Rather than dictating what and how we can say something, a language grants us expression modalities. Because the language has strict and specific game rules, it provides context for us to playfully communicate meaning. In this sense, languages offer paradigmatic rather than predetermined use.

Watching and mimicking other people moving, we can pick up method and skill. In the same way, listening to other people talk, we can acquire enough vocabulary to understand and express fundamental concepts, needs and wishes. We don’t have to know anatomy and biomechanics or understand physics to move. In the same way we do not have to know grammar, spelling or syntax to adopt and use languages. So, why is literacy important?
Literacy grants us access to the amassed knowledge of our forebears, those who are living and those who are yet to come. Literacy outlines and lists the various terms and topics that concern us, providing a means to structure and categorize, for the purpose of identifying practical problems and their solutions or describing feelings and experiences.

Movement literacy is much the same as linguistic literacy. An expanded vocabulary and fluent grasp of grammar and syntax makes a difference when we need to negotiate our interests, navigate conflict or collaborate creatively. The clumsy use of a language can distort the meaning of what we say and alter the outcome of negotiations. In the same way the clumsy use of our bodies can land us in a lot of trouble as well. A wide skill set informed by the knowledge of the resources, construction, limits and potential of the body will by contrast empower expression.

Human movement is a language. The HMA is it’s written counterpart. A descriptive set of symbols that are drawn from observations of behavior and the environment. It is a way to become kinetically literate, to enhance the integrity and clarity with which we move, speak and express our thoughts.

The Human Movement Alphabet outlines and accurately describes what our bodies are up to. The system allows us to quickly record or imagine the results of choices and evaluate outcome and strategy, becoming a locus for discussions about reasonable expectations, ethical treatment, injury diagnosis and prevention. 


The HMA is an instrument for nonlinear documentation. When we move, the events are often simultaneous or overlap and can be written down as such. Once on the page, it’s possible to instantly scan backwards and forwards through the event timeline.

Secondly, movement literacy creates a reference archive for what movers do and do not consider, creating a forum for evaluating, discussing and identifying what, when, where, how and why things are happening, what’s missing, what’s relevant, what’s inherent or important, or by consequence what might be irrelevant, erroneous or insignificant.

Thirdly, notated movement opens a space for creative, subjective interpretation. As musical notation did, a widely used system would accelerate creativity by allowing movers to describe, define and invent genres.

Further, video documents a specific rendering. While imitation is fine as a learning tool, the tendency is to formalize rather than consider underlying princi- ple. Notation identifies and documents the concepts, mechanics and vectors, so that the artist interprets the artistic intent, rather than mimicking another artist’s interpretation of them.

The HMA is capable of describing potentially pathological or traumatic movement, as well as efficient and health supportive use of the body’s resources: mass, dimensions, vectors, kinetic energy, moderate ranges for joint movements, compensatory movements etc. Of course, we the authors, encourage but do not insist on a health oriented use of the body in general. In the defense of our health, we think it is useful to be aware of potentially dangerous choices and habits.

As precise and differentiated as it might be, any description of the body moving will only be approximate, including descriptions made using the HMA symbol set. Although these symbolized descriptions are approximate, they offer many useful clues for our effort to find “balance”, or acquire certain skills.


For an overview of current knowledge about the results of various approaches to caring for and educating the body, we invite you to refer to a bio-mechanical reference resource, such as The Axis Syllabus book or the ASIRN (Axis Syllabus International Research Network) forum for additional information. Subscribe to for your copy of the AS book.