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A review of my MovNat experience, and applying MovNat principals in Aikido

by on August 22, 2012

Things have been busy recently. A short while after my trip to Galway I was out again, first for a 5-day MovNat workshop in West Virginia, and from there on to L.A. for Nationals put on by the TAA (Tomiki Aikido of the Americas). Not long afterwards I was on the road again to a farm in Canada to help a dear childhood friend prepare for a sham wedding (he and his partner had legally married last winter…) Long story short, I haven’t had time to post anything.

I’ve got a few ideas for posts percolating.

There are a few things from Nationals I’d like to talk about (the value of competition when done properly, some specific technical points, and a few bits from the seminars) but I’m waiting to get my hands on the footage from the videographers (they hired a service, so I didn’t bother to shoot any video myself).

Shane encouraged me to do more writing on the blog, and there is one topic that I could write thousands of words on relating to aikido and brain function. I’ve done a lot of thinking and reading on the subject over the past year and I have a number of thoughts I’d like to share at some point, but I want to finish a couple of books and crystallize my thoughts on the subject before I do.

There are also a few techniques we’ve done videos on that were definitely works in progress which need to be revisited (kotegaeshi and the 1st runaround kuzushiwaza in particular) but that is something that can’t be rushed.

So for now I’m going to briefly discuss my MovNat experience.

The first, and most important thing I will say about the MovNat workshop is that it was the most joyful fitness experience I have ever had. It felt like five days of playtime. I’m grinning now just thinking about it.

A big shout out to Kellen, Justin, Jason, and Ryan for leading us, and to all the other participants for sharing in the good times. We even ended up getting to spend a little time with Erwan, the man who started it all.

Again: Most joyful fitness experience ever. Wow.

The food was also amazing. It was the first time since 2003 that I’ve been able to eat the standard fare with a group. (I began experimenting with diet at age 20 when I developed digestive problems). The meals were all paleo, and most of the participants were either already paleo or paleo-curious. (For the paleo-curious out there, I have been planning to start another blog on diet and lifestyle modifications at www.reanderthal.com (but don’t hold your breath…).)

This was the first time I had hung out with a group of paleo folks in the real world, and it was great to geek out about barefoot shoes, intermittent fasting, saturated fats, etc…

I was a little disappointed about a few things. For one, I wish that the workshop could have been more rigorous, both physically and intellectually.

I managed to blister my hands bloody and tweak an intercostal muscle doggedly trying to get the “elbow popup”, and I rubbed one shoulder raw shouldering heavy logs, but I always had a lot of gas left in the tank when the sessions ended. As someone who had a lot of unstructured playtime in the woods growing up, I also felt comfortable with most of the motions. I wish they had worked us harder and longer on more difficult motions.

I had heard that the workshops would include lectures in the evenings, and perhaps there were lectures at various points, but they were neither technical nor mind-blowing enough to sate me.

That said, there were definitely a few ideas which caught my attention. One set of principles in particular applies very well to aikido.

In the MovNat system there are 10 essential principles of motions. MovNat motions should be: evolutionary, instinctual, universal, practical, vital, unspecialized, efficient, adaptive, cooperative, and environmental.

10 MovNat Principles

I would argue that much of Aikido is not instinctual or practical. Some techniques, suwariwaza in particular, are quite specialized as well. However, Aikido and MovNat share an important focus when it comes to efficiency.

According to the MovNat system, there are three pillars of efficient motion. These should sound familiar to every aikidoka.

The foundation of efficient motion is posture and breathing. In general, your spine should be straight and your shoulders back. (Though this is slightly different from stereotypical “good posture” which would have you puff out your chest.) Breathing with your diaphragm will help you to be relaxed and comfortable.

The next part of efficient motion is the play between tension and relaxation. Generally, people are too tense, especially when learning a new motion. Unnecessary tension wastes energy and is inefficient. However, a certain small amount of tension is necessary even to remain standing. Figure out what tension you need and relax EVERYTHING else as much as you can.

The last part of efficient motion is sequence and timing. The correct motions are nothing without the right sequence and timing. However, it is important not to focus or stress on sequence and timing until you have mastered posture and tension/relaxation. Skipping to sequence and timing too soon risks imprinting bad habits, something I’ve done with more than one technique.

The next time you’re struggling with a technique try asking yourself about these three elements.

Apropos of nothing: I (re)learned a new word the other week from a new facebook friend: tensegrity. Learning the word was simple, but it’s a big concept and there’s a lot to digest. More to come perhaps?

Now it’s high time for me to shift my focus to one of the key elements of a healthy lifestyle: proper sleep.

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