Sweating The Soft Stuff


“The grass must bend when the wind blows across it.” – Confucius

Very recent conversation with friend and fellow traveller Mark, of Gaijin Kettlebell ,got me thinking about my own practice and how things evolve.

For a very long time I felt physical activity had to be accompanied by blood, sweat and tears. Mine, or someone else’s at least. Surely that was the endgame, push yourself to puking point and stand back & admire the results. An obsession with PRs, goals and constant progress cannot be consistently sustained, we simply become victim to our expectations. What starts as a healthy, vibrant pursuit can turn into an activity we dread and look for ways to avoid.

It’s taken me a lifetime, so far, to really understand that external action must be accompanied by internal effort. And between action and effort lies “soft stuff”. But”soft” should not be confused with weak. The “soft stuff” are the arts, (yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong, breath work, mobility etc.) that create a bridge between physical and mental practice. Without these disciplines there cannot be a sustainable practice. Strength for it’s own end is subject to the law of diminishing returns yet reflection requires an able body to polish the mirror. It is all about balance.

Mental practice can inform the physical and integrate mind & body. Physical practice should engage the mind and provide a resilient vehicle for the journey. One without the other is like sitting at the window of a speeding train staring at the scenery but never getting off to experience it. Tourists are not travellers.

Sustainable practice. A lifetimes worth of movement, free to explore every facet. Sounds like a good deal to me. So the “soft stuff” is the quid pro quo. Don’t leave it too late to get to grips with your inherent mobility and freedom to move. We become so bound up, between endless repetitions and sitting hunched over computer screens, a mess of compensations and compromised movement. If you are not free to move you are not free to explore. We are multi dimensional human beings and our practice should reflect that.

I am introducing some self-myofascial release techniques at the workshops in the near future. All in an attempt to encourage people to be a little nicer to themselves. With effort comes ease…

In keeping with Lao Tzu’s Paradoxes, I’m off to press the 32.

“There is nothing in the world more soft and weak than water, yet for attacking things that are hard and strong there is nothing that surpasses it, nothing that can take its place”

About the author

I am a movement maverick, exploring beginner's mind and beginner's body through mobility, bodyweight training, breathwork, mindfulness, kettlebells and martial arts, focussing on self care, pain free movement and resilience. Find suggestions to get you moving over at http://100repchallenge.com Want to move with ease and imagination? For individual or group instruction please contact me.
  • antonio stephens

    i was surprised to see the term sustainable used for fitness as i have thought about that quite a bit lately. i also found a site called action strength (harinder singh) w/ the same idea. He combines kettlebells, tai chi, qi gong, indian kushti fitness, and some filipino concepts. how is it that people get on the same wavelength at the same time?

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