about it. At the beginning, they can make you feel what you’re capable of. And then you have to realize what you can do for yourself.”
You mentioned that you’d already had some exposure to MBS through Tessa’s classes. Have you seen any transfer to your Judo training already?
Once Tessa did a group class for riders that involved shoulder movements. At the time, I had this limitation with my running, that my shoulder hurt after about eight or ten miles. In Tessa’s class, I realized that I held my shoulder really tight. So, when I went running after that class, I repeated the shoulder movement as I ran. Well, the stiffness of that shoulder disappeared, and it’s really improved my performance in running. That was the first time I used something with MBS in my sports. It was a class for something completely different – for horseback riding – but I realized it involved the same movement, so I used it for running.
You have to think in possibilities and not in limitations. And you have to do it yourself. When you leave here after ten days and then you come back to the next seminar, you have had three months to improve yourself. If you become too dependent on the seminar for your movement, then I think you don’t really understand what it’s all about. It’s all about you and your mind and your body, and not what someone else tells you about it. At the beginning, they can make you feel what you’re capable of and then you have to realize what you can do for yourself.