Balancing – Corollaries of the manifesto

Balancing – Corollaries of the manifesto

Balancing: Corollaries of the manifesto

Ascent:

If you know me, you know I have a thing towards nice gadgets. I totally love them, and I do not plan to hide it. I do not cover myself up like a late baroque fetishist, but I use some.

They help me keep in my daily life in order, they save some time and they make my hours lighter.

I use a small chalk bag to carry everything I might need with me, I have a basic pair of shoes that can serve me in any situation, I wear comfortable clothes that often can be used both to train and to casually exist into different situations. When traveling I have a satellite bag that can come out of my backpack in case I need to drop the bigger luggage somewhere. When training I do not look for water, I have a big bag of many liters in capacity to become a camel myself.

Now the core of the matter. All these elements came out of the necessities I have encountered along the way, not the other way around. Therefore, this is a bottom-up approach, the practical theorists’ one.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have people like the preppers. They prepare for things that they have not lived. They think they are going to need certain things and they build from there. They do not actually know the specific needs that every situation will ask for, because they have no actual experience of them. The second approach is the top-down approach, that starts from an idea and from there it creates a practice.

Between the two ways of living my life, I prefer the first one, especially for the most relevant things that I do. I am a believer in field testing and from there investigation and development.
And I have had many confirmations of this in my life by many high level (in commitment, experience, and understanding) practitioners.

Now transfer this concept into a practice of balance. One can either go out and start to look around into space and from there create something out of practice or start thinking: what can I create in order to balance on it? And from there the Bosu and all the dark companies.

Ascending from an element up, descending from a concept down. Very different processes.

Availability:

On those busy evenings, one hilarious thing happens in many cities around the world. The treadmill runners are released. As if they were possessed by the Adédjé spirit or bitten by la Tarantula Siciliana, people of all ages suddenly fill the gyms. Usually, this comes with the realization that they need to take care of their bodies. Hence, they start a race against their lipids. You can see them all from the crystal-clear façade of big buildings running in a line and in a frustrating loop leading them nowhere. The valorous alleys are the unmissable perfect ultimate model cushioned shoes, the fancy gloves, the perfect matching outfit and last but not least the headbands against sweating.

What happens if all the elements are not in place? I.e. the treadmills are full, the gym is closed, the clothes are yet to be washed, the shoes are broken etc. – The only solution is “I’ll do it tomorrow”. Let me tell you, this sentence is already the root of the very end of your physical development.

“Cuttlefish bones” was writing E. Montale in regard to his poetry. It was a hymn to minimalism, an invitation to strip it down to the bone.

Did you want to go for a run? Go run. Nothing more, nothing less. Before thinking about it, get out, so it with what you have, it will be more than enough.

From here my view of using what is there, to never have the problem of not having something. A million of excuses are out of the windows and it all comes down to personal accountability.
You do not want to go out practicing on a floor? It’s on you. The soil will always be there, waiting for your soft body to interact with it.

On the other hand, a slackliner that is traveling and doesn’t have a slackline will sit on the sofa forgetting to be a practitioner. A skater without a skate becomes a hero without the costume. A juggler without …well you know where this is going.

Wherever I have been in the world, I scouted a bit and I found bars, I found walls, I found floors.

Applicability:

So, let’s start from this question. What is the purpose of your practice?

Let’s create a fictional character for this: Johanna.

Now imagine J. wants to train her balance. However, she’s a thoughtful creature so she doesn’t rush onto the Bosu without any research. She wants to get some evidence-based perspectives, so she goes through the literature.

After some hours of research and many disappointing findings later, Hoppa: a beautiful systematic review pops out. Damn, she rushes into it “…A total of 2395 articles were evaluated, yet only 50 studies met the inclusion criteria” wow, that’s kinda bad but still a lot of articles to draw conclusion from, she continues excited “The main aim of this review was to identify a training protocol based on most commonly used interventions that led to improvements in balance”.

