physical play

Roughhousing play - Underwater grappling

Now this isn't an attempt at grappling or wrestling in the combative sense. There are far better sources than myself to go to for that. This is a game/interaction to allow people to sincerely explore and roughhouse in a safe space.

I picked this up from Tom Weksler at his Movement Archery workshop: the task is to try and take your partner down to the ground but you don’t want them to take you to the ground. Once you both arrive on the ground, you then want to lift your partner off of the ground and again avoid them lifting you. It is about control and intent­ - who decides who goes where and not necessarily in a combative context (so generally I would suggest to not try any takedowns, judo throws etc... save that for the gym/dojo).

It is intended to be playful and tactical, using cunning over brawn is one way, but if it evolves to be a little rougher due to the rapport you and your partner builds, that is ok too. It is a loose guideline to explore. As you can see from the video, it's also fun and possible to play with odd numbers - one person floats on the outside and then interrupts the dance of a pair, for the person who is left out to float and continue by interrupting  another pair and so on. Why underwater? It's just some imagery to help stay relaxed and fluid. 

To paraphrase Tom: try and find "the space between combat and expression, free of gestures". 

Find out more about classes


That Fear Thing

Before you become a parent you observe other parents in and around your life and it's easy to look to their ways with the valour of naiveté and think "I will never be like that." When you become a parent, navigating rules and ways you don't yet understand, you look to other parents to see the way. How do they is it done? And the ideas you had before your child came into this world are buried under the weight of responsibility of keeping this small person alive, unharmed, especially unharmed as a result of your decision making.

But then, the "you" before your child arrived is still alive within and you want more, better, best, for your child because that is what they are intended to be. A better you. A stronger, fitter, more-likely-to-thrive version of you. So as they pass their milestones, you begin to test their ability. If you are like me, and it's likely you are because you're following and reading this blog, your child is an untapped source of potential, a rich and pure example of what we could all be like if only we hadn't been exposed - and ultimately succumbed - to fear, rules and regulations. It's not our fault, it's how we've been brought up in this society that thinks it means well but is ultimately misguided. 

So you battle with your own conditioning mirrored by the other parents in the playground telling their children that no, you can't climb that slide because it's too high, with your desire, your innate and primal desire to bring your child up to its own highest standard of physical competence. You joke to your friends that you're raising him like Arnold Schwarzenegger in the beginning of Twins...the prime physical and mental specimen and embodiment of strength and skill. You worry that you're becoming that parent, that pushy parent that puts everything into their kid. But at the same time, you don't want them to grow up like you did - slowly losing skill and gaining fear and having to battle through it just to get back to that wonderful stasis.

I'm not a natural athlete. I'm not being mean about myself; it's just the one of the many differences between myself and Ben ;) But I'm game for most things and Ben has introduced me to a lot of things I might never have tried. Before having our child, I dipped my toe in Parkour (only to find myself on the verge of sobbing one evening while trying to stand upright on a railing). But I remember that fear, that ridiculous feeling of just not being able to force myself to stand upright on a rail five foot above the ground. So in the playground with Quincy, I don't say no you can't climb that. I say go on then, I'll be here to catch you. I feel like a hypocrite as I encourage him to climb higher because I know I would never be that daring. His will, his desire is to keep climbing, little monkey paws grasping instinctively onto bars as he swings with such joyful exuberance, I could never stop him. And with each new skill gained, I have to wonder about where that desire comes from...why in our psyche is the instinct to swing joyfully from bars (branches)?

Our son climbed the highest slide before he could walk, he swings from bars, he traverses rope bridges, he pulls himself up the mini climbing walls, he has the desire to balance atop of high beams. He is 20 months old. Is this natural ability? Maybe but I'm not sure it's out of the ordinary, that we all have a level of natural ability that some of us keep and some of us lose. I think more it's encouragement to keep it going. We go to family parkour every week and while Quincy's enthusiasm is currently surpassing his skills, his desire is to move upwards. And most importantly he sees me balancing, climbing, swinging, maybe not with much skill and maybe not in an impressive way relative to the hundreds of movement examples around...but nevertheless, he sees me traversing a railing and he wants to do the same. We can no longer pass a bench or a fence or something without our son indicating he wants a hand walking across it.

It's that untapped thing, that potential we have. That thing that gets lost. That thing we do battle with and that thing that Ben works hard to re-introduce to his students. Freedom of movement and a desire to scale something than to look at it and think mmm no, it's OK. This is all our potential - to reach high with fingers outstretched. This is our human spirit, to reach and grasp and pull ourselves up. Is it a metaphor for our will to survive? Maybe! But more simply, at its base, it's physical playfulness and exuberance. There's many things to be afraid of in this life, many serious and realistic fears but falling off a wall is not one of them. So that five foot railing of a few years ago...I can't be afraid of it if I want our son to keep climbing higher and higher.

Some parents want their children to surpass them intellectually, to succeed in higher education, to get a great job, to succeed in many different ways. I just want my son to be free. Free to challenge that fear rather than succumb to it, free to run and jump and crawl and climb every day of his life. Because freedom in movement gives you the mindset to be free in every area of your life. Fear is you friend, fear is there for a reason. To protect you, to keep you responsive and in the moment. But as this great article from Parkour Generations Dan Edwardes explains, "During the time you felt fear, the fact is that you were quite safe and not being attacked. For the brief period when you were actually in danger, the fear ceased to be."

Failing is Part of Learning

In yesterday's class we practiced some rolling and very basic Judo falling techniques i.e. break falls or known as Ukemi. I am not a Judo teacher, but I remembered enough to teach the guys a basic hip throw. Hopefully I did my dad proud! The main emphasis was to introduce my students to Ukemi or the art of falling. It is vital one knows how to adapt and minimise injury when the unexpected fall or slip occurs. 

A great inspiration outside of the obvious martial arts origin is Parkour Ukemi, a fantastic resource analysing Parkour jumps/vaults etc gone wrong and discussing/breaking down how the practitioner recovered relatively unscathed. 

In the words of Amos Rendao, founder of Parkour Ukemi: "Failing is part of learning. Let's strengthen our community by studying the inevitable. Parkour Ukemi is a project that studies falling techniques related to the scenarios one will find through the practice of Parkour and other hard surface movement arts. It is highly practical and may even be necessary to keep us safe as our discipline evolves in ways we cannot presently fathom."

Rough Play

I never will be or pretend to be a wrestling coach! But I can't emphasise how important it is to our human nature that we make time for rough and tumble play, or roughhousing as I prefer to call it. Most adults are divorced from play, especially from the rough and tumble kind unless they partake in some form of combat practice where it is encouraged or have managed to not lose it from childhood. There is plenty of research and you need only google to discover the benefits of roughhousing, not just for children but adults too; Learning how to cope with the unpredictable, self handicapping , emotional intelligence and the obvious physical benefits - try wrestling for just a few minutes to see what I mean! Those are just a few of a long list. One of my favourite benefits is the reconnection of human touch - something I'm not afraid of exploring in my classes through group games and partner interaction - Most are too afraid through social conditioning and lack of confidence to get "physical" with other people. Once the ice is broken and people remember what it is like to reconnect with another person through roughhousing and play, the confidence and genuine joy it promotes is obvious. Most (hopefully) realise this is a form interaction they are missing and want more of.

The group bonded even more today and thank you all for trusting me (as always with my "weird" ways) and pushing through any reservations you may have had. Now go and roughhouse someone today.