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S1 Episode 35: Social Media


From Forums to Instagram – Handstands on the Internet

In this Episode of the Handstandcast, Emmet and Mikael discuss how social media has influenced their training and handstands. Tracking their online journeys and how the communities and resources available to them have changed through their training lives.

We hope you enjoy it!

S1E35 – Social Media

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Transcript of Episode 35: Social Media

EL: Roll the music….

*theme song*

EL: Hello, and welcome back to the Handstand Cast with me, Emmet Louis, and my cohost Mikael Kristiansen.  How are things going Mikael?

MK: Today they are a piece of shit.  Just one of those days, in all ways, shapes and forms.  Yeah.  I can’t complain too much.

Ok, so I was walking into my room.  I think I had the plate..I can’t even remember which hand. But I think I bumped my right shoulder on the side of the door.  As I was looking away, thinking about something else, Bam!  My entire plate on the floor.  I scraped it up and ate everything, because if I was finally bothered to actually cook something, god damn if I were going to leave it on the floor or throw it away.

EL: I like the way you actually committed to that.  You paused, and took a photo before collecting it.

MK: I kind of had to.  It looked fucking disastrous.  Most of the food crashed into the wall before it fell down onto the floor.  There were streams of sauce down the wall, and it landed on the chocolate I bought from a friend of mine.

As I bumped into it, the chocolates fell onto the floor as well.  It was a specific chocolate I bought in Norway for a friend of mine in Sweden, so that had to be cleaned as well.  Fucking hell.

EL: That was a good one.

I’m doing pretty good.  We are back in lock down.  If you’re listening to this in the future, we are coming up on Hallowe’en and back in lock down in Dublin.  Do I christen this lock down as a new one?  Or is it still March the 509th of July?  Who knows?  Never ending.

Mikael was here while we were recording some new courses.  I don’t know if you know, but Ireland has a street junky problem in the city centre, lots of heroin addicts who cause shenanigans.

Now, it’s a bit more obvious, because there’s no one on the street.  They have this heroin addict phone system, where instead of calling each other, they walk around shouting each other’s names until they find the person they’re looking for.  We’ve been subjected to that a lot lately.  Other than that, I kind of enjoy the lock down.  It’s kind of nice.

MK: It was nice when I was in the mountains in Norway.  Now I’m back in Stockholm and of course here it’s as if there is no pandemic, in all…practical ways, at least.  You do not get the feeling that anything is going on, because everything is so normal.

Again, I’m not an immunologist, so I’m not going to speculate what is right or wrong with these things.  It’s certainly a change of pace, and kind of weird after being in Ireland and Norway where there’s more measures.  Then you come here, and nothing is…of course there are certain measures happening, but the day to day experience of those being there is not so prevalent or in your face.  It feels as if life is very normal.

I just returned home a few days ago after playing a bunch of shows.  My low back is really busted from carrying humans around space in the morning, twice a day.  But it was fun to play shows.  I haven’t had a show run like that in over a year, or more.  Playing a bunch of shows in a row is super rough.
The first week I was comatose by doing a couple shows every day.  It’s interesting to see how the body adapts and handles it.  Am I still up to this?  I will definitely break…I can’t do this.  Then you just smash through it.  By the third day of the second week, I went training in the evening after having done all of it.

Of course it’s rough, but it’s doable.  That has been a little bit of a plus the last period, I must say.

EL: I always found that with shows and runs.  It smashes you the first week, because you haven’t played in a while.  Then, wait, I remember my efficiency in the show, and it gets easier.

MK: I think you remember where to breathe extra.  I felt that a lot in the show.  There’s a certain point where I stopped in the first scene, one of the more physically intense ones.

Whenever I stopped there, the first three days I was breathing semi heavily.  By the second week I was kind of still getting warmed up by that point.  Very different in terms of energy management.  So that was pretty fun.

EL: Then there’s bits in a longer show, “Oh, I’m not even on for ten more minutes.  I can go chill out, have a cup of tea, then come back to it.”

