2009 seemed to last 18 months or more, slowly moving on, squeezing each and every last drop out of the year. But now all of a sudden we're almost 3 months through 2010 and I'm wondering where it went, along with the last 27 years.
October brought with it the rain and the cold, and saw me wearing shoes once again. The summer, much like the rest of life is a blur to me. I recall training with my rings then going to bathe in the nearby river, and spending hours, and also many subsequent shoelaces and bits of string attempting to make fire with a bow drill. And if the warm Finnish weather hadn’t lasted long enough we spent a week in Spain at the very beginning of September. It’s always surprising how much of an effect the weather can have on your mood and motivation. And also how even people in much warmer climates appear to be intolerant of the shirtless and shoeless.
2009 was a period of active rest, and time spent exploring new avenues in both unfamiliar and familiar environments.
I returned to England in the middle of November to look for a job, a career, or some direction in life to focus upon. Shortly afterwards I came across an advert for a job that really spoke to me. I felt good when reading it as I imagined myself in the position, getting paid to do something that I was interested in, to become a personal trainer and to finally give back some of what I have learnt over the years.
The course I was originally interviewed for and accepted onto turned out to be more money than what I wanted to pay, but I searched some more and found an even better sounding course which was half the price. I began in January and spent 6 challenging weeks on the intensive course. I had to spend a total of about 4 hours travelling every day, and with homework and revision to do I didn’t have time for much else. Initially I kept up my own training for the first week or so, and would fit it in as soon as I got home, but later decided to take it as an opportunity to rest.
The whole experience was quite strange to me as I had never really trained or been in a gym like this before, and I found that quite soon I was having to teach and be tested on things that I had very little experience in. Much of what I did was out of my comfort zone and I felt at times that I was having to become someone that I believed I wasn’t. The first weeks were bumpy as I was outspoken in my disagreements with the tutors and others on the course, but I decided that it was more beneficial for me to go along with the flow, even if I didn’t agree with it. Ultimately I passed the course by ticking the relevant boxes, and learned a few things on the way, without wasting all my energy trying to get people to see eye to eye with me.
Spending 6 weeks in a working gym environment around people who seemed unaware of parkour , its ideology and the methods that surround it, which appear to be in many ways polar opposites, was an eye opener for me and allowed me to get a better perspective on things. Although the course was beneficial, it all seemed to amount to theory, as regardless of what you are taught, unless you spend weeks, months and years testing it out on yourself and other people, then you really have no idea of whether or not it is you are doing and teaching is actually working or not. I came away feeling that I had learned far more through my own research and practical application than what we were trying to cram in in the time given. But nevertheless, I earned my qualifications, and now I am able to use the population as my guinea pigs.
Another thing came out of me doing the course, and that was I realised that although I am passionate about teaching in its many forms, I am more passionate about learning, and my own progress. There are so many things that I want to do, learn and experience that I feel I can’t be tied down to any one particular job, or location. I am excited about the possibilities that the future holds, there is an infinite void that is ahead of me, and instead of it being daunting because of this uncertainty, I see a blank space into which I can put anything I want or am capable of dreaming up.
Besides procrastinating a lot, I have been writing and conjuring ideas in equal measure, while I once again figure out how to tackle the task of updating my blog. This post is a long time coming and is really in its second carnation, because as always I have experiences that inspire me to write, or at least to think, but I edit myself in my head, because although I want to be honest and upfront in my writing, I don’t want to just spew out negative trash. I could spend my few precious words talking about the various things that I might disagree with, wish to change or just outright hate about the world, but there are plenty of other people doing that in their daily lives, and I’d feel no better for doing the same. I’d consider myself an idealist, and as such I’d rather write about things that feel good, at least for the reader’s sake if not my own.
After finishing my course I travelled back to Finland at the very beginning of March, and then on to Madeira for a week before returning to Finland and then back to London again a week later. Having lived the last two and a half years in some sort of European limbo, journeying back and forth, I now find it difficult to remember which way to look when crossing the road, and where I have been the last few months, let alone any further back in time. Photography is perhaps the only way I might remember the lives I’ve lived.
