Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Agile Lifestyle Part II - Deathstyle Coaching

 The Agile Lifestyle II - Deathstyle Coaching

Dave Wardman

 "Don't let your tombstone read 'He had great potential'!". [L].

As I sat, contemplating the second part to this article, I weighed the idea of expanding upon 'work-life balance' as it is commonly referred to, and was somewhat resigned to the fact of writing upon this, when I decided to scrap that and pen something fresh.  It seems every man, woman and dog aspires to be a lifestyle coach these days, but (almost) nobody wants to be a deathstyle coach. 

So I decided to write about artists,  people who have a passion, who have a mission and are standing on the brink but are holding back for some reason.  I have met a decent number of human beings in this position. These people need a stronger medicine.  These people need deathstyle coaching.  Let the other three standard deviations enjoy their lifestyle coaching.

No, this isn't choosing between being smothered to death by a woman with an enormous bosom or dying valiantly in battle.  Deathstyle coaching is utilizing the constant reminder of death and impermanence to fuel the transformational fires to a high enough heat to do what one knows one needs to do in the depth of their heart - not what one ought to do, or has been imprinted to do.

This means fulfilling the things that have to be done for there to be no regrets at the time of your return to the Emptiness. 

"Raymond! You are going to Die. ...what did you want to be Raymond K. Hessel?...
...I'm keeping your license."*

There is a reasonably shocking scene in the movie adaptation of Fight Club, where Tyler Durden is threatening to kill a convenience store clerk if he isn't on his way to fulfilling his dreams within a certain period of time (and keeps his license to 'check up on him').  Tyler operates under a dubious ethical framework, but just playing the devil's advocate for a second, I want to expand this a bit.

As Tyler goes on to say: 'Tomorrow will be the most beautiful day of Raymond K. Hessel's life. His breakfast will taste better than any meal you and I have ever tasted'.  To follow the heart is one of the hardest things to do, as we have been patterned so deeply not to do this.  We push against our patterning and it pushes back with ten-fold force.  The purgatory of comfort is too seductive for most to escape from**.  It all makes me wonder: perhaps this is what upaya looks like in the 21st century - revolver compassion.  I have met many people for whom I am not sure even having a revolver pressed to their head would be able to wake them from their slumber. 

This has nothing to do with utilizing shock methods in the quest for money or prestige as the primary objective in life.  I do not, for a second, believe it is anyone's deepest heartfelt dream to own 10 properties by 40, or to be wealthy without purpose.  These are patterned dreams, prisons with golden bars and people say 'Please!! Me! I want into that cage'. If you research widely enough you will see how they have come about.  Focusing on chasing these carrots distracts (totally in most cases) from deeper self-expression and having purpose in life.

This said, money is actually no problem for someone with no emotional patterning attached to it, but this is quite rare. My teacher K. has three 'laws of business' which form his total advice on the topic.  They are (in order of importance): "Do some good, have some fun, make some money".  Focus on the first two if you have an expression you must put forth into the world, the third will come naturally.  

Don't let your tombstone read '(s)he had great potential'. This amazing piece of advice (quoted at the top) was given to me by my third and current Teacher - L.  Up until 8 years ago I thought I wanted the work-life balance lifestyle (with the balance firmly tilted towards a life of leisure!). My desire was to coast through life doing as little work as possible and have as much spare time as possible. Alas, past-Dave, it would seem a mission of the highest importance has been passed to you.

Somewhere along the way, I had the wherewithal to realize what an amazing smorgasbord of  teachings for doing good in the world I had encountered during my own explorations. And with this, the dawning of the insight that, as I have received great gifts, so I need to give back (to All Beings).   I sat waiting for a fair while, studied and worked part-time perhaps too long.  I can concur with the old adage 'sitting between two chairs is the most uncomfortable position'.

So, this article is for artists. The craftsmen (craftswomen) and tinkerers.  People with a calling - a must. This article is for people who have an art inside them but have not yet jumped.  They are stalling at bringing out an expression of what is inside that is ready to be seen.  If you are 'waiting for a sign', THIS IS IT.  I am pointing my spectral revolver at you.  If this is not you, no problem, there are plenty of work-life balance strategies to improve your existence - some included in Part 1. Maybe in time you will find something that inspires you to follow your heart. I hope so.  Your breakfast tomorrow will taste better than any meal you have ever tasted. 


 P.s And now, a cartoon re-cap. 

* Yes,  I have had well over a dozen total strangers come up to me and say I look like Edward Norton
** I should be obvious that this article is for people in a situation about survival, not for many of the people of the world without a choice.  
*** Thanks to Stuart Gadenne for the timely posting of the Zenpencils.com Alan Watts comic. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Guest Blog #3: Vijay Panchia - A Perspective of Training Volume

A Perspective on Training Volume - Vijay Panchia 

[Guest Blog #3] 
In this article I will discuss training volume for resistance exercise. Commonly volume is discussed from the point of view of goals such maximum strength and hypertrophy, or the never ending argument between high volume proponents and HIT advocates. I work with mostly high school boys and baby boomers. I do not train the elite, so when doing a needs assessment, my success is seldom based on new and exciting developments in power lifting periodization but passing on the my subjective experience of meaningful workout. It is an art of deciphering the mental minefield of my client and providing them progressive measurable results using methods they can understand, relate to and perform intensely and sustainably. Quality is the name of game, as opposed to quantity or intensity though these things are variables. This requires an eclectic approach of different philosophies.


