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Making a fool of myself and loving every minute of it

The seated star. Damned uncomfortable!

I’m writing this in SeaTac airport, on my way home after teaching classes for my chaps at Lonin. One of the many benefits of my travel schedule is I get to actually spend time with some of my favourite people, even though we live continents apart. Another benefit is that I can see and do things that I can’t get at home. I arrived on Thursday evening, and was picked up and taken home by Eric Artz, who then took me out to dinner at the incredibly good Harvest Vine restaurant, which treated us to a series of wonderful small plates; the Spanish food was as good here as it was in Spain!

I have been working on my jet-lag management, which has reaped dividends in that though I did wake up at stupid-o’clock, I managed to get back to sleep again. Which was as well, because the inestimable Magali Messac, gyrotonics teacher extraordinaire (and wife of martial arts legend Ellis Amdur, which is how we met), had agreed to introduce me to the movement system. It’s a bit like Pilates, in that it uses some very odd equipment with pulleys and weights and such, and Magali gently took me through the basic movements. First on a stool, then on the equipment. It was a really lovely way to get the aeroplane out of my spine. I’ll be incorporating the stuff we did seated into my normal exercise routines, as it requires a full, gentle expression of every range of movement. Magali is passing on her studio to a long-time gyrotonics expert, and student of hers, Vincent, who I also got to meet at the studio.

Friday night saw me in the loft salle at SANCA, where Lonin has their headquarters. It is so nice to be there; in a space dedicated to the arts I practice, plus some interesting additions (which I’ll get to later).

The weekend seminar was on a much more lenient schedule than usual; we had just 3 hours in the morning, then lunch together, and that was it. I packed in as much material as I could, and I think my chaps have plenty to work with. It was a particular pleasure to meet and train with Amanda Trail, who came all the way from Spokane for the seminar.

Saturday evening was interesting; instead of the usual going out with the students, Eric took me along to the birthday party of one of his wife’s friends. So what? you might ask? It was held in a curling rink, and we all got to have a go at curling. You know, sliding rocks on ice and sweeping like a maniac. It was a lovely party, with Susan (the birthday girl) welcoming an additional guest like an old friend.

Sunday morning and more swords, of course; as is usual for me these days, I asked the students what exactly they needed from me, then gave them that. That evening I decamped from Eric and Michelle’s, and went to stay with Neal, just back from Wellington. I spent Monday morning mostly just mooching about and catching up on admin, because I was back in the loft teaching Monday evening (not strictly part of the seminar, but while I’m in town it seems mad not to give them all the training they can handle). We covered grounding, and using dagger training to introduce beginners to principles. Lots of fun!

Tuesday was perhaps my favourite day of the trip: trapeze in the morning, blacksmithing in the afternoon, and Victorian calisthenics (Indian clubs and so forth) in the evening. Today I ache just about everywhere! I've written elsewhere about the importance of trying new things; these three were all well outside my normal range of activity.

Coming to teach at the loft is an interesting experience because it looks out onto one of the SANCA training spaces. Circus people seem to like doing things very high off the ground, so we don’t even need to look down. Indeed, sometimes I’d lose my thread when teaching because an acrobat appears in my eyeline doing something impossible, and I just gawp in awe.

Nobody gawped in awe at me on the trapeze though, though they might have had a giggle at it. I have a video uploading slowly to youtube to embed here in due course, but if you can't live a moment longer without seeing the full nail-biting action of circus' newest star, then you can find it on my Facebook page.

My teacher, Milla Marshall, took me through a quick warm-up (lots of odd jumps on the long trampoline track), then we went through getting onto the trapeze, and doing tricks. Regular readers of this blog know how I feel about hanging upside down; one of the reasons I wanted to do this was to practice dealing with that terror. Oddly enough, the one most frightening bit was not upside down at all; it was the lamppost. Standing sideways on the trapeze, and taking one arm off to the side. My whole body screamed not to do it, as I’d inevitably fall and break something. The fact that the trapeze was so low that I could fall from it safely was beside the point; it might as well have been suspended over a pit full of crocodiles for all my subconscious had to say about it. Milla also had me climb a rope, and then have a go on the silks. It was a fantastic experience; especially the upside-down star, demonstrated here.

Upside down star: it was such fun I burst out laughing every time I went into it!

I didn’t do the crucifix; I left that to the professional!

Milla in flight

Back at Neal’s, he had been wanting to try the core blacksmithing technique of “drawing out”. I won’t explain it here, but basically, you heat up the steel, and bash it on the edge of the anvil to make it draw out into a point. This was my first time doing blacksmithing, but I’ve always wanted to try it. And oh my, it was every bit as much fun as I’d hoped. If I quit swords to become a maker of grates and pokers, do not be surprised!

In Neal's basement; my first blacksmithing experience!

Then in the evening it was back to SANCA for Neal’s BWAHAHA class; we started out with a lot of Indian clubs, and then at Neal’s request I took the class through some walking stick self-defence (or murder, depending on your perspective). We had a lot of fun, especially with the joint locks. It was great catching up with Nathan Barnett, and in the pub afterwards, the excellent Tim Ruzicki, who I’ve known since DDS days back in the late nineties.

This morning was spent packing, and I footled into town to pick up some supplies for an experiment I’m planning, on using ketosis. I’ll keep you posted, but in the meantime, if you don’t know what ketosis is or what it’s good for, I recommend this podcast with Dr Dom D’Agostino, interviewed by Tim Ferriss.

It's been a lovely trip; thanks again to Eric, Neal, Haley, Magali, Milla, Michelle, Ellen, and the rest of the Lonin crew!

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