About Falling and Failing

Why do we fall? How do we fall? Can we practice falling? How are falling and failing connected? Since we know through science that failing is key to learning, is falling key to motor learning as well? We all would agree that some falls you better would want not to happen, same with big fails, but what is there to be learned from falling and failing?

An open invitation to research falling and failing and embracing the missteps, seeing beyond them and how we can transform through them.

Rolling – Awareness & Conditioning (Acrobatics, Martial Arts, Dance, Floor Practice)

 

After my latest post on IG about rolling acrobatics – which was received very well – I thought about creating an educational video about how you can increase rolling awareness and condition your body, mostly the torso for different kind of rolls.

 

The video is divided into three sections: Preparation (Spinal Flexion), Mapping the Back (Increasing Awareness in Spine while in contact with Floor) and Dynamic Application.

 

The practice of rolling can be of great use in disciplines where falling is likely to happen like in Parkour, Skateboarding, Martial Arts or Acrobatics as a risk management tool. I also taught elderly people to roll before, a fantastic way of staying young while aging.

 

If you are mostly looking for ways of moving that enrich physical health and wellness, rolling can be a great way to massage your body, mobilize it and strengthen certain chains. I personally like to practice rolls for autotelic reasons – for the pure joy of it. There is a sense of throwing yourself into the unknown which feels like letting go. The ability to then catch the fall and direct it into something with new potential feels like facing a challenge in life and using the overcoming of this challenge to create something new.

About Falling

 

Very interested in the topic of falling right now.

The technical side, the mental side, the intuitive side, the conceptual side, the applicable side.

More on this in the near future.

 

For now: falling is an excellent skill to practice. Very diverse and exciting.

Rolling

 

So much to say about this art. Simmered down: beautiful and freeing.

Rolling has been in my live since forever, not in the form of this videos content but as an act of breakfalling and communicating with the floor.

 

As you maybe know, my greatest movement teacher so far was skateboarding. I started when I was probably 10 years old and devoted many years solely to this art. Since you’re moving on and with a very unstable object, jumping on and off things you will fall down. Well, since experience shows that just slamming on hard concrete is not so much fun, you adapt a personal and specific way of falling. When the speed is right and when practiced for a while one of the falling maneuvers is rolling over your shoulder – in acro terms a backward shoulder roll.

This move saved my body plenty of times.

 

Until Tom Weksler showed me and the participants at a workshops in 2016 some acrobatic rolls I didn’t practice specific rolling. Over the last years and especially through Toms work I got more and more interested in this art.

Right now, it’s one of the main interests of my practice (not just rolling but falling in general).

 

After working with Tom for some weeks solely on the basics of rolling I yesterday played with some variations and was surprised by a new quality I found within my rolls. On top of that practicing in an Aikido Dojo felt just right, since these folks practice Ukemi a lot and – in my limited understanding of Aikido – are very good at it.

Now, back to refinement and working again on the basics.

 

If you are interested in the Art of rolling, some resources for you:

 

The Art of falling Online Course by @parkouredu

Little big waves – rolling by Tom Weksler on YouTube

Ukemi in Aikido and Systema

 

Thanks for your time and happy rolling. You know how it goes: They see me rolin‘..

The unavoidable.

The necessary.
The not so sexy.
The other side.
The companion.
The stuff that you don’t see so much.
The stuff that you need to get used to.
The stuff that is not fun to be fun.

Embrace the struggle like a good friend!

Having the possibility to explore and fail Pt 1

 

In my current personal practice there is no need or pressure to perform, compete or fulfill certain guidelines (I mean there is gravity, potential for injury and stuff like that that I need to respect). Because of that I have a lot of freedom to express myself in as many different ways and forms as I want to.

In this Demonstration I played with the idea of not having bones, just skin and musculature. The outcome is a very special quality that is very interesting and intriguing. At other times I played with different qualities/ways of doing which led into nothing. No inspiration, didn’t work! And that is great. Being able to experiment and not having to fear failure is very freeing.

I think practicing exploring over and over leads to more curiosity for a given subject. And curiosity is what I thrive on. Not only in my physical practice but in many aspects of live I feel this very deep curiosity and interest to see what lies beyond my current understanding/knowledge/experience.

