Archives For John Sapinoso


September 7, 2016 — Leave a comment

My wife, and partner in movement adventures, Anoushka, and I were on our way to Turku, again. It’s become a ritual in the last few years – we go to Turku for Ido Portal’s seminars. This was trip number 3 for her (seminar no. 5), and number 4 for me (seminar no. 6). The same flight to Helsinki, drive to Turku, the same hotel next to the Baltic (great for end of the day cooling off and/or nervous system reset), the same restaurants in the evening. Maybe it’s an age thing but I like this routine, especially when punctuated with moving and learning.

This trip was tinged with a bit of sadness – maybe this would be the last. We were on our way to attend ‘Locomotion’, the Ido seminar that we had both wanted to attend the most after our initial exposure to the work in ‘Movement X’ two years before. After this we might not have a reason to return to Turku, and the ritual would come to an end.

Never mind, focus on the present: who will it be presenting this time? Ido? Probably not. Odelia? Maybe. Or John, or Joseph, or… Honestly it’s just idle speculation, everyone that we’ve met presenting Ido’s work has been exceptional, and we’ll be happy to see any of them.

Driving to the venue on Saturday morning I was surprised to be feeling a bit anxious. Trepidation is the right word. Usually I’d just be feeling like a child on the way to the sweet shop on this journey but my lizard brain somehow knew this was different – maybe the sweets will be on really high shelves, or something.

We arrived at the venue and….Great, it’s John! And a (for me) new Jonathan assisting him – from Israel, not Dubai. Also great to see some familiar faces – the graceful Italian beast (‘Upper Body Strength’ seminar), and the senior (her word) Norwegian yoga teacher (‘Hand Balancing’), amongst others. Maybe my trepidation was explained when, while talking about all the seminars we’ve done, John let slip that Locomotion is “the most physically demanding”. Actually, he didn’t ‘let it slip’ – he said it plainly, with a big grin that you’ll be able to picture if you’ve met John.

After some quick intros, and joint prep, we get moving, traversing the room in a many, many different ways. Funny how, in spite of reinforcement of the standard of “start touching the wall, finish once you’ve passed the pull-up rig” quite quickly became practiced as ‘touch the wall, step one or two meters into the room and then begin’. Does the desire to be first impede hearing, perhaps? Piece by piece we were building patterns (“atoms” of the Locomotion practice), with a resting squat as the endlessly recurring linking piece. I can’t speak for every single person, but everyone I could see, me included, was dripping with sweat before long. Everyone, apart from John and Jonathan, of course. I have been ruminating for ages on the weirdness of dressing ‘properly’ for exercise – as if your outfit is a symbol to say ‘see, I work out’. So I loved that Jonathan was dressed in a turquoise wool jumper while demonstrating handstands, cartwheels etc. – dressed to meet friends for coffee, not to exercise! (I think this may mark the difference between a mover and someone who works out).

I was already physically smoked by lunchtime, but revived somewhat by the Pure Hero guys delivery, and a little more by the game we started the afternoon session with. Ido and his team have the best games – brilliant for warming up and mobilising without noticing that it’s what you’re doing. I’m easily tricked out of my belief that I can’t do more squatting, handstands or whatever else it might be by playing ‘the farthest limb’, for example.

The atoms are building, the patterns get a little more complicated, and this is more mentally taxing than the other seminars I’ve done. We start to join atoms together in sequences, and always trying to refine the details – foot/hand placement, weigh shift, timing. As John says: “We recognise efficiency as beautiful.” (Damn I’m IN-efficient!) It is so amazing to see John, and Jonathan move. Yes, I’m a little tired of hearing about how nice John’s feet are, and how amazing his skin looks, but only because I know Anoushka is right. While you can see the muscles at work, there is not tension when John moves, no strain visible – THIS is how I’d like to be able to move myself. And watching Jonathan at work when they show us how to play another game where the object is to find the line between the possible and impossible for our partner’s capacity I realise how hard they work. He’s set a target that to me is clearly impossible to meet and he does not give in, contorting this way and that to make it. Okay, there’s a bit of strain visible now, but the combination of agility, strength, mobility, imagination, and determination is profound.

When we finish on Saturday (I’m so thankful that, unusually, that’s only about half an hour past the advertised finish time) I’m truly, totally fatigued. Driving back through the woods to our hotel my body feels at least 80% jelly. I only look in the rearview mirror for a moment and, thanks to Anoushka’s very loud and sharp intake of breath, the deer somehow bounds from certain death into the ditch beside us. Body is now 96% jelly.

We follow instructions and get some good food (just as well this may be our last time – we learn that the always reliable steak house is closing in two weeks). I should sleep like a baby, tired as I am, but my body will not get comfortable and morning comes without feeling as rested as I’d like. Squatting feels like a very remote possibility.

