Bothmer Gymnastics

Movement, Bothmer Gymnastics and Sport

In the school, movement education is an important part of the curriculum. In all the movement activities provided for the children in the school, the gesture of uprightness is held as an ideal. In the kindergarten this may be indicated by a finger game, or the teacher’s posture as she kneads the bread. The children imitate the movements of the adults around them, be this in a circle game or when raking the leaves outdoors. In Class 1 these playful and imaginative circle games are extended into activities such as skipping, beanbag throwing and running games based on stories. It is only in Class 3 that the formal movement programme is begun. The child around 9 years of age can begin to feel alone, that the space around him or her is empty. Bothmer Gymnastics exercises, called “round dances” are introduced at this point, which can be described rhythmical spatial exercises clothed in imaginative pictures.

Bothmer Gymnastics was introduced in the first Steiner school, and is a series of movement exercises based on the anthroposophical view of the human being. Underlying the movement programme is the picture of the human being as upright, with hands that are free and creative. Rudolf Steiner suggested that in its optimum state the human head should ‘rest’ and be carried by the body. Put simply this means that to be working well or to be able to clearly receive and process sense impressions, the head needs to have an aspect of stillness- “to be cool and collected”. In contrast, the lower limbs’ archetypal task is to carry us through the world. Without putting too fine a point on it, it is our legs which will carry us on our life’s journey. The upper torso meanwhile allows us to relate to the outside world. It is largely with the heart, the lungs and our upper limbs that we can lend our selves to any task (hands on deck) in a way that can be of benefit to those around us (our heart can “go out” to someone).

In Class 4 these round dances are extended, but the children still move together as a group. However, in Class 5 the children participate in the Steiner school’s annual Olympic Games. These are based on the ancient Greek ideal – where not only physical skill and strength, but also beauty or grace of movement and the gesture are important. The children practice athletic skills such as running, javelin, discus and Greek wrestling.

In Class 6, when the children are approaching puberty, the movement programme and Bothmer Gymnastics exercises works with improving strength (so that they can overcome their tendency to lose their upright posture) and skills. Now the teacher can ask the children to pay conscious attention to their movements, the accuracy of their limbs and how they are in space.

In choosing which sports offered as part of the extra-curricular sports programme, it is based on the picture of the human being as upright, with a physical body that can be regarded as having a three-fold nature. What are the archetypal functions of these three systems, (the head; middle/ torso/rhythmical system; limb system) operating within the body? And what sort of sporting and movement opportunities will match, meet and realize their fullest potential?

It makes good sense to concentrate and be particular about which experiences will enable our children to develop optimal functional in these three systems when we consider what we know makes up excellence in the sporting field. A good sportsperson for example is someone who possesses fitness, skill, dexterity and strength - abilities related to the physical body and the willing system. A good sportsperson is someone who can plan, apply strategy and be decisive in a timely manner – having intellectual or thinking ability. A good sportsperson is someone who is a good team player, an ethical participant and one who is aware of others- having emotional ability.

At present we are offering hockey, basketball, netball, softball and touch rugby. These teams are coached by parent volunteers, and are overseen by the Movement Teacher, Mario Gude. As these are extra-curricular there is a charge attached to these sports. Children in Class 3 upwards are invited to join a team, and the choice of sports offered to each class increases as they go up the school.