From the Mind of an Archer #2

Happy New Year and Reflections - January 2020

I recently noticed that my intention towards risk-taking changed over time.

While this is a natural tendency of a practitioner getting older, I do believe that risk-taking is a quality that shouldn't be abandoned entirely with age. The application which I am referring to is obviously physical and mostly points towards the world of dance and acrobatics, but the reflection of other aspects of life is inevitable.

I believe that adapting to instability is the only structured idea that can somehow resemble adaptation to chaos.

Taking bio-mechanical risks could mean adding an element of instability or uncertainty. A coordination which was never tried before is an excellent way to experience instability, the addition of the possibility of loss in the face of this instability is what I would call a risk. Of course this is subjective, someone might experience this idea in a forward roll or kicking up into a handstand and another in a complicated jump with 3 kicks and a flip.

The physical and concrete risk reveals a lesson which reflects on our internal world.

In that sense meditating on how age changes our approach to physical risks is an exciting topic for me and maybe relevant in a moment of changing from 2019 to 2020.

Personally, the beginning of a new year is a typical period of reflecting on past events and making wishful plans for what will come next, clear relevance for our topic.

10 Years ago, I usually practised a particular flip to perfect its technique and feel natural with it. This phase was critical and fundamental in understanding how to break down my progress towards achieving what was before un-achievable.

For example, if I wanted to do a 'cork’, which is a backflip from one leg with a full twist, I had to make sure that my one-legged backflip was high enough and that my shoulders were sufficiently relaxed so I could swing my arms into the twist. If I didn’t take care of those details, I probably would have compromised the ligaments of my knee in the landing.

So for me, the benefit of improving my craft was worthy of the risk because the framework (height and swing) allowed enough margin for error.

How to continue moving forward with a benefit that was larger than the risk was strongly connected to understanding the trajectory of my progress. So back then, the research and practice of the cork had an essential connection to the vision of a double cork (a backflip with two twists).

This way of studying progression created a systematic approach towards the expansion of my knowledge. It was also directly related to my choices of risks with the benefit of improved craftsmanship.

But with time, priorities change.

Nowadays, because I observe that this systematic approach has already been established within me and in the way I transmit information, it is not always beneficial to take risks aimed towards expanding knowledge.

Risks are certainly still playing an important role in my movement, though in a different way. Somewhat naturally and somewhat consciously, risks have drifted towards other aspects: sensation, emotion, and creativity.

I now feel that twisting in the air improves my sense of axis and my sense of centre. So the more I twist, the more the centre of my body and my vertical axis become clear. This is teaching me a different benefit. It is progress in my ability to experience the movement rather than a benefit in the knowledge of 'how to go further'. Take a moment to re-read the last sentence ;)

Similarly to the expansion of knowledge, this clarity of experience appeared through the practice of instability. Which, in our example, means twisting in unfamiliar ways. But since the benefit is different, the style of risk also become slightly different. In this case twisting in unusual ways can be based on different perspectives and on discoveries that were already 'made.' How so? Consider new entrances and exits from the move in this example, the cork, in which the ligaments of the knee wouldn't need to strengthen and adapt to more rotational force like they would need for a double cork. Simply stepping in a different direction or landing the move on the opposite leg will create a similar amount of force. But it will also create a fair amount of instability because of the different perspectives and angles that the body has to move through.

The same amount of force but more insights...

While this realization can seem banal from outside, it has been an artistic treasure for me. Maintaining the risk in things that I thought were familiar rather than just making steps towards expansion became a practice of creativity.

It is a way of not losing something primal while adapting it to the necessities of a long-time pursuit. And personally, I plan that this pursuit will keep on happening for many more years to come.

I wish you all expansion, risk-taking, self-learning, and creativity in this upcoming year. I also wish you a fair amount of instability in your practice and hope that you will enjoy and learn from the process of maintaining it just as much as I do.

Happy new year,

Tom and the Movement Archery team.