‘Critical Look’ challenges the way systemic information is presented and questions the story being told.
Personal background with system – attended a FM 2-day seminar in April of 2017.
What Fighting Monkey is getting right
They have been instrumental in creating a large shift in task or situation based training. By championing in-the-moment human adaptability, they have given the discipline of combat an air of inviting playfulness. Creating challenges using simple tools has been their calling card, and they have consistently delivered on sharing innovative means to expand one’s notion of versatility.
FIGHTING MONKEY PROVIDES A HOME FOR PERSONAL RESEARCH(ERS).
Possible Flaws within Fighting Monkey Culture
The very thing which gives it potency also makes it suspect. In a world where everyone is engaged in it’s own science, does validity and reliability exist? Is ingenuity a sound practice?
The following seeks to question the questioners.
“You Can’t Teach Anything To Anyone…”
Of course you can. And they do. Except everyone’s unwillingness to be called a teacher also removes them from the responsibility of following fundamental teaching principles. Fighting Monkey tells more than it listens. It struggles meeting people where they are. The task stays preeminent, regardless of the frustrations or failure of the group.
The coordinations were a paramount example. Why was this particular choreography so important? Why did it go on so long, and when we were finally allowed to stop, why were we berated for our incompetence? Starting and staying too complex is the harsh standard of a taskmaster, set to weed out instead of build up.
The irony is, their website has an ‘Education’ button that sells online programs. Does capitalism make you a teacher? What is the number of interested that makes you accept the role you are given? How many did your Coordinations have to irk to convince you it needed its own training protocol for purchase? Is this what finishes the maxim,
“… But You Can Offer Conditions in which Anyone Can Evolve on Their Own.”?
While having good students makes it unnecessary to spell everything out, there must still be some order that connects what you are asking people to do to a broader function or purpose. Can it be said that Fighting Monkey is founded on principles and actions of martial arts? Can the warm up be explained as a form, so that there is an alignment in attention and intent? As gorgeous and as novel as this kind of work is, it is designed for those who are already good movers and already have an innate sense of personal analysis and feedback. Delivered to the general population as promoted, the best it can offer most is to do without knowing — the exact opposite of the personal development it wishes to provoke.
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Form practice in martial arts has quite a bad reputation these days. And I do understand the reasoning. On the first glance it looks like a waste of time, when all we can think of is if it works in the octagon or in the „street“. My own point of criticism towards form training is that in some cases form training is done to a point where the students learning curve and attention levels are buried along with the 108th repetition of the same technique, just sewed together differently and marketed as the Omega Level 9 Mastery Set 🐉 Forms represent an idea, they display a martial principle expressed through technique. Yet the obvious technique is nothing more than a starting point from where we can go and explore for example different angles and directions, different rhythms and textures. Forms can also be a major challenge for coordination and a splendid mirror for our mental and physical adaptability. While we see mostly straight lines in kicking, striking and stepping in let’s say basic Shaolin, we see a lot of combinations of straight lines, curves, spirals and circular stepping patterns in for example Bagua Zhang. If you haven’t tried it yet, you definitely should 😉 Beyond the obvious strengthening and conditioning aspect of the forms as well as their encoded knowledge about martial applications, a huge value for our modern day hunchback society lies in their power to interrupt our habitual movement spectrum. Forms brake patterns. They also build patterns. In any case, they leave you with a vivid body. A body full of experience, a curious mind and a well connected organism.
VOID OF A SKILLED LEADER IN THE ROOM TO ASSIST IN REGULATION AND EXPLAIN APPLICATION, THE DAZZLING POTENTIAL VANISHES INTO CONFUSION, CHAOS, AND MIMICRY.
We must be careful not to delude ourselves into believing blindly what we wish to be true.
Their newest speed tool might be the embodiment of this effect.
Speed Tool Claims that are Suspect
A culture wrapped in unscience and heralding the possibility of anything is now making bold claims about one of their products. They did not do this for the ball on string, jenga blocks, or large weighted ball. This is an original item that can only be accessed through Fighting Monkey (which makes it more a symbol of status). They have created workshops strictly devoted to its use and research. The practice is revolving around the tool instead of tool around the practice.
Note the language used here.
Continuing to ‘More info’, we get more claims of effectiveness and a video of Jozef utilizing the tool in slow motion.
With another quick YouTube search, we get a few more snippets of what my guess is the actual online training program:
Is an onlooker being led to believe that this tool will make them move like Jozef?