Good she goes through the methods for inclusion into the study, she reads the influences of different balance practices for different sports, she goes through the exercises used.
The findings suggest that “8 weeks, with a frequency of two training sessions per week, and a single training session of 45 min” appears to be the minimum requirement of time to produce substantial changes in a body in terms of both static and dynamic balance acquisition.

Everything is absolutely rocking.

Until the very bitter moment in the end: “…it may be very difficult to establish one model of training that would be appropriate for each sports discipline, including its characteristics and demands […] No gold standard is apparent in this field”.

And suddenly she realizes, balance, likewise many other abilities, is specific. Also, she figured out by looking at the studies that almost exercise if applied correctly will produce a positive outcome in the exercise itself and with some near transfer to similar activities both in the scenario and in the skill.

But the question is yet to be answered: What is the purpose of your practice?

She is a bit confused now. A lot of methods work, which one should she use?

Please, Johanna, step aside, I’ll take it with my two cents.

Personally, I want to be able to apply my learnings to open as many possibilities as possible in future practices.

Training like this you will be able to do something that you couldn’t do before and then apply it in an open scenario. You will suddenly have developed some skills to take out of your deck of cards at any moment when exploring an area everywhere in the world.

Put it like this: the mean of practice becomes the tool, and the tool supports the mean.

(If not clear, re-read the last paragraph a couple of times).

Now some last words from a practitioner to the real practitioners out there.

I am going deeper and deeper down this road, but not because I did not experiment with others.

My philosophy comes from reflections that have started on the field, not the other way around. And slowly I have refined them to arrive at these conclusions. I have experimented with many but stayed with this one because I found it convenient, empowering, liberating.

This is my view, your honor,
Marcello.

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Balancing – a manifesto

Balancing – a manifesto

A balancing manifesto

Why would people choose to use a Bosu ball to work on balance?

It’s a real question, not a rhetorical one.

The answer (when is a good one) that I often get is:

“To develop leg stability and work the intrinsic musculature of my foot”

Well, to me this answer is wrong. Not because it is a bad answer in general, it might even be correct from a very pragmatic point of view but because it doesn’t address the core of the matter.

More specifically this question is asking the reason to pick an exercise (over another). Therefore, it is primarily a philosophical one.

One could then reformulate the answer and say:

A. “Because I like the portability of the object, in my view the capacity to bring the gear with me at all times it is more relevant the gear itself. Minimalism is my way of life. ”

To which I answer: A million other things are portable. Why specifically this one and not another basic proprioceptive board or another object?

B. “Because it’s versatile, I can use it with different populations, for different reasons”

To which I answer: Versatility is a state of mind, you can be versatile by balancing on a bumper plate, or on a line. An object in itself doesn’t possess connotations of any sort.

C. “Because it’s cheap” – ah, no wait, nobody says this because it’s NOT.

D. “Because the experts told me…”

To which I answer: who is this expert’s opinion? Does that person have a philosophy you comprehend and share? Does that person have any economic advantage in proposing that methodology? Did that person offer other options for you to choose from?

E. “Because they are highly available”

To which I shortly answer: Well, I do not like that answer, because it is false. It is definitely not the most available thing out there.

…but this availability is an interesting factor, isn’t it? Well, we’ll get back to it in a second.

Look let me tell you, no answer that has ever been given to me regarding this blue ball convinced me completely. Not even at 40%. Bosu is an instrument invented to make money, from people who do not practice balance for people who do not practice balance, in any form. It is a twisted conjecture of modern fitness. Period.

Similarly to the Bosu, an infinite number of gym ornaments are being produced with no specific purpose but that of making money by selling them. Cool, now that we are orbiting around the same planet, let’s move on.

Back with the availability view; I asked myself, what do people have available at most times, everywhere, with minimal effort to look for and that:

– can be found everywhere, in any city in the world, with minimal scouting.
– can be built with basic and simple material if needed.
– can be durable yet cheap.
– can produce a real scenario for development.
– can be versatile to produce as many options as possible.

