Good Pain Versus Bad Pain

I received an interesting question the other day about how to differentiate pain that might lead to injury versus discomfort that can lead to growth.

it’s a pretty difficult answer here because the best suggestion I can give is to have experienced both. People’s relationship with pain is a topic that has fascinated me since my childhood.
All it is is just a signal created by chemicals and electrical impulses within our body, right? Still, pain is subjective from person to person and is largely influenced by previous experiences.
on top of that, it’s not something that can be measured universally so the sensations felt are highly individualized.
I have even read that having red hair is something that can change perception of pain and sensitivity to anesthesia.

you will probably find yourself a lot more sensitive to pain in areas you have injured before, which can be a good thing to protect the area or can be a hindrance when trying to recover in a way to make yourself stronger.
Personally I find myself the most sensitive in knees shoulders and wrists, which consequently are joints that I have had the most amount of injuries in.

Also it’s important to note that again pain is merely a signal. Absence of pain doesn’t necessarily mean all is good, presence of pain doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong though it’s better not to just ignore it.

yes, sometimes it’s important to know how to push through the pain. other times it can be highly valuable to learn to recognize the signal your body is giving you and potentially hold off on the training.
ultimately the answer is probably not the one that you want to hear. Accumulate experiences so you have a more fine tuned awareness of what’s going on in your body. Then from the data you have collected, you can make decisions to act accordingly to hopefully make progress and help prevent potential injury.

A few thoughts about diet

I get many questions about my diet; my standard reflexive response is "why do you care"?
Don't get me wrong, I think diet is really important. It's one of the few things we actually have some control over. I just don't discuss it often for several reasons.

First off, it is highly individualized and dependent on so many factors. That means my diet may not work for you. Also since we are different people, you will not achieve the same results as my by doing the same thing.
Next, I post a lot of stuff about handstands and "movement" because I have a lot of experience training both myself and countless others in those topics. Diet I only have experience working with myself so I feel it would be a bit selfish and inconsiderate to hand out advice based only on that.
While I don't follow any specialized diet, I have gone through some experiences to gain some perspective on the matter. I went through a phase where I loved to eat everything in sight(moving to the USA after USSR collapse). I had a phase where I was very conscious of my fluff and ignorantly and stupidly restricted my intake. I went through "squats and milk" bulking program and followed some bodybuilding style diets of eating every couple hours. I very briefly attempted vegetarianism. I did paleo for a while(my grandma swore I was losing my hair from lack of bread in my diet), and lots of other experimenting.

Here are some basic tenets of diet I follow now:

-I think it's important not to be too specialized for survival's sake. I think the reason humanity has spread out all over the world is adaptability. Rather than one universal diet, we have learned to live off many different ones. With that being said, I do believe genetic lineage is a factor in what foods work well for someone.
-I normally don't care too much about being super lean.
-Meat: yes. I love organ meats and all the weird stuff too. Please don't try to slide into my DMs telling me I should switch to veganism.
-I enjoy cooking and think it's a really important skill. I use only iron and steel cookware if I can help it.
-As much as I can I try to avoid pre-packaged foods.
-I try to shop at the farmer's market and eat local if I can.
-If I had to pick a couple favorite foods, I really enjoy shakshuka and плов.
-I don't drink alcohol, except for the occasional black beer(for the flavor and minerals).
-I don't drink milk, but I do eat cheese, yogurt, and especially kefir.
-Lots of butter. Massive staple in my diet. Butter from Ireland or New Zealand is best.
-Coffee/tea is a yes, though I do try to go on a caffeine purge/cleanse every few months to reset my tolerance.
-I don't count macros or calories, but I do have a general idea. I try to eat protein every meal and generally keep a reasonable balance between the macros. First meal of the day is generally lower carb and last meal is generally higher carb.
-Most days I do intermittent fasting; my first meal is usually late afternoon and after a training session if I can help it. I avoided fasting for a long time but now I do believe in the benefits and building the discipline to not eat constantly.
-I eat a big dinner fairly late. It's a habit that stuck with me from when I coached gymnastics. I normally wouldn't get home from work until 21:00 or later and be super hungry after hours of coaching.
-I love my desserts, though I do like the idea of "earning it".
-I don't do spicy food well and it actually gives me the hickups. I do enjoy horseradish though(the Slavic/European/Jewish version of Chili).
-I love my spices and enjoy powerful flavors.
-I used to go to Costco just to get a free meal from the samples they were handing out.
-I read the labels and ingredients before I buy any food.
-I have no issue with bread or gluten, but generally avoid wheat products when in the USA. My skin ends up breaking out after eating them, but only in the US, so I stick to bricks of black rye/spelt bread or gluten free varieties here.
-If I travel I always try some local food.
-Most of my regular diet plans go to shit when I travel. If I can manage, I try to stay somewhere with a kitchen as hotels tend to wear down my sanity a bit faster.
-I do take supplements, but food is definitely the priority. The issue with the supplements is I've never scientifically tested on myself any as a single variable so I just hope that some of them do something sometimes.


That's all I have for now. I definitely don’t have the answers and am always learning more.
Remember diet is not a universal principle. Figure out what works or doesn't for you, continue adapting, don't worry if you get off your diet once in a while, and enjoy your food.