How much quality can I get out of someone?

When I train someone I look at a few different things. Perfect technique, how intensely I can have someone perform the various techniques, how much skill development is needed and how this fits with someone’s lifestyle. Following this forward I then look at whether they are getting progressive results. I abide by the idea that less is more. The least I need to do to get someone to be motivated, stay motivated and to be able to perform quality.
I definitely believe that a single sets of exercise performed to momentary muscular failure(MMF) is enough to create a meaningful adaption from an exercise. HIT Jedis rejoice!!! And progressive linear results are definitely possible. This style of training has worked at beginner level, all the way through to elite level athletes. An example of the success of such a program can be seen in the only undefeated NFL team in history, the 1972 Miami Dolphins. By training in this fashion it possible to stimulate both fast twitch and slow switch fibres without exposing a trainee to maximal load. Research conducted by McMaster University in Canada as shown there to be no difference in hypertrophy between heavier loads and lighter loads when to trained to MMF.  I don’t advocate this as the only method you should use but rather method that should be understood. Much truth can be found in the simplest examples of training.
For some working with at a high intensity either in term of 1RM% or to MMF is mentally or systemically too demanding. This can be because someone is adverse to the idea of working hard or their lifestyle it quite hectic and working maximally is too taxing to make gains. Often I find that trainees lack comfort controlling the body either due to poor mobility or other tissue restrictions when trying to work at high intensity. Observations made by many, including Carolina Panthers strength and conditioning coach, Joe Kenn, is that many sporting injuries are the results of having not enough rough and tumble play during childhood. From this we can conclude that currently Western man is not in the same state as when the initial research on single set training was conducted by Arthur Jones. Progressive resistance is possible by using greater total volume with shorter sets and brief rest in between or with multiple sets with lighter weights. By doing this you are exposing the client to a high volume with enough time in between sets to concentrate on form and provide perfect reps. With lighter weights you can make up for the lighter weights with greater volume. The volume can make up for the lack of intensity to a point as there seems to be a point of significantly diminishing returns from light loads. Arthur Jones had the idea that it was optimal to train with 70% of 1RM which if you use the traditional percentage model the equivalent to 12RM. 

For some this 70% of 1rm will be represent a different RM due to what Jones referred to as neural efficiency.  To increase volume I typically use a model of doubling the volume of a predicted RM for total volume, which I learnt from Wake Forest University strength and conditioning coach, Ethan Reeve. It comes from his model of training called Density Training. This is not to be confused with the Charles Staley’s Escalating Density Training(which is definitely an interesting protocol for maximising volume). An example of this would instead of performing a 10RM(75% of 1RM) you double the volume to 20 reps and perform 4 sets of five, with a set being performed every 3 minutes. This is also a great way to break up standard HIT training which can be quite draining on the mind and nervous system. This is an oversimplification of Mr Reeves’s work and I recommend you looking into it further especially those who have ambitions of working with athletes.
HIT Training using only a single set is not always appropriate and will not work even for those with the right mind and body. A great example of this would be with the bench press and military press. The bench press despite its popularity amongst the entire male population of gym goers is quite a technical lift initially and requires a larger volume to be competent at it. This is as opposed to a well designed chest press where correct technique is much easier to teach and attain mastery.  For a teenage boy I use a strategy of one session of four sets with a goal of 40 reps total. Each set is performed to MMF or close to MMF. A second session of 3 work sets of five with a heavy but sub maximal load. This allows for sufficient practice of the technique and introduces working with a relatively heavy weight. Some lifts are even more technical so it more difficult to maintain form for high repetition sets. An example of such a lift is the bent press. I think it is a fabulous exercise for external rotators and has been a vital part of my shoulder rehabilitation. As it is quite technical to perform I use 3-5 reps for multiple sets. Arthur Jones’s barbell program from the Nautilus Bulletin also uses multiple sets.

