Sunday, June 30, 2013

The 80kg challenge and food habits

The 80kg-by-end-of-year-challenge™ (with milk and chia seed drinkin' Simon) has brought to my
attention my need to curb my wayward meal and eating habits - and just plain exercise discipline with eating.  Which is why, at 10:43pm on a Sunday night I am roasting pumpkin and cooking black bean pasta for tomorrow. My cooking is on the improve; I can even cook cinnamon and date buckwheat pancakes to a passable quality!

I've stocked up on my cans of coconut cream and milk, but alas, have no milk (of any type) - so no post workout shake for me this evening. I am eating heaps of vegetables at the moment, and there's a grocer/market at Ashfield that is dirt cheap.  I know it's been said (because I keep overhearing people talking about it on the bus and train), but we get bent over in terms of price for food in this country. 

Doing a 'bulk up' phase of training is actually quite fun!  I can't remember the last time I did one. I recently came across this nice general muscle building ARTICLE. I am using all three of the muscle growth methods mentioned in the article, currently: tension, metabolic stress and damage.

Here's me tipping the scales and a throwing-the-Earth-of-its-axis 72kg this evening.  On my sweet 'new' 5 dollar scales I picked up from Vinnies.  Hmmm; maybe I should weight in here (blog) every Sunday or fortnight Sunday..

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Baby Capoeira

Earlier this evening my daughter (14 months) spontaneously started doing Capoeria type balancing moves on our kitchen floor.  She knew this was fun/funny and started laughing whilst is a downward dog style position with one leg off the ground, and sweeping over the other. 

Speaking of Capoeira, not sure if this CLIP lives up to the title 'The Best Capoeira video ever' - but those cats in it are smooth.  I am totally going to get into some Capoeira play this year, most likely in the spring. I love the movement patterns and playfulness.  It's one of those arts I've admired for years, but have not done yet; no problem, starting at the beginning of a physical art is something I love to do - great shoshin practice and great fun! 

Simon T did a nice little intro article on capoeira HERE, whilst for Canberra peeps Simon L runs his great classes HERE

Friday, June 28, 2013

RollStretch Levator Scapulae and Upper Fibres of Trapezius

Hi Every Body, a practical post for this evening - then I am going to go watch the new Star Trek movie.  See HERE.

Explanation is in the video.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bolster Psoas-emphasis Hip Flexor Exercise

Today I filmed THIS video of a psoas awareness variant of the bolster hip flexor stretch, from the Stretch Therapy syllabus.  As I mentioned in the clip, for me I can get right onto the deep hip flexor (psoas) using this position and sequentially contracting different bits of my leg.

The sequence of contractions I found worked for me was: shin into the bolster (knee extension); tail tucking then finally hip flexion with a straight-ish leg.  You can also do stuff up in the spine and torso (and with the opposite leg), but it's a little bit hard to explain in writing.  If you have high level body awareness you'll figure it out pretty easily. 

Also, the methodology for the exercise is different than the standard contract-relax method used in a large number of Stretch Therapy™ stretches.  In this, I use the contractions to get a sensory awareness of psoas contracting - and then I hold it.  I might contract it, then over-contract it (modulate the tension from medium to high, then back to medium) - but I never full relax the muscle. You add other movements to increase the stretch on the deep hip flexor (lateral flexion; rotation; rotation and extension (if no back pain or dysfunction prevents this)).

There are other complex things (like adding in additional spiral contraction vectors) you can do to enhance this stretch, but as I said above, until I figure out a way to accurately describe what I'm doing, you'll just have to explore yourself. 

A few people who tested this stretch reported just a standard hip flexor stretch, so I am musing about whether you need to have relaxed the rectus femoris muscle sufficiently before this stretch actually works for psoas..

My current physical cultivation explorations with stretching and stretching related body-mindfulness practice, have lead me to some interesting sequential contraction stretching techniques (which I will continue to post up for people to try).  Hope it works for you!  Go easy on the intensity, this is a 'introspective' stretch. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

We're gonna need a montage...*montage*

Writing is reading 2.0.  The act of writing is a creative act.. even if it all it creates is shite writing.  For me, the blog challenge has been great, in that it has forced me to have to discipline to create at least a little bit of shite, each day. Also, writing quality seems to be inversely proportional to the time of writings' closeness to midnight.

One of the other goals I had from this 90 day blog-challenge, was to try to crystallize some of the ideas I have floating around in my mind about what I want to do with this thing called Physical Alchemy (the system/art/method I am creating) - and, I must say, I have been pleasantly surprised by what has turned up in this regards!

So, I thought I would do a running review/montage of what has come up for me from this writing process..kind of like those montage Simpson episodes, where there was like 3 minutes of original footage in the 20 minute episode.

Some of the themes I have found that have resonated deeply with me are:

Physical Cultivation
Expert Generalism
Body-mindfulness and bodymind training methods
Shoshin (Beginner's Mind)
'Tiger Body' - agility, fascial fitness/supplness, relaxed awarness, etc
The Re-enchantment the Physical Body (sensory-motor enhancement and increase aliveness)
Resisting Mediocrity (tied in with Themes from the 'Ishmael' review about 'captivity' and undoing various types of socio-cultural conditioning)
Learning, Creativity and Digesting Information
Ecological and Systems Theory viewing of Exercise and Natural Movement
Kinesthetic Education [KQ]
Movement Exploration and Patterning 
Deep Physical Relaxation

For me, it is very cool to see the above list written out like that.  When the 90 day challenge is over, I am going to take the main themes from the blogs and write more detailed theory articles on them.  Then, matching the theory with the practical things I've been studying and creating; I will hopefully have the beginning of Physical Alchemy the Art-method-system. 

There are a lot of other bodymind systems I want to study to augment this, so (as with Stretch Therapy/Stretching Mindfully/Monkey Gym stuff) the method will very much be a constantly evolving art. 

