Movement Camp 2019 – A review

Movement Camp 2019 – A review

Imagine

 

Imagine a movement-educational network where things work.

A growing web of sustainable communities from all over the globe created by thousands of students that orbit and grow around a pulsating inner core of teachers that lead by unstained example, deep study, and hard work.

A multi-centered space that can integrate those interested to join in a life-long journey of self-development with care and love, but that also demands rigor and discipline.

The macro-organism, in its essence, is not dictated by friendships (even if those sprout stronger than ivy on a clean brick wall), sharing, experience gathering or mere entertainment: it is oriented towards practice.

This concept should be elevated at the top of the chain.

Too often I have seen people starting something with all the best intentions, losing themselves away into a self-alimenting Poe-like maelstrom of personal problems, shortly after. Draining academic careers, second jobs, family issues, and bureaucracy, just to mention a few.

The only way to ride a wave is being on top of it, not behind, nor beyond. Therefore, being there and training hard, with passion, the fullness of intention and respectful arrogance, it is all there is.

Everything else shall be second.

And here it comes the main topic of the day: the yearly Movement Camp is, to my senses, the tip of the iceberg of this contemporary phenomenon.

It is a moment to gather up with some of the most serious practitioners and leaders in the world and spend time together through intense guided fieldwork. 

Cross-intricated principles on movement development are here delivered, and observational frameworks provided to all the participants. It serves to determine where the movement culture is currently going, but also as an engine sparkplug that ignites interest for the months to come.


Movement Camp 2019

After three years, Thailand keeps being a wild jungle with an imperfect architecture, but this time it all starts to feel a lil‘ bit more familiar.

The Kop Khun Khaa (thank you) recited as a mantra resonating in the streets; huge frogs making cow-like sounds when a storm hits the island; the clean and perfect stray dog whose fur is in better shape than my own hair, and the clear climate: 100% humidity or 100% air-conditioned – constantly attempting to inject flu and a sore neck into you from the very first step out of the plane.

Oh, and the helmets’ situation for motorcycle riders is improving. I think I saw one this time, which is an increase of 200%, everything considered. I can spot a clear positive trend here.

Traveling impressions aside, this year’s movement camp has been a deep dive.

It left me with a sensation of clear evolution and consolidation. The whole event is moving towards delivering a very balanced set of activities: sometimes placing a brick on top of another, sometimes letting go of a practice to move on into a new realm.

The energies were also well redistributed: mind challenging classes were followed by heavy physical sessions which were separated by more relaxing moments.

Now onto the event itself:

UNCLOUD / Dudi Malka

Dudi presented more insights and practical tools to deal with the demons reseeding within ourselves. Where commercialized ancient practices are going towards externalization of shapes and an aesthetics orientation, the material presented here is drinking nectar directly from the very deep unstained origins of Hatha Yoga. It is directed towards finding inner qualities for enhanced stability, clarity and calmness.

“Don’t come here for the candies” he says, pinpointing the idea that if you only follow happiness, amusement and your natural inclinations, you will never be able to learn how to face your weaknesses, fears and problems.

To do so, he pushes all students into hard and confronting postures, breathing constraints, immobilism and personal discussions.

Only dealing with what is challenging and uncomfortable, would allow people to find calmness within a storm of thoughts and emotions.

Don’t get me wrong, these are not just philosophical alignments, they appear to be very practical advice also in a movement practice. If you only do what you like, you will ultimately hit a wall. Not realizing that it will happen, will ultimately lead towards dissatisfaction and deep delusion for not being able to align with the running of time and to the grasp of a bigger picture.

Recently, I saw a clip of a 75 years-old gymnast which was being praised by everyone for being able to do the same things that he was doing “when he was in his 20es”. Well, inside my mind I couldn’t help but think: “In 75 years he didn’t learn much apparently”.

He should pay a visit to Dudi and embrace his natural evolution. Moving on into different practices, rather than holding on to a phantom of his past.

Personally, this work has been the most transformational for my body and mind. I feel in a completely different place than before starting this process. 

INTERFACE – Eran Bert

You are grasping for air with the skin on fire, all covered in sweat, the muscles start to get numb from high fatigue, the vision gets blurred and you need to pull out the best coordinative solutions for a task – a voice slithers into your brain from afar: “keep going!”.

Well, that’s the briefest summary I can pull out of my hat for you to grasp what Eran’s work felt like to me.

He has been sharing different discrimination’s systems for organized fighting under different rules: submission scenarios, partner drills to build a clever body and connection maneuvers to perceive the other person as an extension of yourself.

Despite me being in a pure abhorring place for fighting, the movement perspective shed a fascinating light into it and through the years I am starting to appreciate it more and more.

The idea of getting hurt, of not always being in control, of dealing with the high external pressure of another body that wants to strangle you (in the best-case scenario) slowly faded away, to make space for a deeper understanding of what there IS in fighting.

As it always happens, we tend to move away from what we don’t understand.

One of the most captivating point of entry towards fighting for me, is strategy. I have always loved strategic board games, from chess to hive, and this is no different; besides for the game being made of living reorganizing and remodeling human matter.

I now thoroughly relish all the little moments of understanding that arise from the collaboration or resistance with another person, the puzzling decision making, the body storms, the glances of connection and the small punishments for a wrongly executed task.

So, thank you Eran for presenting me once again your world with passion, attention and openness.
I’ll let your iron words of encouragement be soft on my skin.

EX NIHILO / Shai Faran

 

You think you are able to coordinate your body, right? Well, you better think again.

If you were in the camp, I am sure you would have re-evaluated your belief. Before entering the door, you must be ready to question your basic capacity to move a limb, literally. For how long, in which way, with what orientation, in which direction, in relation to what and under which criteria.

Shai is the ruled barer, the awareness queen and it’s a constant reminder of how little we think of all the small things. It always reminds me of this zen story:

“Zen students stay with their teacher at least ten years before they would presume to teach.
Tenno finished his apprenticeship and started to teach.

