**Part One of this series can be found here.
Engaging with your work demands a certain degree of ownership. There must be a benefit to the challenge presented, beyond just a hard-to-apply confidence. A task can serve as a test of will, a test of adaptability, and/or a test of inquiry. It can also present itself as a raveled frustration. The creation of situations that require mental fortitude serve the psychological branch of Fighting Monkey research.
Defining failure can be as arbitrary as defining success when the goal is not to finish. Success suggests how far you’ve come, and failure illustrates how far you still have to go. They gray in-between, unsure of what to look for but fixated on what you find, is a place of utmost immersion. To build self-trust, one only needs to be compelled enough to try:
As individuals, we have our own unique set of breaking points. When we deem we are done with a drill differs when we are a part of a partnership or group. We compare and don’t want to disappoint. We will go well beyond the place we would have given up alone. The community pushes just by being present. It supports the efforts of the collective.
Apart from a seminar, however, many struggle to find other beings to play-train with. Each of the following sections can be developed with or without a partner. Mental moxie is a skill like any other. Practice and familiarity encourages improvement.
As simple as it sounds, maintaining stillness for an extended period of time can be a demanding effort. Depending on the position and length, not moving can be as laborious as moving wildly. Without any action to distract, the holding becomes a meditation. When you can no longer scan your environment, your thoughts and awareness turn internal, studying and manipulating lines of tension to keep you going.
A right hand extended, left hand reaching/ pointed downward paralysis was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I had to drop my hands and reset myself four times during our twelve minute trial. Once that first crack came, others were quick to follow. The feature photo shows another statuesque option to try.
Pre-workshop I used a the idea of stillness to build resolve and comfort in the uncomfortable:
Some context. We have been working with fear and how it relates to altering movement. Low balance beam work, for example was easy until asked to perform it blindfolded or elevating the beam three feet off the ground. Perceptions of risk and a lack of confidence will change the way you move in this world. The idea was to use a progressively challenging environment to find comfort in. First, we used the familiar gym. For 10 deep, lingering breaths, we would carve out a place of calm stillness. Many first chose to keep their hands in their pockets or fold their arms. But these are positions of apathy and protection. They would try again with their chest puffed out and elbow pockets rolled forward, ready to accept what would come. Next we did this outside. It was a cold and wet day and they were charged with the task of letting the elements unaffect them. When they were finished they simply took a step back and waited for the last person to complete the task. For some the ‘freshness’ helped. For others the temperature made stillness more difficult. Lastly, I asked them to hold a position of discomfort (4 out of 10) for the same 10 breaths, trying to lose the fear of this position and make it OK. The bottom two photos represent some options kids chose. There is so much anxiety in our young people. If we can fuse the body and mind into a thoughtful being that is confident in their ability to react and problem-solve, we will get mindful and aware adults who treat their minds and hearts as well as their bodies. #teach #love #hope #change #follow #lead #calm #still #confident #control #thinkmovement
Much like Feldenkrais teachings, holding the head, ribs, and pelvis freely allows them to make tiny adjustments as needed. Forced ‘military’ stiffness creates unnecessary tension and stress. Excessive effort is the opposite of ease. Things made easy can last longer and enter into more challenging situations.
Starting static, try and get 50% of your weight on each leg. Front to back, get slightly more pressure on your heels than your toes/ balls of feet, 60%-40%. From here, attempt to load one leg to 90% without shifting the hips in the direction of the loaded side. Lift the heel of the lighter foot, creasing the toes and eventually kick-standing on only the tips. (I call this 95-5). Set and steady, slow step into a forward hover and continue into a dynamic warmup.
Combining tools and elements:
A bit of balance, a bit of hip rotational work…I’ve been jamming today on the idea of constraints-based exploration: give the body a task to perform, a puzzle to solve, and see what emerges. We think we’re so smart, but this neuromuscular coordination stuff has been around longer than our fancy-pants science ??The body knows what to do if you allow it. It has a wisdom that goes beyond empirical evidence.
