Impacts Circuit intro

Impacts Circuit intro

An extract from some instructional material produced on learning how to deal with impacts. The instructional set is aimed at learning the basic coordination needed for the action of jumping and landing. The other elements are some classic problems almost ever-present in any outdoor environment.

A. Impacts without impacts instructional set:

A1. Jumping without jumping x 50 reps
A2. Landing without landing x 50 reps
A3. Double arms swing x 5-10 mins
A4. Collapse and stabilize x 25 reps

Horizontal surfaces dominant:

B1. Landing focusing on time to immobilisation: three positions. High – Medium – Low.
B2. Precision jumps: low to high – same level – high to low. Land accurately on the forefoot. No noise and again, focus on time to immobilisation.
B3. Plyo challenge: pick a jump you can’t perform standing, that is possible with a jump in between.

B1-B3. Qualitative training: spend 15-30 mins on each element, according to fatigue. Quit when quality is decreasing too much. However, don’t make a bit of fatigue a reason to quit.

Vertical surfaces dominant:

C1. Vertical landing: Progress aiming to bring the body towards a horizontal position.
C2. Tic tac precision: tap the wall go over an obstacle to start with. Increase the height of the obstacle to clear and then the length of the movement.
C3. Tic tac toc:  Increase the distance between

C1-C3. Qualitative training: spend 15-30 mins on each element, according to fatigue. Quit when quality is decreasing too much. However, don’t make a bit of fatigue a reason to quit.

D. Impacts without impacts instructional set x 1 set.

Here’s the video on it:

A note and a reminder: As the surrealist painter Magritte was saying: “Ceci n’est pas une pipe” – “this is not a pipe” on the description of the painting of a pipe. He was underlying the difference between a real object and its representation.

Similarly, when looking through space, the focus should be placed upon looking at shapes and forms rather than function and perception.

Until next time,


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The game of progress: Understanding the role of mistakes

The game of progress: Understanding the role of mistakes

Failure is the key to Success or “Failure is Success in progress” are just a couple of the many suggestions that pop up in the google search tab if you type in the word “failure”.

In a society in which success is measured depending on the number of trophies you collect and the goals you manage to achieve, it is hard not to drown.

Yet, after 6000 laps around the sun – which is approximately when the start of human civilization has been dated –, we let our failures define our self-worth.

Apparently, what you’re not told is the most obvious thing: it is hard to reach anything without failing a hundred, a million times. Simply put, something must go wrong, before you can actually make it right. “Expertise” isn’t the right word, but it’s the first word that comes to mind1.

Just imagine what it takes to learn a muscle up on a bar; to successfully juggle five balls; stick precision jumps on a rail or even just get to a bodyweight snatch with a good technique. If you have ever tried performing something like this, you know for sure it takes loads of mistakes before getting used to the movement, to the pattern, to the exercise. You may be able to perform them in a first lucky try, but this is not what I am talking about.

Some athletes asked me once: is it enough to make mistakes over and over again to progress? They were referring to a perception of constantly failing in what they were doing. My answer was: “Certainly not. Something must change, execution after execution, leaving space for the firm establishment of a progression”. It’s not about the mistakes alone, it is about what you do to straighten the route. The small changes. As a matter of this fact, trying to raise a boiling hot pot from the fire a hundred times with your bare hands, will simply lead to a severe burn. You’ll have everything, but a solution.

So, the real question is: how can we get better and improve, using failure as a tool instead of as a limitation?

First of all, we need to unclothe our minds from useless complications and break down the first scenario.

Here are the ingredients for your magic recipe to “getting things done”:

  • An individual – called “X”
  • A task, or a problem that needs to be solved
  • An action from the individual, defined as an attempt to solve the problem
  • A feedback from the environment
  • A result: either a success or a failure
  1. X has a problem;
  2. X elaborates a first possible solution to the problem;
  3. X implements the solution into the specific scenario of interest;
  4. X either succeeds or fails (a basic feedback loop);
  5. X gathers enough information to understand what happened during the process;
  6. If the outcome is a failure: X starts over again from the top applying an updated strategy.

Nothing fancy, only a logical acquisition of knowledge.

To make this process work effectively, the underpinning evidence of a mistake needs to be spotted and sorted out immediately before repeating the task. Once the miscalculation is identified by the central (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS), the body is capable of digesting the information, making sure the same problem won’t happen again. Later on, a different strategy can be tested to see if it may be more suitable for the situation.

This concept alone is capable of triggering a massive difference in the way in which failure is approached. The environment only presents the raw information: a world of endless opportunities. However, it’s up to each individual to catch, understand, process and absorb them. I call it a “process of discrimination”.

That means being able to distinguish the background noise and the inferences from what is crucial for the practice development.

Many psychological experiments are based on this: it’s called target and distractor processing2. Another great example is the following: “I want you to focus and try NOT to think of a white bear” and there you go.. you’re thinking of one3. You couldn’t help it.