One rainy day, he visited the great Nan-yin.
At the entrance to the temple, Tenno left his clogs and umbrella.

Nan-yin greeted him and asked in passing,

“You left your clogs in the vestibule.
Tell me, did you place your umbrella to the right or the left of your clogs?”

Tenno was stunned.
He was not attentive at the time and could not give a response now.

Tenno stayed on and became Nan-yin’s disciple for six years
…until he perfected Zen in every moment.”
 

Similarly, in the class you might be attentive to how your hand draws some perfect circles and be satisfied with your work, while Shai will slide like a grinning shadow on your side pointing at your cramped right foot which you were supposed to keep with your fingers well spread out. Damn!

You have to learn how to compute more info with the same brain and infuse quality in it while preparing for the next moment to unfold. You drop the attention a split of a second, you are out of this game.

Year after year, I feel like I am developing the tools to observe what people bodies do and how they do it, in a completely different manner, in terms of choices, shapes, complexity, disruption or harmonization.

The level of fine refinement that can be reached in this world is so subtle that only a highly trained eye can pick it up. If you are still in the realm of looking at a backflip and going wow, you are far off. In the future, if you’ll come down this path, what will make you wow will be the way a person walks.

 

ELECTRIC EEL / Odelia Goldschmidt

What I appreciate about Odelia’s presentations is that all the material is developed from the scratches of her own practices. If something touched her skin in a way or in another, it will come back out in the form of some deeply developed material.

This bottom-up grounding effect is extremely powerful: it means that the roots of the processes are not levitating in the fine air, but they reach down into the earth to keep the structure solid.

Tracking back with my eye behind the head to where all was coming from, it left me with a sense of excitement for the developmental potential power for everything – literally anything that touches a bright and creative person has no limits for evolving a system forward.

This year’s “cellular spark” was an in-depth insight into all the possible capacities of a body to produce muscle contractions from a very mechanical perspective. From building tension to releasing it, from exploding with velocity to absorbing the force and redirecting it not to let it destroy your own self.

In my mind, it placed very interesting accents and enquiries on the specificity of training and the plasticity of our bodies. On how much we are able to sculpt ourselves, as an internal response to different stimuli over the course of our lives.

“The rivers sculpt the mountains as movement sculpts our body”. Look, I even gave you a sentence to write on your wall.

Cherry on the cake, the last realm we moved into was based on further production of displacement systems to navigate the floor. Almost a completely new method to operate on the ground, which is surprising since I have seen a lot of different elements throughout the years.

On a human level then, the care and attention of her teachings are second to none.

SEE/FEEL/PERCEIVE/EXPRESS / Rasmus Ölme

Rasmus is a wizard of movement semantics, semiotics and pragmatics. His thoughts and in-depth reflections permeated the event, adding a slight academic blend into the mix.

In his practical sessions, he was able to analyze everything with nothing. Minute after minute, he guided us through various layers of understanding of a motion: unveiling and unraveling every layer, detail, shade and sophistication.

To me, it pretty much felt like one of those moments in which you look at a shell, realize the homothety of the fractal in it, connect to the similarities between the biggest and the smallest systems of the universe.

Given that one can reach this level of depth within the physical realm, it’s not surprising that a lot of expert practitioners revert their interest more and more towards the inside – rather than the outside.

On top of this all, he managed to present a lecture on various mediums to observe the world of phenomena, relate to them in different contexts and perceive space as part of ourselves.
By the end of the presentation, I wasn’t really sure if I was a part of the room, the room itself or an external observer of it. Full trip without mushrooms.

SURFACES / Ido Portal

To my heart, Ido’s workshops always feel like taking a chair on the side of the director of a movie and talking about what’s going on in the scene and why or chatting to a magician about the disentanglement of a trick, while the outside observers fall into attention diversion techniques.

The emphasis is always placed on what is “behind the scenes” in the body, on generating more options, applying better procedures,  freeing space in the Homunculus and making the coordination of all body segments more refined.

Me evading from the hug of death by my friend Summer O’Black

It’s like practicing something quite general, but that will then translate into more overall proficiency because it’s ubiquitous in its essence for skill acquisition. It serves as a base layer for the production of movement solution of various sort. 

The final sensation is of leaving the session with a more intelligent body, rather than a body that has learned something. I guess one can go for the analogy to the classic “giving a person a fish” vs “teaching how to fish”. The latter is the most valuable we agree, but the first is what you usually get when learning something, here is a leap into the second option.

On top of this, it felt good to be thrown again into the realm of the hard floor with many riddles to solve and opportunities to investigate.

All in all, it’s true, there are no secrets nor shortcuts to the understanding of your own body: you have to do the work. However, there are facilitators and those who can deliver real treasures to deal with this self-writing personal manual, and Ido is one of them – you won’t find a better teacher on earth.

How much will he speed up all your processes? More or less 524%.

R & R / Martin Kilvady

Expect nothing from Martin and be ready to leave all option available, all doors wide open.

You might think you know what he is going to do, present, propose, suggest but you are most likely standing in the wrong place. Why? Well, first of all, he is ready to surprise himself as well, second of all his body knowledge in terms of subtle understanding, the precision in gestures, the amount of parameters he has access to, the awareness in every motion, the expression and revolution of the norm is on another level.

He is the one who is able to “make the strange familiar and the familiar strange”.

You think you know why you are making certain choices in producing action and where you are placing your attention in your physicality but eventually, he will shake it off you.

In the past, I used to think certain activities were weird, but the reality is that something tastes strange only if it’s unknown or away from the norm imposed by some form of social and cultural conditioning.

Martin himself was placing this example (answering to an observation I raised on the topic): “people were looking at me weird as I was doing my things in the sand, moving around thinking of what the hell is that guy doing, but then they were going back into surfing some waves.
I mean moving in the sand versus riding a piece of plastic in the middle of the ocean. Who is doing weird things here?”.

It puts things into perspective, doesn’t it?

If something is not coded under the eyes of the norm it suddenly seems odd, something to think about.

