1. How would you define your personal practice?

I am a victim of the sitting disease epidemic. I am a fat old man jousting with easy chairs, attacking furniture with a lance, calling for a return to a better world. I am Muscle Monk, openly seeking biomechanical enlightenment.

The difference between age and youth in biomechanical terms is motor control. When we are born we have little motor control, no secondary curves, not even arches in our feet. All this we create through instinct, intuition, play, and nurture in a loving environment. It is a process of building extension in the body. Protecting and developing this extension should be the focus of life. The opposite is true.

Clinical consensus is that by age 4 a healthy child has good posture and movement. By age 5, with the process of socialization in schools, that wonderful union of mind and body begins to detiorate and by the teens postural pathologies are considered to harden. We return to a soft spine and weak arches.

After decades of living unaware in an environment dominated by chairs, a lifestyle of sedentarism, and through injury and accident, we lose access to that primal relationship between mind and body we built in our youth. We return to flexion; we lose the tone of that training and fail to explore its meaning for our lives. This is age. The bliss of that free circuit between thought and action, the open sensorium in a world of discovery, becomes significantly reduced. This is age, the loss of our youth, the deterioration of the ability to move through disuse. Sedentarism.

The motor control system we built in our youth no longer functions. In our innocence, we expect it to but are met with disappointment. We are faced with the challenge of restoring fluent and efficient movement. We are barely able to conceive of it but if we try and through gentle experimentation and persistence we find that we can rebuild those patterns and experience the joy of our unencumbered bodies again.

This is me. I am a victim of the sitting disease epidemic. I joust with furniture and choose to believe in my dreams rather than the tedious sedentary reality all around me. This is a reality we dont want to admit. The sitting disease epidemic is the biggest health hazard we refuse to see. I deal with it every day in my personal and professional life.

My practice is the restoration of that primal joy; I am openly seeking biomechanical enlightenment. I seek support from those wiser and braver than myself, support from any who are willing, to create the habits and habitat that will make that possible in this world.

 

2. What turning points have you encountered on your movement journey?

My background is in weightlifting and powerlifting. I like being big and growing muscle. However, chronic injuries resulting from a sedentary lifestyle and using the old 1970s isolation/machine approach led to a lot of breaks in my training.

In my late 40s due to illness, I found getting up and down from the ground to be very difficult. This became a major training focus. I practiced falls, rolls, crawling, crawling on stairs, and all sorts of “floor play.” At one point I resolved never to do anything in the gym that I had done before. This meant no machines, no bench pressing or squats, etc. I had to be creative and used a lot of cables, dumbbells and floor work. Instead of attempting to use a bar for squats or benching, I used it for “bar play”—or more like lifting and swinging a lance. I defined my training as “drunken monk” style. I explored movement and meditation. Once I heard about functional training I didn’t worry so much about looking different and never doing the same rote, mechanical moves as everyone else. I had a blast. I haven’t been kicked out of the gym yet, despite rejecting the very premise they are built upon.

The functional training paradigm shift was a big one for me. Eventually I joined a local powerlifting gym, now named Kabuki Strength Lab. In Chris Duffin and Rudy Kadlub and the team there I found excellent support for my interest in strength, muscle, anatomy, and rehab. This was the time Kelly Starrett was publishing his daily Mobility Wod videos and we would discuss them enthusiastically and teach each other. I am a rehab geek. Unhappy with working in public schools, I became a massage therapist.

Now rehab science and education online is through the roof. Somatics are on the horizon in the exciting biomechanical revolution we are in the middle of. What Gray Cook calls the Movement Movement. My rehab journey has become one of self discovery and social change.

 

3. What role has injury played in cultivating your current niche?

I am a bodyworker. I am a healer. Injury and recovery, rather than performance, is my focus. I confront the symptoms of sitting disease every day in my practice. I am responding to this challenge in the best way I know how—with words, with my hands, with feeling, with others.