Incorporating some roughhousing:
One of the things I got reminded of this weekend at the fighting monkey workshop is how fun movement games can be with a partner. Anyone who’s followed me long enough knows “play” is a big part of my downtime. But a lot of time it’s by myself. (Get your mind outta the gutter.) I told @miss_di0r_n_rasc0 that she better get ready to take some good falls because she’s my go-to partner. Watch to the end of this video to see her first good fall. ? ? This was American-gladiator-esque – balance on one leg- knock your opponent over. It was a ton of fun being matched up with people of all different backgrounds and sizes. ? Plus- anytime I can spartan-kick my girlfriend and call it “play”, we all win, amiright? ? I also want an official rematch of this with @graceinmvmnt – a rival opponent this weekend. ? How have you played this week? #HunterFitness #playislife #fightingmonkey_rootlessroot #fightingmonkey #spartankick @fightingmonkey_rootlessroot
This is where it all went black. After hours of non-stop movement and interplay, Linda showed us a move in which the upper and lower halves were doing completely different things. Even when she slowed things down, I couldn’t piece it together. I could get just the feet, and I could manage to kinda get the arms, but I couldn’t perform it simultaneously.
We danced our way down the hall in lines, watching others struggle or excel. As he watched me falter, Martin asked, “What sport you play?” None anymore, I thought, but I replied, “I used to play basketball.” “This just like basketball,” he said. No, I thought. This was nothing like basketball.
As people continued to make their attempts down the lines, the back of the room got thick. We were trying to figure out who to watch and how to inch our way closer to the desired effect. It was a psychological experiment. How much frustration would it take to get us to quit? What would our method of problem solving be?
F I G H T I N G M O N K E Y. // This basic pattern is but one little snippet of a takeaway from this weekend’s @fightingmonkey_rootlessroot workshop in Berkeley. It asks for practice, practice and more practice. It throws you in the deep end and then tosses you a brick. Learning new patterns quickly and then building upon them is fundamental to developing and maintaining a youthful, adaptive practice. And, I’m REALLY lousy at it! Thankful for such tremendous teachers, Jozef and Linda, and for @athleticplayground for hosting such a dynamic, fulfilling weekend of movement hygiene. This work will always be with me. Here’s to brushing our internal organs teeth! #graceinmvmnt
Martin losing his mind in the best of ways:
The saving grace was when Jozef recognized we were stranded and reduced the movement down to some simplified boxing steps. Right cross, left cross, right uppercut. Left cross, right cross, left uppercut. We had to determine how to use our feet to produce the desired vector and force with our hands. Moving forward, and then moving back, we then teamed up with a partner to integrate a patty-cake kind of synchronicity, while both advancing and retreating.
The importance of footwork was a major theme throughout. Those of us who dared to participate in the workshop barefoot were left with significant blisters (I returned to my shoes a few hours in and kept them there for the duration). The skin of our feet was ill-prepared for the gauntlet we faced. Our dexterity and conditioning were only slightly better off.
We used unevenly sanded Jenga blocks to make gates for our feet to pass through. Given instructions were: 1. Slide rather than lift your feet, 2. Only have one foot pass through a gate (two upright blocks just far enough for a foot to pass through) at a time, and 3. Create as many combinations as possible.
We started off in the pentagon shape, but when we were allowed to use just two and build our own shape to interact with, the results seemed to improve personal development.
- NOTABLE ADDITIONAL TAKEAWAYS
- Actions on the ground rarely translate to standing.
- Maybe moving as well as possible within the range we have is at least as important as developing a larger ROM.
- Putting your hands on the body part you want to pay attention to helps give it additional kinesthetic awareness.
- Using your hands as a counter balance removes them from a position of interaction.
- Stretching is overrated. Look to the animals. (Cats only do it for a second or two).
Above all else, Fighting Monkey is a mindset. It is about a shift in perception about who we are, what we can do, and why we try. It is the acknowledgement that there is both fact and fiction in everything, and it up to us to form a contextual truth and then to challenge it. The monkey we fight is ourselves:
“The discrepancy between the childlike enthusiasm and spontaneity we were born with, in awe with everything and everyone around us and our current sleep — that is what needs to be punched out of us to let our energy burst loose again, without restraints and customs unconsciously designed and accepted by ourselves and sold to us as real by our surroundings. That is the real Fight, the real Monkey to throw into the ring.”