The Foundations of Body work has recently gone through a period of unprecedented development and growth. The following was written at the request of the Rolfing faculty, who felt that an update on the FOB’s recent progress would be important to share with the membership at large.
The Foundations of Bodywork (FOB) is an intensive 6week “pre-training” course offered by the Rolf Institute. With it’s associated home study and practice, the FOB covers the basic academic and hands on admission prerequisites for the Rolf training itself. It was begun in 1985 on the premise that Rolfers themselves could do a better job of teaching the prerequisite courses that candidates were then searching out elsewhere. History has born this out: in the Rolf training, FOB graduates are widely acknowledged to have an obvious head start in their understanding of our work. Although the FOB s officially referred to as “Unit I” of the Integrated Rolfing studies program, it remains non-mandatory: students with sufficiently massage or bodywork background can “test out” and enter the next phase of the Rolfing training directly.
I have to confess that I was skeptical when I first heard about a course to teach the prerequisites to the Rolfing training. Like many other Rolfers who satisfied their prerequisite on their own, I doubted that such seemingly short course could give the necessary depth and scope. After all, I had spent most of two years in massage schools and university extension classes satisfying my prerequisites. I changed my mind about the FOB’s potential soon after I got involved with it in 1989. I saw that because we could teach each subject from our unique perspective, the FOB (along with home study and practice) gave students a better preparation for Rolfing than was available anywhere else. This has only gotten more true in the years since.
The FOB has evolved a well integrated and balanced curriculum which thoroughly prepares students for the Rolfing training itself. Current subjects include Anatomy/Kinesiology, Physiology, Skillful Touch Bodywork (our own training and practice bodywork form), as well as introductory training in the dynamics of the Therapeutic Relationship (which, among other things, includes instruction in professionalism, ethics, and basic psychological considerations). After completion of the in class portion, students document a minimum of 50 hours of hands-on bodywork practice, which includes a minimum of 3 hours of individual supervision with a Rolfer or other body worker. Like all applicants, FOB students also complete the standard Admissions Essays, written Case Study, and the Admissions Exam in Anatomy, Kinesiology, and Physiology.
The FOB class atmosphere is both rigorous and supportive. Because we cover a very large amount of material in a relatively short period, the pace is fast and intense. At the same time, our goal is to do much more than simply impart information; being a good practitioner, after all, involves much more than just acquiring knowledge. Thus, the curriculum and structure of the course constantly address the “being” as well the “doing” aspects of a candidate’s preparation. As a faculty, we emphasize kinesthetic experience and actual embodiment and of the material learned. We do this by employing activities and exercises that engage the students on all levels: cognitive, somatic, intra- and interpersonal, etc. All of this takes place in a cooperative learning environment where students are encouraged use the group experience itself as both a resource, and as an opportunity for learning about their own relationship dynamics. This aspect of the FOB, that is, the personal learning that comes from being part of a group, is often mentioned by FOB alumni as being among the most transformative parts of their Rolfing education.
Skillful Touch Body work
One of the questions that has been with the Rolfing training since the beginning is this: How can we prepare candidates in the touch skills they need to do good Rolfing? This is both a pedagogical question and a safety issue. Let’s face it: anyone’s first attempts at a new endeavor lack the skill and finesse that come with experience. In the case of Rolfing, this can leave clients feeling less balanced instead of more organized.
The traditional answer to this was to ask students learn massage first. Massage is fairly benign and risk-free, but the Rolfing faculty felt that once in training, students were having to unlearn many of the habits they had picked up as massage practitioners. A few years ago, they challenged the FOB faculty to come up with a style of bodywork that would be easy to learn, that would give students a chance to gain experience with bodies, tissues and clients, but would be more relevant to Rolfing than the Esalen/Swedish style that most candidates were then learning. Our answer has been Skillful Touch Bodywork. One of its basic premises is that facility in tactile perception is necessary before the technology of change can be appropriately introduced. Thus, Skillful Touch is, in essence, an awareness practice: students learn first to perceive different tissue layers, to monitor their own body use and internal state, and to be sensitive enough to respond to their client’s experience. Along with this, they learn enough technique and theory to be able to do a beginning bodywork session. Like Rolfing, we use very little oil, and the work is performed on lower tables. Like massage, Skillful Touch’s emphasis is not so much on producing structural change as it is on fostering a state of relaxation and heightened awareness in the recipient (and in the practitioner too, for that matter). Our hope is that these skills of sensitivity and responsiveness to monitor the client’s state will compliment the structural skills that students will learn in the Rolf training itself. So far, it seems to be working very well.