And so, how do I put together these puzzle pieces?  I don't know...but it's sure going to be fun finding out!  :) 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Agility Deficiency

I went for another run in the forest today. It was raining most of the day, and when I was running, so the trees gave off that freshness and smell they do when it rains. Dodging the puddles (as best I could) along the path, at speed (as well as rocks and ditches and trees) felt smooth - and the whole run felt great. 

As I was walking back along the traing, an idea that I had a while back return - the idea of Agility Deficiency.  What I mean by this is, people talk about strength imbalances and deficiencies; reduced range of motion of joints, or movement dysfunctions but what of the lack of agility? How does reduced nimbleness effect day to day life?

This came about many months ago as I was vaulting over the mini-couch we use as a barricade to stop my daughter getting into the front portion of our lounge-room. I made it over, but it was far from graceful and I was stuck by the fact that although my strength and flexibility are much greater than when I was younger, my agility was reduced.  This, and a few other events, prompted me to re-focus on movement and agility in my training.  I remember a time when I felt very light in my movements - I want that back. 

Related to this is a topic I will blog about this week; which is my re-writing of the Strength & Flexibility [Monkey Gym] course I teach to have a tripartite focus of Strength; Flexibility and Movement. 

Matrix Dance [mad body skillz]

Check out THIS for some mad matrix body control skillz.. it almost looks like it's staged.. Anyhow, enjoy!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Skater and Cossack Squat Tutorial

HERE'S a tutorial from the recent Monkey Gym Workshop, in Canberra.  I missed this day, so it was great to see this put up.  Clocking in at around ~13 minutes, it's quite detailed - and the exercises do not require any equipment.  Thank you to Kit for presenting, editing and posting the clip on Youtube (and Paul for filming)!

I did some isometric Speed Skater Squat holds in my workout last night; 75 seconds x 2 sets for each leg.  Plus some one-legged deadlifts with my 28kg kettlebell.  I can definitely feel my glutes today.  I have a suspicion I will feel them more tomorrow..

I'm going to play around with the SSS some more, then possibly write about it.  The Canberra Monkey Gym crew have been playing with it longer than I have, so I want to give it time to adapt into my system.  I had been holding my trunk at a different angle for my isometric squat holds, and found that to be great, too.  I think a number of good positions for holds are possible, each with there own benefits. 

If anyone out there does regular barbell lifting (especially deadlifting and/or Olympic lifting) as part of your training; I'd very much be interested to see what you found from implementing the Speed Skater for a while as an ancillary exercise. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Train Them Bones

A while ago I was leafing through The Shambala Guide to Taoism - Eva Wong, which is a general type introduction and history of Taoism book (I know a number of people who do authentic Daoist practices, so maybe they can comment on whether the book is accurate, or not); and found a chapter 'Cultivating the Body' - which had obvious appeal to me!

Authentic or not, this chapter talks about all types of cool things: softening and strengthening 'tendons' (soft tissues; muscles; tendons; nerves; etc); gaining full range of motion in odd movement patterns; freeing the spine; freeing the breath; massaging the viscera - so the "..tissues will regain their dynamic buoyancy". Things that I am interesting in doing via the methods I have studied or made up (and am currently learning). People have obviously been fascinated by all things physical cultivation, since time immemorial. 

I have always been attracted to, and fascinated by, various Daoist practices and philosophies (too much Monkey Magic and Kung Fu movies as a lad, perhaps..), so it is possibly surprising that I am only this year investigating qi gong/dao yin and other such things - and having a great time with them! I think they will blend very well with what I already know and practice, and it's great fun to have new methods to explore.

I've been having a great time playing with percussive style techniques on my ribcage and abdominal cavity; as well as trying to mobilize/relax/gain awareness of my viscera view bouncing up and down with different degrees of abdominal vacuum on (this I did not get taught by any one in particular; just figured it out by stuffing around - you could potential fuck something up if you do not have the body-awareness, so only try it if you take responsibility for your own body).

Training the viscera is something that is not mentioned too much is the western style training literature I have read; but, to me, is obviously an essential part of physical cultivation. Based on what I have figured out so far in my playing (and reading), I would say (IMHO) a decent amount of pain, dysfunction and ill health comes from mal-positioned, hypertonic and constricted organs.  

One other aspect in the chapter that stood out to me was the part on 'marrow washing', which it described as a way of strengthening the bones via cleansing, regulating and then changing the bones shape.  This piqued my interest.. I'll have to ask some of my Daoist lineage buddies about this sometime.. 

Anyhow, what I started to think about after this was what I knew that would strengthen bones.  The most obvious being strength training (muscles and fascia contracting to stimulate bone growth and density via Wolfs Law - now 'Utah Paradigm of Bone Physiology!') and dynamic loading of them (jumping and impact absorption).

A less obvious one I want to run with a bit here, is putting spiral contract-relax/hold-relax (PNF) contractions through bones as a way of strengthening them - and effecting the fascia (periosteum) around them.  What I feel when I get a good solid spiral contraction through, say my forearm, definitely feels like it's doing something positive (not very testable, I know). 

Some of the Stretch Therapy wrist stretches are perfect for this set-up, and I have been using the stretch position to hold long and reasonably strong spiral contractions from them. These are not beginner/intermediate level contractions; I am talking about wringing out to those tissues (within parameter of no pain and/or wrist compression; just high level stretch sensation and muscular contraction); similar to wringing out a wet towel.  It's not held for overly long, but over time you can get used to a high contraction stretch (be patient!). 

I like the idea mentioned in the book about having strong but pliable/bendable bones (again with the bamboo analogy), rather than brittle or rigid. Just take a look at the statistics for life expectency post hip fracture..

I must re-read the 'Bone' chapter from Job's Body again, and go over the theory a bit more rigorously.  Still, it is a fun thing to ponder.  My gist for 'bone-training(™)' is to use high tension strength techniques (heavy weights; medium-high tension gymnastics holds; etc); plus dynamic recoil techniques (agility and jumping); plus impact techniques (heavy bag work); plus spiral 'wringing' long hold, multiple contraction Stretch Therapy style PNF contractions to change the bone make-up towards bamboo-dom.  Cool?

