Movement codes: the art of hiding

Movement codes: the art of hiding

Have you ever seen a person, that looked like nothing but was a phenomenal performer when it came to facts? 

Think back and gather a memory of that.

Maybe this happened during a dance class, a bike ride, while climbing, during a run, in the gym, in a park… That person that looked like nothing “special” on the surface, completely obliterated everyone else that looked much stronger, more athletic, and fitter.

This is because what you can see from the outside of a shape, rarely reflects what is inside of it.

Just to make an example: Courtney Dauwalter. Could you have a look at her physical features and attire, and guess what she is capable of? Most likely not. She looks like a normal person going to play basketball at the nearest playground, instead she’s most likely going to jog for hundreds of kilometers without stop, outrunning all creatures on earth.

Personally, I love these surprises.

It’s not the shell, that makes the turtle

The reason why we can’t guess the overall abilities of a person by the looks is that they lay in substance [1] and not in form [2].

From this, a simple line of logic can be derived: your practice should aim at improving all the qualities that pertain movement, not in achieving a certain shape: as the outside shape should only be an indirect result of your work.

[1] Substance
The invisible components of the human organism: from the energy systems to the deep intention and mind, to the internal composition of the structures.

[2] Form
The outer material and visible part of the shape. The width of a muscle, the length of a limb, the overall outline of a body.

One layer below: hiding the form

Form is the hammer of the blacksmith. It is fundamental to generate, yet inadequate in knowing how good of a craftsman his owner is.

Showing off a tool to describe proficiency is senseless. The same goes with trying to create the best tool to achieve knowhow.

It is wise to hide form in many contexts as it reflects this understanding.

 

Two layers below: hiding substance

Once skills, a series of patterns, or special states are achieved there will be a tendency for them to come to an actualization in any context, setting and time. This is immature and can be harmful.

There is a moment for everything: a moment for them to express and a moment for them to stay behind the curtains.

For example, suddenly in a fighting class you feel the urge to do a handstand: Is it yourself that wants to do a handstand or is it the handstand that it is using you to come out? That is not the moment for it, hide it.

 

Three layers below: hide your qualities

Gain power, strength, ranges and …keep them in the bank. Use them when you need them, don’t put them in display all the time.

A barking dog doesn’t bite, and the opposite stands true. 

All the real and best practitioners that I have met in my life, didn’t need to show off. They knew what they were worth, what they were after and what was needed to get there.

Take a Tibetan lama for example. He won’t come to meditate close to you to show you how good he is in those matters, won’t he? Then why shouldn’t you do the same?

Four layers below: hiding the unnecessary

Hide all that can be hidden and strive for efficiencies.

Preludes to an action, stylized accessory coordination, longings once an action is finished, parasite tensions, corollaries to a movement strategy, coupling motions, useless synergies, inefficient movement trajectories…

From the outside, no one should be able to read you, and all should look flawless and instantaneously crafted and cancelled. Like a feline sleeping under a tree and few moments later with a prey in his mouth already.

To conclude – hide all that you have but show all that you are:

  1. Hide your tools
  2. Hide your skills and states
  3. Hide your qualities
  4. Hide the unnecessary

    Until next time,

    Marcello.

How to face an endurance based challenge

How to face an endurance based challenge

I have been asked many times about a protocol to apply during an endurance-based movement challenge. So here is one of my favorites that can be used in a wide range of situations: from a long swim to a run, to a max isometric position hold to a hang, from a climb to a long balancing bout, from height to cold exposure and …well you get it.

Let’s get into it:

 

Preparatory stage

 

First step, rehearse

Don’t visualize far lands, but study what you are about to face. 

Make sure you rehearse in your mind’s eye what will be needed from you. Understand exactly what the hard bits of the challenge are going to be, what crux you are going to have to face, which weak links are going to come knocking at your door. What will be under your control and what not. Which strategies you are going to have to apply, how to optimize hand / feet placement, which coordination to use. Understand what will most likely work and try it out in smaller chunks where and if possible. You want to leave the least amount of unknowns hanging around in your near future. To conclude, give yourself positive reinforcement. Bring your mind to those past experiences that built your skills, have full trust in your preparatory training, check in and self-talk to your inner core to reassure yourself about success. There should be no doubts left at the end of this process, your mind should feel steady like the fire of a candle without wind blowing on it.