And from here the view: bars, railings, poles, rails, lines, edges, gates, spikes.
These are the elements I train my balance on. When it comes to the root of a practice, awareness, and clarity is needed.

All the material in terms of progressions, regressions, set/reps and methodologies to increase balance via this philosophy will be delivered in details to my live and online students. However, if you follow my socials you’ll pick up a thing or two.

Bottom line: forget about the newest fitness tool you’re seeing on TV and use the ever-present ones. Stop thinking about making your body stronger and make it more intelligent instead. Throw away those Bosu balls people, stand on bars.
Not to mention, I just saved you over 150 €.

You’re welcome,
M.

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Environmental Practices – an introduction

Environmental Practices – an introduction

I see people every day boringly walking the roads or navigating into traffic, totally ignoring all the scenarios surrounding them. Leaving to die infinite possibilities for one’s development.

Environmental Practices: What is this about?

“We open our eyes, see the beauty of the day, marvel at the insignificant, rejoice in the mundane, and allow every moment to be full of meaning. When we are scared we know we exist. Life, previously taken for granted, becomes the most cherished treasure”.

The Bodivoodoo, on a crusade against a modern overprotectist society. (1)

With “Environmental Practices” I refer to all movement practices developed in a relationship with space, whether that’s in a city or in a natural setting. We live in a space, whether we want it or not. We can choose to ignore it, or we can use it to grow. 

Buildering walls, traversing pipes, walking pavements, rolling on floors, flowing on concrete blocks, brachiating on trees, standing on high poles, biking through traffic, balancing on rails and chains, squeezing through fences and so on are all scenarios of the interaction.

In order to do that it is essential to extrapolate a new meaning to the surroundings, removing labels and social conditioning. Things are just as they are: we can deconstruct their reason to be and then, we can add a new meaning to their existence.

“You must walk around rails rather than on them”.

Fixed descriptors of reality are used to build stability in society, however, stability kills challenge and if you kill challenge, good luck with that, it will be like killing the ultimate essence of being human. Get back to tabula rasa.

The reality, if faceless, becomes plastic, allowing creation and dynamicity rather than passivity and dogma.

The façade of a supermarket becomes a climbing gym, the cramped roads full of traffic become the pulsating veins of a macro-organism.
Pipes carrying gas and water on the side of hotels are a web to sit to watch the life silently passing by; the manholes to the sewers are portals to another dimension full of mysteries underneath the cities.

In my research, I have extrapolated elements coming from different fields to then connect them together, with the aim of maintaining the same alchemy of old disciplines, projected into their contemporary shape.

Motives to dive into the environment:

Many people (in extremely recent and documented history) realized the power of interacting with the city.

The main drivers that started these actions have been many through time. Since I have no intention to bore you, oh modern reader, I’ll go through some, just to get my point across.

In Parkour/ADD the Yamakasi at the end of the 80’ were using suburban complexes as a place for discovery, self-expression and search for personal identity (2). They realized that games, challenges, and problems to solve within a given space, could lead to their inner development. Thus, helping to build antifragile bodies and unbreakable minds. In pills, it gave them the motive to wake up every day to face the reality, creating a system of values to help them face life.

In the same period, Don Jean Habrey, founder of Combat Vital was looking for an un-domestication of modernity (3). He was convinced that an open mind towards experiments with the surroundings, refusing comfort and routines will lead to a deeper and more meaningful and aware existence. Adventuring in an “alive” city is a starting point and it constitutes an infinite source of energy.

Bradley Garret in his book’s “Explore Everything” (mixing words from the Situationist International leader Guy Debord and Peter, an explorer), gave one of the best definitions I have heard regarding Urban Exploration (4).

“It is at the same time a subversive response to the late capitalism that encourages spectatorship over participation and just a bit of fucking with people’s heads to help them understand how much they are missing every day”. 

