San Francisco Trip

Teaching Circus Daoyin

We did three hours of intense animal Daoyin.  It was good.  People got so tired they naturally returned to stillness.  Which is the point ofDaoyin, to discover and feel the spontaneous pull between movement and stillness.  In that pull our form becomes pliable because it is freed from our story.  And our story is freed from the limitation of our form.  The movement is designed to push both sorts of boundaries.  This type of class is a very positive experience for most people.  It fully integrates strength, flexibility, body re-orientation, and locomotion.

From a marketing point of view, I have barely scratched the surface of people who might be interested in this training; they include those who teach movement to children, any kind of yogi, bodyworkers, performers, martial artists who do conditioning or mat-work.  I would like to market to people who are interested in enlightenment, while avoiding the positive affirmations and trance crowd.

Circus Daoyin is the complete integration of yoga, martial arts, and theater—or rather, it is the re-assembling of three traditions that used to be one.  

Teaching Dance as Self-Defense

This went so well, it is hard to comprehend.  My confidence about the subject has been steadily increasing.  Essentially I teach the waltz, a smidgen of jazz, and then finish up with samba.  But every class objective applies to martial arts.  Every discrete lesson is presented as martial arts, because the building blocks of the dance are all martial games.  It is a powerful approach.  It change peoples perceptions of both martial arts and dance.  In a sentence, it lifts the artificial walls separating martial arts and dance so that everything from history, to concepts, to principles, can pass freely around the space.

I'm so excited about this because it solves a major problem in martial arts which is that martial training often enters the brain as a skill or a technique.  That part of the brain is hard to access in new or adrenalized situations.  When dance enters the mind as a game, as play, it becomes instantaneously accessible.  

There were several martial artists in attendance who had some dance training, but only one of the students was a dancer with no martial arts training.  Her modest comments at the end were gold.  "Martial artists need to learn how to keep their frame."  When she said this, everyone looked at her with disbelief.  But I was thinking: this is awesome.  Martial artists habitually test their "frame" as structure transferred from a point of contact (force) to the ground.  But in dance a frame is used in motion without a connection to the ground, so it has to be solid.  She then demonstrated how one uses a frame to generate whole body mass for a strike in motion.  She had seen me doing it and her dance background made it instantaneously accessible.  Whereas martial artists were constantly trying to re-position their arms and losing their frame.     

Training with Rory Miller

This was a self-defense teacher training course.  Before the course I had a day to play around, and I got several hours of heavy contact with Rory.

Rory, with his 500+ documented uses of force, has qualities to his movement that no one else has.  Stuff that works on other people doesn’t work on him.  He says he is simply experiencing force vectors. He does not visualize or feel his own body or the other persons body.  When I was “fighting” with him, I tended to tense up a lot, because it felt like he could hit me, like my whole body was vulnerable.  That doesn’t happen when I spar or play with most people.  I’m not sure it happens with anyone else, but it made me wonder if it is happening with other people just below my radar. 

One thing that was really cool, after I relaxed I was still having trouble because he was ahead of me (in time and space), I could hit him a lot, but he was hitting me harder—or rather his strikes were having more effect on me. 

Then I dropped something.  I made an easy-to-describe, but hard-to-explain, change.  I removed my torso as a target.  I removed it from my own awareness.  Wow.  Huge improvement.  I think what happened is that part of my mind was occupied with feeling my own body, and when I dropped that I had more time and space to play with.  My experiments since then tend to confirm this explanation.  In theory I already knew this.  But Rory provided a type of pressure testing that pushed me to experience it in a new way.

Rory and I also did a bunch of dueling with sword/knives, great stuff.  I got a little time with Maija Soderholm and Peter Ajemiantoo.  And lots of other people who just wanted to play.  A very fun group. 

Rory’s teacher training

This was great, Rory is trying to pass on his knowledge and experiences so that other people can teach self-defense meaningfully and effectively.  There was a lot of material to think about and test out. Rory attracted a lot of great teachers for the class.  The task is to learn his material and make it our own.

I taught the power generation part of the self-defense seminar.  This went well.  People with less martial arts experience were astounded by how much power they had.  And at least six of the very experienced martial artist said I left them with important tools and strategies to practice; that my approach was getting them to re-think how they generate power.  

For this one hour section of a 10am to 6pm workshop, I taught drop-steps and structure and both together.  The drop steps class was a revelation for a lot of people.  The centrality of drop-steps in martial arts is often overlooked because the main way we make martial arts safe is by taking out the momentum.  Drop steps are the most powerful tool for generating momentum in any direction for a strike.  They are also overlooked in dance, because in dance we hardly ever think to strike each other, but the unexpressed power is always there and available, and that is part of the joy of dancing.  

I presented the material as stuff everyone already has.  As intrinsic power that is easily accessible through play.  I also presented everything without corrections.  The idea is that we are conditioning people to trust their intrinsic power.  We want the expression of power to feel good.  That positive feeling will get people dancing more, feeling the drop-steps everywhere, and owning that part of themselves which is powerful. 

Adding structure to drop-steps is built around the idea of fighting "to the stance,” not "from the stance."  This is a revelation for many people, it was for me when I first got it.

One new thing Rory presented on, was the idea that the amount of experience one has with violence has a big impact on the type of teacher one can be.  He said that people with 0-1 experiences of violence can be very good at teaching clear movement principles.  People with 50 experiences with violence are often in an intuitive place where it is difficult to teach.  After 100 experiences the brain changes and experience becomes more abstract, so with a special effort it can be taught.  People with just 2-5 experiences are where many of the teaching problems come up, it can create false confidence.  

George Xu

Working with George Xu continues to be interesting.  We had just an hour together, but he gave me five things to work on.  As usual these things can be strange.  He made a distinction between positive force, zero force, and negative force.  Negative force is what he wanted me to work on.  It is drawing power away from your opponent without them feeling it. It is nothing like yielding.  The opponent actually feels they have gotten stronger, when in actuality they have become more vulnerable.  At the moment, I would describe it as using the principles of liquid counter-balancing in the vertical plane.  To use a thermal metaphor, the amount of pressure an opponent applies causes the mercury in my body to go up and down.  

It is a cool trick because if you apply it simultaneously withunbalancing the opponent, improving your position and targetingvulnerable areas--the opponent will feel themselves overwhelmed when they are at their strongest.  For now it is just a coolexperiment.  It will have to be made into a dance game before I attempt to teach it.  I wonder if I can make it work with the push step in swing dance?


This is a fun piece about Irish Dancing!  McGregor dominates due to his dance background.  And if you doubt that because it is written in jest, watch every minute of this video!