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Lessons for Better Movement (and better living) via Ido Portal’s Movement Camp, Singapore, 2013
The day I stumbled into Ido Portal’s work was a big day for me. I felt as though someone was giving me permission to move my body again, which sounds CRAZY considering I have dedicated most of my life to movement! But the sad truth is that after years of training others, I found myself becoming more and more specialized in my approach to movement, which had me expressing myself within tighter parameters and becoming less of the movement artist I know myself to be.
Portal’s work speaks directly to my insatiable desire to explore movement and physical possibility. He has literally created a “movement” that invites people everywhere to heighten their own capacity for movement artistry.
His message GREATLY summarized is this: the human body was clearly designed to move. A LOT. It has the ability to build, bend, flow, explode, dance, climb, invert and so much more. To be truly healthy and vibrant, we need to give attention to all of these abilities regularly so we can PLAY full out on the field of life and be prepared, to the best of our ability, for whatever comes.
When the opportunity knocked to take part in Portal’s Movement Camp in Singapore, I couldn’t refuse. It felt like the most natural and necessary thing in the world to travel across the globe to expand, explore and create more movement possibility for myself.
I did not participate under false assumptions. I knew it is going to be hard. Really freaking hard! And there would be a lot of things that I wouldn’t be able to do well. Olympic rings, martial arts, and acrobatics were NOT a part of my training before I arrived at camp. but I was game to try anything because I have such deep respect for Portal and the results he produces in those who train under him.
I expected to be one of the least talented artists in the room and that is PRECISELY why I choose to go. I didn’t participate to validate what I could do, but to rise up and meet the challenge of what I couldn’t do….yet!
I have long had a love affair with movement because I know I will never arrive at the end of possibility with it and, rather than intimidate or defuse me, that fact, excites me to no end. Movement offers so much to step into and that keeps my life intoxicating and moving upward.
The camp did not disappoint. It exceeded every expectation I had. I was challenged, inspired, destroyed, and partially rebuilt (I still have a massive amount building to do). It was an experience I will never forget and one that has up-leveled me in so many ways.
Portal and his team have a gift for weaving the principals of better movement practice into lessons for better living. They infused the participants of the Movement Camp with more life over the course in 7 days and I am sure I am not the only one who walked away feeling more curious and excited about my own potential than ever before.
A few things I took away from my training with Portal and his team that I will not soon forget are:
#1 IT TAKES A VILLAGE
Ido isn’t just a movement artist, researcher and teacher, he is also a remarkable builder of community. His work and character have attracted a brilliant mix of movement artists of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities.
Much of the training we did in the Movement Camp involved working with a partner or a small group. Partners were used to challenge, support, critique, play, explore, fight and dance with. Not only was our movement vocabulary expanded by working with others in our training drills, but there was far more energy available to fuel the grit we needed to make it through the week.
There were countless moments that I felt invigorated and deeply inspired by people I was training with. Had I been training alone, I am pretty certain, there would have been a lot of moments of overwhelm and defeat.
The whole point of working hard at mastering skills is to incorporate them into play. And playing with others is a hell of a lot more fun than playing by yourself!
#2 REMOVE THE VICTIM NARRATIVE
Oh, the number of times I have listened to clients declare they couldn’t do something because they are “uncoordinated”! Portal made it clear that we feel uncoordinated when something is unfamiliar and outside the parameters of our fiercely protected comfort zone.
The solution? EDUCATION. Break the complexity down into more easily digestible parts and practice, practice, practice (or reps, reps, reps). Eventually integrate the smaller parts together and things start to flow. You start to dance with your bad self!
Saying you are uncoordinated is really just a victim narrative. Your not…you are just uneducated, and that can be resolved with the right mindset and a heavy dose of consistent hard work!
#3. BECOME ELASTIC STEEL
Grace. Flow. Ease. These are the qualities that often come up when we define “good movement” and they are the result of mastering both contraction and release, work and play, movement and stillness.
Flexibility without strength is useless. Strength without mobility is nothing. “Become elastic steel”, as Portal suggests, and the body is able to express itself through movement very, very well. Just check out the Portal team in action!
#4. SAFE CAN BE THE UNSAFEST THING TO DO
I came into the fitness world via dance. I danced because my body craved expression through movement…big, bold, unapologetic movement. When I entered the fitness arena, I learned how to move safer, and safer and safer…until one day, I felt like I wasn’t moving at all.
I see people every day in the gym and fitness studios training in linear, repetitive, seemingly SAFE ways but working with Portal has made me realize that our “fitness” culture seems to be creating more prisons than playgrounds when it comes to movement practice.
Careful, Portal reminded us repeatedly, “The quality of your movement will eventually carry over into the quality of your life.”
#5. BEWARE OF SIGNS OF INEFFICENCY
We were reminded time and time again that making noise (be it the feet landing loudly on the floor, heavy breathing, moaning or groaning) or making funny faces (specifically, the serial killer face) while moving, is a sign of inefficiency.
Repeatedly, I witnessed Portal and his team executing INSANELY difficult movements with ridiculous ease. They walk their talk in every way…they train difficult, inefficient patterns so they can be as efficient as possible when do they engage in play, perform their art, or have to respond to life’s unexpected.
If I touched on everything I learned, this article would never end. It was such a rich experience and one that deeply affected me as both a trainer and a mover.
I went to the Movement Camp thinking it was the trip of a lifetime, but now? I can’t wait to go back next year! In the mean time…I have a tremendous amount of work to do:)