On a side note, Bamboo is fucking awesome and should be planted everywhere (down median strips; in alley ways; etc) - noxious weed or not.  It has many uses and fixes a fair amount of carbon sequestration.  Plus it just looks awesome...(!) you feel like you are in a 70's kung fu movie when you walk passed it (at least I do)! 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Saturday night at the movies.. Enter the Dragon

I just finished watching Enter The Dragon, on this rainy Saturday evening.  It's apparently the 40th anniversary of the release of the film, and I haven't watched it for about 7 years - so, this super-moon evening, I thought the timing was right for another watch.  Still great!  I loved this movie as a boy, and watched it many, many times. 

Whilst watching the movie, I was doing some movement practice and self soft tissue work on my hands and forearms and feet.  Nice hot chocolate and I'm one happy chappy.  Seeing as though I am easily/cheaply amused this way, I think I'll watch another 70's kung fu movie (or two) sometime in the next week.  

Following on from yesterday's physical cultivation topic, I have mentioned some of the transformative/body-mindfulness aspects of my Stretch Therapy/Monkey Gym training (practice), but have not yet mentioned my earlier martial arts training - which was the first profound bodymind change I experienced through hard practice; and still shapes a lot of how I approach movement (and, indeed how I move) and physical cultivation.  I'll go more into this in a later post.. 

One thing that I find interesting, in this era where you find 'yoga' products everywhere (even in the post office(!), I found out the other day), and people are talking about all things mind-body, health, meditation, etc., - martial arts training (in lots of different styles), for me, still offers great bodymind training opportunities.  Obviously, the 'martial' part is often discussed, but for me, these days I am far more interested in the cool things that martial arts training methods can do for to positively change the bodymind. Plus they are fun!

This is not limited to the more 'internal' or 'meditative' martial arts; a 1000 rounds of hard training on Thai pads will change a person, if done properly (10, 000 even more so). Same for increased body-knowledge from wrestling, or stick fighting or whatever.  Actually, for me (not caring about martial application of martial arts so much), looking at the movement patterning and other physical cultivation aspects, martial arts from the whole spectrum (soft --> medium --> hard) are appealing and offer benefits worth pursuing. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Temple of the Tiger Body

Reminiscing about the closing of the Monkey Gym in Canberra; and the recent, final, Monkey Gym Workshop that I presented at a fortnight or so ago - I am actually quite looking forward to the possibilities of what could be; if a similar 'crucible' (or, hopefully, crucibles) was established in Sydney..  I am going to try to make this happen as much as I can.. though what I want to focus on is physical cultivation and bodymind training methods - fusing Natural movement, flexibility, breath freeing, strength, deep relaxation, body-mindfulness, agility, speed, soft tissue health, etc. - pretty much the 'Tiger Body' from a few posts back. I will elaborate in a future post in much greater length, for now Tiger Body will do fine. [See Craig's recent Cultivation post HERE]

So, at the 'Temple of the Tiger Body(™)' (as I would probably call it), if things went my way, I would love to attract all types of physical cultivation and bodymind dabblers; teachers and serious practitioners - as well as beginner and continuing students.  What Kit has talked about before is having an 'advanced class', which is pretty much a workshop/experimental flavour, where all types of things get trialled and tested - and disseminated if they pass the Saftey, Efficiency and Effectiveness gates

For Dave's ideal workshop-advanced-class-thing (crucible), I would love to have all types of yoga and qi gong practitioners; martial artists (soft and hard styles - and anything in between); strength and conditioning peeps; movers; somatic explorers; all types of bodyworkers and somatic practitioners - as well as just freaks of nature in terms of physical capacity. All with open and curious mindsets, and unique skills to show and tell. What an awesome thing to have on one night each week! 

Not my chosen style of physical training, but worthy of massive respect - I recently read THIS article about (The Great) Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell fame.  Now THAT is a crucible of amazing physical training!  You can see, too, that through constantly striving for the best in training - and constantly trying anything and everything (and whittling out the stuff that doesn't work), they end up with a high-minded simplicity.  In this case: Max Effort; Dynamic Effort and Explosiveness.  Beautiful.  Of course these can be elaborated on ad infinitum.

For me, the physical cultivation (sensory and motor elements; health and performance; yin and yang; Having deep body-mindfulness and embodied Awareness, whilst having amazing physical skills and capacity) crucible is what I want to have a part in creating and spreading.  This deep reasoning I will omit for now (you could read 'Coming to Our Senses' if you want a sneak peek).

"Here in this body are the sacred rivers, here are the sun and moon, as well as all the pilgrimage places. I have not encountered another temple as blissful as my own body." Saraha.

p.s how awesome is the tiger picture at the top! 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Cat Crawl and Push-up Postition Foot Figure 8's

HERE's TWO joint mobility and foot/ankle awareness exercises that get into the posterior compartment and deep posterior compartment of the lower leg nicely.  One is from a cat crawl beginning position, the other from the top position of a push-up. 

You can get some novel contractions of the calf muscles if you focus on the sensory awareness of the muscles (as well as the spatial awareness required for doing the figure 8's). 

Try to keep you've got good spinal alignment during them for bonus points. 

Enjoy! And may the Calf-growing Force be with you! 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Forest running

I did something way out of character yesterday - I went for a run. I have done this about 3 times in the last decade. 

I chose to do this, not for the usual reasons (cardiovascular fitness; etc.,), but so I could get deeper into the forest near my house, quicker; to practice some Natural surroundings Parkour-style agility running down and up rocky paths, and to do some sprinting along the narrow winding trails (sprinting with jumping and lateral movement). Running on the rocky paths is good ankle proprioception work, btw! The Tiger shoes held up great.    

A bonus ribcage workout from the heavy breathing (and practicing getting my breathing rate back to normal as quickly as I could), too.  Basically, on the way out to where I wanted to go, I would alternate between sprinting for about 15 - 25 seconds then walk for about 100 paces (or until my breathing returned to normal).  The game went: If there were rocks, trees or an embankment on the path, you had to try to bound across them in the coolest way possibly, whilst trying to maintain speed.

