I am your Dancing Monkey
I have detractors. Weird, right? One of them pops up on my Facebook posts on occasion, especially if anything in the discussion seems to, even vaguely, point any finger at his favorite training protocol as something that could be done better. The philosophical banter would be fun, if there was some. But instead the formula follows the I post/he reacts/I elaborate/he disappears model.
But once in a while the post isn’t word driven. It might be a simple video of part of a workout of mine, although these are relatively rare. I’ve done the DVDs and the online show and the how-to vids and the downloadable stuff (which, of course, you should watch). But it is relatively rare to see a quick, basic, today-I-did-this video of mine enter the internet-o-sphere. Fear not. Everyone else seems to be making a lot of them, and probably better than I can. So you’ll still get your fix. But there is another reason they don’t often flow from my practice into the public…
Immediately after I post a snippet video of the aforementioned ilk, the response from said detractor is often “YES! That’s what I love about what you do. Show us more of that!” And strangely, I feel a little icky afterwards.
In this nouveau fitness culture of play and flow, being labeled a dancing monkey would seem complimentary. Even ideal. But the term is pejorative, portraying the concept of obedient servant. And that comment on my post may as well have read ‘dance, monkey, dance.’
I ramble. My pie hole may not be impressive in size or power (like most of me), but in volume, there is a tenacity to it’s ability to wax diatribally (which my spell check says isn’t a word, but it also has a problem with ‘deadlift,’ so what does it know?).
Occasionally there might be something of interest that I do beyond the ranting, usually something movement-based, and suddenly everyone pays attention. The words – the persistent struggle to define our journey, the mining of the metaphysical in a mire of strictly physical (and usually superficial), the questioning of cliches and our relationship to our own ideas (or the lack of them) – these are both the bane and the boon of my passion for this movement and strength stuff, as I’d hate to be tapped on the arm by the reaper and reply ‘wait, I’m not done with this set.’ Then, as he tugs on my sleeve with vehemence, I insipidly realize I wasted huge chunks of my life in the gym instead of using the gym as a tool to actually get OUT of he gym.
So the brain and body jig with the heart in a perpetual meringue of contemplating a little meaning to it all. Perhaps this comes across as crass, when there might be notice of something that doesn’t seem to be meriting the amount of processing in the ol’ noggin that it should, and I happen to call it out. Dogmas get frazzled.
But once in a while, there is the honor of being a conduit for potential. When a door is kicked down by my size 42 Feiyues, every now and then I’m joined by a few other pairs of eyes to explore what’s beyond it. It’s a spiritual joy when I see my own words in a post or a meme (often anonymously quoted, but so what?) put out into the universe (well… interwebular galaxy) by someone I might barely know beyond a ‘like’ or two on Facebook.
And sometimes it cultivates into something a little magical. Maybe a small workshop tour comes together from a few folks who have taken to kicking down similar doors, or at least being there when my heel did the work. My path then connects with a host of other seekers, teaching, and of course learning, all headed to the the top of the same proverbial mountain.
But I’m often reminded that information exchange in this industry of exercise is often less cognitive and far more corporeal. Which, initially, makes sense, but then there lies the major fallacy of this industrial complex.
This industry teaches exercise, but has a hard time exploring movement.
I write and rant and enter a handful of dialogs about movement or exercise as a needed outlet for the non-corporeal part of my hylomorphic self. In other words, I feel we gotta talk this shit out, because there are a big bunch of folks who are lacking purpose in their exercise, and an even bigger bunch who aren’t moving at all. I crave purpose, always attempting to answer the perpetual question: Am I useful?
And there seems to be a giant sucking sound where this sort of banter ought to exist. There is chatter, there is noise, but very little of it moves beyond the Me, Me, look at Me selfie culture. We’re so busy talking about how great we are at working out, we forgot how meaningless that workout probably is in big-picture, wide-angle lens format. You’ve got this amazing program that you bought into… so what?
Point being, I find the philosophy of movement often more important than the demonstration of it, simply because everyone is already talking about the What and the How. What to do and How to do it fills every youtube channel, every magazine, every nook and cranny of the fitness world’s social media. But shit… question the purpose and sometimes hell breaks loose. WHY simply isn’t the thing people wanna talk about.
But no matter how badly we need to be asking Why, we still suffer from Dancing Monkey Syndrome. Most people will suffer my ranting with polite nods, or they’ll get frisky in their disagreement until they run out of steam, but post a video of a groovy little movement creation and the Dancing Monkey Syndrome kicks in. I’ve been brought to gyms in the past so they could simply steal whatever cool new moves I happened to show them, while they gently tolerated my words. I was their dancing monkey. I get it… that’s what we do. Teach exercise. Look at the dancing monkey… then replicate it.
But there is our failure, or at least my lack of understanding. I’m not a particularly skilled athlete, but in most workshops I impart a great deal of new movement ideas to the participants. I’m grateful for this privilege, but I have a caveat. Next time I come through, show me what you’ve done with this information. The movement ideas are simply an expression of my philosophy of exploration and play, how strength in action should look. So when I’m surrounded by a room full of people who can out-workout me, my hope is that I’m offering the artist’s rendering of what the purpose of working out is… the foundation of building skills. I’ll demonstrate what these skills in action might look like, and I’ll talk in length about why a workout is meaningless unless there is a point to it. I’ll look on the surrounding white boards and see all the times and weights posted by members of that gym, and usually rank myself in the bottom half of what I see. And then I show you where your strength might go, what it might look like in action.
I’m not a dancing monkey showing you the newest trick. I’m showing you a philosophy of strength as action. Steal the moves if ya’d like… they weren’t mine to begin with. But what is your journey? I walked many paths, always to bring back the fruits to my own freshly trod quest. You can simply mimic me, or any of the videos from whatever movement mentor you’ve chosen to emulate. But then who is the dancing monkey?