Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Balance II: 'Centre of Gravity'

In the next few posts I'd like to focus on some of the practical principles involved in maintaining balance while skateboarding. Though I'm relating these principles chiefly to skateboarding, they can be applied to physical activities in general.

1. The 'centre of gravity':

Every object has a point where its entire weight is concentrated; where the weight of the object may be said to act. When dropped, an object will fall toward this point. In a rigid object of homogeneous mass, the centre of gravity is at the geometric centre. But in an object of irregular mass, the centre of gravity will be where the object is weightier, and not at its geometric centre. Obviously, the human body is of irregular mass, that is, each body part has a different composition and weight. Its centre of gravity is thus not at its geometric centre. So where is it? When a person stands upright, his centre of gravity is located near the navel.

However, the human body has an added complexity. It is not rigid and fixed, but keeps changing shape as a person wills himself to move. As a result, its centre of gravity constantly changes location. It will shift when a person raises his arms, and all the more so when he bends over to touch his toes or dives forward off a diving board.

Adept sportspeople learn how to shift their centre of gravity in order to move in a desired manner. This learning process may be conscious or subconscious. Hence, when a sprinter is at the starting block, he'll lean forward so that the centre of gravity is such that it is easy for him to take off, propel himself forward, and begin sprinting with minimal effort and delay. The long jumper learns to mentally project his centre of gravity toward his desired jumping goal, so when he jumps, his body takes on the form that brings his centre of gravity in alignment with his projection point. This allows him to move in the desired direction more effectively.

In skateboarding, every trick requires such a projection. One must imagine where the board is going to move when performing a trick so he can project his centre of gravity in that direction, move with, and subsequently land on the board. Learning this principle has bolstered my skating ability immensely. I discovered that much of my failure to land tricks was due to two things:

a. incorrect trajectory or projection point of the board. Or, more simply, a misjudgement as to where my board would move when flipped or rotated in a certain way;.
b. an inability to project my centre of gravity effectively in the direction of the board's movement.

Having learnt this principle however, I started to keep focus on ascertaining the direction and distance the board would move from its original place - gauged largely through practice - and then concentrated on projecting my centre of gravity toward that spot so that I was more likely to be above the board upon landing.

'Base of support'
Coming up...             



  1. To use this concept as a paradigm for the persona, we could construe the centre of gravity as the 'primary focus' of our endeavours, or our most basic, fundamental, inner drive, which serves as the foundation — and provides impetus and direction — for all our other pursuits. (I hope I'm not stealing your thunder, and in an inferior way, to boot.)

    The skateboard, as you explained in the post 'The Divine Chariot,' would represent the various implements external to ourselves that we use to help us achieve our goals. Like a skateboard obeys the will of its rider, these tools should be under our dominion, not the reverse.

    But in this post it seems that instead of making the skateboard subordinate to ourselves, we must adapt our personas — and our very 'centre of gravity' at that — to the path which the skateboard is likely to follow?

  2. A poignant comment! It's interesting to note that in Kabbalah the quality of Yesod-Foundation, the convergence point of all the other Sefirot, is identified with the area beginning from the abdomen and extending down to the genitals.

    To answer your question, note that there are three stages here:

    1. the skateboarder deliberately flips the skateboard in a particular way;
    2. he imagines where the skateboard is going to land;
    3. he projects his centre of gravity toward that place.

    Based on this there are two answers:

    1. Since the skater DELIBERATELY flips his board and projects his centre of gravity toward it, his psychological focus -foundation - is regulating his more external body foundation.

    2.The quality of Foundation is also called 'Shalom' - peace. This is because it tailors the spiritual energy that it draws on to suit recipients. It is in synch with the external world and relates to each thing according to its needs, capacities, etc. Hence, the fact that the bodily 'Foundation' is being projected toward a resource doesn't contradict its nature - on the contrary. (Of course, it will not adapt in this manner to the point of losing its own integrity - hence it remains above the board! If the board causes him to fall, however, that's a different story.)