Next time I do this (on an 'light' day), I think I'mma going to try to find a tree branch to do some volume work for pull-ups on; some lizard walking and maybe carrying a big rock around.   There's something totally cool about sprinting down a trail; having trees, shrubs and other greenery rush passed - and breathing in the fresh air.. Lucky am I, to live 10 minutes from Lane Cove National Park!


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tiger Style

Tigers, or other big, jungle cats, are often used to describe the physical attributes one seeks to get from physical cultivation and training - and it's easy to see why!  The power; the speed and agility; the relaxed awareness (and the ability to go from a deep relaxation to extreme speed and power very quickly, than is exhibited by most members of the feline family).

Physical cultivation for elastic recoil (fascial fitness); Natural movement; relaxed body-mindfulness and power endurance are all the things I am looking very much forward to working on in the coming months, and years.  All bodymind training methods that lead to cat-like movement and sensory awareness are to be explored. 

Tiger Body Workout, as a name, is already taken (by Robert Schleip and his partner Divo - who do great work); but still, I feel like the attributes mentioned in the paragraph above are going to be a large part of where I take my own training and what I teach, in the future..

On a side note, I saw recently that the numbers of actual tigers left in the wild is really low (~2500).  This made me sad; that such a grand creature is, very much, in danger of becoming extinct.  I hope they find a way to increase the numbers..maybe they could release them into outback Australia; to feast upon feral goats and camels; kangaroos and the odd German backpacker who has ignored the warning signs?

ARCtraining - Cultivation of Self

Check out Craig's latest post on PHYSICAL CULTIVATION (and cultivation in more widely) - great post!

Monday, June 17, 2013

Prototype '5 necks' workout

I previously mentioned  a comment that Kit had once made about the '3 necks' of Chinese Medicine (neck; wrist and ankle). After discussing with Simon, we figured that '5 necks' (neck; wrist x 2 and ankle x 2) sounded way cooler.

Last night I played around with a new type of workout (a strength-control and Natural Movement emphasis one), that I am going to add into my current program.  Basically I will do different types of crawls (lizard; cat; bear; etc); handstands and agility drills, mixed in with specific mobility and weighted mobility drills for neck, forearm/wrist/hand and lower leg/ankle/foot.  Lots of spirals and figure 8 patterns. 

I think it should fit in well with my current strength circuit workout.  Should be fun getting back into some basic gymnastics holds, too. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013


Here's a nice little ARTICLE about de-cluttering your life of excess materiel objects and possessions. I did a nice cull of books and other things today.. more to come.  The figures in the article for self-storage ($22 Billion!!) are mind-boggling.

Having been visiting some of the local public libraries in around my area of Sydney (they are awesome!), I have decided to get rid of books I can easily borrow; keeping the more rare and obscure books in my library. 

Sitting down on my living room floor to write this, the house feels much more tranquil with less stuff everywhere.  Simplification and downsizing are both useful strategies (in this era of more/progress/possess); on a number of levels. For me personally, both are of constant use!

Screw 'Spring' cleaning - clean out and re-evaluate often. Use the questions 'Is this necessary?' 'When was the last time I used/wore this? 'Am I attached to this item?'  For me this has been very useful, and things I initially was resistant to give away, now, I haven't missed or thought of them at all.

For me, stockpiling of stuff when younger always had a vague survivalist undertone to it, but thinking about it now, it is possibly more useful to have less stuff; be more mobile and be able to improvise well.  It's also about having quality (not necessarily dollar-value, but usefulness quanta) items, for the things you do have.

You buy furniture. You tell yourself, this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple years you're satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you've got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes. Then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then you're trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.” 

Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk (bolding added by me)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Book Review: Coming to Our Senses

I purchased Coming to Our Sense by Morris Berman, on a whim, a few years back; after seeing it referenced in something Tom Myers had written, and liking the front cover art on Amazon.  I got more than I had bargained for(!) - and the book is now in my 'top 10' for sure.

The basic theme, of which I subscribe, is that humankind as a whole, and Western nations in particular, have lost much of the sensous, somatic dimension of our lives and, very importantly, of our history, too.

But, there is much, much more to the book than this.  The first chapter alone blends the history of the mirror with 'The Basic Fault; Self/Other concepts; a fascinating discussion on Transitional Objects (with many implications for giving children toys) - later on to the somatic and visceral aspects hidden from our view of history; pets; the creation of romantic love and its co-option by the Church and secualr culture; heresy and orthodoxy cycles throughout history (and, yes, repeating today) and the bodily basis for creativity (among many, many other things! Seriously; this book taught me more useful knowledge than high school and university combined).

Actually, on that..

"In now becomes clear why I was bored in high school - and why you were probably were as well (at least in class). Historical "objectivity" is not merely boring; it is also, quite simply, wrong, and on some level the body knows this. This is why we found it difficult even to sit still in school. That restlessness is the body's way of flashing us an essential message: "This is bullshit," the body is saying: "don't listen to this." p117, Coming to Our Senses, Morris Berman.  

Flicking back over his book now, I want to read it again! I do not think I can do justice to it by just mentioning the extremely broad range of topics it weaves skillfully together.  Do yourself a favor and go and buy a copy (or 3 and give two to friends!) and read it Now! Take a day off work if you have to. If I am being really ruthless with the books I have read and whether they have truly changed my worldview (not just provide fascinating facts and trivia), there would be only a few - and this is one of them. The book provides a large number of the deep reasons I do the work that I do - and feel so passionately about it's importance in this culture; in this epoch. 

