Last weekend I had. My second Fighting Monkey experience in Antwerp (read about the first here). This seminar is titled ‘Anatomy of Events’ and was advertised as an exploration of how practices can be used to notice the patterns that link different aspects of life and how to to change these patterns.
Did the workshop do what it says on the box? If so, how? Read on to find out more…
Before I even try and answer these questions I’ll run through the two days with all the depth of a pebble skipping along a lake.
We started with fifty or so people sitting in a circle while Jozef asked a few questions to test our perception. This set the frame for the idea that it does not matter if you have an amazing practice of some kind if it is not linked to your life outside of the practice. One important aspect of this linking is to notice what is going on physically and emotionally to begin to make discerning choices. The process is not about fixed relationships but more about noticing, speculating about what you notice then testing and exploring.
We followed this with almost silent ‘form’ practice focused on the lower body. The form that they teach is a collection of exercises that develop understanding of how individual joints move in relation to the whole body. There is a degree of challenge to many of the movements with the idea that over the overall strength and integrity of the body will improve. The time frame is months and year, not single sessions or weeks.
After the form there were a number of coordinations to learn, these were boxing based and kept shifting. The idea is to develop the ability to learn and adapt quickly. In real life conditions constantly change, and it is the ability to adapt to these changes that determine the level at which you will perform.
The pedagogy here was deliberately vague. The learning was not from the movements themselves but the ability to decode them from confusing demos, and from there the choice of strategies to practice and improve faced with difficulty.
After lunch we played with balls on strings, with a whole lot of new (to me) games and then shifted quickly into fine motricity practice. The motricity practice consisted of balancing tiny wooden blocks on each other and moving them with closed eyes. It was tricky, and demanded a deep focus of attention. I really enjoyed the silence interrupted by the music of the blocks falling around me and the occasional muffled cursing.
We also worked on an interesting exercise in strength, creativity and coordinated flow on all fours.
The last section of the day was a talk with Pavel, a mental coach who works in the usual life coaching milieu of business, but also works in the military where he helps people to recover after difficult events. Pavel explained a model of how he works, illustrated with stories and examples and underlining the theme of noticing what is happening, taking a broad perspective and choosing to act with precision in areas of greatest leverage.
This section felt the least integrated to me. Pavel was not strongly present in group through the day, unlike Lubo (Lubo is a Slovak special services operator – more about him in the last review) who constantly helped out with equipment, teaching tips and smilies skills. Jozef did explain that mental coaching is a subject deserved more time and attention. I also agree that what Pavel presented is solid life changing strategy – if applied.
I’m speculating here but I suspect Pavel plays an invisible role – observing the seminar and feeding back his perspectives to Jozef and Linda, and that the fruits of this feedback will be born over a longer time frame than I was there to watch.
The second day followed essentially the same structure as the first, just with a variation of of exercises. One difference was after lunch we had an exercise with Lubo using ropes to work on perception and communication.
There you go, the anatomy of the Anatomy of Events – you read it, but you did not do it.
A difference from last time were the attendees. This time they were more diverse, with a lower percentage of ‘one arm chin up but no rhythm’ compared to last time. Also Linda was there too and a number of experienced students of theirs which made for some great demos of exercises.
I could write more about the things that I learned and the experiences I had, but they are personal, I’m not sure they’d be helpful and I do not want to set anyone up for expectations or give away any answers that they would have to struggle for (and learn through that struggle).
How can you learn and progress, how can you choose what to pursue in a culture where information is so freel available was a theme of the workshop. As such if I attempt to summarise learnings then I’d contradict the point of it for future attendees.
Another underlying theme of Fighting Monkey which runs through their workshops is how to improve athletic performance and potential. They have a specific methodology for this that combines the form practise with a variety of games and tools (or toys!). I think of it as as similar in some ways to Rafe and Evolve, Move, Play. Rafe also uses plenty of partner games, but puts more emphasis on the the variability provided by moving in nature over the use of tools. The importance of both is that they put diverse demands to adapt and move in different ways.
Now to answer the question of whether it did what was advertised I’ll say that for me, yes. I think it’s still a work in progress but a weekend of games and movement in such great company would be time well spent in any case.
So thanks to Olivier for the organisation and the space and the food and… Also it was good to meet and play with familiar faces and meet new ones. Thanks also to Mairtin who was a fine host. He’s responsible for what I’m leaving you with – the moment when Saitama, the invincible One Punch man reveals his secret training regimen to his disciple Genos.
Perhaps it’s not the exercises you do, but the attention and intention with which you do them that makes the greatest differences.