How else does technique relate to volume? When prescribing exercise a rep needs to be able to be repeated in the same fashion so that training results can be compared and a more accurate picture of the work being done by the trainee can be understood. This is fundamental to knowing what works with your client. If a rep is performed in a very slow cadence as opposed to a jerky fashion, the total time of tension on the muscles is longer. If I pause at the bottom of a bench press it becomes much harder to raise a weight than if I bounce it off my chest. My preference is for a controlled rep especially for the negative/eccentric portion of a movement in most cases though I definitely use a variety of cadences. 
The cadence will help dictate the type of set/rep scheme that is appropriate.
I touched on briefly that lifestyle dictates that standard single set HIT can be draining and can be made up with multiple sub maximal sets with shorts rest. Another option is working with multiple sets to failure with a lighter load relative to what you have been using. While with the heavier weight consistent progress can become too hard to recover from so by working with a lighter load it is possible to make great gains. Research has shown that is possible to make gains and get sufficient recovery from as many 8 sets to failure. An example of a program such a program which I had great success with is the “beginner” lat specialization program by Pavel Tsatsouline. In this program 12 sets of chins are performed with for different grips. After working on weighted chins I hit a plateau. This program provided ample stimulation for growth and recovery. Overtime is program would become too much volume however for brief periods like the 6 weeks recommended by the man himself this provides a great alternative. 

For adaption, intensity is needed. However as I have said many sets can be used or only one. A workout does not require only mean one style of progression is used. What will dictate overall what a session involves is the length of the whole workout. It seems that humans have a concentration span of about 45 minutes and it is common believe that working out over an hour it the point of diminishing returns and can even be counterproductive. In Marty Gallagher’s opus, The Purposeful Primitive, he gives many different models of training as employed by the greatest lifters in history. Aside from Bill Pearl, it can be said that these workouts were all relatively brief. Bill Pearl, applied a model of extreme high volume. He had said in the past that he was unable to make gains on brief workouts like HIT. And like wise  Dr Ken Leistner said that he was unable to workout in the same fashion as Mr Pearl. From what I can see Bill Pearl was an extreme exception, and even workouts he prescribes for beginners pale in comparison when compared with the volume he uses. His genetics and consistent training have allowed him to extend himself well past what other can or should do.  I also think it makes sense to increase volume over seeking out greater and greater poundage the heavier training becomes. 

I earlier mentioned passing on a subjective experience. This is a somewhat more difficult thing to measure as it is something that cannot be understood by numbers. As a coach or trainer it is possible to get an understanding of the intensity of a workout from observation of the trainee.  Expression on their face, breathing, degradation of form are all useful tools to determine volume. As a trainer you should be able to assess and correct issues of breathe, technique and even cue someone to have a “soft” face.  When teaching another human, understanding that life is equal parts the subjective and the objective is of greatest importance.  Once these things have been addressed one’s ability to maintain these things can be assessed which is an art as much as anything. He have to able to assess how we are going to get the most quality out of someone. A single protocol to MMF, many sub maximal sets, 5x5 etc This is where I coach needs to display emotional intelligence. I recommend seeking out a great coach to learn from for this reason. This is powerful learning. My first exposure to a gym it was single sets HIT and I got dismal results. Some years later I was reintroduced to it my mentor Steve Maxwell. The difference in results was astonishing. Steve himself was fortunate to learn from some of the best in this area of training who themselves had connections to earliest systems of modern barbell training and the pre-steroid era. 

I will briefly speak on periodization, which is simply the planning of the training in regards to long term goals. There are many models, Westside, block,wave, linear, density, undulating etc. All these systems work. I see things from a mostly linear point of view in that even if someone hits a plateau it is simply a hurdle to jump over. As one gets closer to their genetic potential, gains come slower. Sometimes it simply a matter of taking two steps back before taking three steps forward. The cycling of this process is what can be observed in most systems of periodization. Relating back the rest of the article, how exactly to strategize around an issue is something for you to assess based on your observation, training records and the trainees feedback.  

Another model of volume found in Zatsiosky and Kraemer’s text Science and Practice of Strength Training which you can find is the staple of load/intensity vs volume based a percentage model. Kraemer in particular is seen as having contrasting point of views to single sets advocates. Regardless of whether you don’t agree with things he says, much like if you don’t agree with HIT, you need to understand to perceive that there is more than one way to do things. Kraemer was/is in the pursuit of truth.  This rant only begins to scratch the surface of the different ideas behind implementing progressive resistance programs. To poorly paraphrase a former school teacher of former Cincinnati Bengals strength and conditioning coach, founder of Hammer Strength and one of Arthur Jones’s top men, Kim wood, “....information is not to necessarily change ones view, but to weigh and consider”. When you train someone, pay attention to what you see before yourself. Think, philosophise, remember your own experiences with the iron, and bring it all together to help enlighten yourself and those you train. Rather than lifeless numbers, understand the process as an organic process. Simple but not simple minded.

Vijay can be contacted at the Body Dharma Facebook group.  Also, check out Vijay's other Guest Blog on Yoga HERE

Notes and Links
The New Bodybuilding for Old-School Results - Ellington Darden, PhD


Dr Ken Leistner squats 405 pounds fro 23 reps

DVD set featuring a lecture from Ethan Reeve on Density Training.