There are so many quotes I could end with from this book (there are pencil marks everywhere from my noting), but I think I'll re-use one I put in a previous blog post - just because it is so good:

"We have inherited a civilization in which the things that really matter in human life exist at the margin of our culture. What matters? How birthing takes place matters; how infants are raised matters; having a rich and active dream life matters. Animals matter, and so does ontological security and the magic of personal interaction and healthy and passionate sexual expression.  Career and prestige and putting a good face on it and the newest fashion in art or science do not matter. Coming to our senses means sorting this out once and for all. It also means becoming embodied. And the two ultimately amount to the same thing" Coming to Our Senses,  p342, Morris Berman.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Health and Soil Ecology

Thanks to Simon, for THIS refreshing article (refreshing in that it looks at some of the wider systems interactions involved in human health - not just the next superfood; or why coffee/red wine/chocolate is good/bad).

"A recent experiment in the U.K. showed that mycorrhizal filaments act as a conduit for signaling between plants, strengthening their natural defenses against pests." (From the article - another interesting article posted by Simon describes that experiment..I'll see if I can find it, later). 

NK Bodyguard Training

Saw THIS years ago; thanks to Craig for reminding me about it.  (Note the guy taking a shovel speared into his stomach!). 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Product Review: Crumpler Messenger Satchel [The Soupan Salad]

Tuesday this week, as I was walking around King St, Newtown with my daighter, and I decided to pop into the Crumpler clearance store - having bought a few goodies from them before.  The make great stuff, and the messenger satchel I purchased is no different.  

It is just what I wanted - i.e. smaller than my backpack; allowing more movement than my other satchel; very durable and weather-proof; comfortable and looks cool.  So ticks all around.  They had another brown and red colour scheme, but the blue was the one for me.  

Although small-medium in size, it is a tardis when it comes to space and capacity - fits everything I need easily!  There is a wide main compartment, and two smaller pockets on the inside edge (one zip; one velcro).  It has a nice little loop on each side for hanging stuff off (note the smaller, gold coloured Crumpler pouch). 

The strap is really nicely padded, and I've worn it on a decent walk so far without discomfort. It actually feels really awesome when walking; like you are on some type of secret mission when you wear it (bonus points!).  It has an adjustable strap (obviously) and a second mini-strap; that acts as a stabilizer to make the fit more snug and prevent movement of the satchel when you are moving. 

So all up I am very happy with it (only had it a few days, so will possibly re-review later)!  The name of the bag type is 'the Soupan Salad'; and if you're familiar with Crumpler, you'll know they all have weird-ass names like this. Go forth; Satchel up!  

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Origins of Breakdance

If you haven't seen THIS already, you are in for a treat! :) 

Monkey Gym Workshop Canberra - Retrospective

Looking back at the Monkey Gym Workshop I attended and presented at last weekend, I am filled with excitement and hope.  Why?  Not (just) because the workshop was attended by a lot of interesting, open-minded and physically capable teachers and trainers of various systems (which is totally cool).  But, largely from the passion (and compassion) of the people present - and their seeking to use the training for helping various groups within society - and society in general. 

I was also pleasantly surprised that Canberra wasn't 'Brass-monkey' cold, for June. (my dad's favorite expression 'on cold', for people who haven't heard, is 'Cold enough to freeze the balls off a Brass Monkey').  It was actually more like Autumn, which is probably my favorite season in my home town. 

Another cool thing to come out of the weekend, which I have mentioned previously, is that the system of Stretch Therapy/Monkey Gym is, once again, going through a period of quickened evolution (as the system is always evolving, at some rate).

I sit here, right Now, on the floor of my living room, with a big golden piece of cardboard; and what I am doing on this brainstorm template is writing down the syllabus for a new class type - that incorporates Stretch Therapy/Stretching Mindfully based PNF stretching; Monkey Gym methods of Strengthening and neural re-patterning, and joint mobility and Natural Movement style methods.

Basically all the cool stuff I've been studying over the years, mixing in the latest stuff (Natural Movement and Joint Mobility - ala Craig and Simon's sections) - and creating a syllabus to test this hybrid style class with.

I currently train all of these methods myself, but what I want to find out is the most effective and efficient (and Safe - Kit's 3 parameters) way of getting these 3 broad streams to be embodied into a person who hasn't been exposed to such training.  This is going to be exciting!  I am going to be experimenting with different sequencing of these methods, to see if there are any trends that work better than others.

For instance, does a class that runs Joint mobility --> Strength --> Stretching --> Re-patterning work differently/better than one that goes Stretching --> Natural Movement --> Joint mobility?

Obviously it is way more complex than that (what with different exercise selection; individuals body-patterns; etc), but I have been playing around a bit using Janda's Upper and Lower Crossed Syndromes as a schemata for teaching a hybrid strength, re-patterning and stretching class - to good results (basically I loosen of the facilitated areas first; starting with the most powerful - the hip flexors. Then, targetting strength and re-awakening work of the inhibited structures.  Pretty simple, but effective!).

Anyone else out there who is running similar classes, please let me know what you find. It's all about getting as many people as possible, as quickly (but safely) as possible, able to move as humans should move.

Finally, thank you to all the people who I caught up with in Canberra! I had a great time during my 2.5 days down in the 'berra.  There are a lot of cool people still there.  Some other awesome things I saw whilst there was an ad for the movie 'Serenity' still partially up at Hawker shops!  [And an Abyss-fied ANU concrete ball - see top of post]

I also got a shot of that fabled t-shirt (below) I mentioned in my 'Resist Mediocrity' post (seen here from behind).  I've got Kit's soleem word that he will get me one, next time he's in Taos, New Mexico! [Nice lat spread for an old geezer! ;) ]

Finally, just before my bus back up to Sydney - I hit up the Asian Noodle House on Northbourne for a Laksa (of course!).  I'm going to make an Asian Noodle House Laksa part of any pilgrimage to the Nations Capital - they are fucking awesome.  I seriously suspect the secret herbs and spices have crack or opium in them..  I have never had a better laksa anywhere.  Mmmmm.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Essential Knowledge for the Practice of Martial Arts circa 1750

Craig (ARCtraining) posted the bellow except from a 18th Century martial arts manual from China.  Some pretty good training tips here, for (as Craig says) movement explorers as well as martial artists.  Craig's comments are in bold (as is the title).  Enjoy: 
 " Essential Knowledge for the Practice of Marital arts
by Dai Long Bang, 1750

Solo and Partner Practice - For those practicing martial arts, eighty percent of the time is spent in solo practice, twenty percent of the time is spent with others. Therefore, it is said, "The time strengthening the body is long, the time defeating opponents is short." [this can apply to us too with movement, we have plenty of partner drills, this is a great split between partner and solo drills]

Daily Practice - One must practice every day, barring illness, without break.

