My observation of movement was originally sparked by something my own practitioner at the time once said to me. At the end of treatment I was told to get up from the couch and get dressed. Apparently, although I myself didn’t realise this, I leapt off the couch in a hurry, reaching for my clothes almost before my feet had touched the ground. “Goodness”, she said, “you are a speedy person.” At the time, not having observed people as closely as I do now, I had not noticed that my movements are always quick, often much quicker than others around me, and speed up even more when I think somebody is waiting for me to leave and I assume, usually wrongly, that they are waiting impatiently, as I may well have thought my practitioner was.
Thinking back on this from my present standpoint, I realise that the speed of my springing up from the couch was closely associated with my fear, one that I have always had, that I am somehow outstaying my welcome and need to get myself out of the way quickly. Fire, my element, is naturally an energetic element, but added to my natural Fire quickness was also Fire’s fear that it is somehow not getting something right. I suppose this comes from its very heightened awareness of others and of others’ needs, and its desire to ensure that what it does is not upsetting to other people. My rapid jumping up from the couch could then be interpreted as a clear pointer to the Fire element. It took me some time to put this quick interaction in the practice room into context, and see it as pointing towards an example of the Fire element in action within me.
Another example was offered me when I was casually watching some golf on TV, and I suddenly noticed the golfer Rory McIlroy’s walk. I can best describe it as a kind of jaunty stride. It is certainly not a stroll nor does it appear to be a form of hurrying, and yet I can find no better way of describing it than to say that he walks as though pushing the air aside in front of him, not in any way aggressively, but firmly. It is definitely a stride, but done with a kind of joyousness to it. He is so obviously an excellent example of the Fire element. He can’t stop smiling as he walks, nor can he can’t stop wanting to make other people laugh. You feel that if you were in front of him you would have to give way to allow this force of nature to pass by.
That set me thinking about the different ways the other elements walk. I then compared McIlroy’s walk with that of another golfer who I diagnosed as the Wood element. Wood, after all, is another very yang, outgoing element, with perhaps an even more forceful signature than Fire as its hallmark. But this Wood golfer’s walk, though firm, differed from McIlroy’s because it did not have the same kind of joyous spring to it. It was more of a firm placing of one foot in front of the other, a kind of a stomp, like someone claiming that bit of ground for himself, so that he made me more aware of the force with which each foot landed on the ground. McIlroy’s stride makes me aware of the top of his body, as his chest pushes aside the air in front of him, the Wood golfer’s more of his feet conquering the ground. This may seem a little fanciful, but I don’t think it is. Wood, after all, emphasizes the feet, Fire the top half of the body. If I think of a Wood person coming towards me, the word “striding” comes to mind, adding another distinctive layer to the concept of a walk. Striding is first of all a vigorous activity, as though the air is being moved aside to allow the person through. It is a robust form of walking, and is a good description of the kind of strong actions which Wood’s body enjoys. If we are wondering if a person is Wood, therefore, it would be good to ask ourselves whether we can imagine them as striding rather than strolling towards that future which is where all Wood people want to head.
All this made me think about my own Fire stride. Did I have something akin to McIlroy’s walk, and did other Fire people, too, or had my observation not revealed a characteristic peculiar to all Fire people but only to the one? I have not yet come to any satisfactory conclusion about this, but if anybody were to watch me walking along the street they might be surprised to note how often I glance in shop windows as I try and catch myself in mid-stride to analyse how I am walking.
Whilst I am in the world of golf, I can also think of golfers who are Earth, and compare their walk to that of people of other elements. Like many Earth people, I notice that they place their feet very solidly on the ground, and one could picture all their ten toes spreading out to find as much support for their body as they could. I have often noticed this about Earth people, and realised that it is not surprising that an element with such a need for stability, literally for “ground beneath their feet”, should make their contact with this ground as firm as possible.
I can’t at the moment find any good example of Water golfers, though I am sure they are there, as all the elements are in every walk of life, but a supremely characteristic Water sportsman from another sport is Roger Federer, the tennis player. There is a rhythm and sinuous flow to his movements which mimics that of what I am sure is his element, Water. I would imagine that the Water element must be well-represented in dancers, for that reason.
Finally, an obvious Metal sportsman whose movements were not as flowing as Water’s, but were completely focused on the goal ahead was a former 100 metre Olympic champion, Linford Christie, whose almost trance-like stare as he looked up from his blocks ready to run always seemed to me to be the epitome of Metal’s determination to reach its goal. Metal, like Water, is light on its feet, but does not float so much as glide. It reflects a person that somehow wants to move upwards, and dislikes being tied to the earth, unlike its fellow element, Earth, which so clearly needs always to be tethered to the ground in some way.
It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that it is usually Earth people who develop a fear of flying, often experiencing the moment when the aircraft takes off as something frightening. It is no coincidence that the Earth command points are on the feet and legs, whilst those of Metal are on the hands and arms. Feet can only leave the ground for very short stretches of time. Hands are free to move away from the body, and, most significantly, can stretch up above our heads. Both positions of the two elements’ command points symbolically represent their respective elements’ needs, Earth’s to anchor itself firmly to the ground, Metal’s to allow itself the freedom to explore.