From a very practical aspect, he has been guiding everyone through some methodologies for personal therapy which I found brilliant. The idea is that there is no one better than ourselves that knows how to deal with ourselves in terms of recovery and self-care; and to do that resting in a bed still is not the best option.

He offered a wide array of factors to manipulate to tune the body into the state we want it to be.

Oh, and one thing I didn’t mention. If you are attending anything that Martin is presenting be ready to start laughing with your mouth wide open.

Martin, you have added a really special flavor into this camp. Same as kamaboko (the pink and white cured sashimi) does to the ramen. Everybody wonders what is that thing is, but the soup wouldn’t just be the same without it.

Conclusion and words for all

When you hear someone say: this year was special, probably, what I wrote up here is a fraction of what they meant.

Overall every year the event looks more refined, balanced and to the point. The feedbacks and the minor issues from the previous years are elegantly redirected to drive the new camp in the best flawless way.

A feeling of interconnection between this year event, the classes and the past one is clear. And every workshop gives the feeling of continuity with the previous one.

And this is essential as this is not an event to join into for a one-time experience, but for a long-term education that can potentially last a lifetime.

To all the observers, the one looking from afar, the tasters. If interested, my suggestion is to start a process now and understand if this world is for you. If so, my invitation is not to follow the bread crumbs, but to go ahead and take a bite to the sandwich, you might find out it has a different taste.

Personally, it has been a powerful choice that is reshaping and remodeling my being until today.
See if being part of this network can be for you – write at info@idoportal.com.

If you are planning to join in, however, be advised, it’s not going to be an easy task – be ready to flip your certainties upside down.

And to all those who saw a Movement Camp five years ago and never joined back again, or you haven’t been in one of the schools around the world, remember – you are not updated if you are not coming. You are late.

This movement culture is a dynamic creature.

I have always been the one looking to develop myself as a renaissance man and using my physical development as a medium for it – and this group of special people is a rare macroorganism striving towards that same goal.

In an era that is going towards fragmentation and overspecialization, we stand behind the fullness of being.

Now a few last words to you Ido. Thank you for being the catalyst, for always seeing one step ahead of the present and for taking care when this was no more a necessity. Deep gratitude for all these years.

Until next time – with love to all the teachers and to my companions in this journey,

Marcello.

The call of the city – a short film

The call of the city – a short film

“The call of the city” is a short film showing a world beyond the silence of everyday routines.

The space is talking, it is inviting, and it is offering options at all times.

Since creating doesn’t start from nothing, everything is a transformation.

It’s about becoming modern druids with the eyes of a visionary, ready to see fantastic beasts high up in the clouds and the ears of a prisoner, attentive to the minimal ripples in reality.

Everything is already there, for those who can read through the lines.

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Urban Exploration – A manifesto

Urban Exploration – A manifesto

Urbex is the art of carefully and thankfully making tea in somebody else’s villa, bringing pots, leaves and water of your own, without them noticing.

 

A preamble: why more manifestos?

 

All people act but only a few do it following personal Cartas or codes. Mostly, things happen in a flowing continuum where possibilities are evaluated and picked in order to get the best outcomes out of a situation. The problem with this process? On spot, logical decisions are strongly influenced by sensations and instincts. Needless to say, this tornado of emotion can produce poor immediate strategies.
From as long as politics was born (more than one people in a room), laws started to arise to avoid people working only towards their own genetic egoistic needs.

Given the rate of analphabetism of the past, it was an absolute necessity that everyone would have blind rules to follow. An understanding wasn’t necessary, the important thing was that people were acting in such a way that peace and order were maintained. No thinking nor grey scales, just black and white.
In this sense, social control provides crucial guidance: a set of regulations and coercion rules are aimed at maintaining the order within a given association, culture or population. Thus, distinguishing unacceptable conducts from the acceptable ones.

Nowadays, many are the driving forces that contribute to support and preserve the idea behind social control and formal processes are only one of them (criminal justice laws, punishment, and deterrence).
The increased application of education and schooling programs enhanced individual critical thinking as well as the ability to resonating around thorny topics. Informal processes took the lead: education, family, morality, and values are now equally strong forces in modulating individual behavior.

By my side, I have strong ethics and moral codes for many things I do. I can predetermine my actions and align facts with reality not to have any bad surprises along the way. For example, in my life, I choose not to steal, it’s a matter of respect. Similarly, I understand the value of propriety as one of the means to achieve peace and social balance.

Therefore, when finding myself in a situation in which stealing would be really easy (e.g. I see a 500 € note fall off the pocket of a person rushing in front of me), I simply avoid it (I’d run towards the person to give them back the money since they are not mine).
I do this not because I am scared of the effect that my actions may legally have (being fined, going to prison or being punished in general) but because my beliefs and understanding would guide my choices. Not doing something only because of the consequences, is for the poor minded people, that do not have internal principles to align to.

That is the reason why I am writing different manifestos to put out there, ink on paper, my declaration of intent. Doing so, I can stay true and transparent in the things I believe in and that drives my actions.


The core of the matter

 

Exploring surroundings and using space involves in a nutshell scouting challenges, researching the relation with an environment, living authentic experiences and observing the most beautiful transient treasures that the world has to offer from the front seats. Sunsets and sunrises from the top of a building, cascades and rivers in the core of the earth, the street lights in a pulsating city or the bright stars in a night without moon are all part of the same book. 

Although most of these activities occur during the day in public areas, some others still happen at night, in silence and in off-limits scenarios. It’s enough to think of the incredible catacombs in Paris, the underground Tube Tunnels in NYC or the London Sewers net (besides some occasional “close encounters of the turd kind” (1), every mission holds nice surprises). They cannot be explored in ease, but aren’t you curious to give a look to see what’s hidden in there?

 Having said so, trespassing, aka invading other people’s properties, shouldn’t be done lightly and that’s why a manifesto is also needed in this case.

 

Redefining the starting point: one axiom.