Humility - One must not show off or bully others.

Quality vs Quantity - One who practices too great a variety will become panicked and distraught , if one does not train the body with a realistic foundation, in combat there will be no mature technique to fall back on, one will have neither a well trained body nor a solid technique. [this will apply for movement too, mature technique is essential for more dangerous situations]

Perseverance - There are those who have no perseverance, who study a little and think they know it all, they are quite satisfied with themselves and rarely practice, they think they are a great success, until they have to use the art and find themselves useless.

Before practice - The stomach should be neither too full or too empty, the mind should not be preoccupied with other affairs, do not practice when angry. When hungry one has no energy, too full and the stomach will be injured. Extraneous thoughts harm the brain. Anger harms the spirit.

During practice - Do not fool around. Do not spit. Do not be disrespectful. If one is not serious in practice the spirit is dispersed, spitting inflames the throat, disrespect weakens the practice.

After practice - Do not eat or drink, do not relieve yourself, do not lay down. Food and drink will not digest well, elimination causes qi to scatter, laying down causes the qi to rise causing discomfort.

The Three Harms - Those who practice martial arts must avoid the three harms.
1 - Inappropriate use of strength
2 - Forcing of breath
3 - Sticking out the chest and pulling up the belly

If one uses strength inappropriately, the qi will not flow smoothly, the meridians will be obstructed and the body will become bogged down. If one forces the breath, one will become stiff and easy to break, with the chest full of air the lungs will be squeezed and will suffer harm. If one sticks out the chest and sucks in the belly, the qi will move the wrong direction and will rise, it will not return to the dan tian. [this talks about proper relaxation during movement, i.e. dont be so stiff and tense during any movement]

Seeking Instruction - In order to study martial arts, one must be diligent in two areas. First, one must be willing to travel great distances in order to study with those of higher ability and sincerely request instruction. One must also be diligent in speech, humbling the self and asking for guidance. [Both Simon and I have traveled quite a way to learn what we know, and have also spent quite a sum of money. Definitely worth it, much more so than saving to buy a new car or something equally as boring. As a side note, maybe next year I will attend Ido Portal's Movement X event whereever it is if peeps are interested in going as a small group]

Force and Self-satisfaction - In practicing the martial arts there are two things which must be avoided, the first is reliance upon force, the second is self-satisfaction.

Start Practice Slowly - After a period of practicing slowly, it is good to use more force and speed in order to increase the internal power for practical purposes. [again this is a great way to practice movement methods too - slow is smooth, smooth is fast]

Sequence of practice - At the beginning of practice stand in San Ti, afterwards practice forms. [San Ti is a form of standing meditation. This is similar to us doing our spinal awareness, or body loading awareness drills prior to practicing the actual movements. Standing meditation is great too, and I might start introducing it to some classes]

Stages of Training - After beginning formal practice, one must follow the rules of training, if so, in three years the basic training will be complete. In the intermediate stages of training, practice single forms repeatedly, use the form to express the intent. After a long period of practice one will be able to change spontaneously with the circumstances. After six years one will complete this level of training. In advanced stages of training, both the internal and external gong fu will be completed, your body will become as hard as steel, your gong fu will be of a high level." 

Monday, June 10, 2013

More on Kinesthetic Education

The 4 day Monkey Gym workshop that I was part of finished up this evening. I hope the final two days were as fun and educational as the two that I was a part of.  

One truly fucked up thing I heard whilst at the Monkey Gym workshop (last Friday and Saturday), was that some schools in New South Wales have actually banned running and children physically contacting each other (!!).  This is insanity. Banning play is insanity. Quite literally; this will breed neurotic, mentally and physically underdeveloped human 'adults' (just like the ones arguing it should be banned, presumably). 

Just when you think our kinesthetically deprived society can't get any more repressed.. I deeply believe that this era of history is going to seem like a second dark ages, in many respects, to future historians (if we make it to the future). 

Coupled with the disturbing metal fences I saw popping up around schools in the ACT before I left Canberra..  what do you think raising children inside a big cage does for their patterning and social conditioning (or perhaps it is an apt metaphor?). 

So rant over for now.  There are lots of cool things you can do (positively) for your own children's kinesthetic and movement development - such as making obstacle courses at home!  I've been building obstacle courses for my 13 month old daughter (in our living area), out of mattresses; yoga bolsters and cushions.  She loves climbing, rolling and bending over all them.  She even moves the bolsters around, and plays with them of her own accord. 

Luckily, too, there are a lot of great parks to take my daughter to around the local area here.  Some of the new 'spider web' style towers and spheres are really well designed and fun to play on (for my too!). 

Lucky too, that I have met a number of other people passionate about re-instating natural movement and play into children's education. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Second Challenge.. Simon and I are going to try to get to 80kg bodyweight by the end of 2013. We've both been around the 76kg mark before, Simon more recently than I have - but neither have hit the 80 kilo bracket.  We have pretty much the same body type and are pretty much the same height.  80kg is the goal; 76kg+ plus gets an honorable mention. 

Lean muscle mass gain without reduction in movement quality is what we are after (a bit of fat gain not is not a problem for either of us, provided it doesn't reduce agility/mobility). Ideally the added muscle will be evenly spread around the body. 

The dismaying news.. whilst is Canberra, for the Monkey Gym workshop on Friday/Saturaday, I had a chance to weight myself.  I'm usually 72 - 73kg, but weighed in at 70.9kg (with cargo pants and tee-shirt on!).  So interim goal is get up to 75kg by mid-September.  Then I can resort to squats/deadlifts and milk if I plateau! 