MK: This show we were on stage all the time.  The stage was small and a circle with children sitting around it.  You’re switched on all the time, which I find more exhausting then when you can go off and be out of character, out of your focus.  Here you’re always paying attention to what’s going on, even if someone else is in focus.  You’re consciously allowing them the focus, and it drains quite a lot of energy, mentally, to be in that state.

I’m very happy to play some shows, since it’s definitely not the easiest time for any kind of performers or people of physical arts.  It’s basically fully dry and will be for months and months.  We did school shows, and it’s government funded in Norway.  That was a large privilege to be able to do.

EL: Are people booking shows in Seden at the moment ?

MK: A little bit.  I saw they opened it so you can have 300 people in seated audiences, which is great.  I think there will be a slight increase of things happening.  It’s going to be a long struggling period for artists, I think.  A lot of us are situated in the same hub cities.  There’s not even close to enough work.  Even though it might ramp up a little bit, it will be a very long time until there’s enough.

Even before, there wasn’t enough.  That was the thing; to be able to sustain yourself, you had to travel and work abroad as well.  Good luck.  Fingers crossed for performing arts, but there’s a chance of a grim future for that in the coming months and years…

EL: I wonder if people will go all out for Christmas parties, and you’ll get loads of corporate work.

MK: That’s a thing.  So many circus artists are doing Christmas gigs – all that’s gone.

EL: I remember when I lived in London.  In December, it would be pretty common to do 3-4 gigs a day.  Christmas party, Christmas party, Christmas party.  It was like, I’ll turn up at 10, get a text across town to the next one, hit it, hit it.  Then nothing would happen for two months after.  But it was great; you’d just fucking smoke it that month.

MK: I did a Christmas cabaret show last year and they wanted me back.  But of course they are definitely not going to have the budget and possibilities they had for this year.  Now they won’t be able to get as many customers and all that.  I’m not even sure if they’re going to run it.  That definitely sucks, just have to see how things go.

What’s our topic for today?

EL: We’re just going to chit chat about nonsense.

I think today we’re going to talk about social media, its history, and its effects on handstands and training.  It’s an interesting topic, but historically, as well as what’s going on in the moment.

If you think about social media from back in the day, me and you were early adopters of the internet compared to others in terms of how we used it and sought out information on it.  We were isolated from things, so searching and delving into the depths of the old school forums.

If we think about it, no one was really doing handstands online, pre-Gymnastic Bodies.

MK: At least there wasn’t any presence.  I’m sure there were some YouTube videos, not even that YouTube was that popular yet, but some sort…

EL: Even before YouTube, if people can remember that time.  Before that as well, I can remember hunting for juggling tutorials back in the day.  They’d be on news groups.  Someone might have gotten lucky and would post something, but short, like 30-40 second clips of doing something.  Stuff like this.

There was a VHS that went round where someone had recorded loads of circus peoples’ promos onto it from some agent’s office.  You could double stack it on the VHS and record your own on the long play mode.  It was about a 2 hour video of 5 minute acts from people showing their promo.

MK: I think my first meeting with any online thing for training was in the 90s, when I was getting interested in breaking.  I’d seen the It’s Like That music video by Run DMC.  Soul Control, the legendary B-Boy crew from LA was there, with Crazy Kujo, Charles, and Pablo Flores, the first to do air flares.  They were pretty much pioneers within their styles and certain moves, back in the late 80s and even mid 90s.

I saw that and very much remember seeing that, what the hell is this?  It’s the coolest thing I ever knew existed.  Many years later, I met Crazy Kujo when he was here in Stockholm for a jam.  He was doing a fair bit of circus at the time, aerial straps and Chinese pole.  He’s very physically multi talented and was working with various dance companies in LA, far as I know.

After having seen that, we had some computers at the primary school I was in.  When we had computer class once a week, I’d go and look for something about breaking.  I found a site of someone called B Boy Neko or something like that.  It was super basic old school website with pictures, and he had made a tutorial for windmills.

He was doing windmills that beginners learn, and had step by step pictures.  I was super stoked.  Of course, there was no two way communication at that point.  Or I was too much of a kid to even try.

Later when I got more into breaking, the first social media place that I got into was Tricks Tutorials.  For those who don’t know, you might know who Jujimufu is, a crazy man bodybuilder mad man on Instagram and YouTube.  He was the guy who made Tricks Tutorials, a website dedicated to his tutorials and write ups about various things related to training.  He was basically a skinny tricky kid doing martial arts tricks and all that.