 

In full understanding that private property is of extreme relevance for social balance, justice, efficiency, and unity but knowing that I value self-regulation and internal processes more than external control systems, I set this as a founding axiom of my practice:

 

Within any urban and natural scenario, there are no impassable boundaries.

 

A city is of its citizens and nature is of those who inhabit it.

 

This axiom ceases immediately to be true if the undermentioned rules are not satisfied to the fullest.

 

Rules

 

1. Non-interference

“When we interfere with nature, regardless of whether our intentions are good or not, we create a break in [that] natural history” (2)Do not disturb people and people won’t disturb you. The first law of the jungle. Remember you are doing things for yourself and yourself only.

This idea closely resembles the environmental “preservation principle” by Regan, which was aimed at promoting “non-destruction, noninterference and non-meddling with nature” (3).
Similarly a few years later, Taylor (4) continued saying that ‘we must not try to manipulate, control, modify, or ‘manage’ natural systems or otherwise intervene in their normal functioning’.

Take this to an extreme. Look at the beautiful global warming issue that we are facing nowadays (2019). Never underestimate the power of a non-interference mindset.


2. Respect

One of Aristotelis’ main arguments in defense to private property was that “communal ownership increases the likelihood of neglect”. Therefore personal possession allows the whole society to be more efficient (5). 

Having said so, this cognitive bias highlights that if you are in an area of the city that is not your garden or your neighborhood, you will most likely think that somebody else will take care of a problem that you might have created.

Being aware of this is essential to act as if everything belonged to you. Would you ever break the glass of a window to get inside your house? You wouldn’t, then why consider it? Move on.

Always pay respect for other people as if they were your sisters and brothers. Karma will give you this back.

3. Self-Protection

Do everything you have to do to protect your structural integrity; in a few words: do not harm yourself. We are not daredevils, we apply our skills (previously built) to open up possibilities, we do not jump into danger. It’s a process, a very different thing.

Regarding others, always remember this statement: “The issue of self-protection does not, however, exclude the use of force in protection of life” but to be legitimate “it has to be justifiable,
and not disproportioned to the force threatened. A person, with a justifiable cause, could use force in defense of family and self, and also in defense of others” (6).

This means that if nobody physically hurts you, you will always avoid physical interaction.

On top of this remember, you know why you are doing what you are doing, but others might misunderstand your actions. They might think you are a criminal, a thief, a terrorist. It’s your responsibility to behave in such a way nobody thinks you are one.
THM: Don’t dress up in crazy military clothes, carrying three knives, with a gun on your side, a helmet, and an anti-nuclear radiation mask. You might look a bit suspicious.

4. Minimalist Mindset

“Less is more and more is less, more or less” (7). Travel light, bring the bare minimum. You will need very few things. You might want to feel the hitch to buy rappels, night visors, retractable sticks, invisible ropes, and other expensive tools, but the reality is you will need very little of that. Read out loud some old school stoicism down here and let it brainwash you. They. Were. Right!

“Do not indulge in dreams of having what you have not, but reckon up the chief of the blessings you do possess, and then thankfully remember how you would crave for them if they were not yours” (8).

5. Do things with style

Overall, don’t forget – it’s always about style. The way you react, the way you move, the way you face problems. As my friend, Gato once said: “Parkour is about lifting a slice of cake with a fan” (9).

Nobody wants to be the bull in a china shop. Remember a cat moving through balconies, a snake slithering in leaves, an eagle gliding in the sky above the mountains. The deepest efficiency hides in aesthetics.

 

Corollaries

 

Non-interference corollaries

– Learn a thing or two about mimetism, it will be useful.
– Do not film sensible things.
– Do your thing, use minimal interaction with others.
– Silence is your best friend.

Respect corollaries

– Take responsibility for your actions: fix if you break and no suing for any reason.
– If asked to leave, leave, immediately, if asked to explain do it with care.
– Be kind, aware and serious about your actions.

Self-protection corollaries

– Always carry a micro first aid kit. What, don’t you have one already? Make one now.
– Tell at least one person where you are and when you will be back.
– Learn a thing or two about disguise, diplomacy, and confounding.
– Know/Check your surfaces.
– Have a plan B.
– Stay aware at all times. Every smell, every sound, every motion, counts.

Minimalistic Mindset corollaries

– Being minimalist doesn’t mean to go around naked. I.e. you wouldn’t go into the sewers with flip-flops. Wouldn’t you?
– Nothing is as important as a good head flashlight.

Style corollaries

– The style is your passport, don’t forget it at home.
– A good attitude can overcome the toughest of the problems.

 

End words

 

It’s not enough to do, we must do and reflect.

Garrett, quoting Downfallen (an Urban Explorer and Base Jumper): When we see a sign that says, “do not enter” we understand that this is simply a shorthand way of saying “leaving protected zone: demonstrate personal accountability beyond this point”.

I stand behind every word written in this document, to be transparent and real, to not be a hypocrite and ultimately to give a voice all those people whose curiosity goes beyond the limitation the modernity wants to impose.

Until next time,
Marcello.

 

Reference

 

1) Urban, S. (2019). Close encounters of the turd kind | London Sewers & London’s Main Drainage | sub-urban.com. Retrieved from http://www.sub-urban.com/close-encounters-of-the-turd-kind/

2) Hargrove, E. (1996). The Foundations of Environmental Ethics (1st ed.). Denton, Texas: Environmental Ethics Books.

3) Regan, T. (1981). The Nature and Possibility of an Environmental Ethic. Environmental Ethics, 3(1), 19-34. doi: 10.5840/enviroethics19813131

4) Taylor, P. (1986). Respect for nature – A theory of environmental ethics (1st ed.). Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

5) Fred D. Miller, J. (2019). Aristotle on Property Rights. Retrieved from https://orb.binghamton.edu/sagp/317


6) Nemeth, C. (2017). Private Security and the Law, 5th Edition. Milton: Taylor and Francis.

