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A Student of Ido Portal’s Movement Camp 2015

Posted 17th April 2015 by Josh Schouten

My training past has included many different activities ranging from Aussie Rules Football, soccer, tennis, marathons, triathlons, Olympic lifting, basic gymnastics, powerlifting, and CrossFit.  I consider myself to be in fairly good shape and ready for just about anything.

I’ve been observing Ido Portal from afar for around 12 months now and played with some his movement concepts in both my own training and in the programming for CrossFit Hackney. In 2015 I planned to attend one of his workshops in the hope to acquire new skills and discover a different perspective.

When the 2015 Movement Camp was released a part of me thought “I’m not ready to take part in something like this, I bet the participants will move a lot better than me.” My close family and friends know that I am the type of person to step outside my comfort zone and make the most of an opportunity like this.  “What’s better than spending time learning something new for a weekend?”  This was a chance to spend an entire week and immerse myself in a community of people who are putting the concepts into practice.

I’ve just spent the last week in Thailand and here are some of the invaluable lessons I’ve taken from it (please note, this is my individual interpretation of the material and maybe not the exact concepts):

1. Movement is infinite

Dance, sprint, jump, crawl, roll, skip, hop, sneeze, stretch, climb, hang, shake, laugh, squat, balance, juggle, and even improvise.  As we develop we must continue to learn new skills to challenge our minds and our bodies.  Playing the same record week by week is limiting our exposure to a universe of movement. There are so many inspirational ways to move and learn, many of us need to think outside of our usual routine.  Learning to move is like learning to speak multiple languages.

We should all make it a project to try something different and explore new ways to move and play as often as possible. Sometimes the feelings of fear or embarrassment hold us back from embarking on a new project.  Other times our ego’s get in the way as certain movements seem unrelated to our goals, or our current ability seems to be more advance.   “I lift heavy shi*, why do I need to dance?” Sometimes we need to change our mindsets and take the time to move in different ways.  You may find a hidden talent or you may simply trip over your two left feet, but there is a likely chance you will have fun in the process.

Base-jumping might not be for everyone, but perhaps dance lessons could be a good place to start.  A certain risk to reward ratio should always be considered.

2. Play = Movement = Training = Survival = Gene Pool

Life is there to be appreciated and lived; our lifestyle choices impact both the quality and longevity of our life.  Life is a lot like the TV show Survivor, where some participants are simply trying to survive, while others are playing the game, working hard to out smart and out survive their competitors.

The winners in the game of survival are those who make the most of every opportunity.  Those who are both physically and mentally prepared to conquer the many unpredictable obstacles in life.

Are you a survivor or are you a competitor?

3. Never leave the playground 

(the words of Stephen Jefferson)

As kids our imaginations ran wild, and there seems to be no limitation to what we can achieve when we are at play.  As adults many of us forget how to play, we loose sight of our how our body can move and how creative our minds can really be.  Play induces a positive mindset, which has the potential to create beautiful people. Play makes us happy, and happy people are easily welcomed into larger communities, they are more fun to be/have around!

Many of us are sleepwalking through life unaware of our human potential. It’s not just the older generations, modern technology is impacting all of us. Smart phones, tablets, laptops and other electronic devices are taking us out of the playground.

Sitting on our butts all day is slowly killing us. We sit at the table to eat our meals, we sit on transportation systems to move around, we sit at our desk and we sit on the couch. Where has all the movement and play gone?   Since when did walking become exercise?

If you do one thing for health, it would be to start moving more.  Everything in life can be treated as a game, never stop playing.  Put the fun back into fitness and everything you do, rediscover what movement is all about. 

4. Plan projects and change them often

What are you working towards? Are your movements useful? Are you training towards something or are you simply using up valuable time and energy that could be spent elsewhere?

Some people call them goals; Ido and his team used the concept of projects.  “I want to be able to perform a 60 second freestanding handstand” becomes the basis of a project. The steps and the process required to get there becomes the research topic and the obsession.  Yes, obsession was the word used and when your doing 1000 jumps a day or holding a handstand for 10minutes you can certainly call it an obsession.

Consider everything as an experiment. Build a base of solid attributes and then dive deeper into expanding your movement capabilities.  Find a project that is important to you and then spend time and resources working towards the target(s) you have set.