I knew John would be a stickler for timing and, one minute past ten, we’ve missed the start. First activity of the day is…wait for it…..Squatting! Of course. Relief comes with some more wrist prep, and then we get back to building blocks for more atoms. Lots of building blocks, creating 10 or 12 atoms in total for the two days. Every so often I feel that I can do something relatively well, which is a welcome relief. We all meet the goal of improvising for two minutes, sequencing the atoms we’ve learned. I feel as lithe and fluid as Ido looks in the floreio videos on YouTube like, to an untrained eye, I may look competent for a few of those 120 seconds. We also all manage some semblance of the low lizard crawl, and while some of us really struggle, there are as many doing very nicely.

The truth is that I’m not having as much fun as I’d like to – and Locomotion was the seminar we’d been looking forward to the most. I guess I was feeling over-exposed. There’s a lot of material in the two days, and it comes at you pretty fast. Working in pairs, John often set us the task of “you do 10, I do 10, you do 8, I do 8, you do 6 and I do 6” of a new movement. Perhaps some of the young guns were getting through the reps, but Anoushka and I were usually managing “you do 6 and I do 6 and you do 2 and oh it’s time to move on to the next thing”. There are not many peaks and a few troughs when I feel pissed off: ‘I can’t do X yet and already you want me to do X + Y, and seamlessly progress into Z.’ I hate the idea that age limits anything but I have to  keep pushing the thought of being one of the ‘seniors’ out of my mind. One of the strong points of the seminars I’ve done previously is that everything you’re introduced to can be scaled, so there is always something to work on and everyone can participate all the time. Locomotion involves more complex movements, and more brain power. If you’re going to learn the atom you need to get all the pieces, and there were times when I needed more time. In adult education, at least in the UK, you are required to ‘differentiate’ – to accommodate different degrees of competency in your classroom. I wanted them to differentiate, but it’s not really possible. I also wondered if there shouldn’t be pre-requisite skill levels for signing up for Locomotion. Or maybe it could be three days, instead of two.

As I write this a few days have passed. Looking through my notes it seems as though we didn’t do quite as many different things as I remembered. Maybe what felt like flaws in the structure or delivery of the seminar were simply signs of my frustration, or disappointment in discovering that I’m far behind where I’d like to be (because I haven’t put the work in). I’m already looking back at the weekend with more fondness than I did two days ago, and picturing John going from Crow to Cossack Insertion, to Shinobe to the Low Lizard like there’s no gravity, no friction, no hard edges. I will definitely work at all of the atoms we practiced, and I will get better at their execution, but I won’t reach his level, because I know that John will always be working harder than I am.

So you should definitely sign up for Locomotion. And, just in case you don’t already, get a pistol on both legs, for reps. Do what you need to get very comfortable in a resting squat. And spend some time at the bottom of a push up, bit like yoga’s chaturanga. That won’t cover everything, but it’ll be a reasonable start.

And, in case you read it, John and Jonathan, you were great, and if I wasn’t always as appreciative as I might have been, that was just me being mad at not reaching the sweets on the high shelf.

PS. Our host, Marko says he’s thinking about hosting The Corset again next year, and it’s changed from two years ago. So maybe the ritual’s not over yet.

Ten months on from my first ‘live’ exposure to Ido Portal and his work, I’m sitting in a plane on the way home from another four days of the Ido Portal method in Finland. I’m writing to help me make sense of my thoughts/feelings, and to perhaps offer some advice/suggestions to the uninitiated.

Last year my wife and I took both the ‘Movement X’ and ‘The Corset’ workshops, delivered by Ido and Odelia. Those four days were extraordinary, to the extent that, in the immediate aftermath, I wasn’t sure that I would be able to resume teaching Pilates. I had heard Ido on a podcast describe people crying, and saying Movement X was life changing. At the time I’d been sceptical but, depending on the degree to which you can surrender to and engage with what’s being taught, I’m certain that ‘life-changing’ is a possibility. (You can read about that first experience here).

This year we signed up to repeat ‘Movement X’ and to do the ‘Hand Balancing’ workshops. It was great to be back in Turku, and we were curious to see how different ‘Movement X’ would feel second time around – would we hear the same jokes and stories? Would the material have changed? As they arrived I instantly recognised Odelia, and in the same instant that I registered that Ido was not there, recognised John from a YouTube clip I’d seen of a jaw-dropping one-arm ring routine. I have cherished the experience with Ido and surprised myself that I didn’t feel any disappointment that he wasn’t there. (The promotional material usually makes it clear that workshops will be presented by members of the team – there’s no guarantee that Ido will be there). I knew for sure that we were in for a new experience.