7) Boer, S. (2015). Less is More, and More is Less, More or Less: The Historical Progression, Aesthetic Characteristics, and Physical Limitations of Minimalism. Retrieved from

https://ir.lib.uwo.ca/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1071&context=notabene

8) Aurelius, M. (175 A.D) Meditations (1st ed.). Somewhere around Rome: The publisher is lost in the night of times.

9) Mazzoleni, F. (2013). squalo ragno elefante gatto. Retrieved from http://squaloragnoelefantegatto.blogspot.com/2010/

10) Garrett, B. (2014). Explore everything (1st ed.). London: Verso.

 

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No reasons to practice

No reasons to practice

“Do not play video games!” said the old doctor to the kid “You’ll never be able to conclude anything in your life, do something useful”. 15 years forward and the kid is a billionaire, having started a business based on his gaming.

 

A MMA fighter trains to be ready to defend his loved ones in case of a street fight. On a summer night, that moment comes but the stress of the situation and the close banging of a gun paralyse him with terror, making the use of his well-developed skills impossible.

 

Miss. Prepper builds the best bunker in the world, filled with all the necessities for healthy living (food, water, beds, even a small garden!). Meanwhile, the clock keeps running and a different future arises: she has to face communication problems with her husband. She’ll eventually divorce because she was too busy to prepare for the wrong scenarios and now she can’t deal with a harsh and unexpected reality.

 

If you managed to live past your first months or even days in this world, you have realised that at some point: predictability is no precise science. You bake the cake, put in all your love, open the oven and realise a black piece of charcoal is waiting for you instead of an angelical composition. You build up the perfect plan and then things do not go as expected.

 

Having said so, many people base their training on the idea that they can reduce the black swans from occurring. That is, getting stronger, readier, more adaptable. Fair enough, this suddenly provides the practice with a scope, a “reason to be”, and therefore it becomes meaningful.

 

Others might choose to train for the sake of getting a better body composition; some would choose to learn how to dance with their partners to enjoy the pleasures of the night.

 

Call it a human bias, an inclination or a necessity: humans are constantly looking for reasons. This is probably one of the most primitive embodied drives for doing things. A morbid curiosity, that like an itch that never stops will hunt you until it’s gone.

It goes from the micro-elements present in our life (like understanding the function of a bedbug), all the way to expanding into the meaning of life.

This phenomenon can be associated both with the desire of pursuing an investigation for its own sake, but also to that of understanding how to spend time in the most fruitful manner.

 

The bright side is that this search can help to discover the motives behind what we do: it can bring empowerment, increasing both the levels of motivation and self-fulfilment.

The side effect of this incessant questioning is that it can become somewhat of a fixation and a principle to embrace, risking to become a limitation or an excuse for wars and conflicts. Just recall all religious, economic or political fights: neverending and draining.

 

If we narrow it down to our physicality things don’t change: a validation seems necessary.

 

I myself have been building a list of things that I want out of my practice. I want it to open options for me, to keep myself curious, deepen my understanding and push my boundaries. I want it to allow me to live more authentic experiences and ultimately fill me with gratitude for being on this Earth.

 

However, still, if our personal pre-set of criteria (aesthetics, fitness, functionality etc.) are not met, our practice becomes “wrong” or “meaningless”.

 

Now you see, what at first looked like opportunities for development, now become horses’ blinkers that enhance a single vision to erase the bigger picture.

 

Those who train for functionality will see in the movement of a dancer a useless mix of gestures; the bodybuilder will see in learning how to climb on top of a wall, something that is completely out of reach or needs. The climber will think that running a marathon is something tiring and avoidable.  A swimmer will go home with a car because …who cares about my body when I am not in the water!

 

Then why we inherently can’t conceive that it is enough to be able to do something to validate it?

 

Because things can be done in several different ways!

 

One can draw without understanding and cook without interest. Or a universe can be opened on every single matter. We have all seen the eyes of those who “were not there” while they were there.

 

It then appears obvious, that rather than on the reasons why we do things, the focus should be placed on the attention and the understanding, the precision of the gestures and the inherent features of each and every act.

 

I’ll finish this article with a short story titled “the perfect cut of the peony flower”. This story accurately depicts a world of details that is hidden to the most, but that within practitioners is very clear and recognisable. It’s like a secret society with no walls nor doors, that can only be entered out of deliberate work on the field. This is what I am after, not “reasons” to validate what I do.

 

“Sekishusai was a master of the sword who had fought in the wars of the Sengoku period for decades and had retired to polish his skills further. He had impressed the Tokugawa clan enough, and his sons and grandsons served the new Shogun as warriors and instructors, but Sekishusai himself had essentially retired.  He had nothing more to prove to the outside world, so he ignored most challenge requests.

That day that Musashi came to the inn, a servant from Sekishusai came to deliver a note and a box to Yoshioka. She apologized to Yoshioka stating that her master would not be meeting him for a duel as he was ill with a cold.  As a token of his sincerity, she presented to him the box, in which was a single peony flower. She had been ordered to make sure that Yoshioka received it.

Yoshioka took a glance at the flower, and laughed.  He picked it out of the box and flung it to the ground in the inn’s garden.  He then sent the servant on her way telling her that Sekishusai was an old has-been, a feeble-minded coward whose skill clearly wasn’t up to snuff.  He then went out with his entourage to drink and celebrate his “victory” over the headmaster of the Yagyu Shinkage Ryu school of swordsmanship.

Now Musashi had overheard everything.  After all, he himself had come to the city to try his sword against Sekishusai. Once Yoshioka was gone, Musashi went into the garden and picked up the flower that Yoshioka had so carelessly tossed away.

At first, there was nothing special about the flower that Musashi could see. But after another look, Musashi suddenly noticed something that his keen eyes, honed with years of training and battle, perceived as particular.  It was at the cut end of the flower. It had not been cut with scissors used for flower arrangement, which is what one would’ve expected.

It had been cut with a sword.

It was, indeed, a perfect cut.  A cut of supreme precision that only a great master with immense skill could’ve made.