Official Website of Bill Pearl

Free download of Arthur Jones's Nautilus Bulletins

A Concise Guide to Doggcrapp Training

Steve Maxwell - High-Intensity or High Volume?
( http://maxwellsc.com/blog.cfm?blogID=145 )

A Practical Approach To Strength Training, 4th Ed by Matt Brzycki

Pavel's Beyond Bodybuilding

Serious Strength Requires Serious Training - Ken Maine (Head S&C Coach, Michigan State University)
( http://www.coachad.com/pages/Powerline-Serious-Strength-Requires-Serious-Training.php )

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Physical Alchemy "year of the foot" Foot Training Experiment 2015

Physical Alchemy "year of the foot" Foot Training Experiment 2015

"I've already declared 2015 "year of the foot", by the way" [Ancestral Simon]

Dave Wardman

The above photo was taken at the recent Ido Portal - Corset workshop in Sydney.  The foot in the fly, orange and black tiger shoes is my foot, and the gargantuan hobbit-foot is that of Mountain Hammer (Craig Mallett). Hammer started barefooting circa 2012, and has noticed increased width and hypertrophy the foot, and a whole suite of benefits higher up the body related to this.  Just look at that foot(!) - it's wider than my shoe (see below)! No wonder Craig has such troubles finding footwear..*
The comments section of the this photo in the Physical Alchemy Facebook group have taken off.  Kit, and avid supporter of foot training and barefoot walking for many years now, responded to the picture "I am now wondering just how many diseases and illnesses have their genesis in insufficient foot stimulation?" - K.  

So, shall we take some measurements and have at this "year of the foot"?  Below I have listed my suggestions for quantitative notation, but I am actually far more interested in the qualitative and subjective 'ripple on' effects that people notice.  

Baseline Foot and Lower Leg Measurements
The equipment need for this is minimal: measuring tape (inches and centimeters), pen, A4 (or A3 if you are Craig) size paper and a camera.  Besides the measurements shown, a few photos from different angles will create a nice 3-dimensional representation.  Try to use similar lighting for each shot.  

The 6 Foot Training Measurements are:  
1) Medial Arch
2) Toe Box
3) Tracing the Foot
4) Calf Girth
5) Secret Lower Shin Girth
6) Photos

*Edit - Kit has suggested measuring the calf and foot girths from a standing, not squatting position, which is probably wise.  At any rate, make sure you note which one you did the first time around. 

1) Medial Arch - The measurement is taken at the apex of the medial arch, on the navicular bone.  The tape is pull tight, so as to touch the full circumference of the foot.  Hopefully this will map hypertrophy of the plantar muscles (plantar quadratus) flexors of the hallicus, tibalius posterior muscle and tendon thickening. 

2) Toe Box [Metatarsal head girth] - This measurement is taken around the heads of the metatarsals, around the 1st and 5th heads.  Again, the tape should be pulled tight.  This should indicate hypertrophy of the interossii muscles and short flexors of the toes and Hallicus. 

3) Tracing the foot onto paper - Tracing the foot with a pen or pencil.  This gives a nice visual impression of a number of dimensions of the foot.  Can be done either foot relaxed, and/or foot with the toe-spread maxed out at current level.  



4) Standard Calf (Gastrocs & Soleous) Girth Measurement - Measure with tape taut around the widest portion of the calf (give yourself a fighting chance!). 

5) 'Secret' Lower Shin Measurement - I want to see the change in size of this area due to the deeper posterior comparment musculature changing - tibialus posterior, flexor hallicus, fibularis group, etc,.  The measurement is taken four fingers width up from the middle of the medial maleous. 

["Toe Climbing" by Mountain Hammer]

Training Methods
This experiment is non-prescriptive in terms of training methods.  In fact, I think it will be more interesting if we have a variety of methods on show.
Ancestral Simon and Mountain Hammer have already put up an awesome series of foot training exercises that can be followed if you do not have your own exercise protocols. 

Video 1
Video 2
Video 3 

I am going to be using versions of my 'Calfpocalypse' exercise, rail balancing, foot gripping exercises, balancing exercises and a variety of stretching and tissue wringing methods.  When I tinker enough to have a protocol I like I will post it.

Kit has posted a very long and excellent foot mobilisation sequence that can be used regularly, or as a means to test progress throughout the year - see HERE.  There is also a large foot pronation correction discussion thread on the Stretch Therapy forums that has a large amount of information and some additional exercises.

I am quite keen on making this into a 3-part 5-neck (1 neck, 2 x foot-ankle-shin, 2 x hand-wrist-forearm) experiment, but may as well start from the ground and work upwards.  Ancestral Simon has already designated 2015 the "year of the foot", so I thought it would be fun and interesting to take some measurements to actually see what happens when we focus in on foot training methods of various types. 

Please feel free to join in the experiment (and take full personal responsibility for your own exercise programming).  Post pictures into the Physical Alchemy Facebook group comment section to this blog.