Having the possibility to explore and fail Pt 2

 

In my last post I described how much freedom I get by experimenting through my movement practice without needing to fear failure.

Very important to add now is that this concept can be applied to many disciplines BUT depending on WHERE you want to go or WHAT you want to achieve, this open exploration may be used more or less.

If there are certain rules that you have to follow, using an open exploration like this can add value by opening new ways of looking at things BUT can also very much hinder your progress.

You can see in this video that many if not all of the tricks/moves I tried where quite sloppy and that’s fine, since this was NOT about going for technical quality. Here I tried to play with the idea of going for something, noticing what I was doing and last second trying to go for something else. Very interesting and quite hard.

Diving into the floor – real life version.

 

A big part of my latest research lies in understanding learning processes. When has somebody learned something? How many ways are there to get from A>B? What’s the difference if you learn something one way versus the other?

 

Automatism

If you practice something long enough, it will become part of you. You don’t have to think about speaking, you just speak. You don’t have to think about running, you just run. You don’t have to think about brushing your teeth, you just do. Imagine if you would have to think about every action on its own! You couldn’t do anything.

Now, if you reached the point that you don’t have to think about a skill anymore – I would say you have learned it. Anything else on top is just refinement.

 

Some questions for you critical thinkers:

1. If you can use a skill in an extreme situation, is it there all the times?

2. At which point would you progress with any given skill? Before the point of learning? After? Why?

3. What would be characteristics on a good learning method if you want to be able to perform the skill without thinking while doing?

Well, if your practice involves playing with risks – falling is a certainty.

 

Falling is not only the act of loosing balance and tumbling over but also a very nice skill in itself.

I’ve practiced this skill (directly and indirectly) in various disciplines so far. In skateboarding I did endless repetitions of falling – out of necessity. Not a single session in that I didn’t fall at least once.
Now in acrobatics I fall also very often, throwing yourself in weird places is often accompanied by that..
In Olympic weightlifting I also experienced some falling (losing balance with the bar overhead can be scary..), same as in bouldering, handstands and parkour.

 

Very interestingly: falling in all of these disciplines has different qualities and is basically a different skill. Falling in skateboarding is different than falling in acrobatics (the speed while skateboarding, etc) and needs different falling mechanics.

 

Important question now: can you practice falling or do you only really learn how to fall by actually .. falling?

Throughout the last years I experimented quite a bit here – on my own and with students (thanks for your trust, hehe). While I believe that actually falling and learning how to bail out intuitively and by experience is necessary – there are ways to practice falling!

 

I think of recording a full video on that – here some falling key points in the meanwhile:

– falling and diminishing the momentum by rolling (rolling techniques in all directions)

– falling and diminishing the momentum by stumbling/galloping away (using hands and feet to catch yourself and „walk it out“)

– falling and spreading the impact on soft parts (muscle) while using the largest surface area possible (practice shock absorbing and taking impact)

 

„They noticed that falling becomes floating when you stop clinging to things“ – Käptn Peng

Adapting my practice

 

Since my left wrist is still injured and I am unable to load it, I had to change my practice a bit. Usually my left arm is my dominant arm for Supports (Macacos, Cartwheels, Handstands, etc) so I now have some time to put some practice into my right arm.
Also, when working a bit more dynamically with a degree of chaos and a risk of falling (this feeling I enjoy very much) I have to very quickly react and find ways to catch myself without loading the injured wrist, very interesting.

All in all, despite using my hands is a major part of my practice, I can almost move completely freely.

Because of my skateboarding background (where falling and injuries are not a possibility but a certainty) I am used to adapting my practice in times when I am injured. It’s always interesting and a challenge to keep the spirits high and continue regardless. ”An obstacle is often a stepping stone.“

Processes

One of my interests for the last couple of years has been the topic of learning and how we can understand learning in order to learn smarter. One of the main „laboratories“ to look at learning is looking at a process of learning something. Either a micro process (a few minutes, or a practice session) or a macro process (weeks, months, years). In this post I share some processes of mine and some written reflections.

A Process 🌊🌀🌱

 

Here are some clips from a week long process of @wbrown7 and me with the goal to create a technically hard (precision-demanding, tricky transitions) and rather long sequence. The sequence should integrate some ideas which we have been working on in the warm ups: head integration, spiraling, threading, suspension to name a few.