Musashi realized that Yagyu Sekishusai Munetoshi was not a “feeble-minded coward” or an “old has-been” as Yoshioka had so arrogantly declared.  He was, in fact, still a formidable warrior, one that Musashi would dearly love to test himself against or learn from. So he took out his sword, made a similar cut at the end of the stem, and had it sent to the Yagyu school as his calling card. (1)”.

 

Have a good journey everyone,

Marcello.

 

*

References:

 

(1). Yoshikawa, E. (1990). Musashi (1st ed.). London: Corgi.

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The call of the TV tower

The call of the TV tower

The meeting

The silent fine air was rushing through my hair as I stared out of the window that was kept slightly open. I raise my eyes from my piece of paper, throwing the pen on the table. A smell of hot, dense and sticky summer night came through that small aperture. “It’s one of those nights…” I think as I stand up.

A shiver from the center of the back irradiates into my arms and legs. There was so much energy in the air.

I rolled back the ears to let my awareness travel through the neighborhood, scanning road after road any anomaly among the quiet dark allies. An alarm, dogs barking and few cars passing by were playing the nocturnal symphony.

My hand turns the window’s handle to open it wide as my thoughts travel back to the list of places I want to explore in town, left on my desk. Many places had been ticked off in the recent month to join the secret map I had been building. Many others were constantly being added, many were still in the process of being developed.

At the top right of the page, I had this big highlighted line: Get on top of the TV tower.

From the moment my eyes touch those letters I knew I had no more than three seconds to pick a side. 1… 2…

…right! Let’s do it.

My hand goes down the pocket to reach my phone: “Guys is it THE night? We go to the top of the tower. Ready or not, meet me outside the building in exactly 30 mins from now.” I type, lightning fast while wearing pitch black clothes and leaving my chalk bag filled with all my belongings bouncing on my bed.

When my phone started blinking with some confirmations and some declines, pulsating of a yellow light, I was already leaving as a silent shadow, to dive into the fluid city.

Fast steps towards my goal while I was embodying the grey-man feeling: the one that attracts no attention, walks steadily, minds his own business and avoids eye contact to not transpire urgency.
As I arrived at the designated spot for the exploration I saw a hand, shaking from inside a bush. “Pssst” it goes. Hop, I recognized R.’s big hand.

I show the ok sign with my left hand and I wrapped my right one on the vertical bar of the high gate. “C-o-m-i-n-g”, I said soundless and exaggerating every letter to facilitate lips reading.
I jumped over the high gate, landing like snow onto the hard ground. Then, I sprinted towards the green leaves where my pal was hiding.

“Hey, my friend, nice to see you!” I said, as our hands tightened around our forearms.
“So, it’s just going to be me and you right?”
“Right, apparently the others turned down the glorious mission” he continued.
“They don’t know what they are missing”

“Definitely, what else could you be wanting to do on such a perfect moment, ah!”

We talked briefly, defining the plan to reach the top of the tower: risks and dangers, points of entrance/exit and emergency lanes. I took from my pocket the printed map of the area and I placed it on the ground. Everything was silent, besides the red marker squeaking few lines and letters on the half-wrinkled paper.
The plan was to avoid security on the first two small houses to then dash to the tower running in a large open space, highly illuminated but not guarded by cameras. From there, we would have had to climb a solid orange pipe and then the outside of an emergency ladder to the top. More or less…
“Good luck brother! I’ll go first, you follow. Then we switch, cool? We are going to use the classic signaling with the headlight”. Butterflies in the stomach and slightly sweaty hands were sealing our determinate complicity for the start of the mission.

“Agreed, let’s begin”.

A Nocturnal Raid

After a quick check of the surroundings, I got out of the bushes rapidly moving to the first route. I started advancing slowly in the high fresh grass. I could see very little, so I had to trust the map I had created inside my brain.

After five minutes I got to the end of the first zone and I squeezed my body against the concrete walls of the first house. I peeked through the first window: the security guy was watching into a monitor; I checked the monitor; a movie was running.. a Japanese talk show.

“This is great”. I rip out a small piece of paper from the map and I write: “reality is better than fiction” and I stuck it in the back of the windows’ shutter. Couldn’t help but crack a smile imagining the future reaction.

Back on track, I moved quickly my stare towards R, removing my headlamp that was secured to my wrist and flashed three times in his direction. Few seconds after that, I could see the grass moving slightly in the far distance.

As I waited in absolute stillness, I decided to squat down while calming the breathing and listen more carefully.

“All good so far, the guy in here is watching a show. Bless Italian security”. I whispered when my friend popped out of the grass and moved by my side.
“Yes, what is he watching?” he asks.
“It’s some Japanese channel, I guess he might also be quite tired of this soul-less job”.
I said, pointing at my small instructional note.

We both chuckled.

“Ok R, you go ahead now” he nods as he started crawling under the long series of windows to travel all the way to the second small house.

I saw the three flashes knowing that they might have meant one thing and one thing only: it’s my turn.
I started crawling slow and steady like a feline pointing the pray. My whole spine was still with the head pointing forward. The rest of my body was turning, twisting, folding and unfolding to allow myself to glide through space.

I was trying to turn on the volume of the surrounding by pulling the ears back and trying to absorb more light from the eyes by force-opening them.

Recalling those moments, I must admit I might have looked like a crazy scientist in the middle of an undoubtedly interesting and wrong experiment.

The feel of concrete passing under my palms was giving me a familiar taste as I was moving forward in the unknown. The summer breeze coming from a green-river close by was filling my lungs. The surreal silence highlighted every little stone as they were rolling under the thick rubber of my shoes.

“Softer Marcello, softer” I was repeating to myself as a constant mantra.

I exhaled “R. we are almost there, nobody saw me, I am quite sure,” I said to his ears as I got there. We both looked through the retractable curtains of the second control house. The security guy was actually looking through the cameras. Uff, good, nothing better than a predictable problem. We grinned knowing that if he kept doing his job, he wouldn’t have had a chance of seeing us sprint through the open space to get to the designated dark side of the tower.

