DOES A DEEP DIVE OR GENERALIZED TREADING HELP CULTIVATE UNIQUE PERSPECTIVES?
What draws you to a particular practice? Why do folks have a tendency to dive deep into a particular methodology? What doors do this singular discipline seem to open that you find closed by yourself? To what extent do we abandon other possibilities by investing in just one? Does this kind of mentorship/ absorption help or stifle the students from eventually venturing out on their own? To what extent do we abandon possibilities by scattering ourselves too thin across too many disciplines?
There are any number of reasons people delve into one practice. Many times the passion stems from a personal story of how the method completely changed either their life or someone they love. Sometimes it may be that a method simply has a big following and it is easy to get swept up in the fad of the moment, or the cult of personality of its founders. A sense of belonging comes from being part of a method, and we all want to belong, be part of a group, and find place due to our inherent social nature and desire for acceptance. A specific method might be chosen because it is suited to a person and they have found a lot of success with clients. Why mess with success?
Some folks may get myopic in their quest to specialize in one discipline but I don’t think it has to be that way. Good practitioners can understand their bias and limitations and understand that there are other techniques that are just as useful as their own. Some practitioners may take a more buffet style approach to their teachings and practice, which if done carefully and thoughtfully can work as well. With a few more decades under your belt you can be fairly well versed in several disciplines simply due to the fact you have had more time to practice in each.
In terms of someone being stifled by their absorption in one discipline that is up to the person. That type of devotion can create a singular focus but actually serves often to a better mastery of their practice, but does not mean that they can’t see outside of the box. Again its up to the person to not get stuck with a myopic vision. The key in all things is to stay curious, be open, and keep learning. — Cat Cowey
The first thing which immediately occurred to me was the sensation of feeling good. Whatever practice I embark on, will I feel better the hour after, the day after, the week after, and so on, or will bear hard on me. I will give you an example of a switch. First I started to lift heavier weights doing a kind of bodybuilding regiment. The muscles grew, it felt good for the ego, but did it also feel good for the body? It did not really feel good in the body. That regiment went on for some time, till the downside of it was just too big to handle. So I switched incrementally to other disciplines and finally I found something which is called “animal moves” or “primal moves”, which basically for me goes like this. I lie on the meadow, imagining that I am a cat or whatever, then I try to move like this animal and sense myself, try to figure out the possibilities. After a while I just felt amazing, but not just afterwards. It started actually right with the first imagination. That being said, is my answer to what draws me to a certain discipline/practice/whatever. By deciding for something I am aware that I rule out a lot of other options, which I bring in accordance with my feelings and at the end, all is fine. That abandoning of all these other options are not of any hurt to me anywhere. For me that also depends on how big this paradigm is which I could take. Take isolation training for instance. We are moving very specifically with one muscle/muscle group, which is a good thing for prevention and rehab. For me it got boring at some point, so I increased some variables like improvisation, openness to new input/sensations, integration different chains into a fluent move. Let us consider this as a bit more challenging. The like or the dislike of this paradigm depends on the individual. The possibilities I ruled out I actually got back to a certain degree (not hundred percent) since this newer paradigm consist of the lower paradigms. So, what door might this singular practice open to me? I would call this door fulfilment. It just feels good! — Christian Rabhansl
What drew me into Da Xuan was firstly the shock of visiting the school with some 12 years of high quality movement training and experience with a chinese martial artist and not being able to express any of the desirable qualities of the tradition in any way. People in the school with 5 – 10 years *less* training time than me had a better embodiment of the qualities. My broad background had not really helped in any way to be any better than people without it. It should be noted here that they could not perform many of the movement skills I could either, but that point seemed moot and also shatters a lot of the mythology of the movement culture in general (typical, if you can do x then y will follow).Beyond this initial shock, another major drawcard was that the tradition allows anyone who trained to experience, for themselves, many capacities that until then I had only heard in the stories of the old masters and practitioners. So for every concept and idea that was presented, there was a training that could be broken down to such a simple foundation that my grandmother could do it, that progressed methodically and in a reasonable time give them their own experience. We are not asked to believe anything, we end up being able to do the thing for ourselves, and it’s not restricted to certain people with lucky traits or special capacities to perceive beyond the normal (actually these capacities are specifically trained to open up). There actually ends up being about as much discussion inside the school as there is outside because of this. Outside the school you end up discussing with people who haven’t done the requisite practice and don’t have the qualities – this ends up with a typical “projecting what it must be like” phenomenon, which is always wrong and not really that fun to engage in. Inside the school, there’s not much to talk about. People very quickly get the idea that if you do the practice that it works, and the desire to talk about things you can really do in a truly embodied way is about as high as your desire to talk about your capacity to walk to the shops without falling over (everyone can do it, so who cares? those that can’t know they just need to get on with practice. there’s very little need of talking about things).
