never fight a clown...

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Fibonacci Sequence!

For those who are not aware of the Fibonacci Sequence. The Sequence is the succession of numbers: 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, ... The following number is discovered by adding up the two numbers before it. The sequence is also expressed in many forms. This image below is the most common – but it won’t take you too much to do some ‘googling’ to find more images and manifestations of the Fibonacci Sequences in nature.


I thought I’d have a look at my own work and see if I could find it. So, I screen shot a couple of flips and discover some. Have a look.

Then I took a still of a friend of mine doing a sword cut – here is Casey Kaleba doing a cut. See if you can see any? I can see a great one in the water. It maybe just projection but hey it’s fun to try!


Now start to have a look at some of the old manuals and see if you can start to see it!!

What we also gain from this maths is the golden ratio (symbol is the Greek letter "phi" shown below) which is a special number approximately equal to 1.618. Google this ratio and you will have a field day! It appears many times across, art, geometry architecture and many other areas.

1.618 x 1 = Golden Rectangle

Here is something interesting to close on. Thought I’d keep looking at some of the old manuals as I was was curious if  the  'golden rectangle' ratio would pop up. Here is one place I found it! WHich does't surprise me.

Worth noting we all know the triangle is a strong structure – right! If you draw a line from our friends’ foot on the right to where he hits the mark; it makes a triangle obviously. No doubt the power at that point of impact must have been intense! It’s it great when science and art comes together!!

To be continued no doubt!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

mental rotation

Firstly, what is ‘mental rotation’? The most helpful definition I could find was at Wikipedia.

Mental rotation is the ability to rotate mental representations of two-dimensional and three-dimensional objects as it is related to the visual representation of such rotation within the human mind. (Thank you, Wikipedia!)

Great! Now we have got that out of the way – what does this have to do with movement training? On a simplistic level one’s ability to see things in space is one thing. But if we dig a little deeper there is a relationship between knowing your left from your right and mental rotation. 

Having a high level of mental rotation ability has a direct correlation with being good at sport. So, it would help the actor to develop this skill especially when learning choreography or movement sequences. Why? 

Let’s look at an example to help provide a context for why. Often, we are choreographed to do something on the right side of our own body. Further to that you could then be directed to cut your sword (or a punch) to your fellow actors left low side while you may have to move to the right. Complicating that you may also be asked to move to the left of stage or camera left. It may even be your left-handed and your fellow actor is right-handed. All these directions and orientation can sometimes overwhelm some actors and ‘freeze’ their brain. Yet for others they can digest the different directions and orientations in the blink of a thought and just do it. 

Regardless of your ability in mental rotation or left and right differences, it would a be skill to develop. Thankfully research suggest that this ‘muscle’ can be developed. So, if you feel you do suffer from these learning difficulties luckily there are ways to develop it. Tetris comes to mind even doing jig saw puzzles can help. Of course, my old favourite has proven to help as well – juggling! These are just a few ideas. Do yourself a favour and do some more research into further training ideas and I guaranteed you’ll enjoy the challenge!

to be continued...

Sunday, May 26, 2019


Now when I say drawing, I am of course referring to drawing the attack. By way of generating an opening for an opponent to attack. Not so obviously of course that you are giving away the opening but subtle enough to lure someone in let’s say.  What does drawing have to do with the art of stage combat I hear you ask!

Before I answer that let’s take it back a bit. There is an aspect of staging attacks in staged violence that always makes me cringe. The moment when an actor ‘cues’ for an attack and the fellow actor is choreographed to avoid. There is inevitably that ‘eggy moment’ where the attacking actor at the apex of the cue is either thinking – “why aren’t you moving? I’m trying to attack” or the receiving actor is thinking – “why aren’t you attacking I’m waiting here to move”.

My experience is that the receiver is waiting for something to ‘feel real’ (an attack that makes them feel like they should move), and the attacker is trying hard to honour the system i.e. I’ve cued so you need to move, therefore I am not going to continue the attack until you move. But for some reason the illusion of attack and avoid always falls down in the early stages. There usually appears to be this stop start thing going on. 