5. Set the rules

Isolate, Integrate, and Improvise (triple I).  In training we need to spend a large amount of time practicing strict techniques, following the rules.  Sometimes the most inefficient path is the most efficient way to continue to make progress. Many of us need to open our eyes and realise that shortcuts are never really there.

The journey towards movement success is a path worth following and the search for shortcuts will only get you lost.

Once we start to master these strict techniques we can then start using the movements in different ways.  Don’t always be focused on a particular outcome and get completely fixated at the expense of enjoying your movement.  Rules are made to be broken and progress in any direction should be taken as a positive.  Being constrained in your movements can actually decrease your potential.  If we get caught up in moving perfectly when we are just starting something, we are holding ourselves back.  We should work hard on correct form and “making it look pretty,” but if you make it look awesome from the beginning, it’s probably too easy for you.

Understand the rules and appreciate the complexity of strict movements, but don’t be afraid to break the rules every so often.

6. Train the body and the mind (Improvisation)

Going through the motions is what most people do all the time, we follow the script of how to get from point X to point Y in the only way we know how.  Lets get out of autopilot and start to experiment with creativity.

Repetition kills creativity, so what is your plan B?  Imagine you are moving quickly across uneven ground, at the last minute you notice an imminent obstacle in your path, you need to be agile enough to change your path midstride as not to trip.  Agility is both the ability to move, as well as think and understand quickly.  In life we don’t always have the time to stop and think about every single movement we make, at a split instance your bullet-dodging Matrix agility may need to be called into action.

Our potential to move is limited by our movement language vocabulary.  The more exposure we have to different forms of movement (i.e martial arts, dance, parkour, gymnastics, etc..) the greater our movement vocabulary becomes.  Not only do we have a plan A, and a plan B to move around a certain obstacle, we now have plan C, D, E, F and G to call upon.  Those that can perform front flips, back flips, jump high, roll, tumble and dance, have a vast array of skills that they can call upon.

Working on new moves and skills that are different from what you usually work on provides you with an interesting break from the norm.  Learning to speak a new movement language is invigorating, and will work both your mind and your body.  You’ll also be improving your body awareness (the fancy term proprioception, which is the moment-to-moment information transmitted from the sense about your body position and how you are moving through space). 

7. The role of a teacher/coach is to pull everything from their students

As an educator we have a responsibility to bring out the best in our students.  However, we often create a step-by-step script for our students to follow.  They soon become dependent on this script.  What if the program read “freestyle?”  Would our students look like a deer caught in the headlights, or would they be able to improvise and use their movement vocabulary to play and have some fun?

Moving without fear and making mistakes improves our learning speed.  Rules are made to be broken and sometimes we need to be let loose to explore what we are actually capable of.

As educators we need to choose just a few things to cue our students on, and as long as it’s not dangerous, let them go ahead and make mistakes.   As a student we need to learn what it is to overcorrect and undercorrect before we can find a happy medium.  If you’re not giving your students the freedom to make mistakes, you’re not really giving them a chance to learn and progress.

When will you take the training wheels off?

8. Always look for progress in any direction

“Progress” with anything fitness related is often measured in terms of sets or reps, increases in weights, improvements in body composition, or alternative numbers and statistics.  When it comes to movement exploration and learning to play, we don’t often stop and take note of the progress.

We need to break free from the arbitrary and sometimes harmful expectations, comparisons, and measures, so that we can appreciate movement and quality of life in the present movement.  Beyond this Buddhist mantra moment, we need to start looking at progress in different ways and enjoy the journey without focusing on the numbers.  

To be honest I was very nervous when I arrived at Movement Camp.  To make matters worse my first class was dance, something outside of my comfort zone – unless I’ve had a few drinks.  However, the community of movers and Ido’s team were amazing.   The week was a total overload of information and it has certainly given me a lot to think about in terms of the way I train and also the programs I write. The week was full of activities, movements, laughter, improvisation, fun and games – it has given me some new tools and ideas that will certain impact the way I move, the way I train, and the way I look at the world.

No matter you level of movement ability I highly recommend attending one of  Ido’s camps or workshops.  You wont regret it!