‘Movement’ is a word that we have had for a long time, but in recent times, it has taken on somewhat of a new meaning. A meaning that encapsulates a way of training, a lifestyle, and an attitude towards the way that we move on a day to day basis as people. Of course, we have been ‘moving’ since the day that we were conceived, so it might seem ridiculous to now be using the term ‘movement’ as a specific type of training, or a particular outlook, but there is more to ‘movement’ than just making your way from A to B. The popularity use of ‘movement’ today can probably be largely attributed to Ido Portal, his work in the area, and his team. This article is my own interpretation of the word, the concept, and the meanings that it has for me.
The origin of the term
The current use of the term movement encapsulates a lot more that just ‘training’, but as a starting point, lets look at the term as a particular method of training. This allows us to compare it to other modes of training that you might be familiar with already. Kelltebell training, power lifting, Olympic lifting, the strength and conditioning perspective, bodyweight training, gymnastics training, circuit training, etc. As a concept, ‘movement’ is a broader, less specialized term, that could include any of the aforementioned modes of training, if they are applied in the right way. For me as a training method, ‘movement’ encapsulates a combination of training methods, that are applied with certain principles in mind, and based on my own experience, here are some of the principles that I apply to my own movement training.
The Cognitive Element
Movement training involves an element of cognition, and mental processing that is not really found with simple barbell training, and similar modes. Certain elements of movement training require you to ‘figure it out’, and involve a certain amount of randomness that will probably mean that you will not do it the same way more than once. As an example, at Ido Portal’s Movement Camp in Thailand (which I attended), one simple exercise was to locomote (crawl) to the other side of the room, in as little moves as possible, by only moving one limb at a time. Nobody did it the same way twice, because we were all ‘working it out’, and finding a better way to get to the other side of the room with every move. A similar cognitive element is at play when working with a partner (more on this later), but the point is that exercises that provide a certain amount of randomness, and potential for exploration gives a mental stimulus that is a rarity in modern ‘exercise’.
The Skill Element
On a similar note, movement training involves skill, not simply force. No one starts out being able to do everything. Getting involved in movement is an investment to consistently improve by a little but each time you attempt a certain skill. In this regard, if you play a sport that involves the learning of a skill set (i.e. hurling, tennis, football, rugby, archery etc), or play music, you will understand the concept of starting of being rubbish at something , and building slowly towards a level of proficiency. Muscle ups, handstands, and balance work are skills that require practice and refinement as opposed to the development of brute force. You notice a skill when it looks graceful, or somebody who is not bulging with muscle elicits strength in a way that you may have otherwise was the domain of the meat head. In the modern ‘fitness industry’, the skill element is all but dead. We live in a world bound by machine-laden-money-making-factory-like buildings we call gyms. These places (in my own humble opinion), have taken the skill out of the game to allow for a greater volume of people, a lower requirement of expertise, coaching, and supervision, by filling their facilities with one dimensional, low challenge, low risk, low fun, equipment, that turns the user into a robot-like hamster-wheel human that is simply there to mindlessly push some arbitrary machine on a hinge in and out until they feel like they have accomplished enough bodily pain to make them stop, or until their mobile rings and they have to go and hang out at the water cooler for a brief period.
The Fun Element
The skill is gone, the challenge is gone, and with that, the fun goes out in smoke. When is the last time you had actual FUN in a gym? Apart from that time you seen someone’s towel fall on a treadmill while they were running on it and they did a treble summersault and face-planted on the rubber belt before being shot backwards into the middle of the gym floor? Have you ever replicated the feeling of fun that you have when you are just out in the sun shooting the breeze with your friends, or messing around with friends out on the street playing some made-up game? Fun and play no longer exist in physical traditional training. Refer back to the fitness world mentality of get more people in the door, provide less expertise, less challenge, and less risk. Us humans are made to co-operate, and creatively solve problems together. Its how we survived the last couple for million years, no big deal. These days, we seldom play, seldom create, and seldom have any physical contact for the sake of playing a game of one kind or another. Taking such vital evolutionary elements out of our lives creates an inward un-ease that you might not even be aware off until you start the game again! With no play, no fun, and no cooperation, your primitive body things that there is something majorly wrong, and that your survival is bring threatened, and this can manifest as stress and all the accompanying symptoms. For more on this topic, check out the book ‘Finite and Infinite Games’
The Strength Element
Now before, you start running around naked with a long blue ribbon tied to your head in the name of ‘movement’ we need to get serious about strength training. Movement training is not some airy-fairy activity that is solely the preserve of mountain dwelling hippies. Those who call themselves ‘movers’ are capable of feats of strength, balance, and mobility that would make even the most dedicated of gym goers into the category of ‘weaker than a tumbleweed’. I know, because I was that soldier. At different stages of the last ten years, I thought I was strong. Then I entered the movement mindset. I was not strong. At the Movement Camp, rights of passage include free-standing handstands, skin the cat, muscle ups, one handed handstands, the QDR, chin to toe, pistol squat with your not standing leg behind the squatting leg, and a whole host of other moves. Each on like the gatekeeper to the next level of proficiency, and the results of hours of consistent work. Being a mover, and training movement is not the training equivalent of dancing around with a room full of butterflies. It involves build real strength and proficiency to bring your body to a level of physical ability that you will never reach with the monotone exercise that dominates your newspaper, magazine, internet, and commercial gym.
The Quality Element
As I mentioned, ‘movement’ isn’t about simply getting from A to B, with no regards as to how you get there. The mentality isn’t, ‘run over there as fast as you can‘, ‘do as many as you can in a minute‘, ‘lift as much as you can in one go‘. All of these tasks are generally devoid of real quality, because the importance of the outcome overrides the journey of getting there. Unfortunately, this does not tie in well with the constitution of a human body. Consistently poor, low quality movement will yield in injury. In fact, poorly selected exercises, done with poorly executed technique is most certainly wearing you down day by day, until the imminent injury occurs. The focus of QUALITY in movement means that it has the opposite effect. Instead of moving you closer and closer to an injury, it is building your resistance to injury, making you more resilient, and a stronger person.
Is it a return to a lost way?
In many ways, the new wave of ‘movement’ is not new at all. In fact, none of it is new. But it is the bringing together of many elements of physical movement, cooperation, game playing, human preparation, recreation, and challenge that we have all but lost due to the perceived desirability of speedy results, ‘commercial fitness’, and our crowded and busy lifestyles. When you start to get involved in movement training, you will find that the stress caused by ‘needing’ results like yesterday will fade away. You will be invested in the journey, not the end result. Ironically, embracing the journey instead of fretting on the result will yield more progress, less stress, lots more fun and enjoyment, a greater sense of fulfillment, and better results.
Movement means different things to different people. The above are simply a few of the things that stick out for me. You can easily start your own movement journey, explore what you have lost, and build a practice that will give you great satisfaction, results, and fulfillment.