There are rehab posts being made in regards to work with elite athletes, like this one from the Fighting Monkey Rootless Root facebook page:
9 Speedtool by FM, Fatos Durmishi — Physiotherapist Marko Gronholm rehab session with Fatos Durmishi 11-times Finnish Champion (2008-2018) in freestyle wrestling Wrestles for RC Merken Bundesliga, Germany — In the video we are performing a rehab / prehab drill with the 9 Speedtool by FM, for shoulder injury. In the slow motion part of the video it is easy to see constant diagonal loading in the front of the shoulder, abdominals etc - and the same happens on the posterior side of the body, too. The whole body is working and we are building some resilient tissue without restricting the movement. Athletic performance is not all about strength or mobility. It is a combination of various components and qualities - all of which are depending of the situation. Soft tissue recoil, resilience, elastic energy, kinetic potential, deceleration and acceleration are among of the components and qualities that tend to be easily forgotten or taken for granted. Yet from a physiotherapy perspective these are key factors, when talking about tissue quality, movement ability or recovering for example from a soft tissue injury or tendinopathy. Eccentric loading combined with movement control and speed factor is also an important player when considering injury prevention side. Written by Marko Grönholm
Many will believe what they are told, and will regurgitate it as truth. Placebo is powerful.
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DIAGONAL CHOPPING – Activate the waist belt in motion which has the capacity to harmonise and regulate the entire energetic system #BreakYourPlateau #HongKongMotion #NaturalMotionHongKong #StrengthAndMuscleScience #MovementArchitecture #SportsPerformance #Mobility #InjuryPrevention #Longevity #HongKong #9SpeedTool
What do you see versus what is being said? Jargon language recycled throughout the caption clouds the why and how of what is actually happening.
How can we make sure that using a tool does little else than make us better at using that tool?
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COORDINATIONS – There is nowhere to hide with coordinations inspired by @fightingmonkey_rootlessroot Asymmetries, imbalances, left versus right, it exposes all our inefficiencies. It will show you how you hold tension in your body, how well you can let go, how well you can coordinate your limbs rhythmically whilst at the same time create power and use momentum. – The complexity is endless. – From movement rhythm to recoordinating disconnected areas of our body, all the way to athletic performance that crosses so many spectrums. – It shows us how intelligent our body is, how integrated we are. This is not a simple tool that you just pick up and throw, if done incorrectly you will be shown straight away. I still have so much to work on, this is not a practice that you can just show up to once a month. A complex yet ultimately deeply rewarding practice needs an open and committed mind. – Join our Soma Practice Fridays 9-11 Tuesdays 7-9 – #somaculture #somaresearch #fightingmonkey_practice #fighting_monkey_games #fighting_monkey #mydubai #movement #movementculture #movementismedicine🙏
If the goal of a tool is to create a more connected and capable structure, there should be minimal difference between how one moves with and without said tool, correct?
I have 50 balls on string that I use in my PE classes to help them understand rhythm and coordination. I have 50 small pieces of wood to see if they can balance big and heavy and small and light balls on top. I want them to understand subtlety, finding ease, and then keeping that ease. But I don’t think I will ever have 50 speed tools. There are already so many context-embedded ways to teach it without making a large investment in one thing, particularly if it lacks the simplicity and versatility of what you already have. Less tools seem to consistently lead to better instruction.
I am a fan of Fighting Monkey. I still hold their spirit of invention dear. But I have to remain honest about what works and what doesn’t amongst the normal baseline of people — the outsiders who know nothing of Jozef or Linda or have any idea what Fighting Monkey is. They show me the truth: that there needs to be scaled back basic regressions, that new concepts might only be exciting to those that find/ create them, and that those not under the spell of branding or identity will see it for exactly what it is.
Response from Miguel Viero:
I really like your “critical look” writings because as much as I’m drawn into something I try to be critical and see the “flaws” or just look at it not just as a fan but also as a critic. This way I can take what I think it’s worth adding to my practice (and my student’s), and what it should be left out. As I shifted from the fitness industry to a more open movement practice, I can say I experienced the opposite approach. I was a Les Mills instructor for 15 years and was blindingly regurgitating everything I was “taught” to protect the brand and reassuring myself that I was with the one and only solution to all things fitness. Until I could take the blindfold off.
So I think (and hope) I can see the Fighting Monkey practice with the same critical look. What resonated with me about FM was the simplicity and the multiple applications of the abstract tools (ball on a string and the little wooden sticks). As they were presented to me on my first workshop I was already thinking of what else I could do with them when I got back home.
What also drew me in was that FM is an open practice, not a system with predetermined exercises and a manual. You are encouraged to do your own research and learn from other realms of the movement universe. The concepts were another game changer for me. It opened my practice to new ways of working mobility, strength, coordination, injury mitigation, among other things.
We all have different favorite ways of learning, and some of us are not aware of what’s ours. The coordinations are a good way of discovering that, in my opinion. And it brings to light another aspect of the FM practice. The coordinations, as well as the games and movement situations require you to be present. Enhancing awareness and strengthening the mind-body connection, the movement games and situations having an important addition: working with a partner. Which is substantial to our development as humans, producing touch, unpredictable external stimuli and promoting communication, another pillar of the practice.