It seems like Tricks Tutorials was the cradle for tricking as an athletic and art form.  I was very much driven by him, and a bunch of people who used to be on those forums.  It was a large forum at one point, with not only tricking but loads of other sub forums as well, training, nutrition, loads of nonsense.

I remember meeting many people there for the first time.  Yuri Marmenstein was one of the first people I got in touch with there.  This was around 2003, maybe.

I don’t remember when Juji stopped maintaining it, but the forum was up for many years.  I still think it’s the best place I’ve ever been on the internet.  It was full of garbage, but great stuff.

EL: It’s weird how forums were these melting pots on the internet.  I remember back in the day, learning loads of things.  You’d have hub forums, and people there who could do stuff.  No one had the capability of either shooting digital video, or uploading images.  There was no image hosting back then, and forums couldn’t handle images bigger than a certain size.  It was measured in kb as well so no one could post anything.

Everyone was doing tutorials by writing stuff down.  Just trying to explain, I’ve come up with this advanced thing, it’s never been done before.  The community is so small for this very niche activity that you’re just not going to see it.  So here’s my text description; try to come up with it by yourself.  Or here’s how you do this flip, or a twist or whatever.

I can even remember how this sharing thing got around.  The very cool sharing in forums.  People were there, putting the time in.  Of course there’s the down fall of forums, the forum experts.

MK: One good thing about forums if you compare it to Instagram or Facebook, if you were on the forum, you were likely someone who cared about it.  You had searched this place out.  You can be part of a Facebook group, but people are already on Facebook.  It’s a much shorter step to take.

I feel like forums were kind of more a hub of people sharing an interest.  Discussion would seem to carry on for longer, and topics having a bit of depth.  They also wouldn’t suffer as much from the information overload as nowadays, where you’re basically swamped in so much it’s hard to filter what you’re interested in versus what you aren’t.

That’s what I liked about Tricks Tutorials.  There were a lot of nonsensical things on purpose, but it did have this funny atmosphere.  Now I remember the best part about the Tricks Tutorial forum is sometimes, Juji would basically flip some switch on the forum so everyone would lose their name and little picture.  It would be replaced by Moonface and a picture of a moon with two eyes.  Everyone on the entire forum would have the same name and same avatar for a random period of time, as he saw fit.  It was absolutely hilarious, and very much stands in style with the kind of character he seems to be.

EL: With forums, unlike social media where everyone is trying to make their digital avatar The Thing, everyone is anonymous.  Everyone was like, hide your identity unless hackers molest you, or steal your identity.  Everyone was very don’t-share-shit, so they all had a username.  You’re kind of anonymous, which is good and bad, so your contributions to the forums had to stand for themselves.

If we go onto Instagram, someone who is really good at what they’re doing can wow people into thinking they know what they’re talking about in training terms or otherwise.  I am really good at handstands, so then I know what I’m talking about in nutrition.

It’s like, say your piece.  If you say something wrong, it’s the internet, someone will correct you.  It’s the fastest way to get an answer: post something wrong.  It’s very easy to segregate out who knows what they’re talking about in some regards, but not at all for like nutrition.  I’ll listen to this guy for strength training, this guy for nutrition, but I won’t listen to the strength guy for nutrition, stuff like that.

MK: Nowadays you have access to…if you have awesome video editing skills, you can make almost anything look really awesome and impressive and build your ethos off of that.  Then it was just, you brought what you had to say to the table, and that’s all you had going for you.  There wasn’t much more for you to be able to bring across, for good or for bad.

I remember I did find it fascinating back then.  Tricks Tutorial is where I wrote my first handstand tutorial, maybe late 2007, when I started training with my first coach Cory, and had my knowledge from before.  I tried to make something where beginners could start learning how to do handstands.

I even included how to make handstand blocks.  It’s probably impossible to find, but there should be an archive version of the site.  I should definitely go look that up.  I even put a couple of pictures, so it would be hilarious to find that again.