The ONE thing you MUST do if you want to improve your handstands

I have done it. I have figured it out; the secret formula.
This is the ONE thing you MUST do if you want to improve your handstands. Many people stunt their own progress by not utilizing this powerful tip.

In the spirit of the holidays, I will be giving out this valuable information for FREE, but for a limited time only.
Can you guess this ultimate technique? No, it's not more hollow body holds.
Try again. No, shoulder stretching is not the answer.
More props? Band assist? Core Strength? Pelvic floor activation? Steroids? Certifications? No! WTF is wrong with you?.

Here is the ultimate answer, the secret formula:
Do more handstands.
Not what you expected? Or maybe not what you hoped. Practicing the skill you are trying to get better at is the only way to directly improve.
Can't do a handstand yet? Good, potential for more improvement.
So, what makes you think hollow holds and shoulder stretches are going to get you closer. If your HS practice does not mostly consist of handstands, you are doing something wrong.

What if you have a banana back? Then it's clear you have brought shame upon your family name and must never speak of this again. Seriously, it's ok. This may not be the ideal textbook HS position for modern standards but there is no need to vilify it(especially since it's an important part of the history of the skill).

Don't get me wrong, all this other stuff is important. Strengthen your wrists, stretch your shoulders, work your line, etc. Stop chasing quick answers when you know what the real solution is. This is a skill. You're going to suck, maybe for a while, maybe for ever. In order to suck less you have to put in work over time.

Happy Handstanding

Internet annoyance: "Achievement Unlocked" "Become a master"

One of the things that annoys me when people talk about skills they are learning/working on is the concept of “achievement unlocked”. I don’t know if this is a relic of the internet age or it has always been this way, but to me doing a skill once does not mean you own it.
Skills, especially those in the realm of the physical arts can be very complicated and dependent on many factors. In order to own or unlock a skill, you need to be able to repeatedly do it independently of those factors.

One analogy I like is to compare this to marksmanship. Does hitting the bullseye once make someone a master marksman? Absolutely not. It’s about being able to reproduce that performance with tight tolerances of deviation under variable conditions that eventually make the master. Hitting a bullseye once can be luck; hitting it consistently probably takes years of focused effort.

I also think these days the word “master’ is used too lightly. Even worse when it is self-proclaimed.
You will not master anything in one weekend seminar or one online course, or even a teacher training immersion, or internship(regardless of how much you pay). In fact, you may not master anything ever in your lifetime, but don’t let that get you down.

The point I am trying to make is that people like to celebrate and announce their victory too early when there is still much work to be done.
Let’s take a basic handstand as an example. If we are using the standard of time, I think 10 seconds is a minimum for intentional balance and control, and somewhere in the realm closer to 30 seconds as a more pronounced display of that control.
Ok, so you hit that 10-30s freestanding handstand. Are you now a master of basic handstand and ready to move onto the next level? Maybe regurgitate somethings you heard to sell your handstand course and start teaching workshops?
Or maybe there’s more work to be done training at this level before you celebrate and announce your glory to the masses. Ask yourself these questions

Can you hit that hold every time you try it?
Do you need specific conditions to hit that hold?
If you had one try under pressure, would you hit it? If so, would it affect your performance?
The final question is basically, is your base performance of the skill repeatable to a small margin of error under varying conditions. If not, there’s still work to be done before you can say you own it.

I don’t mean this to be discouraging in any way; quite the opposite. I just want to add a dose of realism. You did something? Great! Do it again and continue the work.
That’s something I love about the physical arts is that learning a skill is not simple. It forces you to go on your own journey, during which you have a chance to understand yourself better. If you could learn any of this in one day, you could forget it just as fast, and it would no longer be interesting. Put in the work and keep putting in the work.
It will take years if not the rest of your life, and you may never master anything. Personally, I’m ok with that.

Handstands and Hypertrophy; Will HS Practice get you Jacked?

This is an interesting question I get fairly often, about how much of my physique came from my handstands and what kind of hypertrophy gains can be expected from the practice.

As usual, the answer is not a simple one.

Here are a couple points to consider:

-Handstand is a technical discipline. That means to do it right is to perform the skill in a way that is the most efficient and least physically demanding. More skill gains mean less physique gains.
-Handstand is a bodyweight discipline. While anyone can learn it, being as light as possible does carry advantages to skill gains.
-Flexibility is also an important aspect of the skill work and while this is not always the case, being more muscle-bound generally equates to being less flexible.

In terms of my own practice:

-Handstands have held a place in my own physical practice for the last 14 years or so, though I definitely did not follow what would be considered today’s standard progression.
-Apart from handstands I have practiced many different disciplines which all contributed to my physique gains.
-While handstands have been a factor for me, it is far from the only one.