Once this is done (and trust me, take all the time you need with this) move on and put this all aside.

Second, achieve relaxation

In the moments before the storm, you want to create stability.

You need to have a replicable set up, a home base. A situation where everything is under control and can be achievable every single time. Start from generating a pattern of breathing that will set a carbon dioxide baseline, gather nitric oxide, lower your heart rate and balance your nervous system. I recommend going for a continuous 1:2 / inhale:exhale without any pause in between. It has to create very little air hunger, but no discomfort. Slow down the breath to 6 breaths a minute or less. You want it to be diaphragmatic alone and take the air in through the nose. Make it non-forced, light, with a slow cadence, and deep (80% of max). At the end of this process, you want your body to be in a deep hybrid state, alert and ready, but at the same time but with a slow pounding heart. Your mind should feel calm, empty, steady, sharp, and determined. As per Zen saying you should feel like you stopped stirring the “mud in the cup”, and that the water in it clears up.

Action

Third, focused attention

Get the engine going, don’t allow your stress levels to rise.

The best way to do this is to direct your attention to all the microscopic actions you are sequencing and their response over the body. Be a perfectionist, moment after moment. 
I.e. Did you just enter cold water? Feel the effect over your body. How did it respond to it? what is happening to your breath? which sensations are raising or falling inside your system? Just be with whatever comes, without acting on them.
Or another example: did you just start a climb? How do your holds feel? Is your body tensing up excessively? Can you place your next step softly? Can you feel your connection run through your system?
Take all the information in, then decide how to act, from a clean place.

Never allow yourself to wonder on the ifs, on what will come next, or on what could go wrong.
That pertained to a previous stage. Stay grounded in the present.

Fourth, cold blood

Start cruising steady, focus, and get ready for the emergencies. 

Breathing shall remain soft, slow, and with a slightly longer exhalation than the in.halation. I.e. 2 in 3 out. In case you encounter a harder situation to manage I recommend switching to a 1:1 in:out ratio, with the inhalation coming in through the nose and the exhalation coming out of your pursed lips. Make it strong and sharp. This regular rhythm helps setting the pace of your actions and gives a firm clarity of intention.

Once the hard moment is concluded, go back to your “cruising mode” to calm yourself down once again.

Fifth, conclude with style

Maintain elegance in the end, regardless of how tired or shocked you are.

Don’t drop down like a sack of meat. Come out of it with grace. Make every step soft and attentive. If you feel you can’t control yourself anymore because you reached your limit, remember you most likely still can. Even fainting can be done with style (I saw it happen). Acknowledge how fatigue stirs your actions towards sloppiness and how it pull the hand break over your system. This is a protection mechanism but you don’t have to follow it; it’s just some laziness coming to visit.

Ask yourself, can I still walk upright? Can I still maintain touch? Can I still keep my back straight? If so why wouldn’t I?

The aftermath

Sixth, Recovery and download

This is your time to absorb the experience and upgrade.

Take three recovery breaths with a small hook at the top: inhale deeply from the diaphragm then wide to the side into the intercostals, then the chest, once full pause a couple of seconds, exhale deeply and empty completely. Then take a few moments to observe your state, what went on and download all that just happened.
Only then address the people around you, the situation, and the rest of the reality around of you. Give time and respect where it is due.

Good luck on all the findings, challenges and experimentations. May your hearts be calm, your minds be focused and your lungs be steady.

Until next time,
Marcello.

A practitioner’s choices flowchart

A practitioner’s choices flowchart

We’re practicing a willingness to simply return to the present moment. Without judgement, without disappointment, without contraction. With a mind that is standing truly free of the past. If you lose yourself, simply begin again. -Sam Harris

Here’s a map you can use to navigate your days. If you follow it, procrastination will be out of the door, your priorities will be crystal clear and you’ll have a direct highway to living a full existence. And remember, whatever happens during your day, something goes out of your plans or you lose yourself, just go back to the green start.

Enjoy the ride and leave space for the unexpected – it’s not an if, it’s a when. Until next time, Marcello.

Still interested? Write to me.

14 + 12 =

The secrets of the old school

The secrets of the old school

“I dig the old school” – Plato.