I think more things started merging when Gymnastic Bodies was the forum where a lot of people would discuss and try out various training forms.  It must have been like 2008-2009.

EL: It would have been when I was still in circus school, so 2006 I think.  I think Coach Sommer came to a forefront…Gymnastic Bodies was a very interesting forum, because Coach Sommer set it off as, he was on the Crossfit forums, and he knew what he was talking about, which was rare in bodyweight training.  He also invented the kipping pull up on that forum – or, made it popular – so you can think him for that.  It’s his legacy.

Then he set up his own forum after how successful he got.  He wrote an article on T Nation.  It’s interesting when you start looking at the root of a lot of these techniques, and other stuff that goes round, a lot of them can be traced back to forums.

So there was an article on planche, how to train that and front lever…on Pavel’s site, Dragon Door.  Then he had another on Iron Cross on T Nation.  They took off and he made his own forum.

We were both on the forum at the same time.  Ido was on it, Josh Naterman, Yuri, Kit Laughlin…really interesting melting pot.  It was really cool for a long time, and Coach Sommer was really generous with his knowledge.

He knows a lot.  If anyone has a link to Coach Sommer, please tell him to release those books he was always talking about writing.  I know he kind of released them as the courses, but really as a coach, I’d like to read his thoughts on apparatus training and physical preparation for the apparatus skill.  That would be cool.

Coach Sommer, if you’re listening, please do that for me.  Get your thoughts down on paper.

Once again, it was that era on the internet.  There’s been a change in generosity on the Internet.  People used to be generous and spend their time because they were either passionate about it, or wanted to share and compare notes with people.  That was it.

Now there’s, and we’re guilty of this as well, a semi subtext of “I’m trying to make a living, trying to share something to sell you.”  Whereas back then, it would be you’d get really long tutorials on stuff, or people would take their time to share what they knew about something.  Their knowledge becomes a bit of a meme that goes round.  Like the tuck planche thing.  The tuck planche progression to planche was a forum post that spread.  No one else was posting ideas on it, so it became the de facto way.

I can remember learning planche in circus school.  Tuck planche didn’t exist.  The way you got planche was, you got back lever so you could hold the body shape.  Then the rest was training planche leans, handstand lowering downs, and spotted lowering downs.  That was how you got planche.  Maybe doing straddle, but not tuck.  It didn’t exist in these clubs, or their way of training.

But then Coach Sommer’s tuck planche became The way of training planche.  There’s a lot of ways to train planche, but because it was this generosity side of the internet, people hadn’t seen it before.  If something is the first, people always give it more precedence.  Cool, this must be it.

This was still before the days of YouTube.

MK: When I remember videos from back then, it would rarely be a YouTube link.  It’s funny, I used to write a lot in the handstand section of the forum.  I was in circus school so I had more knowledge of some of the advanced things.  Those write ups are still probably out there on the internet; I wonder what I was thinking back then.

The funny thing is I would meet people who used to read things I wrote.  I have a friend of mine in Stockholm who is a Mexican circus artist.  We know each other very well.  Suddenly the other day she told me she used to read some handstand stuff on that forum.  Then she was like, oh, were you that guy?  Suddenly I hear people I’ve known for years who have been on the same forums.

It makes sense.  There weren’t so many places back then, so it’s natural that people would gravitate towards those venues.

As with that side, when they wanted to market their direct product, there was less space for more free flowing discussions, and discussing the alternatives and various methodologies.  This happens with marketing and people wanting to sell something.  It’s understandable.

Since those days I missed that type of platform.  Nowadays you have Reddit to some degree, or Instagram.  But I think it really, even though it’s a very good thing that more people are involved in doing these things, there exists an enormous amount of information overload.  Not to spread any hate, but for example, the Facebook group Handstands Anonymous is a very great example of this.

You can go in there, someone posts a handstand, and you have 18 different answers on how someone should improve their handstand.  There are 18 things by 18 people, and it’s common that few of them are particularly experienced-

When I go in and read it, it’s a very interesting type of comment.  Since it is a public forum, it’s easy to join.  The expertise-ism gets..spread out, so everyone is kind of taking part in it.  It becomes a dog house, where there’s loads of barking and very little relevant discussions to be had, compared to the input that goes in.