When in Madeira we made our way down to the sea for the first time, and found ourselves in what looked like a scene from a post-apocalyptic film. The promenade had been washed away some time ago and the stony beach was strewn with large pieces of driftwood, various plastic items and more interestingly lots and lots of abandoned sandals, flip flops, shoes and rubber boots. A row of bent street lamps lead to the cliffs where a now closed off tunnel bore its way through the rock. I had the idea to collect all of the shoes that I could find, but it wasn’t until some days later that I actually returned to do so. At first I spent hours under the sun collecting every piece of footwear that I could find, picking through the stones with deliberation and purpose like a one man rescue and cleanup crew. The next step was to arrange everything on a section of the concrete walkway that was left, and atop a lone concrete pillar whose function was a mystery to me.
In my mind I wanted to create something that would intrigue anyone who happened to come to the beach. I like the idea of collecting and grouping lots of similar things together, and the effect that this has on the viewer. For example, a single cat may be cute and fluffy, but when you put a hundred of them in the same room and they are all climbing and running about over each other and everything in sight they seem to form some kind of larger entity that is no longer the same. It’s similar to seeing shoals of fish, or flocks of birds that move as an ever changing and fluid form that has no clear leader. Who is following who? Or are we all just following each other?
The pillar was too high and the sides were too flat to simply climb up, so I found a large heavy log from nearby that I was able to use to reach the top. After I was finished placing the shoes on top of the pillar I removed the log and placed it out of the way so that anyone who hadn’t seen me would wonder how they had gotten up there.
During my time on the beach my little project generated a lot of interest from people in the nearby hotels that were overlooking the sea, passersby and even some of the locals. The reason I began in the first place was simply because I wanted to take a photo or two, but it turned into a public installation that everyone else wanted to photograph too. I like to go to great lengths in order to take a photograph or to simply create something mysterious to leave behind for someone else to find. I like to do things that I would appreciate discovering or experiencing if someone else had done it and I was on the outside looking in. I think this feeling goes back to my childhood when I would see the graffiti on my walk to and from our local school. It was a mystery to me because it would turn up over night, these huge letters painted by people who had absolutely no face, age or background. They were literally unimaginable to me.
I’m fascinated by the act of doing things just for the sake of art, and the people that choose to leave parts of themselves behind in this way. I used to draw little sketches on the daily newspapers and then discard them on the train, imagining that someone might see them and maybe appreciate it more than the newsprint. I’ve also considered leaving writing and drawings in pages of library books for unsuspecting people to discover. I may have actually done it already, it’s just my memory isn’t always good when it comes to such things.
I’ve been contemplating producing drawings or paintings to sell, after being inspired by someone more business minded than myself, but I’m struggling with it. The thing is it takes over 10 hours at the very least for me to complete a single A4-sized sketch, and not only that, but I only draw when I feel like it, so it’s almost impossible for me to sit down and create a piece for the sake of selling it. I think the romantic notion of being an artist and selling your work just doesn’t apply to me and the way I operate. I’m very wary of getting into the domain where business and art meet as I think it’s all too easy for people to lose sight of their initial purpose, and instead end up being bound by the obligation to create for money. It gives rise to the question ‘is it possible to earn a living as an artist while still preserving your integrity and artistic vision?’ Maybe not for me, but it’s easy to get swept up in the enthusiasm that other people have for your work.
My mind has been on films a lot lately, although I haven’t purposefully shot anything in a long time. I still have a video from the summer of 2008 that I recorded and edited in one day, but being unhappy with the original edit I have so far failed to follow through with the subsequent attempts at re-editing. I think it’s something worth waiting for though, as the dancing and music are equally odd.