This silent revolution has started many years ago and it’s not going to stop. Digging to find more information, I realized it was everywhere: from the Cave Clan in Australia (1986) to the Diggers of the Underground Planet in Russia (1990). In the USA, from the LTV squad in Brooklyn, NYC (1989) to the San Francisco Suicide Club (1977). In Europe, from the Berlin Underground Association in Germany to the Urban Experiment in Paris. And the list goes on and on, but I will touch upon it in a future article.

Why were they doing it? Well, reading through their manifesto one thing appears clear: because the environment is THERE. And the option to go figure out that space, simply exists. And yes, that is enough to make people take the chance to explore.

What to expect

I am going to release every week a piece both of a story and a practical session that can be added to all these practices in order to understand them and open the eyes towards a more creative use of the environment. We will explore risk and responsibility, tools for experimentation and an introduction to many practical methods for development.

Urban Adventure, Urban Exploration, Elevator surfing, Drifting, Urban Bike riding, Infiltration, Buildering, are just some among the long list.

Facing the deepest fears, exploring the darkest alleys, climbing without a way down, balancing in a world of almosts, ultimately becomes a venture into our own selves.

Get ready and see you next week,
Marcello.

 

References:

1. It’s a secret.

2. Angels, J. (2016). Breaking the Jump (1st ed.). London: Aurum Press.

3. Habrey, D. (1986). Combat Vital (1st ed.). Paris: Robert Laffont.

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

*Pic By Andy Day in a photoshoot for ParkourWave

 

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The quiet between two storms – June ’18.

The quiet between two storms – June ’18.

Let me picture the situation for you. I am in my room at St. Mary’s University, Twickenham, London. The new moon is completely covered by the clouds, the sky is dark, not a single star around.
The silence is almost absolute and palpable. I can hear the sound of my heart pumping synchronizing with my breath.

No wind.

Flat? No. There is so much energy, it gives me goosebumps. A deep quiet before the storm.

Such situation triggers a primal instinct of awareness, readiness, and sharpness of thought.

It feels as if the Universe itself was hitting a “dead center” (and this is one of the stronger that I have ever felt in my life).

A “Dead center” is not dead; no pull in any direction is felt because at the middle point pulls from all directions balance each other. To the sensitive eye, the balance of the middle point is alive with tension. Think of a rope that is motionless while two men of equal strength are pulling it in opposite directions. It is still, but it is loaded with energy.

Throughout this book, it must be kept in mind that every visual pattern is dynamic. Just as a living organism cannot be described by its anatomy, so the essence of a visual experience cannot be expressed by inches of size and distance, degrees of angle, or wave lengths of hue.
These static measurements define only the “stimulus”, that is, the message sent to the eye by the physical world. But the life of a percept – its expression and meaning – derives entirely from the activity of the kind of forces that have been described. Any line drawn on a sheet of paper, or the simplest form modeled from a piece of clay, is like a rock thrown into a pond. It upsets repose, it mobilizes space. Seeing is the perception of action.”

(Arnheim, 1960)

Consider me not a religious man, nor a fatalist, not a believer of the supernatural whatsoever. But in these moments, something unique happens.
I listen in silence and with a blurred focus, zooming in and I can almost sense a small “fetus of thoughts” taking shape from the deep stages of consciousness that are normally impossible to access.

It is a sum of pieces collected along the way, that never get to the highest hierarchy of thoughts, but constantly intertwine to produce daily decision making. Anything we crossed our path on, is registered and it remains somewhere in the big data storage somewhere in the body.

This sixth sense, printing a solution from nowhere in particular highly fascinates me and I believe, it is not less trustable than any other. It is scary, and it creates confusion because it’s hard to grasp and it is not that easily manageable.

Yet, quantifying this unquantifiable is not a good idea. This thing is meant to remain subtle to function correctly.

Like one of those puzzle that don’t make any sense if you look at them from close. A Seurat pointillism at its finest.

It seems appropriate the parallelism with the “Theory of the Dérive (Drift)” (1956) by Guy Debord. A voluntary loss of orientation, opening to new scenarios.

