Mr. Miyagi and the Means Whereby

My best attempt to define the means whereby: this term is Alexander’s shorthand for the employment of constructive conscious control in human activity by both inhibiting (stopping to think “no”) and directing (clearly thinking “head to go forward and up, neck free, torso to lengthen and widen, knees forward and away”). By employing the means whereby, we can attain our goals (or not, as we choose) without relying on habit or misusing ourselves.

My best attempt to define endgaining: the habit of immediately and unthinkingly grasping for the object of our desire and misusing ourselves in the process.

I recently rewatched “The Karate Kid” – the original version, I haven’t yet seen the new one with Jackie Chan – and Mr. Miyagi totally blew me away with his adherence to Alexandrian principles. By teaching Daniel the basics of Karate (say it with me: “Wax on…wax off!), focusing on the quality of Daniel’s skills rather than the quantity, and emphasizing the power of the individual and the importance of independent thought, he embodies the means whereby.

Mr. Miyagi

The Cobra Kai, on the other hand, are total endgainers. For them it’s all about rote learning, habit, and unthinking submission to authority. At the big tournament when the Cobra Kai sensei tells his student to put Daniel out of commission, he is presenting his student with an end but giving no means whereby he can reasonably attain that end. In this example, the “end” is willfully injuring someone, which is not a situation we face too often, but this is Hollywood so the stakes have to be high. Experiencing the same desire to see his student win the tournament, Mr. Miyagi instead coaches Daniel to stick to the skills he knows well and downplays the importance of winning, thus keeping Daniel on the means whereby path.