The Cambridge GMB Seminar: Mindful Movement

First Published, 22nd November, 2014

My understanding of Gold Medal Bodies has always been this: they teach and encourage people to learn how to move, feel strong, be healthy and live the best life possible, to be able to do the things they need to do each day. We all see what they put out onto the internet. Articles, photographs, tutorials, a lot of information. So, with so much information already out there why would it be worth going to a seminar? Here’s why.

This past weekend I hosted two GMB seminars in Cambridge, UK. This is the first time Gold Medal Bodies have come to England and the first time I’ve ever hosted a seminar. I was there to assist Ryan along with Gayle, GMB’s Scottish Trainer, and so it was a very new experience for me.

The first seminar to put it simply, was a day of mindful movement. How to connect the body and mind in order to be fully present in what you are doing. As people started to arrive there was definitely nervousness and apprehension. Everyone was quiet as they waited for the seminar to start. And then Ryan began to teach. He gave off an excited yet relaxed energy, which immediately put everyone at ease. We were all completely absorbed in what was going on and that level of focus meant everyone could give 100%. A lot of material was covered throughout the day. What I want to share are some of the concepts that were covered and how things were taught, because for me this is what it’s all about.

Simplification:

Take a movement. Break it down. Simplify it. This is where you start from. You work backwards in order to be able to move forwards and make progress. It’s always easy to skip this part when training, but it makes things much harder in the long run. We talk about the basics all the time, but we need to understand how they connect to the more complicated movements and skills. When you don’t understand that connection it’s easy to think it’s unnecessary or irrelevant for your training. Or because it’s not “difficult” or “impressive” it’s not worth doing. As an example, I want to be able to do a bent arm stand so I have a go. But I have no strength and I can’t figure out how to balance it. Well why not start with the simplest progression? This would be a bear crawl, and was the very first movement we worked on in the seminar. Straight arms and legs, weight forwards, loading the shoulders, keeping it slow and controlled. Even this can be a challenge and it works so many elements. Simple movements can be pretty humbling, which I think everyone experienced and appreciated.

So as the body and the brain become more comfortable with it you can start to work through the progressions.

Progression:

I want to say “once you’ve mastered the basics” but that’s a bad way to word it because you are always working to improve. So once you’ve become confident and comfortable with the basics you can then start to progress them. During the seminar Ryan started with very simple tweaks, for example with the bear crawl, instead of stepping each leg forwards, why not step one leg across the other, or drop one hip, or bend the arms? Each progression is like a building block, creating a stable structure and so if you miss out part of the foundation, miss out a progression, then things become less stable. Your body is less able to progress, the process slows down and it’s very likely you will have to go back to the part that you skipped over anyway.

When you have learnt how to safely progress a movement and it’s different variations you can start to explore.

Exploration:

Exploration comes as soon as you realise that one movement is not limited to how it’s presented to you. It encourages you to think, learn how to solve problems and it’s also about being able to play. It allows you to have more freedom in your body and be creative. There are so many ways to move in and out of a single movement. There are different ways to move through a movement and an infinite number of ways to create sequences. Here you can break down structure, while still challenging your brain and your body. This also creates a stronger connection between the two, improving communication with yourself, understanding your limitations but more importantly understanding your capability. Some of the best parts of the seminar for me were when the students practiced and played with movements, exuding freedom, and whether they knew it or not, expressing themselves in a completely new way.

Then surely next the step is to refine and perfect our movement. Right?

Perfection:

This is something that is talked about a lot but is always either ignored or focussed on too much. Nothing we ever do is perfect in training or in life. And yet everything we do is perfect because it’s what we are able to do right now, right in that moment. That’s all we can do. At no point during the seminar did Ryan, myself or Gayle walk up to someone and say, “sorry that’s not very good”, “that’s completely wrong”, or “it HAS to be done like this!”. We looked at what each individual COULD do. Of course they can improve, because we can always improve, but everybody’s body is so different that you can’t expect one standard. Some people have more strength, some are more flexible, and others have better motor skills. For me, if I can take a person who can hold themselves upside down but “can’t balance”, and I help them find that balance, then let go and watch them hold it, that is the most amazing thing. It really isn’t about perfection, it’s about teaching people that they can do things they didn’t think they could. We wanted to challenge the students, take them out of their comfort zones and really make them think because GMB is about breaking through mental barriers as well as physical ones.

I really feel that Ryan has a gift. He looks at someone and knows instantly what they need. He can see what they can do whether they know it or not. He communicates with such clarity and adapts to every individual because everyone needs something different. As a teacher this is something I am trying to develop to be able to better help my students. But he is also genuine and nothing that he does is about ego. It’s all for us, for his students. I know people will agree with me when I say the person you see online is exactly what you get in real life. The day was truly amazing because he was himself and none of us could have asked for anything more. I am incredibly grateful to have been part of such an amazing experience, and can’t wait for the next one.

Cambridge Say Group

I want to say thank you to every single person who came to the seminar and made it awesome. We couldn’t have asked for a better group of people. I also want to say thank you to Ryan for flying all the way from Japan for us, for giving me so much guidance, and for just being amazing.

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