General points to consider:

-Everyone responds to training differently, so two people doing the same workout will see very different results from it. The same goes with a skill-based physical discipline like hand balancing.
-In high level hand balancers, you will see similar development in shoulders, wrists and forearms. However it should be noted that many of the world’s best handbalancers don’t have impressive physiques(from a bodybuilding or weightlifting perspective). Likewise, many “jacked” handbalancers I can think of learned their skill when they were more skinny, then hit the weights later on to bulk up, and of course kept up with their skill work.
-Kind of a repetitive point of this article, but there is not always a direct correlation between strength, skill, and muscle mass.
-You should do handstands because you enjoy it. If you do it for the physique gains you are in it for the wrong reason. It might take a really long time to see noticeable muscle from your handstand practice, or it may not happen at all.
-There are much more effective ways of building up your upper body than a handstand practice, though I think it is a valuable addition to your program. My original handstand inspirations were the old time strongmen who used to practice HS in addition to their normal weight training.


What should you focus on to get more physique gains from your handstand training?

-Handstand pushups are fantastic for building the upper body in pressing .Freestanding ones are even better because you get the added benefit of balance corrections and stability work.

-Handstand Walking is a fantastic shoulder conditioning exercise that has much less of a skill/technical component compared to static balance. It’s an easily accessible move that offers the benefit of one arm support with full bodyweight at higher reps/distance. Also this one is fun to do. It is a staple of conditioning/warmup in not only gymnastics but martial arts like wrestling, judo, and capoeira.

-Press to handstand also trains the shoulders in a very unique way and will definitely help to build the delts, traps, and upper back.

-Long endurance holds are excellent for a pump in the shoulders and forearms(when free balancing). It can also be debated that the extra bloodflow to the upper body can help even more with recovery and building up the musculature.

-Feel free to add in some pulling work to balance out your physique and strength levels.


Conclusion

The intention of a handstand practice is to get better handstands. Physique gains may or may not result from it, but are by no means guaranteed. If your priority is hypertrophy, you’ll be better off with a bodybuilding based strength/conditioning program and adding in some handstand work on the side for added gains.
If your main goal is handstands but want to get more jacked, place more priority on the movements I listed above and maybe include some more bodybuilding style work 1-2 times a week.

Interested in learning more of a no-BS approach about handstands and other physical arts? Check out my handstand ebook and my workshops all around the world.

Common Handstand Mistakes: The Mini Planche

Today I want to talk about a very common handstand “mistake” that I notice all the time in adults. That would be the mini-planche.
To the uninitiated, a planche is a gymnastics pose that is in its essence a horizontal handstand and is accomplished by leaning the shoulders really far forward past the hands. The balance component of this posture is quite easy because the center of mass is low and the weight is spread out far from the point of balance. However, this pose takes tremendous upper body strength to be able to hold.

Shoulders past the hands to counterbalance the legs.

Shoulders past the hands to counterbalance the legs.

Even further lean with legs together.

Even further lean with legs together.



Why is this important? Well when learning to balance their handstands, a lot of adults will unknowingly and instinctively lean their shoulders a bit forward, as if towards the planche. I can understand completely why people do this: they sacrifice balance for strength. The straight, vertical handstand takes the most skill and precision to balance. Taking the weight out of the center line lowers the center of mass and creates a small counter-balance, meaning the balancing movements with the hands and wrists don’t have to be as precise.

Mini Planche in a handstand can be a very subtle thing to spot sometimes. Notice the angle of the arms in this photo in relation to the vertical line. In most cases it will be more obvious than this to spot.

Mini Planche in a handstand can be a very subtle thing to spot sometimes. Notice the angle of the arms in this photo in relation to the vertical line. In most cases it will be more obvious than this to spot.

Compare it to this photo where the arms are completely vertical as they should be.

Compare it to this photo where the arms are completely vertical as they should be.




Advantages of mini planche? Easier balance. Decreased likelyhood of an uncontrolled fall.
Drawbacks? Leaning forward puts more stress on the shoulders and wrists compared to keeping the arms vertical. It may not seem like much, but can accumulate over time, especially if training at a higher volume.

At the start of this article, I wrote mistake in quotes because it’s all about perspective. Though I don’t personally teach it this way, applying this technique can help a beginner to build the sensation of balancing on their hands faster. However, once we get to a more advanced level, finding a resting position in a handstand becomes more important. It is very difficult to be able to rest and relax in a handstand if the arms are not vertically aligned. The habit of planching will make it more difficult to increase endurance and work capacity, as well as learning skills like press to handstand. It will especially make one arm handstand more frustrating, as slight forward shoulder lean is a major cause of body rotation in one arm shifts.
I generally recommend learning to balance with the arms vertical from the beginning. Over the long term it’s better for your body and skill progressions though it may take a bit longer to initially learn to balance.

How do we fix the mini-planche? It’s all about perspective. I generally find that most people who end up building this habit are not aware of it. In other words, they think they are vertical when they are in fact leaning their shoulders forward. This means that if you were to place them in a vertical position, they would feel like they are falling towards the heels of their hands.
The best way to get rid of this habit is to develop control and awareness in a variety of positions of the shoulders in relation to the hands. By developing opposite extremes, it will be easier to find a resting position in middle ground.
We are looking to understand 3 position: shoulders above the hands, shoulders in front of the hands, and shoulders behind the hands. Once you learn what all of these feel like, it becomes much easier to give yourself feedback and make the proper corrections.
Vertical becomes a middle ground as opposed to an extreme range of control.
Check out this video to see what I mean:


Of course this exercise is quite advanced and can be scaled bu using a spotter, or working the forward and back elements separately against the wall before combining them.
Check out my youtube video below to see some more basic versions of how to fix the mini-planche. You can skip to 6:35 for the practical solutions, before that is theory.


