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Breathing power

Breath is a deep subject and a major area of exploration for me. In lieu of writing an epic piece about some of that exploration, for today it’ll be an anecdote about breath from training earlier this evening. I had driven out to the UNC campus with the plans to teach, but it was one of those nights with no students. When this happens I make a point to practice rather than head straight back home—a habit that I created when I was teaching multiple nights every week as a means to maintain my own practice, otherwise at risk of becoming forgotten.

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Movement systems

I’m not a fan of rigid. codified, systems especially for movement. I may just be echoing Bruce Lee’s idea of “Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless, and add what is uniquely your own,” but that concept is worth remembering and applying beyond the martial arts. Because systems are packages of knowledge that the creator(s) found worked for themselves and those they taught. Systems can be wonderful pathways towards mastery when they work for you, but you can just as easily get stuck in them, unaware of the knowledge and experience you’re missing out on by not exploring beyond their bounds.

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Look up

A few months ago, I began receiving mentorship in modern dance. As someone who’s been dancing, in the raw expressive sense, for only about three years, and started learning correct technique and form a year and a half ago, I was expecting the most difficult part to be developing the techniques and positions of the style until they were automatic. I assumed that the layers of movement patterns from martial arts and parkour would likely block progress in a style where movements are optimized with consideration for aesthetics, rather than pure efficiency in mind—the need for straight legs and a straight back when landing and squatting with turned-out feet and legs (called a plier in ballet and modern) being the clearest differences.

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Avoid boredom

“Avoidance of boredom is the only worthy mode of action. Life otherwise is not worth living.” — Nassim Nicholas Taleb When you stop paying attention, mistakes happen. Boredom is the road to injury and stagnation. Once you’re bored you mentally check out. Paying attention to, close attention, to your movement is key to both safety and optimal learning. Once your mind is longer in the game, why bother pushing it further into boredom?

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Movement as meditation

Following from the idea of movement snacks, movement can serve other purposes beyond improving fitness. There is growing recognition of the benefits of meditation (whatever the style) on our cognition, reduced stress, and overall health. But while the benefits are clear, sticking to a practice of seated meditation for long enough for the gains to acrue is difficult. It’s not impossible, and there are a multitude of methods of seated meditation, and even handy apps that can help you create the habit, so if you’re looking to create a practice of meditation in stillness it’s worth trying out a number of methods to find one that works for you (as is true for movement).

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Right vs. Better

I’m often a perfectionist. And downright obsessive about moving in an optimal way. For myself, in my own practice, this feels like a wonderful thing (most of the time) as it gets me hyper focused on refining little details and gaining deeper understanding of how a movement works, and more often than not all on understanding all the little mistakes. But that’s also why this is a double-edged sword. Striving for “perfect” technique can seem like a wonderful and lofty goal, but worrying about perfect technique can blind us to our improvements and our progress in the moment.

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Movement snacks

We worry too much about needing to set aside 30 minutes or more for exercise or movment—the thought being that anything that’s not intense enough or long enough will give us little to no benefit for our efforts. Not true at all. Sure, there are certainly physiological improvements that can only be had by pushing towards ones limits, but is that all that exercise or movement, should be about? No. There’s a reason why walking is the number one recommended activity, regardless of age or ability.

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Semantics matter

Word choice is important. Most words you can choose have a long life before you plucked them from your mind for use this time around. Within that word’s liftetime it has picked up connotations and assumptions about what it’s telling the reader or listener when it’s used. This may seem trivial, but it’s so simple to pick a word without consideration for the potential assumptions it carries with it. You don’t want to end up violating someone’s assumptions because of the word choice (of course if you’re doing it intentionally, then by all means, proceed!

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Movement awareness

Good movement begins with an awareness of your body. How you’re feeling today, sensing how your joints and muscles feel as you move them, and especially an awareness of where you weight is and how your body is positioned. If you’ve got a good coach, they can cue you to get into good positions and bring your awareness to weaknesses in your form, but only a lucky (or perhaps unlucky) few have someone around us all the time to act as our checks and safeguards of posture and technique.

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Connected, everything is

We spend so much time comparing things. Trying to decide if one is better than the other. When it comes to fitness and the myriad movement arts it trends toward dogma and moral superiority (I’m as guilty as any, sorry Tae Kwon Do and other sport martial arts). Frankly all this debate is a waste of time. It does not matter what is objectively, if we could ever make such a strong claim, better.

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