*Craig was telling me he recently we to a bare-footing shoe brand warehouse in the States, and even the XXL width shoe was insufficient, as almost all shoe brands increase the toe-box only, whereas Craig has noticeably hypertrophied the mid-section of his foot (perpendicular to the medial arch). 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Review: The Movement Experience 2015

Review: The Movement Experience 2015

"So you're sitting on George Street...sipping your tasty beverage, and THIS guy walks passed!" - Ido Portal* 

Over the last few weeks of this summer I have had the good fortune of attending both the Sydney Movement-X and Corset workshops of the Ido Portal method, put on by Ido and his senior students.  

I have been following his work online for a while and have great respect for all he is doing with the movement culture. I had met a number of his students, who impressed me with their abilities and outlook on physical cultivation and movement. After meeting him personally two New Year's back in the slightly odd way (foraging for food in the NSW bush), I was eager to experience his method at workshop level.

Ido is one of the few living examples of the Epictetus quote 'Do not explain your philosophy, embody it' that I have met - though he can explain his philosophy impeccably as well!

I would consider him an 'Expert Generalist', though he interestingly stated at the Corset workshop that he thinks the age of polymath is largely over due to the now huge complexity of the human knowledge base.  His expression for the new expert generalism is 'unique fingerprint'...and if these workshops are anything to go by, he's crafting an amazing fingerprint.

As my good friend Craig pointed out in his review of the workshops on Facebook, Ido may not be the best at gymnastics or bodyweight strength feats (though he's pretty damn good at them), but he has the 'soft connectiveness of an internal martial artist', high but not contortion level flexibility, amazing agility, speed, explosiveness, rhythm, great physical acting skills, reaction time - and a whole host of kinesthetic intelligences and proprioceptive 'corporeal communication'** skills that defy pinning down with language, but are perceptible in person.  He lives his own phrase "1 + 1 + 1 = 17!"

It was this gestalt and the experiencing of what being high level (but not specialized) across a large number of movement fields looks and feels like, that was one of the deepest lessons for me personally.  

On a more specific level it was not the stuff that people usually emphasize with his work that I found the most insightful.  For me, it was the Kinetic Koans section of the Movement X that blew me away. 

To find a skill-set missing from my own practice and teaching, that so well fits with what I am personally trying to accomplish with my own method - this was the biggest revelation for me of both workshops, and I am very grateful to Ido and associates for the exposure to this gap.  

As a teacher, it is wise to consider the value of this aspect when attending workshops: am I just pouring more the same concepts in, or am I going to people who can empty my cup - clear out some redundant information, spark re-alignment with the principle of shoshin, make you question and come back to things from a different angle.  It is essential to have people who do this if you are a teacher (of movement or otherwise). 

The Corset workshop was great on a number of levels, and my love and fascinating with all things soft tissue re-modelling, flexibility and suppleness training of all types made this a pleasure to attend, and to do it with so many of my friends and peers was a bonus.

I had seen a number of the exercises before, but got some new ones to play with, too.   If I can get 3-5 new exercises to really work on from a workshop I consider it a success, and I definitely got more than that. Seeing Ido's perspective on the exercises I was familiar with was more insightful, still.  Highly interesting for me was the relating of his research into western and eastern methods, real life examples and protocol discussion level of this workshop. 

Seeing his example, and the examples of his assisting teacher's (Odelia and Summer), along with the information presented was fascinating. There is a lot I can use here. I am very much looking forward to taking it back to the laboratory and mixing it in with the methods I already practice. Time for hard training.

So, I now have a lot of new movement nutrition and different protocols to chew on and re-integrate..which is what one should look for in a workshop experience.
As I said, for my own growth as a teacher I seek out people to work with who at the deeper levels are similar in approach, but on a methodological level challenge and spark renewal. 

A final note.. there is a certain type of fire in an individual who lives totally (100%) for their art.  It is very rare to see this, sadly, and it is very inspiring to see an someone who is in the same field as you in this state. 

At a level where he could easily sit back and rest on his laurels, he is still as passionate an explorer of movement as ever.  He was relating his tales of his recent study trip to China to a small number of us at the end of the Corset with the flavor of 'keeping the question alive is more important than finding an answer' - what a note to end on!   As I said elsewhere, an honour and a pleasure to see the artist at work.  Looking forward to more in the future.  


"Walk into a freezer, kick someone in the face. That's the mobility you need. That's the mobility life demands!"  - Ido Portal

*The gym we did Movement-X in was on (one of the) George St, and Ido was having coffee on it and people watching.  He caricatured some of this when he was doing the locomotion section, and fuck it was funny (and insightful at the same time)!   For a week afterwards I kept getting Ido's voice popping up in my head: "So you're sitting on George Street...sipping your tasty beverage, and THIS guy walks passed!"  Ido is a funny bastard. Genuinely, really funny! I think, perhaps, some of the confusion people have with him is they cannot perceive when he is joking and when he is being serious. 