It’s not to say that only experts should talk, but it’s very hard to have meaningful dialogue, or an exchange of ideas in these environments.

EL: Part of the Facebook v forum issue is, forums are very good for persistent content and dialogue style content.  You have or share an idea.  A lot of the time it can be difficult to explain the idea in a post, or a few posts.  If you’re talking around the point, and other people are riffing off it, people get involved and a conversation gets spread out over maybe 4-5 different topics, and it’s kind of persistent.

You can find someone on a forum, “I found this guy, ‘Handbalancer’ “  Then I’ll click his username and all his previous messages, read through and find the history.  You can find threads this person has posted in, so you can begin to build a picture of this guy’s training philosophy as much as anything else.  That’s missing, because you can search by user on groups, but not really, it’s not as intuitive.  The conversation is always immediate.  It’s not a dialogue or consistent thing that’s building up.

One of the changes on the internet is it’s gone from persistent content, to immediate content: content must be there immediately, then it’s forgotten about the next day.

One of the advantages of the internet is suddenly all the newspapers that have ever been published can be checked and cross referenced.  If someone makes a very good video, post or article about something, it just stays there.  It’s not like a newspaper, where it’s gone.

Now it’s almost gone the opposite direction, I suppose.

MK: When you create a discussion thread in newer social media, it feels like they fizzle out very quickly.  There’s very little incentive to come back and keep adding content to it.

I don’t want it to sound like only the old style is good, but all these technologies are very new and have different challenges.

I do think, as you say, the conversation does feel immediate.  It just doesn’t seem like you have much of an investment.  If you are on the forum, you are part of the forum.

EL: One thing about conversation being immediate is, if you go onto Instagram.  There are a lot of people who know their shit on that platform.  There are so many good comments made on posts.  Someone really advanced will give a really good comment.  There’s not really an easy way to bookmark that comment and come back to it.  Because the comment is hidden in the depths, it doesn’t become part of a bigger conversation.

One of my hobbies is letter work.  People might share an off hand comment for a tip that’s really useful for a certain technique.  You can save the post, or screenshot, or whatever.  But you don’t get into a discussion on the subject.  People can’t really reply or jump on, develop the idea.  It does happen on Instagram but if you find something like that and don’t save it then and there, you basically lost it, unless you find the photo again.

MK: I was thinking anthropologically about how we view, from a social stand point, a comment on Facebook or Instagram.  I do feel you don’t take them as…seriously.  It might be the wrong word, but perhaps you don’t feel they’re actually there for discussion.  It’s more for you to say something.

With Instagram, there is a picture or a video, it says something, or not.  You say a thing underneath.  Maybe someone responds.  Perhaps it’s the expectations of discussion that isn’t there, nor is it facilitated by the actual format of the platform.

I do think it feels like not the place to have a discussion, in terms of the content production side of it.  On the positive side, though, even back in the day, you come to a forum and there’s loads of people interested in the same things as me.  This is great.  Suddenly you have loads of information and people to talk with.  You have some sense of community.

Then you start making connections with people.  You learn more.  That side has exploded of course with the advent of YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, all that crap.  Suddenly you are able to communicate with people.

I remember back in the day, 2009ish, I was writing with Andrey Moraru the other day about that.  I remember his very old YouTube channel back in 2008 with some old acts on.  That was the beginning, where you could find a couple handstand videos by Cirque du Soleil on YouTube.  You could find some of his stuff, some hand balancers…Anatoly Zalevsky’s was there.

That’s how I met Yuval, because you could send messages on YouTube at that time – that they later removed, then added again, then removed again a little while ago.  I got in touch with him, and with Chris Jones, a sport acro world champion who posted a video of handstand training in sport acro gyms.  It blew my mind because you hadn’t seen sport acro at the time.  There were these mutants smashing out all these tricks in a row on one arm.

Suddenly you could get directly in touch with these people.

Mainly the instant messaging services are probably one of the better things.  I value this more than anything, the direct contact with people rather than making a post, being the curator of whatever is going on underneath this post, give me praise, do all this…that side of things I don’t find interesting.