When I first heard the saying “old school, best school”, I was a teenager. I immediately thought it was a boring motto of some traditionalists that were too attached to what had been to move onward and seek evolution. Well, I was wrong. Take hip-hop for example, go listen to DJ Kool Herc, Africa Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash then compare it to today’s Gibberish mumbling horse shit. Come on, something has changed, it is as clear as the sky.

Over time I started to see trends, to observe what those people did different, what was so special and exceptional in them that were not present in the “weak schools” or all questionable trends. And I could see the same entities reoccur over and over again through history.

Here are some of the core points:

Be real

 

Don’t be a slacker. If you say you are something, be that something completely. Embody that with your whole being. Be out there. Your practice should take up most of your time. Give your presence where presence is due. Entrepreneurs are going to be busy evolving, musicians are going to sleep on their instruments, climbers better be in the mountains.

Resolve, uncover, produce – get out and read the written pages or take out a pen and draw on the white canvas.

This seems common knowledge, however, it doesn’t seem to be the case nowadays. Everyone is living scattered lives. Made of everything …made of nothing.

Check out this classic reportage on early the early parkour days.

Notice: there was no “preparation” for it, no infinite “rehearsal” like nowadays Instagram clips.

It’s a documentary of what was being done, of who those people were, and how they were putting in the hours in their craft.

Prioritize experiences

 

 

How do you start building something extremely big? Strongly grounded. Think of words as the decorations of your building, consider your experiences as strong foundations.

Actions are real, words are futile. With words you can charm, tell, simulate. Actions speak by themselves. Example: X talks like an adventurer and disguises herself as such, but she still lives in the city where she was born.

Then, what are those words for?

They have no power and produce no magic; they are nothing but meaningless vibrations in the fine air.

Words were used to organize recollections and as means to carry messages. They were deeply linked to direct occurrences. Nowadays they are being used as substitutes for living. It’s a twisted approach, and will only bring to dark ages, fake people, shallow knowledge.

The mothers and the fathers of the most flourishing disciplines started from scratch, and they built the finest palaces starting from garbage. This points to only one direction, all those things you “feel” are so important (technicalities, equipment, optimization), are actually secondary.

Have a look at this documentary on Yosemite’s climbers;

In a few generations they went from reaching the summit in two years with full gear, to performing the same feat in a few hours. They didn’t “listen” to any advice, they just did their thing, and dreamt themselves into who they wanted to be.

Now imagine the same people discussing in a room about the probabilities of performing the feat, instead of actually doing the work… I put my finger on it, it would have been impossible.

Ever to excel

By Glaucus’ words to Diomedes: focus on excellence. Through self-knowledge and the endless strife for perfection in your craft.

On one hand, there should be a meticulous care for what is the right thing to do. With calculated intention, and a clear mind.

See here Kurosawa’s care for details, for building a scene, using the elements, using the movement of the camera and so on, in nowadays cinematography this approach is mainly absent.

On the other hand, things must be done from the guts, the heart and the spirit. Full on. With strong intention, both as individuals and as part of groups.

Dive into this old school clip of Yoyo, Mc Lyte, Naughty by Nature, Guru, Das EFX Wu-Tang Clan – check out the energy, the drive. They were hip hop, not only in the physical body, but in all the facets of their being:

A word of advice 

Careful not to over glorify the past. It’s easy to get stuck thinking about the golden ages, time travel and remain there forever. At the same time, enough with looking for the best shoes, being obsessed on training optimisation without being able to do 20 pull ups and talking your life away.

It is not about the old or the new. Times and people change, but some attitudes stay evergreen.

Keep it real, prioritize your experiences, focus on excellence.

Good schools forever,
Marcello.

Still interested? Write to me.

2 + 9 =

A way of conduct

A way of conduct

And today once more, the recurrent questions reached my senses, pantomimical from afar, or spoken when the passersby were closer: why do you do it?

Well…

The fascination of conflicts 

Who has not been fascinated, by the great heroic feats of the past? Who did not thrive in awe when diving into the struggles of Odysseus coming back to Ithaca, Musashi sailing on his ultimate duel with Kojirō, and the three hundred Spartans resistance in the battle of Thermopylae? 

It is nonnegligible that conflicts have some seducing facets.

As Ms. D. Faust highlights in her talk, “Telling War Stories: Reflections of a Civil War Historian”, strives depict the “boundary of the human, the inhuman, and the superhuman”.

People are attracted by the disorder caused via these confrontations and by the potential awakening of unknown capabilities as these occurrences have evocative powers.