** The name of workshop Ido used to put on. What a great title for a workshop!

Friday, January 9, 2015

The 'Long Class' Experience

The 'Long Class' Experience

Dave Wardman

"This is workshop work.....!!"
[Kit Laughlin during a phone conversation with me sometime mid-2014]

The above quote happened during a deeply interesting and flowing phone conversation I had with my mentor last year.  We were having one of our discussions that darted all over the place effortlessly: practical physical cultivation methods, stretching, strength and conditioning, dharmic topics, philosophy, etc,.  It's a beautiful thing to have people in your life that you can communicate with unrestrained and completely naturally across all the things that are most meaningful in your life!

Kit blurted out this line "This is workshop work!" - and we both fell silent for a few moments, knowing something very important had just occurred. 

The specific "This" we were talking about was the method of Stretch Therapy (the parent art of Physical Alchemy).  Stretch Therapy occurs in a number of settings: private sessions, classes and workshops.  Something Kit* and I (and others) have been aware of for a while is that there is something different, something very special, about experiencing this work immersion style in groups at a workshop level. 

There a many possible ingredients in the creation of the workshop experience: space, duration (most workshops are 2-3 days - the bodymind warms up and becomes more plastic, more open to change), the 'tribal' aspects of doing an activity with a group of like-minded people is a supportive environment, the method, the teacher, the students - and so on. 

Classes are fantastic, and have similar dynamics to workshops.  But they are not as powerful as the workshop experience.  Something I have been contemplating deeply since the phone-satori with Kit is: 'how can I make classes more like the workshop experience?'.  Why? The closer I can get my classes to the workshop level of re-patterning, the more powerful they become and the more effectively and efficiently the methods can work for my students.  

Hmmm, what elements to tinker with?  I have chosen duration (to start with). We have been temporally patterned in a certain way in this society.  Since high-school most of us are conditioned to do roughly 9-5pm, on 5 specific days out of 7. We are used to a lunch break of around an hour, with or without another small break or two.  This is not a natural pattern, IMHO, but it is what we have to work with. 

So, I have been testing out extended duration 'Long Classes' in my Physical Alchemy Experimental  classes - see HEREThese are between 2 - 2.5hrs in duration. 

The results so far are overwhelmingly in favour of this being a superior way to train the method in class format.  It seems that for Stretch Therapy, after a hour (the normal duration for ST classes, and mos exercise classes) the body (nervous system and other soft tissues) is starting to get into a plasticity state slightly sideways to normal consciousness - a state where deeper change becomes easier to attain.  The increased integration time and lack of haste facilitated deeper relaxation, too.

But how to implement this out of 'the laboratory'..  Luckily Cherie and I have already found a way to implement this new format of long-play physical immersion - we do it on Saturday!  We are currently running these classes on alternating Saturdays at the Sydney Stretch Therapy studio

Also, coming very soon in 2015 I will be running Hybrid Monkey Gym/Stretch Therapy classes in Sydney.  Details to come very shortly.  PM me (dav.wardman@gmail.com) if you are interested in attending or have any questions about programming this type of experience with other training modalities.

I intend to run two classes per Saturday in this manner ASAP.  Having experimented with this on myself and a number of my collaborators, it is obvious that this is the perfect way to run non-workshop classes.  They even work wonders on one class per week (or even fortnight, which is something very interesting).  This work is alive!  It is a living art.  I, and others, are constantly trying to evolve the method (which we already knows works so well) along the lines of effectiveness, efficiency and depth. 

I am also contemplating an evening Long Class,  if enough humans are interested. Doing this type of format in the evening has often been giving me and the other collaborators very deep and rejuvenating sleep, and being able to go home and sleep soon after aids the experience, in my reckoning.  

Come explore the art of re-patterning your bodymind for increased movement quality, relaxation and suppleness.  It's fun and it feels amazing!  

Please PM me if you have any further questions about the methodology specifically or generally (dav.wardman@gmail.com.

Join the Sydney Stretch Therapy facebook group for more class details, fun and community.  


*HERE - also, for trainspotters, hard to see in this image but Kit is wearing his 'Resist Mediocrity' t-shirt. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Agile Lifestyle

The Agile Lifestyle

Dave Wardman

One of the things I remember observing and contemplating most as a child, was: 'why do all these adults around me do jobs they obviously disdain/dislike/hate then tell me that I am going to do the same, and that it's "good", "the way it is" and "a part of growing up"..'. It always seemed, although normal in the sense of normative distribution, a highly unnatural state to be forced into.

I expended a lot of energy dreading the prospect of what out of the standard white-collar professions (that my high-schooling programmed me to think as being the only options post-graduation) would be, not really the most interesting, but the least boring and one that would allow the most free time to do things I actually enjoyed.

Many of my peers had, or are having, similar contemplations.  The (hot) topic of non-linear life style design has generated a fair amount of intriguing discourse on the few chosen platforms for social media engagement that I frequent.