(I cannot say that I have a clear set of answers on this…only random thoughts)
I think discipleship and a lack thereof are very personality and need dependent. Any path worth it’s salt will be challenging, as it inherently molds you and shifts you into something else. The question is, do you have the potential to become “that something”else? Does it address YOUR needs?
A person’s innate constitution plays a huge role in all this in my opinion.
There are also three streams of people from what I gather …those who want to ride the wave of tradition, and those who want to mix/match and innovate. Some can do both.
Generally, those called to a particular style, tend to elevate those styles.
If you are not a traditionalist, then you will probably not feel called to be a “disciple”.
If you are into tradition, you will want to guard it and seek a teacher to give it to you.
If you want to do both, you may seek tradition, and then innovate within its confines/principles.
I think people feel called to a particular path because they have the innate potential to become what the tradition seeks to create, the way Olympic swimmers all have similar phenotypes. That mix, with the correct set of personality traits….equals BOOM.
Consistency is clearly the most important factor in any of this, so what a person can do consistently is a major consideration. That may be tradition based, or could be the working of principles into ones “exploration”.
I think the biggest strength of tradition is that it offers a verified, step by step process within which a student can develop. A set of “principles” by which to structure a process is huge. Why figure it out, if others have?
Its biggest weakness is that stifles creativity and becomes frozen, while not allowing a person to create something very specific to them and their needs (sometimes).
Tradition is a living current of wisdom and knowledge, and its “purity” can be a major benefit because of that and limiting peoples options can often be a very good thing in today’s world especially. Also, then of course, what happens if you have a set of needs that a tradition simply cannot address, and that no singular tradition could? Those people do exist. Then you must learn universal principles guiding the traditions that work in the arena you seek to grow in, and fit your mixing and matching into that. Principles guide the process but tools carve the outcome. –Ramon Castellanos
Curiosity is what usually draws me to a discipline or a specific methodology. Usually when that happens i find a coach that i trust and stick with their methodology for as long as I feel adequately capable to navigate through the techniques of said discipline myself. I feel like if I do not surrender to the learning process, it hinders my capacity to improve. Plus there is always value in following a certain methodology for a while and experience the discipline from another’s perspective. Then I just find my own way around it, make it mine, sort of.
Personally i do not believe there is such a things as being “too thin”. There is a choice between climbing a summit (or diving deep) and exploring the surroundings at whatever height you are at on a mountain. One is not more valuable than the other, it only depends on what the person wants/needs in general or at a given time. Sometimes i feel like climbing higher on my preferred discipline, other times I just want to enjoy looking at the view from where I am at and take a stroll around. — Sev Gurmen
What draws you to a particular practice?
Novelty draws me to a particular practice, either novelty because it’s intellectually interesting, (“that’s a fascinating way to accomplish that task and used a different pathway than I’m used to. I want to learn more”), or because it’s physically interesting, (“oh, I can’t do that. What a fun challenge”).
Why do folks have a tendency to dive deep?
I personally think because either the system or methodology works for them OR because they can easily see how to begin applying it to their clients. Sometimes the two things are interrelated, but when people experience an actual change in some way through a technique, it creates buy-in.
What doors do this singular discipline seem to open?
Understanding something so well that you can apply it to anyone and you can tinker with it to apply it to any physical technique creates a sense of mastery. I understand a lot of techniques well; I don’t understand any of them well enough to be a spokesperson or teacher for a specific system, and I think that is the biggest thing about becoming a master teacher in a system: it elevates people to a level of expertise, it creates respect within the system, and it often leads to possibilities through teaching and presenting to other people interested in the system.
To what extent does specialization abandon possibilities?