Speaking with someone who writes you, asking a question or whatever the hell it is, striking up conversation is always valuable.  That part is extremely good and I’ve gotten to know so many people through this service.

When I went to Singapore for a cruise ship artist contract I was doing, I wrote some guy on Instagram, and he invited me to his gym to train and teach.  Suddenly this is a possibility.  That is by far not the only type of example.

So many people have met each other all over the world, and by common interest

EL: One of the key things of Instagram is you get exposed to stuff.  Hold on, that’s cool. Then see there’s a community of people into this.  Then you go down a rabbit hole and there’s a gateway into it.

Before it was hard to get exposed to stuff in general, as in concepts of things you could do.  Particularly circus arts.  When I was joining circus school they were all in their infancy, except the French ones in Europe.  Particularly in England and Ireland, you had to be part of a circus family.  No one is going to teach you because it’s a family art etc.  Then Circus Space and Circomedia got their space around 1999-2000.  There were early days of openness to it.

Whereas, now it’s like, I want to learn trapeze.  I’ve seen someone doing it; I want to learn how to do that.  Very quickly you can find a community in your area, using Facebook, Instagram, other social media.  These are the people doing this thing in my area.  I can link up with them and I can do it.  This is a very powerful thing.

For me, who has a lot of different hobbies, maybe I might not be able to find anyone in my area…Say the latest thing I wanted to start was a Dungeons and Dragons thing with some friends.  I probably could find people in Dublin since I know enough nerds, but I’d have to track them down.  But there are people I know through social media, juggling and circus, that I’ve met because of social media to begin with.

If I were starting out before and wanted advice to start a group and people to join it, I can’t.  But now because of social media, I can very quickly find people in my area, advice on how to start it.  I can also say, I’m a complete noob, what do I do?  Please help me.  Tell me what to buy, tell me what to do.  Done.

There’s no limitation to what I can learn.  The immediacy is awesome.  It’s very gratifying on a dopamine level.  Before with older forums, there was kind of a time buy in.  You could find a forum and some, particularly training ones that are quite niche, maybe run by some kind of dictators who knew this was their niche and they’d only allow one way.

You’d find it, then have to spend some time trying to figure out if they knew what they were talking about.

MK: It would also be hierarchal.  If you were going to come and say something, you had to “prove” that you had something to come there with, or else they’d tell you to fuck off.  There’s some good things about; you’d have to get involved if you wanted to join the conversation.  At the same time it could be kind of elitist.

EL: On forums, I remember after someone would ask questions on something they’re trying to find, the answer would just be, “Lurk more.”  There’s a plus side and a bad side to that.

With the new(er) social media, I decide I want to do something.  I find a way to start.  Is it the best start?  Maybe not, it doesn’t matter since you’re a beginner.  You won’t have discernment until you try a few things.  The immediacy is very simple.  I think that’s great, particularly for niche activities like handstands, circus arts, pole dance, breakdance..anything.  You can very quickly find the weirdos who are into your thing, and the community.

MK: That frustrates me a little bit.  I hesitate to call it a Handstand community.  I find it a weird word because people have so few gatherings.

That is exactly the thing.  You saw this a lot with many communities in various movement things.  It becomes largely an online presence that is the “community.”  That can frustrate me sometimes – you get the very distinct feeling this is much more an online, we one up each other on Instagram.  The conversation is all there and very much less in person.

Nowadays in the pandemic, I’m all for it because this is what we have.  But the more it leads to real and actual real world meet ups, the better it is.  Then people actually get to know each other.  Then it’s not just everyone building their persona and avatar online, and that’s what it is.

I don’t want people to meet me and think it isn’t the guy I’ve seen on social media.  If you create a discrepancy between the two things, it will be difficult to be a person in real life.  I’m definitely much more of a proponent for that.

In Oslo now, some people ask me for a class.  Yeah, we can do that, but on Sunday we all just go to the gym and, fuck it, we train together.  I’m not any more special because I’m good at standing on my hands.  Come and join.  I think that part is also important, particularly from the side of people like us.  I hesitate to say it, but we have a name within what we do.  Treating that as elitist special bullshit is a complete waste of time.

I’m interested in the doing.  The doing happens together with people.  That is very important.