I am currently rehabing an injured leg—a large tibial evulsion. This has brought me deeper into the experience of disfunction and pain. It has taught me all over again how difficult it is to get good care for movement and musculoskeletal disorders. It is teaching me the importance of getting help, prioritizing the body, and believing in myself.

My focus in one sense is on my own people—fat old gay men, but also all those afflicted by the sitting disease epidemic. We often experience chronic pain and are sensitive to shaming. Most of us are not into sports. We want to be muscular and strong, but we want full self expression too. It is important in my view to reach out past the fit and young to find meaning in our bodies for all people and to provide encouragement to grow and change as we move our bodies more fully in the world.

 

4. Do you consider yourself a teacher? Why or why not?

I am an educator by I nature and by training. I have taught ESL, tutored, and run programs as a special educator at the elementary and middle school level. I believe that “teaching” is simply a formalization of a natural social process of connection and care. However, our ability to care about each other is profoundly limited by our disembodied experience in modernity.

Teaching is the social expression of caring. Parents do it. Friends do it. Experts and specialists do it. Learners do it. School is the institutionalization of caring, but schools do not speak to our needs and concerns. We are learning to care and work together in new ways. We are faced with an epidemic of non-communicable diseases related to sedentarism and the very lifestyle schools socialize us into. Schools must reflect these important changes.

My goal is the end of the school system that cripples our children by requiring them to sit immobile for unacceptable and unnecessary amounts of time.

I have come to believe that schools are a truly outdated institution which need to be profoundly challenged. The foundation of classroom management is the chair: “stay seated and be quiet.” Schools train us in the conformist ways of the old industrial economy, which required its workers to submit, collapsing our initiative and our spines. This ethic is no longer sustainable in the current post-industrial economy. It is not and was never humane. Change is possible now.

Society is built upon mechanisms of social control, and these have always operated by restricting movement. Modern society, with the greatest productivity and efficiency also has the most powerful mechanisms of social control, and so the most restricted movement. No premodern or non-modern society even compares in its pervasiveness of discipline and control. Teaching movement, then, is inherently revolutionary. It is the revolution that transcends all barriers of race, politics, gender, age, and culture. I am a leading learner in this epoch of biomechanical enlightenment.

 

5. What has been your experience with physical education, both in the schooling system and sought out knowledge/ know-how elsewhere?

As a repressed gay youth and an sensitive intellectual by nature, PE was not my favorite class. The body I wanted to move and enjoy was not welcomed in my world. Or at least that is what I experienced. The combative and competitive approach of most PE classes I had did not provide the encouragement and meaning I needed. I was always acutely aware of my body, my ‘feminine hips”, my flabby waist. I am self conscious still today but I choose to focus on my body in ways that are more substantive and gratifying.

On a more general level I learned a great deal through books like Starting Strength and the Internet. I was lucky to join a very special powerlifting gym run by Chris Duffin and Rudy Kadlub. I learned about power and performance. I opened an office in the gym as a massage therapist and as my knowledge and experience grew I realized that what I was really involved in was a process of discovering myself.

 

6. How do you involve your mind/ emotions into your physical routines?

I practice something called the Power Pose. It is a standing postural movement meditation. It has three areas of focus, the feet, pelvis, and arm/neck complex. I have developed three power cues to bring energy and attention to these areas and to undo the biopsychosocial barriers to them.

 

7. What are your personal aspirations regarding movement? How do you hope to find purpose and use in the skills you have built?

I seek biomechanical enlightenment. I am working to experience embodied cognition, presence, and power. I wish to feel the energy of the earth as I stand upon it. I wish to penetrate the veil of shame and submission of this sedentary society with renewed attention to my posterior power chain. I wish to know greater presence and richer experience by undoing the habitual bodily patterns and movement compromises that have been my faltering response to this messy world. I wish to openly seek biomechanical enlightenment in the company of my fellow enthusiasts of all ages and bodies.

 

8. How can people find/ contact you? Do you have a site or social media handle to share?

My professional site is: jimfredalmt.com

I am building a blog for these concerns at:

NoChairPledge.com

It is under construction and your support and encouragement is appreciated!

 

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