The #Movement Movement
"Movement," it seems, is an intentionally generic word and also a blank canvas. Here we share a break down of our Movement class. What is it? What can you expect in a Movement class? Why train Movement?
One quick insta search for #Movement reveals many layers and textures of skills, drills, and exercises with roots in disciplines from circus arts to parkour to calisthenics. You'll find photos and vids of people in crossfit boxes, dance studios, and parks that all self-identify as "movers." Some are engaged in official programs with big names like, Movement Culture, Bamboo Body, Fighting Monkey, Movnat, etc. Many are feeding off of each other's postings in an echo-chamber of innovation, sharing their own improvisations, personal and home training programs, and play time antics on social media to establish a world wide Movement community. Either way, there seems to be a push away from identifying with more specific titles and instead, using the label, "#Mover." "Movement," it seems, is an intentionally generic word; a blank canvas, which can be freeing, inclusive, and evolving for practitioners and instructors, and also confusing and elusive for new-comers.
What is Movement?
When we look across the spectrum of athletic and performance programs in which we are interested - gymnastics, parkour, acroyoga, yoga, dance, pilates, martial arts, sports, contact improv, etc. - we see certain drills and exercises they share in common. There are some basic patterns that are helpful to know, basic techniques useful for performing proficiently. In other classes and practices these basic patterns and techniques are not the goal nor the "meat" of the class, but they frequently pop up in the warm ups, strength and conditioning, or mobility/flexibility portions. In Movement class, these basic patterns from various disciplines are the focus.
Squat: Lifting heavy weight? Landing precision jumps? Moving from floor to air in a dance sequence? Deepening our utkatasana (chair pose)? Aside from the benefits to the digestive system (!), a and a staple of our Movement class.
Roll: Sometimes the roll is the goal, as in a tumbling sequence. Sometimes a proficient roll is a tool we use to evade an opponent, avoid injury, or fall safely. I didn't really learn to roll well until I began training in acroyoga, where learning to roll out of a fall gave me the confidence and self-reliance to try higher level skills without injury. Rolls that work on control and technique as well as more dynamic falling rolls and even rolling with a partner all make it into our Movement class.
Reaction time: The ball is thrown and a player reacts; the trampoline pushes upward and the tumbler reacts; the music comes on and a dancer reacts; one partner moves and the opponent reacts... Reaction to an outside influence is so foundational we almost can't move without training it! In our Movement class, we train reaction time as a stand alone element, without a further motivation.
And that is basically the litmus test for what makes it onto our Movement class syllabus:
Is this an element that is
foundational to movement in general and
can we train it as a stand alone element without the need for a further "use?"
What can you expect from a Movement class?
You can definitely expect variety! The background of the instructor will have a huge impact on the kinds of activities in his or her Movement class. While most Movement instructors are interested in pushing themselves and experimenting, it stands to reason that an instructor with a background in a strength-based movement style, like olympic lifting, will include more strength elements, while a leader who comes with a coordination-based background, like pilates, will have more coordination drills in his or her bag of tricks. Some basic categories of elements could include:
locomotion drills, like quadri-pedaling, diving, and sliding
reaction drills that test your reactivity to an outside stimulus
chaos games that ask you move in unpredictable patterns
partner games based on cooperation
partner games based on combat, like rough-housing
handstands and other hand balances
floorwork, like rolling, squatting, and lunging
mobility exercises that ask you to move your spine and joints in unfamiliar patterns
coordination drills that require multiple foci and create new neuromuscular pathways
manipulating objects, like small balls, yoga blocks, or sticks
interacting with equipment like gymnastic rings, pull up bars, or large boxes
moving across diverse surfaces
swinging, hanging, and climbing
tempo drills that explore the relationship between movement and time
flows that combine diverse elements into sequences and challenge memory
creative assignments that ask you to synthesize isolated elements
And so much more! This is obviously not an exhaustive list, as Movement instructors and Movers are constantly evolving.
Why train Movement?
If you are someone who likes variety, a Movement class may be a great fit, especially if you have access to several different instructors. As we've already discussed, because each instructor will see different foundational elements as essential, you can expect a wide range of diverse patterns and techniques. Longevity and sustainability of practice are also benefits of variety in training because we avoid overuse injury, boredom, burnout.
Because Movement class is focused on the foundational elements across many disciplines, it can be a good fit for you who don't specialize. For example, we may go climbing one weekend and attend an acroyoga festival the next weekend, so a Movement class in the middle of the week helps us prepare for one while recovering from the other by alternating between pushing and pulling strength. Our interests are varied, so we want to be capable in many directions. And while we don't have time to in train in all of our interests every week, we do have time to attend a few Movement classes.
We also like to take advantage of new experiences and opportunities. When we are traveling, we try to find classes or workshops along the way. And while we usually don't know the local instructor and may have never tried the local style, we can be confident in our self-assessment and self-reliance because we know we have training in fundamentals that translate into many different styles. So, train Movement if you like to be ready for anything that comes your way.
If words like, "pure, unadulterated, simple, natural, primal" appeal to your sensibility, you may be a good fit for the community around Movement. Every discipline has its own community and is an embodied expression of a philosophy. If you are someone for whom the communities around isolated disciplines are not a good fit, maybe you find that the community around Movement speaks more to your personality.
Lastly, as adults, it can be intimidating to try new things. Adult beginners can have a hard time with the sharp learning curve and vulnerability of attempting a new way of training. So it may be nice to hear that most people in Movement classes are adult beginners. The very nature of Movement, with its zen-like focus on foundational techniques and its "Movement for Movement's sake" philosophy, mean that it appeals to a more mature audience. Classes are generally made up of a disparate but supportive group of accepting, sensitive, and community-minded participants.
Whether you are looking for your next training opportunity after a long career in BJJ, seeking a dynamic counterpoint to your existing yoga practice, or in need of some fun and variety after a long day at the desk, a Movement class could be for you.
Have you tried a Movement class? Share your experience.
What kinds of exercises and drills did you practice?
How would you define, "Movement?"
What benefits do you see of including Movement training in your own physical diet?
Leave us a comment below or reach out to us at TrainMovePlay@gmail.com to keep the conversation rolling.