We walked close to the wall and crawled again underneath the windows. The low yellow light was filtering on top of us from the room, projecting to less than 1 meter from us some black and white shapes on the floor.

Resisting the temptation to raise the hands to draw some Chinese shadows we moved on to proceed over the two corners of the house to face our destination. Every motion was accurately cooked, the awareness was the deepest I had ever felt in my life. Nothing, not even the slightest movement was left to chance.

As we reached the opposite side of the small building we finally saw it.
The tower was standing right in front of us, less than 50 meters away, showing all its antennas as the feathers of a big peacock.

How many people saw that place from the outside, but how few saw its the top? Who knows what a view of the city I might get while being up there. Workers, technicians, managers, engineers, some cleaning people – those might be the lucky ones that have been up there. The bad news is I have none of those roles, the good news is that I am going to go there anyway.

“Almost there, come on, let’s find out how’s the view from up there…” I remember thinking between me and myself. I rubbed the bottom of my sleeve on my forehead to prevent the sweat from dripping into my eyes. We both agreed to run together at a count of 10 towards the target.

10… I was checking the shoes to make sure they were still well tied

9… 8… I passed my hands under my shoes to ensure an enhanced grip

7… 6…

5… 4… I look at the ground and I focus on a small hiding spot behind the lights of the tower

3… The body is tensed like a harrow about to be fired from a bow.

2…

…*SQUEAKK!*

A security car suddenly rushed inside the open space from the streets. It was moving at full speed in our direction with the lights completely turned off. The sound of the tiers squealing sounded like the shout of an animal of the wild, mortally wounded.

Mine and R.’s hearts jumped to our throats and our pupils got wider: “What the hell was that??” R. shouted as we were jumping behind an electricity box without hesitation.

“Shhh… They might not be here for us” I suggested.

“You think so? If this is true, that was extremely good timing for them” R. replicated “so what do we do?”

“We wait…” I responded.

“Hey Giovanni, how did you like my need for speed entrance?” Exclaimed a girl coming out of the vehicle few meters from us “Hahaha… ciao Cristina, nice to see you, yes loved it” the man answered while his hand was still on the handle of the door, just opened, greeting his colleague.

As this was happening, we were both still like two hamsters in a cage waiting for their fate: ready to fly at any moment. The two kept talking and joking loudly while moving toward the center of the wide area, away from us. I tried to silence my breathing to a bare minimum.

“Abort. Get. Out R.” telegraphically whispering few keywords waiting for the right window to sneak out. “Blow on my face” he replies, to my surprise.

R.’s eyes started to close slightly and the muscles of his face began to cramp. Damn, he is about to sneeze, I remember thinking as I was letting a sharp flux of air get out of my lips. I stared at him for what seemed an eternity to see his eyes reopen as he regained control of his own bridles. A bright relief flushed our chests. Our eyes crossed in complicity and we both nodded. “Go, go!”.

The two guards were still in the middle of the wide area, talking now closer to the tower – they still had no idea they were silently observed by us. We waited with discipline until they turned their backs at us. As it happened, we used their short window of blindness to allow us to rush towards the series of trees on the side of the site.

After a 3-minute cautious walk in this little forest, we got to a mossy and wet wall leading to our new improvised exit. I grounded myself, supporting my weight with my legs in a high horse stance and placing my hands on the wall for improved balance.

R. started to climb on top of me, using my thighs and shoulders as if they were steps of an organic ladder.

“Marc, I still can’t reach it, I need just a bit more!” he said, with trembling muscles and a voice was broken by fatigue, while standing on the tip of his toes.

“Damn…mmm…R. step on my head, quick, just do it!” I answer tensing the muscles of my neck and trying to become of steel.

After a few seconds of confused noises above me, I felt my companion get lighter and lighter until his weight disappeared entirely: he managed to grab the edge of the wall, I realized with relief.
I stepped back to look at him as he was remaining in a hanging position to allow me to use his body like a rope to get to the top. I took a short run-up, to get just as much speed as needed to reach his legs.

I placed three fast strides on the ground and one step on the wall until I got to the point where gravity and my upward forces canceled themselves: catch! I fastened my hands around my partner’s ankles.

I climbed on top of him until my hands came into contact with the edge of the high wall.
We both climbed up and down on the other side. We jumped off from a hang securing our arrival with a roll, right after having touched our feet on that uneven terrain, made of leaves, green wet grass, and humid earth.

We both got up and started sprinting out of the forest towards a gravel road. We were tasting the beauty of the sound of the little stones as they were blasting away as our fast steps kicked them. What a feeling to perceive the coordinated motion of two souls in the still darkness, in agreement of intent.

While running, we started laughing all the tension out of the body: “We were so close, what the hell was that car!” Shouts R. as the wind shouts back at our faces. “So close, we have been so unlucky” I confirm.

We keep running slowing down the pace slightly, thinking about our next steps, and realizing that the mission was probably over for the night.

“We can’t quit” R. resumed with a heavy resolution in his brown eyes.

“What’s in your mind?” I answered, rapidly scanning our options.
“We might try to sneak in from the back, right?”.

“Yeah, if there wasn’t a river and a barbed wired fence” I reply.

“Marc, what do you do with an impossible problem?” He giggled like a fox.

“I solve it with an impossible answer, ok, so what, we swim through?”

He answers with a pretty self-explanatory smile all the way up to his ears.

“It’s a ridiculously bad idea …I think I like it, we can’t just quit now”.

“Let’s dive”.

The sidetrack

We were circumnavigating the objective this time, hiding in the woods to get closer to the back side of the tower without being seen.

R. started to lead, climbing a seven meters old wall made of bricks. “stay careful, they come out of the wall easily” he warns while his right grip was crumbling into dust.

Following the advice, I started the ascend pinching the first brick with care – it came out of the wall: “ok, now that’s a good start”. I laughed to myself and to the horrible climb ahead, to lighten the mood.