I’ve also been fleshing out other ideas and planning a structure for a feature length documentary that I would like to make someday. The focus of the documentary is how my friends and I came together through dance and flourished in our inability to conform, not only to the expectations of society, but also to the expectations of the subculture that we were at odds with. I’m also considering highlighting other artists that I know in order to shed light on the unseen lives of those who have been seemingly lost in the shuffle, or are just simply left behind.
I’ve been looking into making an application to the arts council for funding of this documentary, but I may just have to pay for everything myself. Either way the film will be made.
Lots of other ideas I have seem to be spilling out of my mind as I am holding back until I get a new camera that can do them justice. For this reason I feel a little stagnant, as I’m dying to breathe life into them and turn them from thoughts and words into images, before they fade out of existence. I think I may have to draw up storyboards and collect as much information as I can in order to keep the fire fuelled, then hopefully by the time I have a new camera there will be nothing left to do but hit record.
I’ve been really active in my job search since I got back from holiday, and I’m constantly having to assess and reassess what it is I want to do, not only for work, but for life. Looking for work has really highlighted the failure of the government and society as a whole to cater for the needs of the individual. Instead of the unemployed being rehabilitated so to speak, they are being driven towards jobs that once again, will not sustain them and their need for fulfilment, satisfaction and belonging. Sometimes I feel totally immersed in madness as I look around me. It is commonplace to find governments, organisations and individuals all hurrying around in their attempts to deal with the endless stream of symptoms, but when is it the root causes will be even looked at, let alone dealt with? Perhaps I am asking too much at this time.
So my job hunt has inspired me to find a cure, and the journey to discovering that cure is proving to be quite exciting so far. I have come to the realisation that as far as I am currently aware, there isn’t a single job out there that I want to do! This is because there are so many different areas in which I am interested that I don’t envision myself being tied down to any single role as yet. What I do want to do however, is to try out as many things as possible, and to learn and have fun in the process.
I’ve been writing a lot, making little notes here and there, in my writing pad, on scraps of paper and anything to hand. I find that being able to record my thoughts, ideas and inspirations as I have them has made me feel better if nothing else. I write out plans and questions to myself that I then have to answer. I think I find clarity in writing, and piece together my brief notes to use them as a map. All these ideas are like seeds scattered in between my possessions no matter where I live. They all need tending to if they are to grow, instead of lying dormant in the soil of my mind.
I find it easy to sit writing for hours when an idea feels good to me and one thing just flows out of another. As a young teenager I used to play a lot of computer games, maybe not any more than the rest of the people my age, but what I always had in mind were the improvements that could be made to games, as well as ideas for completely new games. I remember I had a folder full of ideas that I wrote, plots, themes, characters and just about anything you could think of. I would write a single word or two from top to bottom of the page for each idea, and then I would expand upon each one and continually branch out further and further, one idea leading to the next. I don’t remember what I thought at the time, whether I was thinking about showing them to anyone or not, but what I do remember was just being immersed in the ideas and the possibilities. I wasn’t thinking of the limitations of the software or hardware that was available 15 or so years ago, instead I was free to explore the potential of what could be, only limited by my imagination.
What I have been doing lately is similar to what I did during that time, only now I am using writing as a stepping stone towards turning these ideas into reality once they have been refined and the details have been worked out.
The power of connection and the internet is becoming more and more apparent to me as new ideas are born. We exist in a time where we are almost inescapably exposed to different ways of thinking, living and viewing the world. I think for many people this can be liberating as we are shown things that not only we thought were impossible, but many of them we hadn’t even imagined at all. If America was the land of opportunity, the internet is a whole universe of opportunity, as its ability to connect people of all different backgrounds and ages is unprecedented, and its size and potential are infinite. I believe that the internet is the manifestation of man’s desire to feel connected with everyone and everything around him.