To me this is where drawing can really help us. Let’s look at a slash with a sword and a jump back to avoid as an example. As an actor my line of thinking has always been put the focus of my work on the ‘other’ so if we combine that thinking with drawing and I am the receiver I will already be prepping my body to jump back as the attacking actor moves into cue. This means as they hit the apex, I will already be jumping back thus drawing them into the slash because I have created space for them to unleash and create a powerful slash. Indirectly I am giving them permission and time. 

To be continue…

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Rough & Tumble?

I was doing a class with the late great Robert Macdougall in the early 90’s and he was explaining a great way to work through the inevitable bumps and knocks we get or give during rehearsing or creating choreography. Put simply: Stop – ask: “is it uncomfortable or do you need to stop?” To which the answer will determine how the work proceeds. 

Ever since that class there are two things, I have been curious about.
1. The creative workflow when making choreography or rehearsing verses;
2. How to work out each other’s ability endure something that is physically uncomfortable rather than an injury or potential for injury. 

What I have grown to conclude is that a healthy version of stage combat conditioning needs to be developed within the training process of the art form. This will develop an actor you can recognise if the creativity needs to stop because of injury (or potential) or can continue through something that is uncomfortable. Because the nature of making art is that the answer to unlocking something new may be so close and if we stop that creative workflow, we may never know what we were about to discover.

Let me be clear I am not talking about being dangerous or reckless or working through pain. I am talking about developing a training ethos that recognises that bumps and knocks are a part of the work – sure we are extremely safe that’s not what I am talking about. I’m talking about a well developed approach to reducing a ‘flinch’ / ‘knee jerk’ response when in the process of practice and rehearsal. That way actors don’t immediately pull away from the creative process but rather, they remain present. Remain present and do a sophisticated diagnostic around what has actually happed. This is of course also being considerate of consent. 

To be continued…

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Learning or Remembering…

When you are first shown choreography or a sequence of movement – do you try to remember it, or do you try to learn it? What is the difference between remembering choreography and learning choreography? 

Surely in order to remember something, you must have had an experience. If memory is the facility by which we remember, and to remember is to recall something from our past: let’s call it an experience for the sake of this musing. Then it would follow the experience is attached to the memory. So, when you are first see / or are shown something you aren’t trying to remember it because you’ve never experienced it. 

This helps us understand and develop a better attitude and approach to learning (not remembering… yet) choreography. Then the follow-on line of enquiry lies with the question – how long does it take to effectively learn something before we start moving to remembering it? 

It may be more beneficially to keep one’s mindset in the learning phase rather than shifting to remembering too soon? Regardless of whether one is a visual, verbal, aural, kinaesthetic or a blend of all four learning styles, we all take a different amount of time to digest choreography. It may therefore be prudent to keep these two points separate: learning and remembering. It may help to develop a clearer strategy on what and how you are learning through a variety of specific focuses in the learning phase in order to help with the remembering process.

Furthermore, even when we are remembering choreography in the context of a rehearsal for example, we inevitably will be given notes, so we have to shift gears back to the learning phase to re wire our neurological pathways so that we adjust our memory (experience) of the choreography.

Also, in the mix is pre-existing knowledge of movement for example you may already be an advanced combatant so some sequences, techniques or moves within the choreography may be ‘easy’ however the combination presented to you is new. Or you maybe learning choreography from scratch with no combative (stage or ‘real’) experience at all. Either way it may help to keep learning and remembering as two distinctly different modes and strategies to ensure that you know when you are operating in either mode.

To be continued…

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Healthy arch – the key to mobility and stability.

After last week’s class where we had a great discussion about the role of the arch in the foot – I decided to put some thoughts down. Which was fantastic as I had recently been pondering the thought what or where is the keystone in the arch of the foot? But in order to find a resolution to that thought I need to first look at the differences in function between the architectural arch verses the anatomical arch of the foot.

The architectural arch which has been around for a long time, used by the Egyptians, Byzantines and Greeks was advanced by the Romans. The advancement was the use of ‘concrete’ thus creating an arch that was able to bear large amounts of weight. The keystone is the last part of the arch to be placed into position allowing both sides of the arch to ‘press’ against the other through / via the keystone thus distributing the weight evenly.

(excuse my crude drawings)

Now let’s look at the arch in an anatomical context. The foot has three arches: The Transverse (or Metatarsal) Arch, the Medial-Longitudinal Arch and Lateral-Longitudinal Arch. On one level foot arches share one key similarity to the architectural arch – strength. However here is the main difference between the architectural and anatomical arches, the foot needs to be mobile.