They are curious to see what this shuffling of the cards might bring on the other side. Hence, fights have always been on the top of the list when writing tales, legends, and build traditions.

Not always during mankind history wars have been present, yet, this bizarre need for fighting against others or one’s self never left. The ethnographer A. Gennep, has shed light on what appears strongly rooted in every culture, the “rite of passage”. Native Americans used to send their adolescents in the woods to fulfill various tasks without help, Aboriginals left the youths fasting in the wild to discover themselves, the Vanuatu people have their adolescents perform bungee jumping with vines and (almost) scratch the head on the ground to look death in the eyes and come back – if fortunate enough to. And the list goes on and on, these rituals are as widespread as the sand in the desert.

Pretty clearly, these traditions remained for a long time because they brought something into people’s lives. Yes, most times too aggressively, exaggeratedly and abusively, like most things in the past – however, to this day whoever I talked to during my life who regularly faced minor harsh living conditions and discomfort, or una tantum intensively (near death experience for example), had gained something indelible, written behind the eyelids.

What are these events made of?

When death has you by the throat, you don’t mince words. F. Durrenmatt

These events are authentic and contains hazards. Solely the person who undergoes the process of unfolding them is held accountable for the outcome. Words become irrelevant and fade quickly, facts and actions appear more concrete and the only mean of communication with reality.

They observe very clear binary outcomes of success or failure and they rapidly take utmost importance in their completion. An absolute immersion and alignment of all facets of one’s self are experienced, together with a deep struggle with the ego, which demands to escape the situation. This part of the self, only cares in preserving the carrier of the genes, and it starts to formulate all sort of concerns, pretexts and projections to seek safety – the weaker minds can’t help but fall prey of these calls, entirely failing the task at once.

It appears to my eyes of absolute necessity that the task responds to principles of non-reversibility and would produce, in case of negative outcomes, some relevant consequences upon the body of the performer. The higher the stakes, the bigger the realizations of the outcomes.

Those who go through an experience of the kind immediately are slapped by the crude reality of things. The harsh finiteness of their existence and the unfolding wheel of the Present who demands for opposing necessities.

Life on the other side

The sky was clear, the winds had gone down, and the full moon was setting radiantly in the west, when I found myself on the surface of the ocean, in full view of the shores of Lofoden, and above the spot where the pool of the Maelstrom had been. -E.A.Poe “A Descent into the Maelstrom”

I have seen people around me go through tough battles and I did so myself over and over again.

If the task is completed successfully, even if minor prices are paid (bruises, cuts, injuries, deep fatigue) life is seen under a different light. It is questioned in its core, relevant aims, goals and priorities appear clearer, and taking the right actions appears of extreme simplicity.

This occurs due to a change of perspective in one’s life – the everyday existence made of trivial preoccupations is out of the window and the spectrum of possibilities appears wider and shines in the revelation of its truths.

Every time an event like this takes place these realizations come back stronger and they initiate a momentum which makes the thread of insightful correct decisions easy to maintain. Naturally, however, this effect won’t last forever, and the body is brought back to grey homeostasis. 

Here is where most people fail to understand how to apply these principles into their lives. The approach should be systematic. Fights should be fought. Risks should be taken. The process should be regularly repeated.

An invitation to shuffle the cards once more

 

I remember drinking tea and questioning an old friend, after a day of struggles together, how often should one’s value be proven. Less than a few seconds of talks, and we both realized the stupidity of the subject. It is not about proving anything, it is about embracing a way of conduct. 

Somehow, I fight because I can’t avoid it if I want to stay true to my full understanding of existence. And this path, I have chosen, in all its apparent paradoxical dissonant dichotomies, makes total sense.

I invite you not to indulge in a soft and calm existence, filled with days that look and feel the same until death finally gives a sparkle of light in the darkroom. Even Achilles in the right environment would have lost his warrior spirit.

On the other hand, I am aware that the more the life matures its fruits and empowers the awareness, the more the preoccupations of what can leave if the battles are lost arise. These fears shall not be cultivated.

Nothing will stop me from fighting my battles whenever I can, may they be facing an accurate leap, exploring the abyss, performing a free solo or diving in the depth of the oceans.

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever“. Gandhi’s whispers are hard to embody in the chaos of life, but we try hard, every day.

Until next time,

Marcello.