Riding In the Clown Cars of Structural Integration

Some folks who do this work called “structural integration” will know this feeling. The feeling happens when we are having a conversation with someone about our work, maybe even a Rolf Institute of Structural Integration graduate, and BLAM the practitioner is trying to fit his ego plus a few of his pet other disciplines into the discipline of structural integration. With these additions and a large dollop of ego sauce the practitioner has named his work after himself or his fantasy. (Yes, it is mostly men who love this activity of ego maniac clowns, stuffing themselves and everything else they can into our structural/functional discipline, as though stuffing clowns into a clown car in the Ringling Brothers circus.)

In a corollary, the structural integrator is all hung up on  a certain technique, or instrumental mode, or –conversely– is busy arguing that ANY technique will do. Experiments have shown that teaching a certain basic technique leads to better learning, and after that there may be personal perhaps idiosyncratic ways of working within the discipline.

Maybe the structural integration term is used to exclude movement integration or functional integration. (“If the structure is right, the movement will be right.”) Just silly, this argument, and Ida Rolf knew this and designated certain Rolfers to explore the possibilities of movement integration. Nowadays knowing about functional movement is the sine qua non of structural integration since the absence of good function predicts structural problems and the presence of good function means Rolfing work will last longer and the client will be able to do their favorite things better.

In another corollary, perhaps included in the above, the so-called structural integrator is busy telling about how he does not use any formula for  “his” work of structural integration. This structural integrator has not done the Standard Basic 10 series with a client in years. (And is unwilling or unable to tell you what he is doing in terms of integration.) Or–conversely–the structural integrator is doing nothing but the most fundamentalist view of the Standard Basic 10 that can be found in some old class notes from the 1960’s.

So, let’s talk formula or algorithm of the Standard Basic 10 Series. Historically, Ida Rolf was at some pains in her book (Rolfing: The Integration of Human Structures) not to tell the secret sauce of the formula. Nowadays the algorithmic formula of Rolf is all over the internet. Books can be bought describing the formula. The original structural integration formula is an elegant one for creating integration, and fixing problematic issues, but it was never meant by Rolf to be taken fundamentally like a stamped cookie cutter. There are specific goals, proportions, and a certain order which make intersectional sense in a non-linear fashion. All these goals must be adapted to a person, maybe a regular type person who has their own idiosyncratic ways, or maybe even a person who has an artificial leg, is paralyzed somehow, or has a rod in their spine (for starters).

Just as a strong jazz improviser (even “free” jazz) needs to have pattern recognition, so does a structural integrator. This pattern recognition is not “just” the recognition of the person in the “now”, it is the recognition of where the pattern can go and how the intersectional patterns will hook up. It is a recognition of the messy human problems which humans bring to structure/function and a sure knowledge that it can be changed for better function for which the human is asking.

We could call it formulaic improvisation on a brilliant theme, when we get good at it. We give a nod to the brilliant old lady with the pokey fingers each time we step into our work room and leave our egos behind.



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