One of the advantages of developing our own bodywork form is that even the experienced body workers who come to the FOB find something new and challenging. We get a good number of body workers who have been trained in other forms before they come to the FOB. In our inquiry into what produces good Rolfers, we’ve managed to define a touch curriculum universal enough that even the most advanced practitioner gains something exciting and fresh.
Skillful Touch is, after less than three years in development, still a work-in progress. New refinements are being added constantly. Thanks are due here to the many Rolfers who have worked with FOB graduates and have given us their very useful feedback Keep it coming, please!
The FOB faculty
We have a larger and stronger teaching team than ever before. While 18 months ago we had only one class Coordinator (myself), we now have four Coordinators or Coordinators-in-training (as of June 1996, Jon Martine and I are full Coordinators; Suzanne Picard and John Schewe very close to completing their requirements). Our regular faculty pool presently consists of three Skillful Touch faculty (Jon Martin, Suzanne Picard, and myself), two Physiology teachers (Wiley Patterson and John Schewe), two “Therapeutic Relationship” teachers (Jane Harrington and myself), and six Anatomy/Kinesiology teachers (Jon Martine, Michael Murphy, Tom Myers, Cornelia Rossi, John Schewe, and Ron Thompson). Additionally, there are competent assistants training to become full teachers in every one of these subjects. Tom Myers and Jason Mixter should be given credit for their early work with the FOB and for sending it along in the direction it has taken. Other teachers who have made significant contributions over the years include Monica Caspari, Sandy Collins, John Cottingham, Liz Gaggini, Holly Howard, Debra Kuresman-Dawson, Ken Morgareidge, Robert Murray, Aline Newton, Jim Oschman, and Patricia Stepan. Rolfing faculty members Jim Asher, Tessy Brungardt, Jane Harrington, Vivian Jaye, Sally Klemm, and Ray McCall have all lent their time to the FOB. Guest teachers in recent years have included Susan Aposhyan, Deane Juhan, Bob Kest, Peter Levine, Caryn McHose, Kekuni Minton, and others. The Rolf faculty’s FOB Committee (Jim Asher, Sally Klemm, Jon Martine, Liesel Orend, Cornelia Rossi, Ron Thompson, and myself) has played an advisory and supervisory role during the last year of curriculum revision. Acknowledgment is also due to the many Administration and Staff members who have worked hard on the FOB’s development (notably Liesel Orend); to the many, many Rolfers and Rolfing students who have volunteered their expertise and time; and to anyone that I might have inadvertently omitted form this roster.
The Future of FOB
One of the most exciting new developments is the Modular / Extended Format FOB (see the announcement elsewhere in this issue). It will have the same curriculum and the same number of total hours as the traditional intensive format FOB, but will be split into four 8-day residencies with periods of study and practice in between. This should allow candidates with family or career commitments the scheduling flexibility they need to explore the first phase of our training. This new format option also represents our wish to include even more study and integration time within the FOB itself.
Many other projects are in process that will continue to improve on what we do now. The FOB is casting off its past identity as a semi-autonomous pariah program, and is rapidly becoming an integrated part of the Institute’s entire educational program, with representation at faculty meetings and on relevant committees. Skillful Touch showing the first signs of name recognition, and we have begun an investigation into securing the service mark rights. Outreach and interchange with international pre-trainings has never been greater: active faculty exchanges continue with Brazil and Australia, and thanks to the work of Robert Schleip, Cornelia Rossi, and others in Europe and Brazil, uniform international pre-training standards appear to be close at hand.
Blowing Our Own Horn?
If all this sounds like horn-tooting, it’s because I am, in fact, quite happy with where the FOB is today. Just like all the progeny of Ida Rolf’s legacy, the FOB has had its share of trials and transitions. Having weathered these storms (as well as those that have affected all of us involved with the Rolf Institute), the FOB is alive and thriving. I am very pleased to be able to tell this, and to be able to say that it will only continue to improve as we move forward.
The FOB has always been sustained by the support it gets from the Rolfing community at large, and the recent growth and development bring even more opportunity and need. Our wish-list includes: people willing to serve on development groups (such as Skillful Touch accreditation, etc.), teaching assistants for any or all subjects, mentors/supervisors for individual work with students, and local organizers for out-of-Boulder FOB’s and weekend Intro workshops. If you are interested in participating in these ways, or any other, please contact either Liesel Orend or myself.