The chemistry between Odelia and Ido seemed like something very special last year, and I feel very lucky that we had the chance to see and feel it in action. Of course, the combination of Odelia and John was different, and I really enjoyed Odelia leading the sessions, which hadn’t happened before. Much has been said about Odelia and her teaching before, suffice it to say that she is an extraordinary woman and a wonderful teacher – her seriousness and expectation tempered by her warmth and kindness. John is not Ido, and I can imagine that puts pressure on him sometimes. If it does, he never shows it and he teaches with the same combination of assuredness and humility that Odelia has. And to see them move……I can’t help grinning with delight when I see anyone making the difficult look easy, and there was a lot of grinning over the four days. This time I began to understand the level of commitment and dedication that is required to do what Ido’s team do. I’ve never seen anything like it, to the point that it’s almost scary how far beyond my own capacity it appears. I doubt many Olympians train this hard, and they’ve both clearly done their research and have knowledge of a wide range of disciplines and human function, biomechanics etc.

To business. It took two goes for me to see that ‘Movement X’ represents a taste of the four main spokes of the Ido Portal Method: the Corset, hand balancing, locomotion, and upper body strength. I think I was too blown away the first time around by the variety, complexity (and simplicity) and playfulness to be able to see the wood for the trees. So this is probably the place to start (and I’d recommend repeating). Time-keeping for the start of the day is strict, and not at all strict at the end of the day. Day one finished sometime after 7, day two around 8.15. Aside from 90 minutes for lunch there are no breaks, so you do A LOT of moving. My current practice means that I may do 1 hour a day, so at the end of two days I’d probably packed in two weeks worth of movement. The exhilaration only slightly diminished by the feeling of having been beaten all over (like Angelica Houston and the oranges in ‘The Grifters’, perhaps) only without noticing that it’s happening. This is down to the workshop being so well structured, and the material being high quality. Many many squats and lunges are hidden in a game – hidden because you’re so busy trying to manage all the other demands on your nervous system (“Sound is the mark of an inefficient mover”) that the game imposes. And this wasn’t the best game that we played. If you’ve attended Movement X you’ll probably know the game I’m thinking of, and if you haven’t I don’t want to spoil the surprise.

The upper body strength segment makes the most strength demands (weird!) and is also the segment when there is most scaling. There’s a way for everyone to tackle the movement and, while you may be taken well outside your comfort zone, no one is pushed beyond their limits. It’s also when it was most clear to me how much thought, experimentation and perfecting has gone into Ido’s methods of teaching, for instance, chin-ups and muscle ups.

It must be very rare that anyone attends ‘Movement X’ and isn’t asked to do something that they’ve never done before, or doesn’t discover a gap in their skills, mobility or capacity. This too is why John and Odelia are so impressive – not only do they need to be able to deliver the material but they are most likely substantially better at all of the movements involved than everyone else in the room.

It seemed like chance at the time and now I’m grateful that ‘The Corset’ was the second workshop we did, not least because the content is so broadly applicable. It’s described as something like “how to make flexible armour for your whole body”. Some of the Corset protocols appear in Movement X, and there were a lot of them included in the Hand-balancing workshop. Having some prior exposure to them felt very helpful so, in an ideal world I’d suggest Movement X first, then The Corset, then whichever of the other workshops appeals to you the most.

The Hand-balancing workshop is mostly geared toward teaching you Ido’s progressive method for gaining a 60 second freestanding handstand. Odelia will tell you that this is the best method there is, with thousands of success stories and when you see the process you will most likely believe it. Again, it’s very well structured. There were more games to play, lots of joint preparation drills to strengthen and increase range of movement, as well as a lot of time on our hands. On the morning of day two my chest and shoulders were so sore I couldn’t imagine spending any more time on my hands, but the warmup easily took care of that and a lot more time was spent on our hands – and not just in handstands. We were left with a clear program to follow, scaled according to your starting point. It will take a lot of commitment and work, but if I do commit and put the work in I’m convinced that I’ve got the tools to make it happen.

I was impressed by how many people attending the 2015 Turku workshops seemed to have very little idea of what was coming and were just ‘dipping their toe in the water’, especially those that were there like us for all four days. They were, for me, very physically demanding. And yet just the day after I feel great. Perhaps it depends on individual preference, going in blind, or doing some research. Personally I’d recommend listening to Ido’s London Real interview prior to attending, just to get a sense of the man and the philosophy that underpins the work.

Ido offers online coaching, and it’s made very clear that they only want to work with people who will make the time commitment they deem necessary. Similarly, if you turn up at one of his workshops I think he and his team have high expectations for you. If you look like you’re not giving your best you may get short shrift, but they recognise and appreciate your effort, regardless of your ability.

Of course, all the attendees influence the feel of the workshop and with all four that I’ve done I’ve been lucky to meet some wonderful people. If you’re one of them reading this, thank you, it was fun to be moving with you.

Other things I’ve learned

You can’t judge a fabulous mover by their resting posture. (Don’t believe me? Just look at cats.)

Learning, and quality teaching deserves optimum focus. Be quiet, look, and listen. (Yes, this IS hard on the afternoon of day four).

Don’t try to integrate if you can’t yet isolate.

Variables may vary but standards are non-negotiable.

Speed is something you have to earn.

Wipe; look; lift; reach; replace. (Sing it with me!)

Last words

Find a Movement X event that you can get to, and sign up. Do it!