Still working your handstand balance? Check out my ebook so you can develop a deeper understanding of the process.

Is One Arm Handstand Worth Pursuing

Interesting question I got in one of my live chats recently, something along the lines of "is a one arm handstand worth pursuing?"

First off, I can't answer that for anyone else as you will have to find your own answers. I can, however, add some thoughts about the process so you can more easily find your own answer.

Cons:
-It will take a long time. Way longer than you think. Don't even try to put a time frame on it.
-It will take a lot of commitment and sacrifice, meaning it may be difficult to also train other skills/disciplines with the same intensity.
-You have to be a little bit obsessed.
-Many people develop overuse injuries during the process because of the high volume demand.
-The process is very frustrating and repetitive.
-Be prepared to review your basics because they probably were not good enough.
-Inconsistent progress with very few aha moments.
-You'll probably want to quit as some point. Many people who undertake the journey don't ever "arrive".
-Very specific as far as skillsets go. Being able to hold OAH may not help you too much with learning other physical arts.
-Little Chinese girls warm up with your maximum efforts.

Pros:
-Looks really cool.
-Feels as cool as it looks.
-Top level party trick.
-Welcome to the elite. This is something that only the tiniest fraction of a percentage of the population will ever be able to achieve. The cool thing is that almost anyone can learn this, but it's the few who are willing enough to put in the years of work.
-Feels amazing once the work you put in starts to pay off.
-Fitness goals directed towards improving a skill are far superior to spinning in place in a hamster wheel.

So is it worth it? It has been for me. I put in a lot of sacrifice and this journey has taken me many places, literally and figuratively even though I still wouldn't call myself a "hand balancer".
Will it be worth it for you? You'll just have to find out...

A couple important qualities a good teacher should possess

So I personally love to attend classes and workshops for no reason. There's always something to learn, and even if it's in a subject you are already familiar with, a different perspective can always be helpful to see.
Even if I despised the class, I can still learn about what not to do as well as learn about myself based on my own reaction to the experience.

In this age of gurus and occasional charlatanry it can sometimes be difficult to discern the BS from the stuff of real value.
Here are a couple things I look for in a teacher truly secure and confident in what they do.

-Have a logical and specific reason for doing things a certain way. Always ask why. Questionable answers include: "we've always done it this way", "it's what my coach had me do", "Don't question the system". If they cannot explain why they do something, that smells strongly of bullshit.

-Admit to not knowing something. Momentarily being in a position of authority does not make anyone's knowledge absolute. There is no shame admitting this, to me it's actually a huge mark of confidence and humility. Nobody knows everything, and in essence everyone knows something you don't. Personally I find my own teaching experiences just as educational for me as for the workshop attendees, if not more so.

Last one is probably cliche, but a good teacher should embody what they teach. They should live it. What they teach should come out of their own experience.
It's easy to regurgitate information out of a book or generic "teacher training" but it's a bit more difficult to use your own experiences and observations as your guide.
If you are looking to teach something I think the most difficult part of the process is gathering enough experience and figuring out how to apply it. If only you could learn that in a weekend certification.
Unfortunately it takes years of mistakes, experimentation, and implementation.

Coming soon: The Yuri Method(TM) Weekend Certification of how to acquire experience

Honest Marketing

Going to be honest here, sometimes it's difficult to keep a no-BS approach within the fitness/movement/whatever industry. Luckily I'm not a good salesman and have no marketing team or skills, so I have to rely on my wit and striking good looks to survive.
I don't teach or belong to a system or method. I will not be certifying anyone, I make no absurd claims of my work, and have no time for grandiose charlatanry.

So here is a realistic sales pitch my of my workshops:
-I give tips and suggestions based on my knowledge and experience. I don't actually know that much but my memory and retention is well above average.
-I make no guarantees on what you will learn(there is potential to learn a lot but that's up to you)
-As an acrobat/handbalancer/mover I consider myself half mediocre on a good day(though probably higher level than most people have the patience to get to). The journey I took put me at a massive disadvantage for actual skill development but made me a much better teacher. I'm still trying to always learn more and improve however I can. I say this because the best athletes are often not the best teachers, however some people teach who barely do the thing themselves.
-If you are looking for a pragmatic way to approach hand balancing, acrobatics, "movement", bodyweight strength, flexibility, etc. as an adult I think I have something to offer.
-If you enjoy mysterious pretense and like the smell of bullshit, I am not your man. There are people out there who can serve you better.
-I highly favor individuality and critical thinking over group hive-mind type situations.
-My ultimate goal as a teacher is to encourage people towards individual self-awareness. The physical arts are just something I use as a vehicle towards approaching this.
-Don't look up to me. Being like me should not be anyone's goal. I have my own shit I'm dealing with(just like anyone else) and still have a long way to go in my own self-improvement.

Anyway, that's the overly romanticized version. Now who wants to join me in learning how not to fall on their head when attempting handstands?

