Chief Instructor: Sifu John C. Loupos - Since 1968


by Sifu John Loupos

Ever since the fateful words, “...why hast thou forsaken me?” were uttered so very long ago ‘abandonment’ has been relegated near-mortal-sin status. In more modern times issues such as spousal abandonment, along with the even worse ‘child abandonment’, have raised eyebrows. The armed forces have their own acronym, A.W.O.L., to describe abandonment specific to their genre. Always, ‘abandonment’ carries with it the connotation of futility, or desperation in the face of a lost cause.

Sometimes, however, abandonment can be more benign, as when it results from plain and simple neglect, such as an abandoned car, or that old abandoned barn out back, or an abandoned friendship. This distinction may be of small consequence to whatever or whomever has been abandoned. But, for the perpetrator this distinction offers the prospect of some reprieve - stop abandoning and the effects of the neglect may be reversed.

Less dramatic than our initial examples above, but still to the point, are the ways in which abandoner and abandonee can be one and the same. Oh yes, we can abandon ourselves. We can do so according to complex psychological or spiritual dispositions: by shutting down emotions, or by living a life in denial, etc. Or, we can do so with our bodies in ways that hardly draw attention. In fact, sensorimotor amnesia (SMA), such as is addressed in Hanna Somatic Education, is unquestionably the most pandemic form of abandonment known (or rather, unknown) to humankind. Sensorimotor amnesia might as well be called sensorimotor abandonment, because during this state of affairs the brain has, de facto, abandoned a part or parts of the body. However, because sensorimotor amnesia is often subtle, both in its onset and its appearance, it is poorly recognized. This also renders it insidious. Due to the very nature of SMA, few who suffer from this form of abandonment even know that they suffer, let alone from what they suffer. At least this is usually the case early on. These sufferers are the unwitting victims of their own neglect. Sensorimotor amnesia presents itself in such a variety of simple guises that even modern medicine with all its technological resources fails to recognize SMA for what it is. Instead of seeing sensorimotor amnesia, modern science and medicine sees only its effects; ‘arthritis’, various and sundry pain syndromes, postural decline, and the most ubiquitously ignorant mislabeling of all - ‘just getting older’. Not that arthritis or pain syndromes can’t be bone fide indications of declining health, but much more often than conventional medicine is aware these conditions either are, are caused by, or are abetted by sensorimotor amnesia.

As a martial arts teacher, I regularly witness abandonment in Kung Fu and Tai Chi students as well. This is a matter of particular concern with Tai Chi as such abandonment is antithetical to Tai Chi’s most basic tenets. This shortcoming can be observed when any part of one’s body, or movement of said part, fails to function according to the practitioner’s clear and deliberate intention. Typically, a student’s attention may fall disproportionately on the leg that is stepping, or the arm or hand that seems most to be leading a movement, whilst the more passive leg or arm (or other body part) is, at least temporarily, abandoned to a less prominent role. Granted, this may fall well short of mortal sin status. But in the context of a discipline in which movements are sought to be deliberate and precisely controlled, even to a level of nuance, abandonment would seem to stall one at cross purposes.

In non-Tai Chi scenarios abandonment can readily be seen in individuals displaying habituated reflex patterns. In such circumstances muscles or muscles groups fail to relax completely when the brain is not actively calling them into service, the consequence being that muscles are stuck to some degree or other in chronic contraction. This creates a semantic (as well as a somatic) quandary in putting any such muscle with any degree of stuckness in immediate conflict with its antagonist muscles, muscles with which there would ordinarily exist a relative state of détente. You need only glance around at others to observe such scenarios. But because of the prevalence in our society of SMA we’ve become desensitized such that we rarely attach importance to habituated patterns as conditions of note. Rather, as previously mentioned, such issues are simply attributed to just getting older, etc.

Fortunately, the prospect of reprieve, at least for neuromuscular abandonment, is readily at hand. Thanks to the legacy of Thomas Hanna, the founder of Hanna Somatic Education, we have the means by which sensorimotor amnesia and abandonment issues can be largely eliminated. Hanna’s many-dozens-of movement patterns and hands-on techniques, most notably assisted pandiculation, can quickly and easily redress abandonment due to sensorimotor amnesia wherever it is harbored in one’s body. HSE movement patterns and table work are uniquely effective in restoring full voluntary control by teaching clients to pay attention in order to differentiate muscle functions and behaviors, thereby reclaiming them from the realm of amnesia or reflex. The simple act of paying attention in a discerning manner already improves awareness and control where previously there was abandonment.

Repeatedly, I have heard my own personal initial reactions to this system of wellness restoration echoed in the words of others - “But how can it possibly work, it’s SO simple.” Indeed, how can something so simple, in a world accustomed to seeking its answers in complex technologies, provide such an effective and comprehensive solution to human pain and suffering as Hanna Somatic Education? No matter how advanced and complicated are the technologies we develop and live with, along with the very thinking that fosters these advances, the simple fact remains that our own bodies have not evolved on a par with technology. The human body is essentially the same as it’s been for tens of thousands of years - the same muscles, the same brain, and the same tolerances for use and abuse. The principles of Hanna Somatics could as easily have been discovered during the Middle Ages as now, so simple are its basic elements. And now, as then, reversing the effects of sensorimotor amnesia, aka abandonment, is as simple as insuring that your brain and the muscles of your motor system are communicating freely and effectively in the absence of impediments to doing so. Accomplish that and, voila!, no more abandonment.

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