Every system works for someone; however, there are people for whom specific systems don’t resonate, which slows improvement (improvement can be gauged a variety of ways, whether it’s increased performance, increased range of motion, increased strength, or a decrease in pain symptoms). Sometimes the myopic focus of a system will work well for a specific type of person—FRC, for instance, works great for hypermobile, athletic individuals—but works less well for another type of person. While concepts from FRC can be applied to the stiff office worker who hasn’t exercised in 15 years, compliance may be poor, and as every single fitness person knows, consistency matters more than anything else if you want to elicit a change. (Again, I am just using FRC as an example. The same could be said of other systems.)
I think, actually, finding a way to create compliance is where most systems struggle. They focus so much on the techniques, they often ignore the human behavior side of movement and habit change.
Does this kind of mentorship help or stifle?
I think, actually, understanding something well creates confidence and the ability to seek ways to fill in holes (because no system is perfect) if the creator of the system encourages curiosity. There is a wonderful line in Michael Boyle’s book on “Advances in Functional Training,” where he essentially says when you’re new to training, follow programs exactly as written. As you gain expertise and mastery, then begin tinkering, just like executive chefs begin their cooking careers following recipes, seeing what works and what doesn’t, before they begin creating their own recipes. The problem, I think, arises when the students or mentees feel like venturing off on their own is going to create conflict with the teacher or that somehow it is disrespectful. I think the teacher/mentor’s job is to encourage growth and evolution, not stifle creation.
To what extent does generalism abandon possibilities?
Yes, I absolutely think people can become spread too thin across disciplines. I see this frequently in new-ish movement professionals. They want to learn everything that’s currently trending, so they jump from workshop to workshop in different modalities, wondering why all of those weekends learning different things aren’t making them a better/more popular practitioner?
The answer lies in the fact they haven’t taken time to absorb the information and apply it. It’s one thing to study a system for three years and take workshops exclusively in that discipline, all while writing and reading research to figure out why those specific techniques work (and why they sometimes don’t), before moving on to the next system. This has always been my approach. I sit with things for 2-3 years before moving on and I spend a lot of time reading the research to understand why, since most techniques gloss over the basic underlying principles of why and how things work. I end up with more than a basic understanding, but not the deep understanding that comes from mastery, from living, breathing, eating, and sleeping one technique or discipline. We need these individuals, the ones who understand one concept so well it emanates from them. I also think it’s okay for some of us to be more generalists. What I think is unfortunate is the idea that mastery (or even competency) can be achieved after one weekend workshop. It’s just not how learning works. — Jenn Pilotti
I only remember what I am taught when I internalize it and add it to my own schema. I want to follow me, and I attend many workshops over many different disciplines to try and add another layer to my own understanding. I don’t care that finding my own way might take longer… I’m not in a rush to get to a place of finality I hope doesn’t exist. I feel that I am the engine for possibility, and I have both individuals and classes of young people to test my theories and creations on. My kids and my clients are the only research I need. If I think that exposure to another’s system and perspective can help me reach or teach them, I invest in learning about it. But I will keep my stay there brief and bring it back to my environment. There is where the truth and effectiveness comes out. I am a disciple of my own experience, and it must be thoroughly mine to be authentic. — Chris Ruffolo
What draws me…
In filtering the potential practices I would like to explore for the benefit of my wider movement practice, accessibility is a primary determiner of optionality. Whilst I will travel to study with a certain teacher or spend to acquire equipment for practice, ease of accessibility is invaluable when there are so many opportunities to explore and invest in. Whilst I would love to delve into horse-back riding and skydiving, they fall by the way-side to practices that don’t require a 1 ton animal or an aeroplane.
When gauging the personal value of a practice, there are two key things I consider: engagement & worth. Engagement being my interest in the subject itself, and worth being what movement experience it might facilitate that I cannot achieve on my own. A third consideration, often preceding the first: knowledge. What do I already know about this subject? My desire to engage in a new practice is generally less if it is something I already have a comprehension of. When a practice will facilitate experiences I cannot acquire myself, I am interested in the subject, and I do not have an understanding of it beyond what can be learnt from an outsider’s research, then I will seek out a space/teacher.
An example of a discipline which ticked my boxes for accessibility, engagement, worth, & knowledge is Bouldering. In most cities there is a bouldering hall and, once you have a pair of shoes, you’re ready to go. Not only this, but you are not tied to a class time nor others to practice; accessible.