How the worst seminar I ever attended made me a better teacher

Random fleeting thought about the power of experience and perception:

I remember very well what I consider the worst workshop I've ever taken(shall not be named). It was on the expensive side, not too favorable teacher/student ratio, almost no actual instruction, moved through exercises so fast no one had time to get anything, most of the exercises themselves were overly convoluted and not that useful, seminar was trying to peddle a product rather than focus on the experience, etc.

Really, I considered the whole thing a self-centered masturbation fest. The instructor talked about themselves for the whole first hour of what seemed to be a rehearsed speech(and seemed to enjoy the sound of their own voice). After lunch, the assistant talked about himself for a good 45 minutes.

Granted, I took the seminar out of my own curiosity as an outsider to the community it was geared towards. Most of the people in attendance seemed to really enjoy the event. Were they that far indoctrinated within their community? Or maybe they attended for much different reasons than I.

Anyway, this seminar made me think a lot about peoples' motivation and reasoning and how it could differ greatly from my own.

Lastly, this seminar gave me a lot of motivation to try to better with my own teaching that I try to deliver(by my standards anyway). The lessons I learned from this day were all negative, but they have stuck with me.
I'm not saying I do better than this; but I try my best to uphold my own standards. No doubt(just by statistics if anything) that there are at least a couple people who consider my workshop the worst they've ever taken.

So I pose this question: was it really the worst seminar I ever attended? I may have learned something very different than the other attendees, but I still learned a lot.

Every experience has something to offer, It's just in how you perceive it.

A few real thoughts for those considering learning OAH

Want to learn one arm handstand? Here are a couple thoughts that might either motivate or discourage you, and I've left out the fake motivational "you can do it" rubbish I hate so much.
This is based on my own experience from people who think they are ready.
Even though these thoughts are handstand specific, they can apply to any high level skill once you are at that level. 

-Your two arm handstand(along with other basics) is probably not good enough. Work on it more. Every aspect of it should be completely trivial.

-If it takes you more than one try to catch a balance on two arms, you have way more important priorities than OAH.

-You haven't, don't, and probably are not willing to spend enough time in fingertip supported OAH. Accumulate time and strive to make the fingertips as light as possible. Get to a point where holding this is almost as trivial as two arms.

-You'll have to be ok with working the same drills drills and exercises every day for months at a time. That's the reality of the training.

-There are no a-ha moments. It's going to a long, slow, drawn out, methodical process without any guarantee of linear progression.

-Consistency is king and persistence is queen. There is nothing to celebrate until you can hit intended skill with similar accuracy on a consistent basis. This will keep you way more honest than internet validation.

-Be prepared to work and sacrifice. Just playing around occasionally might be enough to maintain the skill but not to build it.

Anyway, just a few real thoughts on what it takes. In all honesty, many people who come to me thinking they are ready for one arm work are not. That doesn't mean they can't play with the concepts, but it might be better to put priorities elsewhere.

Hand Balance and Pulling Strength

Should pulling be a part of your hand balancing practice?
Well like many other things the answer is subjective depending on what you are trying to achieve.
The first thing to note is that no amount of pulling work will have any direct benefit on your hand balancing. 
In fact; being strong in pulling movements can actually hinder your handstand progress. This is because being a strong puller usually comes with other baggage such as tight lats and forearms which can make it more difficult to create a better line with which you can find a resting position in the handstand.
Hanging on the other hand can be useful for building shoulder mobility and decompressing the body.

The answer I give here is of a similar theme that I often give. It's about assessing your goals and figuring out what you are trying to achieve.
Are you training to solely specialize in hand balance? You don't really need to do any pulling, though I personally would not give the advice to avoid it completely. 
Generalist physical culture enthusiast? By all means, experiment with a bit of everything, but know the demands and costs of the disciplines. I can progress in pulling with 1-2 sessions per week but would see very little progress if I did the same with hand balance. On the same note, heavy pulling sessions can have a negative impact on your handstand skill work because of how the body responds.
Climber, aerialist, pole dancer or other pulling dominant athlete? I think some basic handstand work is valuable in balancing out the shoulders and help prevent injury,

Personally I've always included some kind of pulling work in my physical practice, as pushing strength came easier to me. I've also never called myself a hand balancer; have performed as an aerialist, and enjoy the combination of pulling and pushing to balance out the upper body(aesthetically and functionally).
What are your thoughts on balancing out a handstand practice with pulling strength?

Why I don't use the word "good"

A bit of personal philosophy today.
I almost never use the word "good" to describe something, regardless of what I am talking about.
This falls in line with my thoughts about positive thinking in general, but I find it interesting how specific language and word choice can impact our perspective on the world.

I don't use "good" because it is dangerously close to falling into a trap of complacency. See, when you call something good, it's not far off from being labeled "good enough"(for government work). When something is good enough, it no longer needs improving and then progress can stagnate.
I dislike the idea of goals and destinations, because I have watched too many people lower their standards in order to "arrive" rather than continue looking at the path ahead as they tread onward.
I also don't take compliments well, so this is a way to rationalize it. This also invokes my early days where I received too much positive feedback for the absolute garbage I was doing. It made me develop an ego where later it was difficult to handle advice or criticism. Now I've transformed into the opposite, where my self critique is often much harsher than what others would dish out while I shrug off and negate any form of compliment.