Get in the flow, and get yourself dragged into the cracks of the world.
Incredible wonders await (or the worst nightmares) – in both cases it is highly worth it. I am going to jump in first.

“Where are you going?”
“Nowhere in particular”
“So why do you want to go?”
“I hear it is calling me!”
“What is calling?”
“I have the feeling I will never know, but I will never stop searching for it”.

Until next time,
Marcello.

Reference

Arnheim, R. (1960). Art and visual perception (1st ed.). Berkeley: University of California Press.

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Japan – a first visit

Japan – a first visit

Me, writing down thoughts on the oldest Zen temple of the island, Tokyo.

It is the 30th of December 2017, after over 20 km of walking in the rain. With heavy bags on our backs and wet like two drops of water into the sea, we arrive at the designated place for our sleep.
After checking in, we just want to get a hot shower, shake and do some stretch, so we rush towards our room.
On our way, a squared full optional vending machine threw at me one of Japan’s most basic lessons in capital letter: PLEASE, RELAX SLOWLY. Geniuses.

It doesn’t matter what you do, always take time to appreciate what you are doing.
 
Some days after that, in a Ramen shop, hidden in the restaurant box that was given to me, trying to stay religiously silent, I read this: PLEASE, STOP TALKING AND FOCUS ON TASTE. 
 
Man, they really are slapping me in the face every time I do something.
As I noticed, they have an amazing appreciation for details and small things. 
Of course, they do not always manage to convey all the concepts they want to. When it comes to English​ translations, for example, some magic happens. 
If you want to have an idea, go through these descriptions. They are glorious:

I still believe that the phrase “It puts the grated yam and it eats” has a very special meaning that I will never be able to disentangle…


Anyhow, Japan has been a great experience. It was my first time there, and hopefully not the last. My practice has been heavily influenced by tales coming from that home of artists and warriors and I have not been disappointed. Not for a single instant.
Every single day felt like an eternity, given how many things we ended up doing. Just to give you an idea.. We started the day surrounded by the silent chaos of Tokyo city. Few hours later we found ourselves sailing along a huge lake in Hakone to eat some black eggs, slowly cooked in the sulfuric embers of the volcano. After rushing on the top of a mountain in front of mount Fuji, we managed to jump on the last available cable car, ending up bathing in a hot natural spring in the late evening.

We slept in different places almost every night, walking approximately 25 km every day. 
As I have heard from a fellow traveler: “to appreciate your travels you must do it slowly, just get a bike or move on light feet. It’s amazing how many things will reveal this approach”. 

Instead of training to maintain my skills and my capacities, I have used any possible moment to improve them in an ever-changing scenario. How? Climbing up into the apartment instead of using the stairs; waiting for the train in a split; sprinting to catch the train before the one displayed; using gravity to slide down all the tubes stations; resting in a squat or trying to hang with the pinkies on the bars of the tube with my bag on my back …And while doing all this: the stares of the people around me, ah! Priceless.

Our itinerary has been pretty simple. Tokyo -> surroundings -> Kyoto surroundings -> Back.

We explored Tokyo as the first thing. We visited many Zen temples and practiced zazen meditation; ate the craziest dishes we could find; infiltrated buildings to see the mega city from the very top; explored all the small, non-touristic alleys with a psychogeography approach and talked in gestures with old travelers and locals.

 

From there, we met our friends Alex and Sandra and we ended up in the natural area of Hakone, experiencing sailing on a huge lake, observed the huge mount Fuji and bathed into the most unique thermal scenario I have ever been in: the Onsen. 

Those, are some almost magical places where Japanese people go, get naked from all problems and clothes to relax in the hot springs. After soaking for a while, they wash with salt and hot water. All this, in an almost surreal atmosphere (I clearly don’t have pics of the inside, guess why..).
The night after, we slept in a Ryokan, a traditional accommodation with Onsens inside the room. Amazing place, if you got the chance to try one, do it.
During New Year’s Eve, we followed some people, traditionally dressed up like foxes, and took part into a huge procession where a Lion God (Shi Shi Mai – my new favourite creature) is guided by some servants and bites the head of those who bow to protect them from bad luck and evil spirits. Kids, middle age and old people, beautifully performed.