EL: I’m trying to think of people I’ve met for handstands and movement through Instagram.  I can remember an interesting one is Andy Myers who runs The Movement Studio in Dublin.

As far as I understand it, I think it was the very first movement gym on the planet, before anything.  Ido wasn’t even that well known.

They were very influenced by Ido, obviously, at the time.

But I met Andy through social media.  He’d seen me do some things, commented on my stuff, I commented on his stuff.  He’d done handstands.  There were three guys running the gym then.  They invited me over.  I knew more than them about handstands, but we were having this kind of informal meet up.  Andy was into making coffee; this was his thing.  Specialist barista fancy coffee, with the pepper grinder thing that takes about an hour to grind enough coffee to make coffees.

They said come over, handstands and coffee.  So we were meeting up on Saturday mornings, doing stuff.  It was kind of informal.  From that, people started to find out what we were doing.  It became a sort of class.  I was turning up, teaching for free, teaching 2-3h class.  It was a very loose format.

Anyone who was a beginner and didn’t know what to do would be shown the ropes.  No elitism.  People who knew what they were doing would be jamming off each other.  It would be kind of an interesting vibe, this handstands and coffee thing.

Andy started it; all credit to Andy.  Then it spread across the world.  I can remember another gym in…Brisbane ?  I will look it up on the computer right now, since the internet is there to give me information.  No, Brisbane is north.  It’s Perth, isn’t it?

I don’t know geometry anyway.  Geography.

Anyway in Perth, there’s a gym run by a friend of mine, Sam Farrell.  He started running his own Handstands and Coffee class at the same slot, basically copying the class.  I can remember Andy getting a bit annoyed that someone was stealing his class, basically.

He had a bit of a rant online at Sam, then they made up.  They’re both really cool dudes and into what each other does.

I remember seeing this spat kick off on Instagram or Facebook or something.  Then they made up, and still do their classes.  I remember a couple weeks later they were sending each other T Shirts and sweatshirts of their gyms and logos.  They were bonding over this Handstand and Coffee thing.  They’d never met, opposite sides of the planet, but they both own gyms and are into handstands.  We do have a community, and it’s very easy to make friendships and meet people online, if you kind of take it to that direct route.

Like Mikael was saying, it’s about flirting around in comments, but you can actually have a connection with people that is interesting and empowering.  I don’t know about you, but I get somewhere between 20-80 messages a day on social media.  I take my time to try and answer them all if I can.  It can be questions, other stuff.  I will answer them.  Depending if I’m busy or not, I’ll give better answers or not.

You can reach out and make connections.  You can do this with normal people, others in your area or community who might have answers as well.  Or just going hey, you guys in the same city, I know it sounds weird but let’s have a meet up.

A lot of the longer running circus meet ups in Ireland that became professional associations started with people meeting in a park on a Tuesday.  Now people have their careers out of this.

It’s much easier to transition to an offline-online thing as well, just saying, let’s meet up.  We’ll be in this park at this time, doing this thing.  You’ll see us.  Why?  Because we’re staring at the floor.  We can be anti-social together.

In other forums you’d be lucky to have anyone in your area.  I remember one of the training forums I was on, many years ago, two dudes I got along well with.  We all travelled to London to meet up.  I came from Dublin, they came from wherever the fuck they lived in England, to have a meet up and see what people are like in person.  This is the draw of the forum.

Nowadays, things are more immediate.  There’s access ways into these things.  If you’re into something someone else is generally into it.  You can get a transition from on to offline, which makes it cooler.  This is what the handstand community is missing – the offline stuff.

We have the classes, which are great, since we need instruction and people to make a living.  But then, there’s the social side missing, or non class side.  In fairness, I think the acro yoga scene is good for having meet ups that aren’t classes.  Not so much with handstands, and there’s a lot of learning to be done in the same room as someone else, and lots that happens once you run through your repertoire and someone is like, try this, try that.  Let’s do this together.

The sooner this side of the community grows, you’re going to see things taking off.  The juggling scene is notorious for this.  You see it object manipulation and other circus facets as well.

A group of people jam together, take some concept, and push it to the damn limit.  It’s their style, what they do.