I found climbing an interesting subject due to is essential simplicity – climb. A fundamental human pattern which *should* be in all of us. The extension of bouldering to rock-climbing and the world of extreme sports also drove my desire to explore further (yes, it’s cool).
Worth: whilst you can climb trees, buildings, and even rocks without prior knowledge, the bouldering hall offers a controlled environment built solely for that purpose. In this way, it facilitates a movement experience concentrated on problem-solving which I’ve yet to find in this controlled degree in another discipline. It is also an environment which forces you to find a way, forces you to learn and use movement patterns lest you find yourself relying on strength and mobility alone which will not get you much further than newbie frustration.
Having had no previous experience in climbing, the potential for learning was profound. I started whilst living on a small island in South Korea where my lack of communication skills meant I learnt by watching, something which, in reflection, was a drawback. Whilst, as an outsider, climbing appeared to me a solo sport, I only really began learning and improving once I was able to practice with people I could actually speak with rather than just gesticulate and use broken words. It was clear that the opportunity to communicate and discuss mutual “problems”, not to mention the added benefit of verbalising certain techniques, was not only invaluable, but integral
Now bouldering weekly with friends and acquaintances, I am slowly building experience within this movement scenario. As well as finding what is transferrable in my own movement practice to the subject, I now find myself able to take things from it to apply to my wider physical & movement practice in return.
Diving into methodologies
Practice, in its nature, leads you to become more proficient in something. You can de-ambition from the “goal” as much as you like, but you will inevitably become more proficient at de-ambitioning. If you practice, you will be experiencing and all experience is, at some level, affecting. You move, and are moved.
It is understandable, then, that practice is (often synonymously) connecting to words such as ‘improvement’, ‘progression’, and getting ‘better’. And the best way to get better in what you do? To practice that thing. And in order to practice more (for time and mental & physical capacity is limited) you practice less of what you believe is not directly improving your focus practice.
At some point in your practice, you may come across (if you have not already entered knowingly or unknowingly) a particular method. Methodologies within practices are like sub-cultures in that, whilst they pray to the same god, they can seem almost worlds apart (compare the salsa dancer and the contemporary dancer, the powerlifter and the bodybuilder, the physicist and the biologist, the Fighting Monkey and Ido Portal Method practitioner…)
As subcultures, methodologies (depending on the strength of their difference) carry huge potential for identity definition. By bolstering the idea of “what I am”, via negativa we simultaneously bolster “what I am not”. This carries potential for conflict if the method does not strongly promote the contingency of learning and incorporating from outside the method.
The irony is that any truly good method carries with it the potential for identity definement and potential conflict – if you follow it deeply enough, whether choosing or simply following. Once you identify with something, it is very difficult to de-identify with it, unless the method leads you to a realisation that it is not serving you in the way you had hoped (i.e. not achieving your goals, injury, disinterest).
Once you follow a certain methodology for long enough that you are identified with/by it, the depth to which you delve becomes a diminishing choice. As you become more and more part of the body of water, you are taken there as the natural course of its practice.
Open & closed doors
Doors are rarely locked. They are open, should you choose to open them, and are closed, should you choose to close them. In some cases we push when we should pull, pull when we should push, then there’s the sliding door, which is neither, the revolving door which never ends, the cat-flap, which kick your ass on both the way in and out, and then there’s the trap door…
Very often we enter a door with the intention of exiting the other side, but more often we end up staying in that room. We find something nice in the room, perhaps we like the colour of the walls or the texture of the floor, perhaps it’s the furniture, or (in many cases) the people who have also found themselves drawn to that room. We get comfortable and the more we get to know the room we, again, begin to identify with it; this is my room. We know the people here – they can often become like family -we get used to the temperature, the smell, the dimensions, the energy; the movement.
A discipline is not dissimilar to rooms. You are in there for as long as you choose, and if you’re in there long enough it can get very, very comfortable. You might even have your own chair, with a groove perfectly formed to your buttocks. You have a place here. You might be very well liked in this room and get very good at what goes on in this room. Everything, however, ultimately only means anything when it is in the context of this room. Leave the room, and you leave your meaning behind.