A while ago on there was this thread at the Stretch Therapy Forums. Even more recently in a response to THIS on the Physical Alchemy facebook page.   Many of the most interesting, open-minded and forward-thinking people I know have commented with their favoured methods for which one can perform The Great Escape (a.k.a escaping 'The Matrix' of 'working a job you hate to buy shit you don't need (and pay off your mortgage/debt)' - to have time free for the things they enjoy and that actually make up their life in a meaningful way).

Post high school I slid into university, mainly as a way of postponing the decision of 'what career I was going to devote my life to'*.  It was there, not in any of my classes, but in the university Dojo that I had a minor satori into this perceived dilemma.

My martial arts teacher C. (and first teacher in a wider sense) was a living example of someone who had not done things the standard way and thrived.  One of the many great lessons I received from him was this very thing - hope!

I had, as a child, always hypothesized that there must be a to evade the dreaded 'inevitable fate' (as I viewed it then) of a job you hated**.  And now I was presently multiple times a week with the truth that you could do something different, and in fact by doing something different you transformed yourself in the process.  This had a deep affect upon me.

Now I knew it was possible to do things another way, I made a resolve to never enter into the white-collar path (I did do a small stint in this type of job. 3 months made it totally clear that this was not for me).. Still, I had seen it was possible, but what type of path does Dave take to this end - doubts persisted.  I took 6 years to finish my 3 year degree.  Just nearing the end of this period, I began to study with another of my teachers (K).

Meeting K. only strengthened my resolve deeper. Here were the two coolest and most interesting humans I had met at that stage of my life, and both had gone all over the place in terms of work, study and life-experience (I recognized this, too; I had a poverty of life experience at that stage.  Having the auspicious fortune of being able to study so closely with these two teachers really broke me out of my shell).

Both of K. and C. epitomize the 'Expert Generalist' and are both intellectually brilliant, are very well read, have a large practical skill-set, had working Sitting Practices, studied in teacher-student apprenticeship style learning relationships and have high level body awareness.  I started to triangulate in on a pattern I could model, not follow exactly as my path differs from theirs, but modelling the commonalities between them. I put it to you, find prototypes; and beg them to let you be their students if need be! 

So, skip ahead 7 or 8 years of my spiritual journey to now, and I find myself precisely where I wanted to be looking forward from that time period.  Kinda cool, huh?

At any rate, a lot of the stuff being talked about in the wider agile lifestyle picture is not-applicable to me.  The highly popular ethos of the 4-hr workweek (which I read twice, and like sections of very much) is not really what I am after.  I love what I do and will continue, deepen and expand it (at a sustainable rate) as long as I can.  I feel like a man on a perennial secret mission. This is a good feeling. 

Agile lifestyle for me means I can do immersion style study with great teachers to improve my specific skill-set so I can improve the Physical Alchemy methods effectiveness.  Sitting in a hammock, sipping pina coladas with nothing to do is not for me  (I used to idolize having endless spare time, this changed for me during the last 7 years when I realized what that was). 

Agile lifestyle means I can spend a high amount of quality time with my wife and daughter. Extra time to practice and do hard training. Time in nature. More tribe time (time with friends and peers). Time for more Solitude and Silence. Time to practice and tinker with my craft.  All the things that are actually my Life.

One of the reasons I use agile is that there are many different configurations to this - pina colada sipping included!  I have met people who work part-time to fund their hobbies (a.k.a their Life); people who work full-time then have 'mini-retirements' to do immersion style study; people who use their jobs as sadhana; people working whilst studying the thing they actually want to do at night.  The commonality is a certain spark seeing a 'glitch in the matrix' of standard lifestyle patterning. 

Agile (for me) is about maximizing the activities of deepest meaning to you within your current resource base (resource base at all levels - mental, temporal, financial, etc) and within the constraints you have (debt, family and other duties). It is about reducing or eliminating the unnecessary, wherever possible - and sometimes that's not possible.   

I also use agile, in the sense of 'traveling light', as for me and others I know well -there is a definite material de-cluttering that accompanies the conceptual de-cluttering necessary to jump paradigms.

This may be spartan for the nomadic bachelor who is 'walking the Earth like Caine in Kung Fu', or simplification and reduction in non-useful objects for a family with 5 children.

For me, I like a modified version the ethos of 'Zen-nanny' Marie Kondo (LINK)  - give away any items that are not useful, beautiful and that do not 'spark joy'.

Recently, I have seen a visible shift in a number of areas that I feel is reflective of the larger pattern behind agile living.  One of the cool things is what is happening with housing (tiny houses, yurts), architecture (bio-mimicry in design and new materials), food (permaculture) and energy (solar and other 'off the grid' set-ups) production.

Agile structures such as yurts and tiny housing concepts are really taking off and this really makes a lot of sense.  Having been in a yurt before, I must say the ambiance of a round (or at least octagonal) room is very appealing to me - as are some of the tree house-like tiny houses!

Communal living of different types also makes sense for many situations, and looked upon through the eyes of history it is actually a much more natural configuration for humans to live in than the odd nuclear family in a massive suburban house that was the "norm" for the city I grew up in.