If you want to save up good money and invest them elsewhere in Japan, you gotta take night buses. A cheap valuable solution to travel everywhere. For the accommodation, I would definitely recommend Airbnb. On the funny side of things, since owners are never there, you become trapped in all sorts of riddles to find the keys of the apartments. 

i.e. “Find the huge grey building. Get into the basement with the code 1909. Open the mailbox by turning the handle 360 degrees on the right, then 40° on the left, then back into the starting position. Get the key. Walk up the stairs, find the red door. Hanging on the handle you will find three lockers, open the middle one with the key you got from the first floor. Get inside the house and make sure to follow the rules written behind the main door. On the table, you will find a tablet. Point it to your face so you can complete the check-in process …etc.”

Oh, and make sure you download the google translate app, open the camera and point it to all the kanjis you find here and there – it might save your life (the translation could be shite, but possibly you will be able to orient yourself a bit more).

Once in Kyoto, we explored the small hidden city that still lays between the newer walls. Small, narrow roads merge everywhere, recalling the beauty of a forgotten era, that will never come back. Phantom of the past, blend with a more shining and globalized present. 

However, if you have the eyes to look around well and the guts to wake up early before the sun comes up or to walk around in absolute darkness, you will discover the real spirit of the island.

We were able to see beautiful gardens under the stars; hearing the sound of an alfa deer shouting his supremacy at 5 cm from our faces; see the sunrise through thick huge bamboo forests; spend time in silence with strangers, finding an incredible sense of connection and ultimately studying monkeys, aquatic creatures and other beasts in their natural environment.

To honor those places, I have written a movement poetry (haiku): 

On our way back to Tokyo we have ridden the dangan ressha (bullet trains) traveling on the Shinkansen lines: crazy fast trains that reach up to 300km/h and literally squeezes you against the seat as you watch the panorama warp around you. What a ride!
Many more things happened but it is enough for now. To conclude here, are just some more things I figured out on​ the island:
– As it is reported in the book travel with Buddha: Japanese are extremely inclusive, but with some limitations. To put it in a metaphor, they would invite you into their house, while forgetting the chain on the door.

– The ankle dorsiflexion is 10points more than anywhere else. They are just born differently.

If you need anything at any time just look for some seven elevens or family marts, WIFI, questionable food and smiling that hate their job but would give their life for it.

– It takes around 10 Japanese people to make up for the sound of 1 Italian

 

– Most people use a white mask to go everywhere. Each one for a different reason: to not infect people if they are sick; to not get infected; to avoid social interaction; to cover their faces not to be watched; to create a physical barrier from the word. I must admit, as most of the things that “can make sense”, it probably was a great tool for earning good money by someone.


– There are more Tori than people. They are everywhere, and if you think you saw the biggest one, wait for it, there is another one even bigger waiting for you at the next corner.

And trust me on this…people are …A LOT.

– It doesn’t matter where you are, you will always find a tourist taking a picture of him/herself with something. It doesn’t even matter what.


– They have a sense of community that makes them similar to ants; it is a macro-organism. They take care of one another, of public spaces; they are loyal and hard workers.

Thanks to my partner for the great adventure. Love you to bits, Ari!

Warm hugs in cold days:

Why do I care so much to tell you about my travelings?
Well, I believe traveling allow us to get a different point of views, explore other perspectives and ultimately challenge ourselves with beautiful experiences that reshape our beings. If there is one thing my mother told me when I was young and that I’ll never forget is: “the best investment you can do with money is to use them to travel”. Spot on.

Never trust those who don’t move and those who don’t travel…

Now back in Italy right in the tornado ready to run this 2018.

Marcello.

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