Recently I have been trampolining twice, and hope to go weekly if my budget allows. Having had less than optimal flexibility in my upper body it has become clear that in order for me to best learn tumbling and a whole host of other gymnastics skills, I would first need to get my posture and flexibility in order. I have found that trampolining allows me to mainly bypass this issue and so I get to train and have fun doing flips and learning good technique. For the short time that I have been trampolining I had the feeling that this is something I could really spend many long hours practicing and perhaps get really good at. I think my training in other areas really helps, and there are many skills that cross over from one physical activity to another. Earlier this year while I was in Finland I went out ice skating during a particularly cold period. Now, I have been ice skating less than 10 times in total, whereas most people in the north of Europe are actually born straight into their first pair of skates. From the first time I set foot on ice I have improved dramatically, and in a matter of hours taught myself to skate backwards in either direction as well as show off with at least a triple pirouette. I picked up advice from professional instructors on youtube and just went out to put it all into practice. It’s funny trying to describe what it felt like, but having the ice mainly to myself and gliding happily around, practicing things over and over, I felt as if I had found my calling, again. I wonder how it is people decide to divide their time when they have so many interests.
In January I did a bit of 1 rep max testing on a few things; barbell back squat, weighted chin up and weighted muscle up on rings. I was pleased with my squat, especially considering that I had only spent about 3 months in total in order to achieve the weight, but I was less pleased with the other two tests. But regardless, it provides me with a starting point from which to move onwards and upwards.
At the moment I am focusing on learning to deadlift with the aim of being able to lift 1.5x bodyweight by the end of June, but mainly concentrating on exercises to improve posture and I’ve even started running barefoot, although I can’t go for very long before my calves become tired. Later on I’m going to work on sprinting, both on flat and upstairs or hills for power and speed, but at the moment I’m happy doing corrective exercises and building lower body strength/stability. I may try a beginner’s plyometric routine in the summer, but it depends on whether I’m actually training Parkour or not at the time. I feel I’m ready to do something different again, so moving away from strength training and back into dancing, climbing and hopefully trampolining more often should wake me up a bit. One thing’s for sure, I’ll be wearing shoes less and less again as the warm weather looks like it’s here to stay, shorts is all I intend on wearing.
As a child I loved to be active, and like most kids I didn’t have to make an effort to get exercise as it was just all fun. In primary school P.E was probably one of my favourite lessons and I liked to play and do everything, but I wasn’t passionate about any one thing in particular, like how most boys really loved football. I enjoyed the physical side of sports, and in football I liked to run and chase down the ball over and over again, and get really stuck into talking and regaining control of the ball. Like some kind of hyperactive dog.
I think the first thing I was aware of being any good at was running, I enjoyed long distance, but I think I was better at sprinting, and was fond of running across the grass in my socks, as I was much faster without my shoes.
At some point I remember doing more acrobatic things during lunchtime, along with one of my good friends, but in those days most friends were good friends. We would take it in turns to do headstands on the grass while the other ran and jumped through the open pair of legs. We were probably the two most daring kids in the world at the time.
During the great storm of 1987 a large tree blew down and came to rest in our back garden, its trunk reaching from left to right, and its branches now at ground level formed a huge jungle for us to play in temporarily. That day school was cancelled and the course of our lives was changed forever.
My dad and his friends removed the smaller branches, but there the body of the tree lay, giving us our own unique piece of apparatus that would remain in place both physically and as the backbone of my childhood.
Besides climbing along to the highest end of the tree and jumping off, I also began to use a smaller, perfectly sized branch to do chin ups. Back in those days I had no reason to be any stronger, I simply wanted bigger muscles to show off with, spurred on by the fact that there was a boy in our class at the time who was at least 3 years older than us, and so consequently he was taller, and possessed the biceps that I wanted.
Not only were we the only family I’ve ever known that had a fallen down tree in their back garden, but we also had a climbing frame, made from old scaffolding wrapped in multicoloured tape, situated right in the centre of our bedroom. For these two reasons our house was popular with lots of other children besides my siblings and I.
We were always good friends with our next-door neighbours, and for the longest time the fence that separated their garden from ours was sufficiently trampled for us to run freely from one side to the other, in what was a little oasis of trees, grass and good times.