The first time I experienced the coordinations practice I had the same feeling as you did. A pattern was presented with no breakdowns and we had to learn it as we went through it. There were people standing just watching the group trying to break it down and learn it in a step-by-step way (and I was on that group). Then Jozef came to me and said: “Just do it, doesn’t matter if it look good or bad. The important thing here is to get it done. Do the work, even if it looks like shit.” It reminded me of the paralysis by analysis concept. We can’t create and analyze at the same time, they are two different processes and the brain doesn’t allow us to run both at once. The consequence: you get blocked. Bringing us back to our different favorite ways of learning and, at the same time, revealing another aspect of the FM practice. The management of our internal dialogue (communication again) and mindset. Show up, do the work and focus on the process.
All that being said, in my teaching I always break things down when I see needed. Because I believe we should adapt the practice to the people we have in front of us, it doesn’t matter the material, tools, concepts and intention behind it. Understanding the concepts and intention behind each game or situation is pivotal. It’s the only way they – the students – can apply it in different contexts, in their particular contexts inside their personal practice. That’s why education is key and the foundation of my teaching-learning relationship with my students. Something I realized is also deeply cared about in the FM practice.
As a last consideration, I agree with you about the 9-speed tool when you say “the practice is revolving around the tool instead of tool around the practice”, even though I only had the opportunity to practice with it once. I believe I could probably find other uses for it.
Response from Scott Daly:
This is a very tough thing to write as I have great respect for the author. I felt called to write something bc no teacher, practice or the like has help and done more for me than Jozef, Linda and the FM Practice. I have been following the FM practice for over 6 years now and am still confused by many aspects. It is understandable one could struggle and get a bad taste from one workshop and never return. I hope to encourage to try it again. Many don’t like wine, beer and coffee on first taste either.
- “You can’t teach anything to anyone.” This is something I cannot recall Jozef saying on a regular basis. One who has works with Jozef will realize he will contradict himself. I believe this is on purpose and is to open your mind kind of the ying to his yang. He states at the start of every 2 and 3 day workshop that he does not have time to be teaching anything in this short period of time. That he is just going to share some things. If one attends a 5 or 6 day intensive, online training or multiple events this changes. I believe this is being done to stop people from thinking they really understand the practice and would be able to teach the material after one weekend.
I believe the coordinations are a amazing example of this. It is not the particular coordinations/choreography that is important. It is how you come up with strategies to solve the challenging puzzle. At most of the workshops I have attended, Jozef explains why he continues to keep it complex when everyone is struggling. He tells a beautiful story of when they split them into two groups and met the one group were they were and broke every thing down for them. The other received the teaching as struggle mentioned. Long story short the group who had it broken down was able to learn the first coordination better. The group who struggled at first was able to pick up the more complicated coordinations down the road.
The idea that everything should be handed too you and broken down is very North American. I appreciate Jozef giving me a space where I was forced to struggle, feel stupid and in some cases fail and in others succeed. Personally have learned a great deal about what strategies work for me and what doesn’t. I have become partial to this method as opposed having someone hand me the steps and break everything down so I am able to do something I did not actually figure out for myself. I believe this approach will help me in the future more when I face challenging situations.
When we know something we stop looking for more solutions. Most of us are afraid of going to spaces where we feel confused and don’t know. Yet, every solutions comes from a problem. While it is nice to be explained a solution and shown how to do something. I have found more personal development and it to be far more rewarding to be given the space to learn something myself. I also feel that I am able to look at things differently and learn more easily now that I am OK not knowing.
- “It is designed for those who are already good movers.” I had my biggest breakthrough moment with FM practice while working with a client named Spencer who was unable to walk after suffering a 100ft fall. We have had brain injury specialist asking what he has done because his results have been so dramatic. The answer is roughly 85% FM practice 10% Feldenkrais method and 5% things we have come up with together. He now walks well and speaks almost crystal clear. (He was not able to be understood by people who did not hang out with him regularly).
I do think that good movers are drawn to the practice and excel at areas of it. I have yet to see someone who hasn’t trained with FM and is able to excel at all of it (this is just more proof that it is good for movers). I believe the true difference from the result Spencer and I have had is our approach. Spencer was OK feeling stupid with the coordinations as he felt far more stupid struggling to walk. When we really need something we will work hard and truly commit.
I have found that this is the biggest barrier to entry and getting people to work with me. They don’t like struggling, not knowing, and feeling stupid. Yet, this is what is going to happen in life. Why should our training not mimic this? No one is going to hand you a step by step guide to life without needing to personalize areas and creating strategies for themselves. In a industry where everyone is pretending to have the solutions to our problems, I find it very refreshing someone is letting you know you can find them yourself. I am very grateful for all the FM Practice has done for me and the people in my life. I hope to have encouraged others to try it with a open mind and if necessary, try another taste.