Just ”trying” to implement a new algorithm is not enough. Even though the same result can be achieved via a different strategy, the new technique should at least resemble as much as possible that of the correct execution.

Now, picture an athlete (for example the same individual defined “X” above) attempting a Clean and Jerk. Twice. On the first try, “X” may miss the catch in a Jerk as a result of projecting the barbell too forward instead of upwards.

During the second try, “X” is capable of re-calculating the trajectory based on the previous mistake. In order to correctly execute the catch, an upward straight line needs to be traced; backwards, but not too much, in order to prevent damaging the jaw.

Now, everything makes sense. Right?! You just have to fail, and try again; fail and try again; failing while paying a bit of attention to the mistakes.

This concept was theorized back in 1968 when Welford proposed his “Information Processing Theory”4. Since then, 50 years have passed and science surely kept evolving. Blindly believing in Welford’s ideas right now would be like comparing the complexity of a whole human being 5, to this useless machine.

The reality is that humans are complicated creatures that are capable of intertwining many different inputs to act and learn.

In the previous analysis, we failed to consider all the factors that make us the most evolved and intelligent species on Earth. Motivation, metacognition, attribution, self-efficacy, commitment and intention are only one of those.

The constant interchange of data in a system is created by the interaction between “ an action and a perception7. This is only possible if the interaction with different elements in the space (affordances) is perceived8, and the actions are consistently readjusted based on the “constraints” of the situation9.

Basically, when talking about skill acquisition and motor control, we need to become better in the act of solving new problems, in the fastest way possible. Thus, looking deep into the situation and analysing the environment, rather than focusing on learning a single pattern by trial and error, without paying the “right” attention.

Learning a new skill also means producing a solution to a certain problem.

The capacity of being able to generate those solutions is what can be transferred, not the skills. For example: kicking a ball, might transfer into kicking a jianzi (a feather ball). This not because the pattern is similar but because the motor learning process placed in the act of solving the problem and the situations can be recalled. In the theories of transfer, these processes are usually referred to as hugging (a comparison between a past experience into a similar one in the present) and bridging (hypothesizing a strategy from a previously learned one)10.

Similar tasks, contexts, affordances, problems, constraints, muscles’ activation and coordination in the body are all needed to begin the transfer process. This has relevant implications when setting scenarios for learning. Therefore, coaches should consider this, building complicated and interesting problems for their students and guide them towards progress.

Summing up:

Progress is like a game and things have to be done correctly in order to win the match. Failing is an essential part of this process, but it must be done right: as a conscious act of discriminating the important elements from the less relevant ones.

Moreover, learning something new is not as simple as the capacity to process a feedback loop, due to the complexity of our minds. The image that more closely resembles it is that of actively solving a problem. As a consequence, the more intricate the motor problems, the faster a practitioner will become at getting better in a similar field through transfer.

Therefore, the best movers out there are those who can solve an infinite variety of problems in the quickest and more efficient ways.



1. Palahniuk, C. (2002). Choke. New York: Doubleday.

2. Bledowski, C., Prvulovic, D., Goebel, R., Zanella, F., & Linden, D. (2004). Attentional systems in target and distractor processing: a combined ERP and fMRI study. Neuroimage, 22(2), 530-540.

3. Zimmerman, J. (2018). Opinion | Don’t Think About the White Bear. Retrieved 24 March 2018, from

4. Welford, A. (1968). Fundamentals of skill. London: Methuen.

5. QWOP. (2018). Retrieved 24 March 2018, from

6. Advanced Useless Machine. (2018). YouTube. Retrieved 24 March 2018, from

7. Bernštejn, N., & Latash, M. On dexterity and its development

8. Gibson, J., & Gibson, J. (2015). The ecological approach to visual perception. New York: Psychology Press

9. Davids, K., Bennett, S., & Button, C. (2008). Dynamics of skill acquisition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics

10. Green, J. (2015). Teaching for transfer in EAP: Hugging and bridging revisited. English For Specific Purposes, 37, 1-12.

*Picture by Andy Day.

Huan apprenticeship: looking back to move forward

Huan apprenticeship: looking back to move forward

Apprenticeship is generally considered as that “process of developing from novice to proficiency under the guidance of a skilled expert”, that “varies across cultures and among different skilled communities, but for many communities of practice, it offers an ideal ethnographic point of entry” 1

With this in mind, consider for a moment the following scenario:

“Sha wants to start an in-depth training in Tai-Chi, Fu style. This really matters to her. In order to put into practice her will of becoming more experienced in that specific field, she decided to move into a new city where a well-known teacher is offering the chance of learning and improving her abilities. There, she is accepted into a community and after a while she can move her first confident steps into the Tai-Chi Fu discipline”.

To fulfill her needs, Sha had to actively build a connection with the system, bond with the other students and slowly find her way in her development. She had to make a move.

Without this point of entrance, the access to that specific declination of Tai-Chi she was looking for would have not been impossible.