 

We worked and practiced every day and in the end found something challenging yet possible.
When swiping through the post keep in mind that you are seeing the process from start to finish (rough sketching and trying to finished sequence). Also keep in mind that most of the tries where actually fails (only some shown) and that the bulk of creating such a sequence consists of trying to remember parts, working on isolated transitions, the feeling that something is lacking, etc..

 

In the end we were happy but also see the potential for more refinements and further work on details. We are still hungry.

Swipe till the end to see how my cat/falling training pays off. 😎

Learning the Touch Down Raiz

 

Sharing today some parts of my learning process from the Touch Down Raiz (which is basically a Raiz plus you Land first on a hand and then on your legs).

This move is very appealing to me, done right it looks easy and effortless and can be used to gain massive momentum for something else afterwards. If you are a beginner, learning bridge rotations, first steps towards a gumbi and revercao would make sense to walk first steps on the TD Raiz path.

 

Anyways. Some words about the learning process. To be honest what was hindering me from performing this move was not something technical (at least not to the level that I can perform it in a low grade technical way) but the weird and scary feeling of jumping blindly in this upside down move.

After warming up with similar moves (Raiz, Sailor Moon variant) I started to develop a feeling of security and more and more went for it. When I felt I was going in weird places I would come back to the listed regressions and start over.

What also helped me was the use of visualization: building a mental image in my head and repeatedly trying to act out this image.

 

Now comes a very important part: after you acted out this image you need a feedback in order to see if you actually did what you wanted OR you fell back in your habitual patterns. Feldenkrais and F.M. Alexander both found in their studies that only assessing the outcome through your only feeling is misleading and „untrustworthy“. This is mostly because what feels right is your habitual way of doing something. Therefore it makes sense to use a different source of feedback.

 

Since we all have mobile phones with a camera, why not use this tool? Immediately after performing something, check in the video if your feeling while performing is correct or if you did something different. This way you can adapt a more trustworthy feeling and use this later on.

 

Actually my good friend @wbrown7 posted something similar about his learning process of an One Armed Handstand the other day, definitely check this out.

 

Also, the topic of motor learning can be applied to any given physical skill. Therefore try to see how you can apply this information in your own context.

The Process

 

1 Minute Video showing the Process of learning a trick in about 20 minutes.

Well, actually just parts of it.

Insights into how I build layers and complexity.

Persistance 1

 

Watch me learn. How do I learn? What do I do to not get frustrated while learning? What tips do I have for you?

 

In this mini videoseries (I ended up only creating two parts) I wanted to give insights into a learning process of learning rather complex moves. In addition to the visual I also added some spoken reflections to these videos where I captured what was going on inside of my head. The outcome is a rather fascinating little video.

Persistance 2

Going for the new.

Some things I share here from my practice are quite raw, unrefined and projects that are definitely not finished. I think giving you insights into my process is more authentic than showing only my refined skills, etc.

Work in progress, this is a cool one.

Having the process in mind

 

“I want to be that agile too!” “I want to be able to do a handstand too!”

 

A great statement in itself! Being mobile is fun and a prerequisite for many movements. Handstands eh sure – cool thing!
But what I’m missing here is the way to get there. “I want to be, I want to have, I want to be able…”. Often you only see the end result. The way there – years of practice and constantly making mistakes, learning from them and trying again and again – is often forgotten. So you really want to be able to do a handstand? Then you have to LEARN it first. Learning, however, is not always fun. You will often make mistakes (which are important by the way – they are a necessity!) and often not make any progress for a while. There is nothing you can do about it, there is no magic pill to learn handstands in 10 days, no magic cure to wake up the day after tomorrow with your desired mobility. Learning processes take time.

 

Of course, you have the option to decide which approach you want to take: a strict training plan, watching YouTube videos on your own, learning from others who have achieved similar things or getting help from experienced trainers.

 

For me, I have found that a playful approach mixed with my own experience and scientifically proven knowledge gets the best results. Training plans definitely need to be individual and flexible. Too much can happen to plan weeks or even months in advance. Too strict an approach leads in most cases sooner or later to demotivation and the training is no longer fun. For me, having fun while exercising is one of the top factors that determines long-term results!