To step outside the room is not an easy task. It can take years, with one foot stepping ever-so-slightly in and out of the door. To do so, is in part to acknowledge “the comfort myth” – the ideology that the greatest thing to aspire to in life is to be comfortable, to be “good” at something; to achieve mastery. As a generally culturally adopted perspective, this means we have to un-learn it before we can re-learn and so can only occur if you have the intention to acknowledge and work on it. This is, necessarily, a personal choice.
For me, the single-room perspective is simply a limitation on potential experience. Whilst some rooms can be seemingly infinitely enormous and one lifetime is not enough to explore all of it, you are still in one room. There are others. Many others. But to make a decision not to stay in any one room is to accept that you will never quite experience the depth of what the room’s inhabitants experience, you will never fully comprehend the ‘meaning’ which comes with dedicating your life to a discipline, and, although being accepted, will never truly belong in the culture of that room.
Having said that, there is also a culture of people moving from room to room, a culture of people exploring with what they have on their back, those who don’t desire a comfy chair or mastery of anything. This is my understanding of ‘Movement Culture’.
Abandoning possibilities & “stifling”
The breadth of the possibility you invest in dictates its potential limitations. If your investment is in fine dining, you suffer when people’s pockets get tight. If your investment is in food, people need to eat regardless of economic situation.
To “abandon” possibility is to do so deliberately. To restrict, possibility however, is not always the case. I have seen many practitioners meet the restrictions of their practice, and yet still trying to find remedies for those restrictions within their practice. Whilst they do not ‘abandon’ other methodologies which may assist them with their goals (such as improving mobility, strength, or rehabilitating injury), they simply do not push far enough afield to really learn from things outside their practice, things that might even take back to their “room” and share with their fellows. In many cases, they lack the ability to research, trial, test, and incorporate.
Whilst in ‘venturing out’ of your discipline there are certainly many tools to be found that might benefit your practice, we shouldn’t forget that if your goal is to develop within a specific movement frame, nothing replaces greater experience in that frame. Anything that is incorporated should be firmly to complement. Further, let us remember that for those who have perhaps not given themselves over to a discipline so much that they become defined by it, it is not possible to understand the meaningful nature of being so deeply invested in a single discipline. Whilst there is much meaning to be gained from exploring the world, there is also much meaning in building a house and a family. Both might comprehend the mechanics of the other, but the experience of it is intransmutable
Ultimately, each person is of the effect of their actions under their conditions of existence. The desire to lead or be led, to dig deeper at home or further afield, to seek new possibilities or to continue extracting from those at home is subject to character, space, time, and chance. We should avoid tar-brushing to say that being generally absorbed in a subject limits your possibilities. Perhaps better to ask: what is the breadth of that subject? What opportunities does it offer? Is there even a desirability to “venture out” on your own? These are the considerations of an individual’s journey.
Now we come to the room with the “trap door”. I am everything… and therefore I am nothing; a movement practice is riddled with contradictions that must be carefully considered. Be too accepting of this contradiction, and you float. Be too focused on it, and you’ll find yourself trying to control the wind.
Length of exposure is key. If you practice guitar for one month, you will have a world of experience more than when you started. But can you play the guitar? Chances are, you cannot. Practice for one year, and you will be able to play. Now is the time to make the choice – continue further, or choose another instrument?
Whilst a little is a world away from zero, it can be useful to consider the relationship between value and exposure: for what length of time should I apply myself to this subject in order to extract the maximum value? And when is the point of diminishing return? This will vary from practice to practice, person to person, teacher to teacher, experience to experience.
Possibility is ultimately restricted by time. Time on this planet we well as hours in the day. Honing an ability to extract the most experience and learning from a discipline in a given amount of time is invaluable – even if part of that is learning to leave a discipline with an understand that, if you did wish to truly learn the essence of what this discipline ‘Is”, you would need another lifetime. And being content with this.
The greatest danger is spending insufficient time with a practice and not coming to a basic understanding of what is beyond the form and the name before moving to another. Disciplines are not just practice; they are cultures, they are people, they are histories, they are living, they are dynamic – they are moving. To begin to understand something that is in motion, you must, too, move with it for as long as both your desire for experience and the respect for that discipline demands.
To be able to move within and between disciplines with understanding, competency, respect, and humility – this is my understand of a ‘Mover’. — Jason Round