Rather than "good", these are my levels:

-Terrible: Usually denotes some kind of technical failure.
-Not good: Usually denotes potential for risk.
-Better: A sign that things are in the process of improvement.
-Not bad: High Praise

So terrible and not good are on the negative spectrum while better and not bad are more positive.

Of course, this style of thinking is not for everyone. Personally this logic makes sense to me and it's what allows me to keep on learning as I go.
What are your thoughts?

Quantifying Years of Experience

So recently I watched a promotional video for a business where one of their selling points was "over 100 years of ... experience".

Now I know for a fact this business has not been around for a century; nor has the market for such a business.

My next series of questions then would be concerning the mathematics of this conclusion and where the line would be drawn.

 

What qualifies as a year of experience? Can I round up? Do I add up the collective experience of my employees? If I am somebody's student, can I compile their years of experience onto my own since I learned from their mistakes? If I am a coach, do I only count my years of coaching or can I add my years of training/competition? If I am an athlete/performer, does the timer start the first day I set foot into the gym or only when I start competing or performing on a proper level? If I inherited a trade from my family, can I add that that ancestral experience onto my own number?
What if I take time off of my trade; do I have to stop the counter or can I keep it going? If I learned part of my trade as a child, does that count since children follow a different learning process compared to adults?
Can achieving a certain level act as a multiplier?

 

Hope you can see why I would be suspicious of anyone who lists their years of experience as a selling point; it's too easy to manipulate the math. It's the small dogs that bark the loudest.

I think some things are better left unsaid, and experience should speak for itself. If your eye is sharp enough, you can tell someone's experience through their attention to the finer details.


What does experience even mean?
I don't believe that doing something for x number of years necessarily constitutes that many years of experience. I also don't believe that time spent learning a skill as a child equals the amount of time of learning the same skill as an adult. Continuing, I don't believe being coached and strictly following someone else's process of equal to the experience of following your own process. Learning a trade for the enjoyment of learning it versus having to do it to make a living are also unequal in my eyes(dependent on some factors). I also think years of experience teaching and being a student don't hold the same value.

 

Experience is about trying things, then reaping the rewards or dealing with the consequences and making the necessary adjustments.
Making mistakes is massively important, but even more so is learning lessons from those mistakes.
Years of repetition are not equal to years of experience.

Basically, unless you are continuously modifying, changing, and hopefully evolving I don't believe that years of action are equal to years of experience and should not be presented as such.

 

 

Of course I'll have to call myself out as well, trying to be as objective as possible(feel free to skip if you don't care about my personal history):


-As an athlete, I did play some sports and ran around outside as a kid but wasn't super active. I would start my timer probably around age 16-17 when I started to enjoy and care a bit more about performance, health, and fitness. I'll say this timer hasn't really stopped since I have continued to stay active; but I wouldn't count any of my pursuits as a kid into this number.
 

-As a teacher I would say my journey started at around 18/19 years old when I attempted to take over the unofficial capoeira club at my university because there was noone else at the time.

However, I can make several distinctions in here; first when I taught just to try to build a community for my own personal enjoyment; second when I taught for work mainly coaching kids gymnastics and other classes; third when I transitioned into working for myself doing workshops and seminar around the world for adults.
Also I can note that I took breaks during times that I had other non-teaching related jobs.I can also say that during my time teaching, I constantly experiment with different methods to continue to try to understand more about the learning process itself.

 

-As a performer I would probably start my timer also around 18 years old, my first "proper" performance with a real audience I can remember was being part of a capoeira piece for a show run by the school of dance at my university. During university we did some performances and then I became a cheerleader as well; which meant during football or basketball games there was an audience of several thousand people.

Moving to Las Vegas gave me a lot more opportunity to develop myself as a performer and be a part of some amazing shows, but still there was never a time when I was performing on a regular basis.

Even now, I would love to continue to develop myself more in this aspect but teaching all the time gets in the way of that. Not that I'm complaining as I love teaching and it's a kind of performance on its own; but I often get the question when I am teaching abroad for weeks at a time ""are you performing anywhere?" The answer is not really because that requires me to be in town and available.
So in short, I have been performing for years but many breaks and I still think I have a lot to work on in this aspect.

 

-As a businessman... my weakness. I would start my timer when I quit my regular job and started working for myself full-time. Maybe a little bit of freelance work beforehand but this was the main shift.
I was very naive when I begin this enterprise and this is the area where I learned some of my harshest lessons on trust and the general nature of some people. I've dealt with grown millionaires who displayed the maturity of children in the playground. I've dealt with people who can talk all day about their grandiose plans but don't deliver; likewise with promises. 
Though to not stay on a negative note I have also met some amazing people that I have been able to base some of my own decisions and protocols off of. 
I think I have managed to do ok since I've been completely on my own in this regard and have seen reasonable growth without sacrificing my ideals and integrity. 
Constant lessons being learned here; and though I am lucky to enjoy what I do for a living the business end is the least enjoyable part. 

 

-As a student? Never stop learning.

I couldn't count the number of people I have learned from or been inspired by whether it was directly or indirectly. I am grateful to them all for the positive and negative lessons.
I've definitely had periods of time where I stagnated in my learning process or let my ego take its hold, but I am doing my best to shed all that and try to see the lesson and learning experience in everything.