For my mind, all this is part of a wider re-patterning of the cultural-body underway at the moment, that bubbles up visibly in seemingly unrelated areas.  Two of the books in my recommended reading list, Coming to Our Senses and The Continuum Concept when combined, show a nice linking of the phenomena of tiny houses and yurts (and so on) with the silent epidemic of dis-embodiment (lack of body awareness and embodied presence).  I won't spoil the surprise - to the library!

One last thing to contemplate, that Kit and I discussed a while back.  In Japan the hara (moving or 'doing' centre) is increased by movement training (often martial arts, and by Sitting Practice too).  We were discussing the possible correlation of the hara you get from improving your physical body with the necessary drive and persistence needed to 'escape the matrix'.. i.e it's not a matter of intellect (or intellect alone); I know many intelligent people without the will to follow it through.

Tune in to the Physical Alchemy Facebook group and Stretch Therapy Community Forum for more developments,  watch out for Part 2 of this article coming soon..! 


Thank you to my teachers C. and K. for their inspirational and guidance in all things, and especially in showing me the way to break free.

Thank you to all who participated in the Physical Alchemy Facebook group discussion in the comments of 'Tiny House' article.  I am blessed to have you all communicating with me, it is quite an honour to be able to link with you via that interface.  What an interesting time to be alive!

*As an interesting aside, during high school I was afflicted with near crippling indecision.  Martial arts training whilst at university totally cured this for me, and I wonder how many other kids would be far better suited doing a martial art as an actual class at school instead of double maths or something else arbitrary like that?  I remember nothing of most of my subjects in highschool, but I will remember forever and carry forth the transformation from the martial arts training - that was true education

** possibly amplified by programming from shows like The Simpsons, where the humour involves characters in jobs they hate, but doesn't show how to escape this.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Physical Alchemy Experimental Session 2nd Jan, 2015

As 2014 started to draw to a close something very interesting was occurring (almost) every Friday night, hidden away near the Lane Cove forest in Sydney. Myself, and between 1 and 3 collaborators (Robbie, Michael and Hanh), have been performing physical alchemy in my living room, whilst others are out drinking or home watching TV.

What began as a casual stretch session has evolved into a Physical Alchemy laboratory.  These experimental sessions are now averaging around 2 and a quarter and 2.5hrs in duration, and the intensity and creativity of the sessions has been steadily increasing.  And man, is it exciting! 

I am personally very interested in the ability of these 2-2.5hrs experimental sessions to produce a re-patterning effect similar to what I used to only be able to attain during workshops (7-8hrs).  A couple of the sessions did this in particular and we are trying to triangulate in on the specifics in terms of sequencing, duration, ambiance and other contributing factors.  

The session documented below produce a fantastic re-patterning effect immediately post session and for the whole of the next morning.  The beneficial effects in terms of movement quality, ease and enhanced body awareness and proprioception lasted another 2 more days (roughly).

These are the 'headings' of what we did, the experience and subtle detail is harder to convey.  I will think about what medium could work best to get this across more accurately.  At any rate, let me know if you have any questions about the below terminology (which is quite specific to people who have trained in Stretch Therapy).

Follow these sessions at my 'Physical Alchemy Laboratory' workout log @ Stretch Therapy Community forums: http://kitlaughlin.com/forums/index.php?/topic/709-physical-alchemy-laboratory-2015/

Jan 2nd, 2015: Physical Alchemy Experimental Session w Michael

1) Partner Hip Flexor stretch - The classic Stretch Therapy seated hip flexor stretch. Simple and brilliant.  I haven't done the standard one for a while, and it is always good to revisit it. 

2) Romanian DL from Deficit (slow): 15 reps @ 40kg, 12 reps @ 50kg

3) Nordic Hamstring Curl: 1 set of 3 isometric hold reps

4) Partner Front Splits I.  Hip Flexor C/R. Scissor C/R. Scissor plus Pelvic Torque C/R.  Knee-bar C/R. 

5) Nordic Hamstring Curl: 2 sets of 3 isometric hold reps

6) Partner Tailor Pose.  Standing assistance of ~80kg human.

7) Partner Front Splits II (This was done much longer and stronger. I made a breakthrough on both legs) Again: Hip Flexor C/R. Scissor C/R. Scissor plus Pelvic Torque C/R.  Knee-bar C/R. Though Knee-bar Contract-Relax was done longer and the deep breathing re-patterning phase was extended another 5-6 breathes.  This was very intense, but good.  Lying integration with inner smile post each leg. 

8) New Physical Alchemy variant Floor Pec Minor/Major (got best pec minor sensory awareness ever during contraction on the right side).  This will be filmed soon. It rocks. 

9) Double Partner Pancake - Hanh joined in, sitting between my shoulders, which now offers superior assistance and allows me to hyper extend my lumbar spine and really wind-up various fascial chains in my legs. 

10) Partner assisted soft tissue work with ball on right medial epicondyle. Ouch.