Obviously, the arches help us in terms of balance but this mobility of the arch aids in the absorption of impact as we move. The foot can make so many micro modifications in order to respond to a variety of surfaces with the main purpose to bring about stability to the upper body. As well as this agility in the arches they also provide a ‘spring’. An absorbing motion as we step and thus propelling us into the next step. This connection and flexibility across all three arches also allow for weight distribution and thus absorbs impacts that would otherwise be taken unnecessarily into the knees, hips and spine. 

So how does all this help me with my ponderings i.e. where is the keystone for the anatomical arch? Well two thoughts came out of diving in a little deeper with my musings. Firstly, I guess there is no actual physical keystone at the apex of the anatomical arch, so I guess the keystone is really a visualisation exercise in my body mind. The ability to visualise the arches working in harmony in order to bring about mobility. Secondly, I was happy to be reminded of the triangle created by the three arches working together. Any one who knows me knows I love circles and triangles – two very strong shapes. This triangle allows me to visualise a platform on the ground that permits me to see how the cohesion of the arches brings about stability.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

why is proprioception important in movement training for actors...

What is proprioception? Thank heavens for Wikipedia! It provides a great definition!

Proprioception is the sense of self-movement and body position. It is sometimes described as the "sixth sense". Proprioception is mediated by mechanically-sensitive proprioceptor neurons distributed throughout an animal's body. Most vertebrates possess three basic types of proprioceptors: muscle spindles, which are embedded in skeletal muscle fibers, Golgi tendon organs, which lie at the interface of muscles and tendons, and joint receptors, which are low-threshold mechanoreceptors embedded in joint capsules. Many invertebrates, such as insects, also possess three basic proprioceptor types with analogous functional properties: chordotonal neurons, campaniform sensilla, and hair plates.

The central nervous system integrates information from proprioception and other sensory systems, such as vision and the vestibular system, to create an overall representation of body position, movement, and acceleration.

The sense of proprioception is ubiquitous across mobile animals and is essential for the motor coordination of the body.

Proprioception is from Latin proprius, meaning "one's own", "individual", and capio, capere, to take or grasp. Thus, to grasp one's own position in space, including the position of the limbs in relation to each other and the body as a whole.

The word kinesthesia or kinæsthesia (kinesthetic sense) refers to movement sense but has been used inconsistently to refer either to proprioception alone or to the brain's integration of proprioceptive and vestibular inputs. Kinesthesia is a modern medical term composed of elements from Greek; kinein "to set in motion; to move" (from PIE root *keie- "to set in motion") + aisthesis "perception, feeling" (from PIE root *au- "to perceive") + Greek abstract noun ending -ia (corresponds to English -hood e.g. motherhood). (care of Wikipedia)

So why is this important for movement in actors? For me knowing where my partner is, where my props / weapons are and of course I am in space is the basic answer. However, if I dig around a little deeper into my curiosity and ask why! That is to say why is it extremely important in my studies and practice to hone this skill. My curiosity leads me to focus on the words force and touch.What I’m referring to here is my grip, my energy exerted, my ability at the very moment of contact with a fellow actor, audience member or prop know what I am dealing with on a neurological, muscular and skeletal level. Why I hear you ask! It strikes me that a large part of successful proprioception is about knowing where your joints are in space and thus know how to make the next move.

Let’s take a piece of fight choreography for example. So, choreographically I am to grab another actor and stage a certain amount of perceived resistance in that choreography (ie a ‘struggle’) and then push them across the space. The moment I grab another actor I am making so many decisions based on that sense of touch. I am using my nervous system, to analyse where my partner is at in space but also many other questions. Are they balanced? Where is their weight loaded? Are they giving up their centre? Are they working too hard? Have they got too much energy? Are they too ‘floppy’? I would even go so far as to say I could even read how they are going emotionally. Once I weigh up all these questions and more – I can start to then move to my muscular and skeletal systems to work out how best to move through the choreography. So, based on how my joints are calibrated will inform how I begin to move into the choreography and with how much force. The synchronised and effective use of hinge and socket joints will be the key to smooth movement.
to be continued...

proprioception in motion...