There was such an unnatural silence there that in the far distance we could still hear the laughs of the two security guards we left on the other side of the river. At the end of the day, it might have been just 100 meters as the crow flies to reach them.

One hand after one scratch and one foot after one glance we both reached the top. Keeping at least three solid anchor points at all times was our only way to ensure safety.
“Next time we take a ladder with us ok?” R. told me, still panting, with red fingertips and covered in sweat.

“Ok, sure, you put it in your pocket, and we take it out whenever needed – you better wear really long pants” – I answered while looking at the river. I could see it clearly from there, with its green rushing water and its strong smell of algae, cattails, and reeds.
“Wait, what is that?” – I said, pointing at what looked like a large pipe crossing the river – “if it crosses, we can cross, I am sure we can balance on it”.

“Please, tell me we can avoid swimming, I would balance on Satan’s trident rather than dipping in that water” stated my companion, slightly closing his eyes to acquire better focus.
“It looks like it can hold our weight, I wonder why we never saw it before” – he continued, just before answering to his own question “Oh, right, probably because we never came all the way up onto this wall”.

I nodded, and we started walking in the direction of the pipeline, realising that the balance was actually possible.

“Let’s go down from this pole, so we don’t have to climb and then let’s cross. We can toss a coin to see who goes first ok?” I suggested.
“Sure, if we had a coin it would be a good move”. Said R. turning his empty pockets upside down.
“Hahaha… right, I go ok, no problem, let me open this road” – I exclaimed rushing towards our improvised bridge. *Don’t be slippery… Don’t be slippery… Don’t be slippery…* I was repeating to myself passing a hand under the shoes, to dry them.

Almost there, I took a longer stride with the weight still on the back leg to touch the new surface …it grips: “R. it can be done” – I shouted without the voice – “see you on the other side”.

One step after the other, I was moving forward on top of the black pipe, crossing the river.
The more I was gaining ground towards the centre, the more I could sense the surface I was standing on shake – I had to slow down. The big cylinder was anchored at both ends but lose in between.

I kept moving forward, playing the balancing game in the same way as I would do during a chess game. One breath cycle, one reflection, one move and one reaction. Constantly switching attention.

As I got to the other shore, I took out my flashlight and signalled the position to my partner.
Done so, I let myself fall into a full squat position, head lose. The back of my arms on the grass covered in dew, feeling my spine stretch. What a ride so far.

I check my watch: 02.45 am. Ok, time is running quickly; no wonders fatigue was crawling upon me.
Just the time to shake my head and I was back aligned to the mission with all my energies: supporting my companion with a focused stare, ready to help in any way if needed. I saw him crawl all the way across without hesitation.

“Apparently you were right, this thing could hold our weights,” said R., jumping off the pipe and ending up close to me.

“Yeah, pretty solid right? We must thank some engineer out there”. I answered, bowing to the person who built our way in and then continued: “Ok, we need to get over that fence – while pointing at an old steel barrier – to get behind the tower. Cameras state: only one, small range to the left and free space to the right. Let’s do this”.

We both glided sideways in the grass like a cloud in the fog, avoiding the camera range and overcoming the fence. We proceeded to the dark side of the tower, finally touching that big block of concrete. Checking both sides, we made sure that the security guards had gone back into the small house. The car was still left in front of it with the front door open, but with the engine turned off. Good, the moment had come, it was time to get to the top.

The top of the TV Tower

Sticking to the original plan, I started climbing the thick yellow pipe, whispering to my companion to follow me from as close as possible. We had to be quick since, for some brief moments, we would have been wholly exposed: two moving black stains on a white background. We climbed all the way up to the first 7 meters.

We used grids, gas tubes and small holes in the wall that was there for who knows why. Reached the end of the first part of the climb, we stopped to regain our strength and focus back. We found ourselves surrounded by antennas of all kinds, in a completely dark spot isolated from any sight. We could see the top, closer than ever, almost calling out our names. Climbing the tubular protection on a wall ladder appeared to be the perfect solution to finish the ascent and reach the top.

However, the bottom of it was closed with a trapdoor, and a circular two-meter grid prevented anyone to climb from the outside.

“Damn, the door here looks alarmed and we can’t climb the antennas.

This structure – said R. while making the grid shake with the touch of an index – looks weak and cannot definitely hold our weight. Going back is not an option at this point. So, what do we do?”
We continued our conversation, trying to imagine all the possible solutions to that almost uncrackable riddle. We were getting pretty discouraged, when I pushed slightly on the base of the trapdoor just by chance, after leaning on it.

To my surprise, the horizontal metal gate opened like the blade of a knife.

I look at R., laughing “It was open! Why didn’t we try to push it before?”

“Ok, to you the honour” I went on “lead the way to the top”.

I could feel the cold of the metal bars refrigerating my hot wet fatigued skin. Rung after rung, the feeling of a deep curiosity was detonating in me. What could possibly exist at the end of the ladder? R. opened the last gate, and I saw him disappearing beyond the edge of the roof.

Not a single word. I want to see it with my own eyes!” I shouted against the wind, that was blowing stronger now between the antennas.

My arms pushed open the last trapdoor, and I climbed up onto the top of the TV tower. A flat, smooth ground completely surrounded with an iron fence was welcoming the visitors.
The energy was so electrifying that it was giving us both goosebumps (I reckon it might have been something to do with the radio/TV receivers, but whatever…).

Done. After so many years of thinking about getting up here, there was another line to be drawn on that checklist. The TV tower had been conquered. I hugged my friend, thankful for his support.
I switched my eyes’ focus from the close surroundings to the area beyond it. The city was awaiting my sight.

Stripes of lights were painting the ground like an organised pulsating web; all the way to the horizon of the events.

The honking of the cars, the clanging of the antennas moving with the breeze and the few birds that dared to fly that high, were playing a similar symphony to the one I was listening from my room, a few hours before.

The smell of this dense adventure was suggesting to my nose it was a good choice not to say no to this quest.

“All those people down there, running on their treadmills, they must have no idea of what they are missing” – I whispered.

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