This will be fun! Some good, hard training for strength, power, size to balance my more introspective and explorative movement training.  

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Monkey Gym Workshop Day 2

Cool; my internet device seems to work whilst going 100km/hr on the bus from Canberra back to Sydney!

Today we started off with Simon's movement patterning and mobility session - which rocked!  Broken into two parts (which were filmed by Kit, so hopefully will appear sometime); one was a utilization of the stretch reflex to increase movement range and power via elastic recoil (in 3 planes of motion).
 The second segment, which was cut a bit short, was a totally cool movement exploration of figure 8's; spirals and 4 leaf clover's with the sacrum/coccyx - again, in a number of planes.  These movements feel so goodly.  Great when slowed right down.

After this Anthony did a sweet session of kettlebell basics, which was really excellent.  I got some new cuing tips for swings from it that I will definitely use. Nice!  

Next up was my segment on 'horizontal plane pushing and rowing whilst controlling the shape of the spine' - which complimented Simons' 'move the body and spine in all types of crazy and fun ways (with awareness)' section perfectly.  Two sides of the same coin...Monkey gym basics (3pt spinal alignment and control; addition of anti-rotation capacity against rotational vectors of different types; sensory cuing to enhance motor function; etc).

Great fun, and flowed nicely into John's session on Roman ring basics (Monkey Gym style) - with lots of great low ring variants. Merryn finished up with a great little body-weight circuit and some lying relaxation.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time presenting, assisting learning at the workshop; and had a great time returning to my home town, and catching up with some of my favorite people there.  The workshop had a really nice 'one door closes; another opens' feel to it!  It even felt like one door closing, many doors opening.  So cool to meet and train with so many excellent humans intent of spreading body-mindfulness and physical cultivation methods! 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Monkey Gym Workshop Day I

Today was the first day of a 4 day Monkey Gym workshop, in Canberra.  Very cool (and rare) to see, that pretty much the whole group had full, or almost, full range of motion in a full squat position.  Brought up in discussion was the cool idea (mentioned in THIS clip with Ido) that the squat position forms a position of rest in many parts of the world. 

Lucky everyone had a good squat, as first cab off the rank was Craig's - with a fantastic squatting and hip mobility play-session. This session was awesome(!), and very cool to see Craig (and others) interested in the physical cultivation aspects of movement, beyond the solely motor pattern and strength elements (which are cool to have, too).  A couple of drills here that I haven't seen, and will be keeping in my routine until they become smooth. Thank you Craig!

After lunch it was my turn, and I subjected the group to a foot and lower leg intensive session (after the morning's quite foot and leg intensive session) - will be interesting to see how/where people are sore tomorrow, after that much volume and 'novel' stimulus..   I debuted my 'Flamin' 8' deep posterior compartment exercise, with a few more additions I've been working on.  I will hopefully get these additions filmed and up in the next week, for people to play with. 

Kit and I then co-taught a section on lower limb alignment and glute activation and sequencing. A lot of the classic Monkey Gym stuff was taught, along with some recent additions, such as the Speed Skater Squat (which is Kit's latest favorite) - which is actually are really exceptional exercise, that I will practice and blog about later (if Kit doesn't get in first). 

It was fantastic to see, too, that so many people in the workshop are into body-mindfulness; sensory awareness coupled with motor performance, and increasing kinesthetic awareness and movement patterning for children in schools and classes.  So cool that people are really, truly wanting to get this stuff out there! 

Thursday, June 6, 2013


This afternoon I returned to my home town of Canberra via bus; having moved to Sydney in September last year.  Until now I had only been back once, for a brief two days, in December.  Driving through the city and Inner North this evening was fucking surreal - it seriously did my head in a bit.  Whilst a lot of changes have happened, it literally felt like only a day (or an hour!?) had passed since I was last here(!). 

The time-distortion of this was very tangible; I mean, I have to seriously consider Canberra to be some type of weird time-vortex..(not the first to think this, I'm sure). 

Apart from that; if one year of my life can go by in a blink like that, it drives home that you really have to find what you love in life and do it (your way).  Three blinks and two decades pass, if you're not careful the essential things in your life will be put off until their potentiality evaporates. Are you on the Path?

"Come, come, whoever you are.
Wanderer, worshipper, lover of leaving — it doesn't matter,
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow a hundred times,
Come, come again, come.
" - Rumi

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

..that's a wrap

Short blog tonight, as I am still packing in preparation for busing down to the Monkey Gym, in Canberra, for the farewell Monkey Gym workshop running Friday through Monday.  I am filled with a mixture of sadness (that it is closing and the flame of the crucible at the ANU is almost extinguished); curiosity (as to what my fellow presenters will be demonstrating) and excitement (for what will happen to the body of work the is Stretch Therapy™/Monkey Gym, now). 

I think the divergent phylogenesis that will spring forth from this gene-pool of body work and physical cultivation techniques will be very, very interesting indeed.  I can already see different strains of the work starting to transform into new streams of enquiry.. which is great!  The more, and varied, ways of getting people back into their bodies there are, for people to find the right fit for them, the better.

I am just finishing off The Re-enchantment of the World - Morris Berman (reading on the throne today), after starting it about 18 months ago.. it is truly brilliant, and I will review it at some stage. 

Relevant to this discussion is the epilogue of the book, which brought home again to me the importance of the work that we (collectively people who do these systems of body-mindfulness) do, not just for ourselves, but for our whole ecosystem/biosphere.  The arriving at this point is a bit too long and complicated for a single post (*cough* read the book!), but let me just put it out there that working on bringing life and sensation back to your own, personal, body has wider effects than one would think.

Cruel Tutelage for Movement Patterning

HERE is a great movement patterning and exploration video from Ido Portal (Movement Culture). It's cool to see so many people moving in this type of a direction; reclaiming our movement birthright; playing (and letting our kids do handstands all along the walls - thanks mum and dad!! (my parents didn't stop me doing this!); getting mobile, agile and strong.  Niiice. 