 

 

Hopefully you have enjoyed reading my rant on years of experience as well as a little bit of my own personal history.

 


Sincerely yours,

Yuri Dmitrievich Marmerstein

Over one million years collective multiplied athletic, business, ancestral, ethereal, cosmic, spiritual, coaching, teaching, moving, learning and existing Experience

The Yuri Method(TM) of how to not be completely useless and make something of yourself(results not guaranteed)

Since anyone these days has the opportunity to be a self-professed expert on success, life, and the universe, I have decided to hold my own free webinar. Right here in this very post; and you don't even have to sign up for anything(other than follow me).

Here is the Yuri Method(TM) of how to not be completely useless and make something of yourself(results not guaranteed):
First off, know that you are nothing and your existence is fleeting as best. As a drop of water amidst an infinite ocean.
With that said, try the following:
1.Find something that genuinely interests you
2.Learn more about it
3.Try it
4.Make mistakes
5.Learn from your mistakes
6.Try again and make new mistakes. This is progress
7.Learn more
8.Keep trying and learning until your ability level matches your standards. This might take a while and your standards might change over time. This is ok. Reap the rewards of your success or accept the consequences of your failures and learn your lesson. Both of these are equal in the long term.
9.Use your knowledge and ability to help those at lower levels than you achieve their own progress(optional step but it can be fulfilling).
9a. Join a community of people with the same interest. This step is optional, but some people enjoy it. Personally I've had a couple bad experiences with communities, so this has made me naturally suspicious and more inclined to be the lone wolf(most of the time anyway).
10.Repeat the process with something new to you. 
11.Continue until expiration

A couple extra thoughts:
-The new year is trivial. Resolutions are fleeting, promises are broken, words are wind. Having the drive and taking the time and effort to improve yourself should be something embedded within your consciousness(if you take it seriously). If it takes a NYE resolution to start or break a habit, so be it, but my recommendation is to permanently continue working on yourself for the long haul. Every experience, good or bad, is an opportunity to learn something.

Never stop learning, never stop doing, keep at it until you expire.

Happy New Year

Regards,
Yuri

P.S. As always, don't take my advice too seriously. Following the Yuri Method(TM) may result in existential crisis. There will be side effects. Results not guaranteed.

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Thoughts after a failed internet argument

So recently I made the mistake of replying to a thread on the internet while attempting to give advice and use logic.  
Needless to say, it didn't go well.  It could have continued as a conversation about handstand technicalities, but my logic was met with a personal attack on myself and my teaching style(which I completely accept) and eventually a comment on my appearance.  
I won't bore you with the full conversation, but let's say I am once again put off by trying to help people over public forums on the internet.  

When I saw the argument was turned to being about me instead of the subject in question, I tried to end the argument and concede internet superiority, after which this classy gentleman pulled the LOTR card and called me Gimli.  
I'm not mad.  I fully respect peoples opinions and perspectives when there is logic and reason behind them.  It's just difficult to help sometimes in the age where everyone is an expert/guru.  


First off, Gimli was my favorite character in LOTR(apart from Tom Bombadil) so I don't take that as an insult but rather hilarity.  

Anyway, before I get side tracked I want to address the grievances against me.  It's more of an internal dialogue for me, but since I can express myself better through writing this might help some of my readers might learn more about how I teach.  
Luckily I mostly view the world from a negative/realist(none of this optimism/positive BS) point of view so this makes it easy to anticipate potential negative backlash(since I am more harsh on myself than anyone else can be). I hate receiving compliments anyway.  

Below are some of the grievances about my person and my responses to them:


-"Spends countless hours on Bailouts"
It's true, the bailout of the HS is a big part of my curriculum, especially in my beginner workshops.  Not being able to bail out safely is something that holds many people back from developing their freestanding handstand as it creates a psychological limitation for the skill.  I often see very fast results in students' handstand from just working on bailouts, as it gives them more confidence in their entry and takes away the fear of falling.  
Now I understand that this might be a trivial concept for intermediate and advanced practitioners attending a mixed level workshop.  I never thought much of bailouts myself(I learned it naturally from years of actual falling) until I started teaching adults with no prior inversion experience.  
To keep the higher level students entertained, I try to offer different challenges and perspectives within the context.  In addition I offer advice on how to teach this to beginners, since teaching cues and perspectives are also something that many of my workshop attendees are interested in(I take the time to ask).  
In an advanced workshop, the bailout is not something I touch on since I assume participants can already do it and have the control to not need to use it.  

-"Does not like presses very much"
I think this may have been taking out of context.  I think the press to HS is an incredibly valuable skill for anyone to learn, even if they are not handstand obsessed.  The combination of strength, flexibility, balance, timing, and control needed for a press is a huge achievement and it is worth anyone interested in the physical arts to pursue it.  
However for most people the press takes more energy than kicking or jumping to handstand.  
The original thread was about one-arm handstands, which is a very specific skill.  When learning this, I generally discourage students from using the press to go into their one-arm sets.  The reason is mainly for efficiency since you can save energy in the entry that can be used for additional one-arm training(you'll need it). The press can(and should) then be trained separately in the practice and eventually combined with the OAH work.  
The main reason I give this advice is because I have seen too many occurrences of people wasting energy and tiring themselves out quickly by trying to press into every OAH attempt.  
No right or wrong here, just viewing the skill from a specific perspective.  If your goal is OAH, the more reps you can do the better you will be.  