When considering the concept of apprenticeship, it would be wrong to label it as a mere transference of knowledge, limited to the acquisition of an implicit structure in a given practice (It was Tai-Chi for Sha, it may be Dance, Parkour, Climbing, Meditation and so on, for you). Rather, it involves a reciprocal cultivation of skills, a common cultural education and the presence of an idealized practice.

An important aspect of this condition, is the participative dimension of the personal research. To get back into the previous scenario, Sha can succeed in entering the apprenticeship only if she is intrinsically motivated to do so; if she has some goals to achieve and specific directions she is willing to take. Without these premises, she would not have undertaken the first step: looking for a teacher.

This typology of education wants to stress the importance of giving to the students some indications about where to go and what to do, while simultaneously allowing them to fully express and develop themselves, within the realm of practice and life.

Researches on the topic, confirm that the best way to create long term memories and enhance the learning process, is to be personally involved in the practice development itself 2.

This is why intertwining the learning process with life – looking for links and transferable qualities – is so important.

An apprenticeship is supposed to do this, and a personal growth, to be called so, has to happen on many layers. 

The alumni should be thrown into many different scenarios, in which they are able to confront their inner selves. To do so, they have to work out of their comfort zones, in uneasy situations and have their emotions shaken while trying to reach the long term goals they have chosen for themselves.

The apprenticeship roots can probably be sought from as far as the beginning of humanity. In fact, various are the authors that underlined how the younger generations need to absorb memes from the previous one before actually being able to move forward. For example, early language deprivation during childhood irreversibly impacted the children’s ability to develop the normal language acquisition process 3,4. Just imagine if progress never happened. We would still be out there trying to figure out how to make a fire. Wouldn’t we?!

Therefore, the apprenticeship need to be considered as something that allows constant mutation and development. Borrowing a concept from alchemic Taoism, the word “Huan” or “還” that means “return” also means “looking back” or “turning around” while “moving forward”. That is, it represents a “transformation”.

This wants to underline the importance of maintaining a collective knowledge coming from the past, while moving some steps forward into evolution.

To pass on an art effectively, the new students’ creations have to be somehow mediated by the teachers. This assigns the result a figurative value, rich in significance. It is a teacher’s duty to spot these raising abilities as they reveal themselves; accompanying the students in the journey without completely altering the roots and the philosophy of their specific practice. 

All this can happen only if teachers are willing to join a “participant observation” rather than a mere “observation of the participants”. In fact, being actively part of a process rather than just look at it from the outside may increase the person’s involvement and overall provide optimised tools for his/her development.

The approach of “looking back to move forward” is exactly what an apprenticeship is about: a person cannot just innovate something without knowing all the history that had been leading to his or her generation. From here, the need of a guide arises and the student needs to be like a chameleon: one eye on the past and one eye on the future.

Nowadays, many educational systems are based on more dogmatic, cold and systematic approaches where all the students have to attend lectures while being distracted by more interesting activities on their smartphones and then study separately in an individual setting to sustain the exams. 

When I talk about embracing a movement practice, I think of something innovative, where the participants can literally fall in love with the activities proposed to them and look forward to see a progress in a positive and encouraging environment. A context where practice and theory merge.

To sum it up, I believe that the apprenticeship is one of the best ways to learn, grow and develop. However, correctly implementing it is not easy. It takes time, effort, motivation, money and a rigorous commitment. It is not something that ends in a month; instead it continues for decades up to a lifetime.

This approach to the practice, allows the creation of long term bonds between teachers and students, within a positive and fresh environment. To connect inside this system, a person should be ready to join the community and get ready to approach any situation in an “empty cup” state of mind.

Education comes before everything, and it should be achieved in the best way possible. Thus, depending on the learners’ ability to respond to each material considered. Students will need to be active and self motivated in their process of development. All the teachers should be on the field, practicing every day. In this way they can make sure to remain “inside the stream” of the practice.

Emotional and intentional experiences are a crucial part of the process too. The work on personal limitations, deep fears and discomfort has to be considered with regards, as crucial elements to enter inside this system.

Are you ready to start a “huan” approach to any kind of learning? It’s time to look back to move forward. Click here to find out more, or to start a transformative process today.



1 Downey, G., Dalidowicz, M. and Mason, P. (2014). Apprenticeship as method: embodied learning in ethnographic practice. Qualitative Research, 15(2), pp.183-200.

2 Prince, M. (2004). Does Active Learning Work? A Review of the Research. Journal of Engineering Education, 93(3), pp.223-231. Available at:

3 McCulloch (2014) What Happens if a Child Is Never Exposed to Language? Available at:

4 Brown, L.J., Locke, J., Jones, P., & Whiteside, S. (1998) Language Development After Extreme Childhood Deprivation: A Case Study. 5th International Conference on Spoken Language, Sydney, Australia. Available at: 

*Picture by Andy Day.