"Movement Culture represents a contemporary paradigm shift in physicality, moving us away from main culprits in movement and fitness as well as the separation between health, aesthetics, performance and art." From

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Flamin' '8' Deep Posterior Compartment Exercise

Today, a practical post!  HERE and HERE is a video of an exercise I created (someone else probably does it, as always; but I didn't learn it off anybody) one day when I was exploring.. trying to get the deep posterior compartment of the lower leg working.  It makes use of the awesome figure 8 movement pattern that works so well in joint mobility exercises. 

This compartment contains Flexor Hallucis Longus; Tibialis Posterior and Flexor Digitorum LongusThis hidden compartment often has a fair degree of 'sensori-motor amnesia', weakness and/or trigger points and fascial adhesions in it - hence the growing list of 'tibialus posterior' activation exercises, of varing degrees of effectiveness (and it is great to activate the tib post!).

These three muscles and their associated fascia are part of the Deep Front Line (DFL) of the Anatomy Trains myofascial meridians - and they are highly involved in healthy and strong foot, ankle, knee, hip movement. Having these muscles 'come back to life' feels really good; solid and grounded, yet lighter on ones' feet - plus it will improve the girth of the lower portion of the shin musculature (if you're into that type of thing..which I am). 

The exercise works best as a weighted joint mobility exercise on a 'light day'; as movement-play, or as part of a 'finisher' to a heavier workout.  Due to the balancing on the balls of the feet and the knee position; do not do the exercise if you have knee pain in it.  The exercise becomes suitably *intense* after about 30 seconds, but again, shouldn't be painful. 

Try it NOW (if you can safely do it)! Especially if you are in Australia in one of the colder cities.. It's called 'Flamin' 8' for a reason!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Getting back into the Body pt 2

Today a brief 'ps' to yesterdays post.  I thought I'd share a couple of quotes from one of the books that is most influential to my approach, Coming to Our Senses: Body and Spirit in the Hidden History of the West - Morris Berman.

I will definitely review this amazing book at some stage, and referring back to an earlier POST - it most certainly is one to read at least thrice! (It's actually the second book in a triology, but you can read it separate from the also brilliant first book - The Re-Enchantment of the World.) 

Morris Berman on a friends experience with 'Getting back into the body' [via Feldenkrais]:

"I once asked a friend of mine who had studied the Feldenkrais technique (a major body therapy) for many years what he had gotten out of it. 'Hard to say,' he replied, 'except that after a while I began to notice that it became less and less important for me to win an argument." Coming to Our Senses, p343, Morris Berman. [Bolding added by me]  

This short quote gives a gist into one of the primary aspects that any type of this body-mindfulness work gives with sufficient practice of sufficient intensity. 

"We have inherited a civilization in which the things that really matter in human life exist at the margin of our culture. What matters? How birthing takes place matters; how infants are raised matters; having a rich and active dream life matters. Animals matter, and so does ontological security and the magic of personal interaction and healthy and passionate sexual expression.  Career and prestige and putting a good face on it and the newest fashion in art or science do not matter. Coming to our senses means sorting this out once and for all. It also means becoming embodied. And the two ultimately amount to the same thing" Coming to Our Senses,  p342, Morris Berman.'ll have to read the book yourself to find out how Mr Berman reached the conclusion of the final two lines of the above quote. It's a fascinating AND highly useful read.. information well worth knowing, digesting and assimilating.  

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Getting back into the Body

HERE is a video interview that Kit shot whilst in Vancouver lately (with Stretch Therapy and Pilates practitioner, and host of 14 Stretch Therapy workshops over the years; Linda).

The interview takes in a number of interesting points on body-mindfulness (embodiment) in relation to Stretch Therapy and this process of getting back into the body.  

Near the end of the ~6minute interview, Kit and Linda talk about the necessity of 'embodiment of set of ideals', or, more simply - having the body-knowledge of the exercises and the system (above and beyond the conceptual knowledge). 

For me, looking back over the last decade or so, I have had a number of different quickenings (to pinch a highlander reference) from different systems of bodymind and physical training (one of which is the Stretch Therapy system; another was martial arts training).  During these periods (some quick; others over a period of months, or years) I found my bodymind, and my whole way of relating to reality changed (as is mentioned a bit in the above clip). 

Often after these, I would look back at my old self prior to the shift, and wonder if I even counted as being alive at all beforehand (such was the difference in my daily experience post-shift).  The cooler thing, I have found (personally), is that if you keep practicing they keep occurring - and you begin to inhabit a more and more wonderous world. 

This is why (one reason, at least) I refer to this process as The Re-Enchantment of the Physical Body - because, whilst embodiment and other such terms are great, they don't capture the change in world-view as well.

And so, this is a core aspect of what I want to do with Physical Alchemy.  I want to help facilitate as many re-enchantments of physical bodies as is possible within my life-time.  As mentioned in other posts, luckily, there are many great practitioners of different methods out there, right now, doing just this.  I am truly blessed to count a fair number of such extra-ordinary beings as my friends and colleagues!

In The 4hr Chef, Tim Ferriss mentions that 20 million people counts as a 'supertrend', in terms of influence.  This got me wondering.. what would happen to society (and the biosphere!) if you got 20 million new people deeply into some form of bodymind training, that opens up this process?  I personally think very cool things would happen.

So get out there and find the art/system that resonates most with you; find a great teacher, and start practicing! 

Saturday, June 1, 2013


Just a quick (but interesting) one this evening.  READ HERE.  Some women possess 4 cones in their eyes, enabling them to see about 99 times more colours than most women and all men.  So colours like mauve actually exist! :)  

What I found cool was that the ability is latent in a lot of women, but could be trainable. Alas, I may never get to see 99 million colours, but it must be pretty cool..  I have seen some interesting ideas about training the eyes and visual perception, which I will write about another time (part of the sensory enhancement aspect of Physical Alchemy).