Of course there are also times when the press is the safest method of entry, like doing HS on something high or unstable but once again we are talking about as very specific context here as to why not to use the press.  


"Versatility"
I had also recommended the OP to avoid training OAH on mats and stick to hard floor or blocks.  The reason is that the mats change the weight distribution in the hand and dampen the sensation a bit. This may not make much difference for two arm HS but will make the OAH more frustrating to learn(even more so than it already is).  
Part of the conversation before it turned into the typical internet troll stupidity was about doing the HS on different surfaces to build versatility.  I am absolutely for this, in fact I wrote an ARTICLE about performing the HS on different surfaces and how it leads to different adaptations and a better understanding of the skill as a whole.  
However, for initial OAH training it will be a lot less frustrating if you can give yourself consistent conditions as there are already enough variables to worry about.  
The progressions here are skill-specific so being versatile is a good thing.  However no amount of versatility will get you to balance on one arm as it's something you have to specifically work on.  
This is why it is so rare for gymnasts to be able to do OAH, even though their versatility in HS is very high.  To get better at OAH you need to specifically work on it and there is no way around that.

-"Does so much other stuff"
I think this was a personal attack on my varied training, as some handstand purists see other training as a negative thing.  
The fact is that I have never called myself a hand balancer.  There was never a time when i trained only handstand, though there was a period when it was my main focus.  I have always trained in multiple disciplines, I just found handstands to be especially interesting.  
I think it broadens my perspective(and helps teaching people of different backgrounds) to train HS alongside with many other disciplines, but I understand how someone with a more narrow state of mind can see it as a negative.  
I am also well aware that my handstand level is quite mediocre, especially compared to some of the people have had the opportunity to train with.  That's why it is best not to compare but still maintain a healthy dose of realism as to where I stand.  
I think what I do have under my belt is the mistakes I have made in my journey, and the years of practical experience from teaching people of different backgrounds and abilities around the world.  This allows me to see certain perspectives that people with a formal background or narrow minded purists(not using this as a derogatory term) would have trouble expressing.  
Teaching to me is less about personal ability and more about communication and managing expectations and standards of your students. 
I believe the path I took in learning my skills may have been detrimental in my development as an athlete but was invaluable in my development as a teacher.  

I also believe the ultimate goal of a teacher should be to make themselves obsolete, so I try to think more in terms giving students concepts to develop and apply for themselves in their own practice rather than doing the work for them in the moment.  I think being largely self-taught also helped me to see things in this way.  
I understand this can also be a polarizing point of view if someone is too accustomed to a particular teaching or learning style.  No problem there.  Sometimes we have to take classes or get lessons to see what doesn't work.  A negative lesson is still a positive one as you learn what not to do.  

-"Would be pretty boring if we all looked this same"
I guess this is an attack on having people follow similar progressions towards their skill work.  

In response, Yes it would.  Except we do all look the same.  We all have two arms, two legs, head, torso, etc.  There's a cliche Bruce Lee quote here, something about 'when people have 3 arms and 4 legs, then you will see some different fighting styles".  
I think it is important to make creative variations of skills, but it is equally if not more important to build a base of technique to build that from.  That base technique is going to look similar(though never completely the same) for pretty much everyone and there is reason for that.  
After technique can come individual style.  

Also, one more cliche quite to add: "There is nothing new under the sun".  It's all been done, and probably before your lifetime under shittier conditions.  
With few exceptions, nobody is really doing anything "new" or unique in the realm of the physical arts.  It might be unique to you, but not to the world.  
I think what allows people to be unique is to put their own perspective and style behind what they do.  
There's nothing wrong with following a set standard, at least for a certain amount of time. 


-"Gimli"
This was the final retort.  
Yes, I am bearded. As is the dwarven character in Tolkien's novels.  This is a connection noone has made before (cue sarcasm).  
It is also very relevant to the original conversation and a super classy move(more sarcasm if the native English readers dd not catch it). 
I love being bearded and hate my face, so it's a win/win situation for me.  Beards are a long time symbol of manhood, wisdom, and virility.  Plus the ladies love it(wink wink).  

I will insert a couple of my favorite beard quotes just for grins:

"He who hath a beard is more than a child, and he who hath no beard is less than a man"
-Shakespeare

"There are two kinds of people without beards, women and children"

"It's better a Jew without a beard than a beard without a Jew."
-Yiddish proverb




The gentleman also eventually went on saying he was biased because he did not enjoy my seminar.  This is also perfect fine with me.  I try to do my best in helping everyone get something out of my workshop.  
However, I am well aware I normally work with a mixed group as far as ability, background, expectations and intentions for the class.  No matter how good I am, I cannot make everyone happy.  
I tell participants to keep an open mind, but I have no doubt that occasionally some are offended or disappointed by my language, delivery, skills, point of view, class organization, etc.  
As I say, I do my best but can't win them all.  Only can learn from experience and continue to improve.  

 


Those are my thoughts from this experience.  If you made it this far I hope you enjoyed the read.  

Until next time, you have my axe.  

Gimli out