Mar 24 2010

Sweden Summary

I’m on the train to the airport now. Just passed Norrköping. There’s been a lot of activity since my last post, so I’ll start with a brief summary.

We finished up with group two in a similar fashion to the first group: blade actions and scenework. On that Thursday and Friday, Brad, Peppe and I (sometimes with Maria) went through the Durer counters. Yeup, all 120 of them. We tried to watch a movie on Friday night but we were all too tired and went to bed around 9:30, if I remember correctly. Saturday and Sunday we did a workshop with (my apologies if my spelling is wrong!) Per, Anders, Simon, Hilde, Ulf, Ida and Maria. We covered much of the same material, though in not as much detail because we had 2 days not 3. Brad left on Monday, and I took a day of rest. I was suffering from what Peppe calls “Workshop Hangover”! I was in bed most of the morning, not sleeping, but curled up in a ball while my body rested. The afternoon and evening I watched “Vanity Fair”, and chatted with Peppe and Maria. Finally, on Tuesday (yesterday) there was more discussion (mostly ironing out details for my visit in the fall), a Feldenkrais session with Maria, packed my bags, and watched more “Vanity Fair” with pizza, beer and cheese.

Themes that keep popping up in this work is that listening is of the utmost importance. Even more than that is how you respond to what you’re hearing. There’s a podcast that has a take on what I’m point at. Here’s the link: So by “living in the space between the inhale and exhale” we can redirect ourselves from the knee-jerk reactions, and truly respond to the information we’re receiving. The first step, though, is still listening. I’m happy that now I can often catch myself when I’m not listening, and get myself back on track.

This state of always listening is, to me, a key to better fight scenes and actor safety. Hilde remarked that she has never felt so safe and so comfortable in a scene. That kind of attention on what is happening goes a long way to keeping you in the moment. And as actors learn to go with their instincts, actions, both physical and emotional, follow easily.

The two days of working on Durer helped to highlight the importance of looking at something with fresh eyes. While I’ve worked on many of those prints before through the Shenandoah Project, I was finding deeper layers in this most recent look at them because I didn’t look a them with the thought of “oh, I know what this one is” but instead applied the new knowledge from the previous work. With this sprit of “fresh eyes” and listening, I began to see more and more of my habitual patterns. It’s useful and incredibly important to be aware of those. You can choose to make use of habitual patterns, but I have experienced over the last two weeks that true growth happens and flexibility emerges when you become aware of the invisible framework that holds you in one place.

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Mar 16 2010

Day Two, Group Two

Just a quick one tonight. Need to get to bed.

Great day today. Lots of revelations (although, that seems to be par for the course these days. Awesome), the biggest one being that I had fantastic use of energy. I was so efficient and present, I was jumping so high and felt like I could have danced a 3 hour ballet. During the class, I feel like I used structure over strength 95% of the time.

Over the last several days, I’ve been identifying what are difficulties for me when working pressa. The most troublesome has been base, but with some diligent observation and discovering a process, I’ve been able to make great strides in that area. Not solved, but learning is good! This was so successful, I have been making lists for looking at pressa in general. This way when I’m working this stuff at home (Christian, Scotty, Sarah, I’m looking at you!) I have a checklist to help us when things don’t seem to be working. I’m actually very excited about Brad’s “homework” — looking at many of the 600 images and working with them. I think it’s possible now. Before, I had my doubts whether I could make any sense of them.

Something rather fun for me this time around was finally discovering what it was like to do this stuff on someone my own size! So often I’m fighting people bigger than me, so there are certain leverage issues that don’t come in to play, AND my belly and ankles are rarely used as leverage points. Tall people usually go for my shoulders, knees, thighs and hips. Fighting people my own size or a little smaller, I was suddenly thrown these little curveballs. Not only do different leverage points come in to play against me, but pressa that usually work without effort on other people were really difficult. Pressa 4 is usually no problem, but I had to use slightly different mechanics on a smaller body. I realized that I wasn’t conscious of a certain leverage point that is so easy to get from a smaller person to a larger person. Just goes to show that a variety of fight partners can significantly increase your ability, as it shows you habitual patterns and subtleties that you were previously unaware of.

And Oula, I’m stealing some of your warm-up. That was awesome stuff today, mostly your use of spotting practice and partner work. Loved it!

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Mar 16 2010

Quote of the Day

With all our talk about practicing mindfully, I was reminded of this that I heard through Jared Kirby:

“Practice doesn’t make perfect, only permanent. Perfect practice makes perfect”

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Mar 15 2010

Day One with Åsi, HIlde, Tarmo and Oula (Group Two)

It’s really fascinating to listen to Brad and Peppe talk about how they thought the first session went and what they think they should do to improve how the second session is taught. During class then, I took a good look at what was different in how the material was presented. Brad moved the order around, used a few different images, and adjusted how much time was spent on each aspect. Part of this is, of course, a response to the students. They have different questions, connect immediately to different things, and communicate differently from other collections of people. This is a unique opportunity for me to see how the instructor adjusts the same lesson to a new set of people, and to observe all the adjustments. It’s a good reminder that we’re all in a learning process, always seeking to improve our art, our methods, our processes.

Before going in to the class, Brad reminded me to go in without assumptions and to see with new eyes. It’s so easy to think, “oh we just did this. I know what’s happening. There’s no more for me to learn here.” But with fresh eyes, we can discover information on a new level, improve our own working habits (after all, every time you do a scene, it should be like it’s new, or every time you fence, you have to respond to what’s given to you), foster growth, and be present to support a better working environment. And on a simply practical level, just because we’ve done this material recently, that doesn’t mean it’ll work that way in a new situation. Most importantly, we can never be SURE that we know something. In fact, being SURE that we know something is more like an indication that we’re missing something. There may very well be many many layers that we can’t see until we release ourselves from our expectations, and allow ourselves to see further in to it.

Which leads me to working on releasing into intent rather than Trying. Physically, it was most obvious in my grip. The goal is to use intent rather than force so that you are sensitive with your grip, and can be responsive. However, I was Trying so hard to hang on that some muscles in my hand are really sore tonight. Well, it’ll be a good reminder tomorrow when we work on that some more!

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