Something you would have glossed over, but there’s a push on creativity.  You see it in breakdancing as well.  Someone picks up on one specific thing.  They’re doing it, their friend sees it and wants to push that kind of thing to the next level.  You get this vibing, and suddenly you have a crew of 4-5 people out of nowhere with this unique thing no one else has seen before.

Handstands is going that way.  We know the techniques, the classical jazz handstands.  This is how you get this line, how you point your toes, etc.  The creativity side of things will come from the creativity level more than anything else.

You can even see it in the company you’re working with. You’re putting all the people together who can do all the things.  Now it’s about finding a way to not do all the things you’ve done a thousand times, but find a new way.

MK: I think there’s lots to that thing of coming together, playing around, trying things together.  In terms of motivation I find it extremely important.  If I do things alone for too long I kind of lose the drive for it.  I think that, of course humans are social creatures so there’s satisfaction in enjoying together, socializing and sharing the passion.  It’s very important.

There’s another aspect I’ve thought a lot about in terms of social media’s..influence on the training of handstands.  That has been enormous, for good and for bad, but I think mainly for good

Traditionally in the circus and sports ways of teaching handstands, there’s been a very top down decided method of how to do, how it looks, how you train.  There’s been very little questioning.  In my experience in circus, there’s almost no discussion as to why we do this.  It just must be done like this or that.  No, it doesn’t.  There’s lots of examples of other outliers, so why aren’t we talking about it or looking into it?

With these things being increasingly disseminated to the general public, people will be enthusiastic about training and start doing it a lot.  Those people, if you have a thousand of them, quite a lot of them might be interested in training theory, sports science, etc.

Circus training has been devoid of those things for way too large a degree for way too many years.  You could go through circus school without knowing what intensity, frequency and volume are.  That is absolutely preposterous.

I went to circus school without those three concepts ever being mentioned.  That is ridiculous.

With the increase of these types of new languages, analytical tools, and the fact that all these techniques are being tried and tested on thousands of people, you could actually start to see what is effective and isn’t.

A lot of the old school methodology won’t work, if you’re asking a 30 something person that has never done physical activity to a high level before, it won’t work if you have them do children gymnastics protocols, or circus training things.  Just because the technique functions for someone who’s done it for a long time, it doesn’t mean someone else should be able to adapt and understand that technique in a very short period of time.

I remember from my own experience in circus school, and you know how stiff I am in a bridge so you won’t be surprised to hear this, my front and back walk overs are not great.  There are these soft acro twisty walk overs and I was trying to do them for so long.

People would just say, push your hips forwards and you get up, no problem.  I tried, and tried, and tried, and tried through classes for 3 years.  I couldn’t push my hips forwards.  Years later I realized that I’m too weak in my hip flexors, and stiff there.  That isn’t an option for my current body.  I need to strengthen that area.

By doing exercises that strengthen that, basically all exercises where you extend the hips and lean back to touch the floor, keeping the hips extended and pushing back up and so on, I was able to do the things.  No one told me about that.

Guess what, all the people that could do it and told me to just push my hips forwards had been doing back handsprings for years and years.

EL: A lot of things are like, that’s the way it’s done.  If you can’t do it, you can’t do it.

MK: This is an important thing that is missing from circus.  Then in the other direction, there’s also things like a lot of the people out there teaching handstands that might not have necessarily been involved in it for a significant amount of time, such as a lot of people in circus have.  Things come from both sides.

But on average, the impact has been good.

EL: I definitely agree.  We wouldn’t have been here if it weren’t for the social media sphere.

I think we should wrap it up there.  That was a good run down of social media, from where it started back on the forums, all the way through newsgroups of weirdos, to now where there’s a community.  There’s so many of us so we’re not that weird anymore…until someone asks you what you do for a living.  I teach people to stand on their handstands and flexibility.  “What, what do you mean?”

MK: I get that a fair amount.

EL: As usual, I’ve been Emmet Louis, here with Mikael Kristiansen.  We are Handstand Factory.  If you would be interested in learning anything, we have all our courses available on HandstandFactory.com.  The courses support the podcast.  Other than that, thanks for listening and have a good week.

MK: Cheers.


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