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    Articles | Movement

    Who Owns Movement?

    By Tim Stevenson

    You do. At least the way you choose to move. But none of us own movement as a collective, nor do we own the way any one else moves.

    Movement is an expression. The body’s capacity to move is limitless and the associated pleasure is perceptual, both from the perspective of the composer and of the audience. Such numerous options exist that a near infinite number of expressions are possible. So, to be philosophical, what does it even mean to move in the ‘right’ way? And what makes that different to the ‘wrong’ way?

    Fundamentally artists all have the same basic elements at their disposal. How they choose to combine and contrast them results in a personal expression. A piece of work that means something to them. A piece of work that has a story. And woven deep into the fabric of every personal expression is context.


    Context; the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood.


    In gymnastics a set of criteria details how, in order to get a certain score, you have to move. This sets the context and parameters required for a competition and for one athlete to be judged against another.

    But when you don’t voluntarily enter a competition, who makes the rules if no one owns movement? Perhaps then there are no rules, only preferences, but that is an individual thing and formed by one’s own context. We shouldn’t forget that there are always two parties involved, the artist and the audience. Context and preference exist on both sides but they do not need to align. Few of the greats have ever done something of real value for the reason of pleasing someone else.

    You own your movement. Respect your own context and preference. Respect that of those you observe. Disregard those that don’t respect yours and do not come with kindness at the centre of their intentions.


    Individual Context

    The time in your life when you arrived at the start of your calisthenics journey is individual. You’ve been making movement decisions since you were 6 months old. Depending on the amount of time that has passed since then, your training history, experience, lifestyle and injury history have combined to create your individual context. You must allow this to shape your expectations and goals. These are not fixed, but for a period of time they are marks in the sand. Over time you will set new, more advanced goals, but what you’re working towards in the short to medium term should be realistic and achievable based on where you are at right now.

    To earn the right to play at higher levels we have to put the building blocks in place. This takes time. Don’t fall into the trap of ignoring your own story and comparing yourself to others. Respect your individual context and breathe life into your preference.

    No gymnastics experience and some serious shoulder injuries offset by an emerging career as a strength and conditioning coach and a good training background. In a nutshell this was my context on day one. At that time I never thought I would be able to do what I can do now. The journey may not have been perfect by other people’s standards, but I’m pretty proud of myself based on where I began.

    It’s taken a long time for me to appreciate and value my own individual context. I am where I am and I’m pursuing progress not perfection. I’m trying to stay rooted in my own preference and not be swayed by the opinion of others. I own my movement.

    Who Owns Movement?

    Contextual Controversy

    Calisthenics is accepting of different standards of ‘right’. If it’s measured in a ‘freestyle’ context then a kipping muscle up would be ok, but if it’s measured by ‘strict’ form then the same move is wrong.

    If someone is learning to handstand and does it with an extended spine or ‘banana back’, it’s wrong. But if you do a scorpion handstand, which requires full spinal extension (an extreme ‘banana back’), then it’s a high-level hand balancing exercise and you’ll be commended.

    Task specific and individual context is important, how are you trying to move and do you have the prerequisites in place? But with these examples in mind we can’t be fixed on right and wrong.

    Furthermore, understand that sometimes we have to spend time at the edge of our abilities. When trying to do something that is close to that limit it will not be perfect. A personal best performed by an elite Olympic weightlifter might be a long way from text book technique, but they just did something they had never done before. There are times when we have to go there if we are to progress, providing we have earnt the right and have sufficient foundations in place.


    Changing Context

    I’ve been working with Paralympic athletes for over a decade and I was proud to be part of the Great British Team at the Rio Games in 2016. These experiences make you think a lot about context.

    Movement deemed right or wrong by an observer without consideration of the individual’s context or preference is short sighted. What’s important is that person is enjoying their movement practice, they are doing it without pain, it is bringing them joy and is a source of enrichment and happiness in their life.

    We all own the way we choose to move. So, pursue progression, educate yourself, learn what works for you, experience variety and let that shape how you choose to move. You will find what is right for you. Perhaps that is also right for someone else. Perhaps not. Don’t move to please others but as your context evolves and deepens, set your own standards.

    At the School of Calisthenics our aim is to make bodyweight training accessible to anyone. We use our experience as professional strength and conditioning coaches to provide safe and progressive training and we’re commited to high level movement standards. But we place our students at the centre of what we do because we know that the story is often deeper than what you see at the surface. We we want to meet you where you’re at, because we have been there too.

    I’d love to know what you think about what I’ve written so please share it on social media or drop us a message.

    Class dismissed