With one of my neighbours I spent hours throwing myself around trying to learn somersaults, and jumping off of the swings, seeing how many spins we could get in the air. We also had a huge rope swing that we would use to propel ourselves as far as possible before letting go, and now I think of it we were lucky to grow up with access to two gardens and all they offered.
Perhaps when I was about 7 or 8 I took up karate for the shortest while in living memory. There was a girl in my class whose dad was the sensei and he came to teach at the school in the evenings. I remember wanting to learn how to smash bricks and chop wood with my bare hands, but also earn myself a cool belt. I was so young that I remember having trouble trying to draw circles with my foot in the warm up, as if I hadn’t learnt how to control my body yet, but more than that I remember feeling tired, and sitting on the sidelines. I was part of a demonstration that took place during one of the school’s summer fairs, where all we did was take it in turns to drop each other to the floor. I didn’t learn to break anything with my fists as I was far too young to have any discipline or desire to spend so long doing something that wasn’t immediately satisfying.
In secondary school I still liked to do lots of sports, but less so as they began to be more rigid during lesson, and there were now far more people in my class who were far more competitive. There was one boy who was considered a geek, but I remember seeing him do an aerial cartwheel after scoring a goal or something, and from that point onwards I was inspired to take up gymnastics just like him. I was briefly ridiculed for being a boy who does gymnastics, but it didn’t last long, and I cared more about learning than I did of other people’s opinions. I don’t think I ever really played football during my lunchtimes at secondary school, but I do remember learning to kip up from my back to my feet, and trying to do the splits at the back of the class during physics lessons.
I think I did gymnastics for about a year, before not quitting, but rather being too scared to go back because I didn’t do any training or conditioning over the summer break, and I didn’t want to face the embarrassment or the telling off from my teacher.
Even though I was only 14, I was the oldest person in the class, as most people were at least 3 years younger than me. We weren’t taught very difficult things as it wasn’t exactly a serious class, but I did enjoy the training and this was to become one of my first loves. At the time I had a crazy idea in my head about wanting to be some kind of ninja. I wanted to do gymnastics and take up some other martial art, and just combine the two to become what I imagined a ninja to be like.
Long before my gymnastics/ninja episode I came up with the concept of being ‘All Terrain Boy’ as I made it home as fast as I could, jumping down and running up stairs, and swiftly navigating anything in my path. Later on I was to cartwheel off of things and go running away, imitating computer games trying to do hurricane kicks, dragon punches and 24 hit combos. This was my genesis.
As time goes by and I learn something new or get a new perspective on things, I re-evaluate everything over and over, and I’m happy with putting myself back at square one to be in the position of a beginner again. I’ve had many experiences in various areas, and rather than being a veteran I would like to consider myself an experienced beginner, as this sums up my desire to stay fluid and always be willing to learn new things about old subjects. I’m also becoming increasingly aware that no matter what I learn or achieve, there will always be somewhere to go beyond that, and that eventually it’ll all be gone.
Yesterday, Thursday 22nd of April was officially the first day of summer, and we are awake again. I was passing a pub looking at the people inside and then I caught a glimpse of my own reflection, and upon reflection I thought to myself ‘I’m an adult now’. It’s funny how I find it so easy to not be able to relate to people of all ages, especially my own.
What I am planning and would like to do in the near future is to coach people in learning Parkour or helping anyone who is interested in dance and physical expression. I’d prefer to teach one to one, or in very small groups, as I want to get to know those who I teach, and for them to get to know me too. I want to remove the impersonal nature of trying to impart information that comes with teaching en masse, and instead to share experiences and ideas in a more natural and focused way. My intention is to teach strength conditioning and corrective exercise as a foundation for learning technique and creative exploration in whatever area people wish. Most importantly though, I want to offer these services free of charge to anyone who is serious about learning and is willing to put in the time and effort. There are many reasons for this, but I believe that I can be more accessible and more of use to people if I’m not tied down to or caught up in charging for my services, and ultimately it would give me the satisfaction of allowing the knowledge to pass through me and onto others.