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S2 Episode 46: Hobbies


In this Episode of the Handstandcast Emmet and Mikael discuss hobbies, with how various hobbies may relate to and improve your handstand practice, drawing from their personal and coaching experience, as well as the role and importance of having hobbies.

We hope you enjoy it!

Want to have your say on the Handstandcast? You can now leave us a voice note here with your Q&A questions for Emmet and Mikael! If you have any specific topics you’d like us to cover, or want to send in questions for our Q&A episodes, please get in touch via our contact form.

S2E46 – Hobbies

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Transcript of Episode 46: Hobbies

EL: Hello, and welcome back to the Handstand Cast with me, Emmet Louis, and my cohost Mikael Kristiansen.  Do I have to ask you how it’s going, or is it just the same?

MK: It’s about the same, except that I’ve been on Instant coffee for the last 5-6 days.  I’ve gone to the super market at least 5 times, 3 to buy coffee.  I’ve come out of the place without coffee, including today.

EL: Is the supermarket out of coffee, or are you just getting distracted?

MK: I didn’t go, or I went in and bought a bunch of other things and left.  Literally I just fucking forgot to buy coffee.

Not great.  Other than that, as usual I can’t complain too much.  How about yourself?

EL: I’d like to say something different, even that I’d got out of my chair since the last podcast.  It’s not because we record two in a row, we do them a week apart.

I’ve invented a new diet I’ve been testing over the last month.  I have to say, I’m on to a winner.  More to be revealed when I release my diet book, but I’m ready for diet book fame.  It’s working, and it’s the world’s biggest gimmick diet.  It’s going to be amazing.  The new Keto, that’s how good it is.

MK: I’m doing an anthropology course now online, it’s really damn good.  He’s really into medical anthropology and stuff, and he brings up stuff regarding dietary things without it coming from the cult-y dietary peoples’ direction, in terms of evolutionary biology and that, how anthropologists have documented various eating habits and the absence or presence of various diseases.

EL: For our topic today, we are going to have a ramble cast today and talk about hobbies, basically.  It’s a hard one to categorize.  Hobbies and other activities besides hand balance that you might choose to do, because you’re into hand balancing.  Or things we do, because we are the types that are into hand balancing.

You get this question as much as I have.  “I train hand balancing, but what else should I do to help it?”

MK: Oh yeah.  I got a lot of interesting … thoughts on that subject.  A little too often, it’s like hand balancing is the primary focus of your entire existence, and everything else you do must somehow feed back into this.  “Should I juggle to do this?  Can I do proprioceptive drills?”  You can just chill the fuck out and do whatever you find interesting.

Hand balancing is hand balancing.  You train that while you train it.  Then your brain and physiology and cells will do the rest of the stuff, so you might as well have a good time while you do other things.  Of course, there are loads of intersecting disciplines that can use hand balancing, or be informed by or complementary.

I was like that, very zealous early in my career.  It doesn’t ultimately add as much as one would like it to.

EL: Let’s face it.  Particularly if you’re listening to this podcast.  There’s a certain psychological profile that we could say you might have.  If you’re into hand balance, you’ll probably find these other activities kind of fun because they use the body in a similar way.  It’s like you’re saying, informed by or using…if you develop a body that can hand balance, it can probably tumble to a certain degree quite easily.

You have the body that can handstand can probably take up aerial disciplines, do climbing, yoga.  These disciplines are interesting or complementary.  If you took them up, you’d find maybe the training would inform your hand balance.

We’ve noticed that people who can tumble pretty well generally learn one arms faster than people who can’t.  That’s something.

MK: I have seen this with acrobatics, it uses a lot of the same body control and sensation in space.  Of course, a lot of the strength is similar.  You’re using the handstand element through loads of that.  In any discipline, not everyone, but many people come in through various things like that.  Whether it’s conventional strength training into circles of liking handstands.  Ex gymnasts have a huge benefit; if they’ve done any real gymnastics they’ve done loads of handstands.

Then you have breakdancing, capoeira, pole dance, any circus art or hand to hand.  There are so many things that will intersect with this one specific movement skill.  It will help with loads of other things, once you get good at it.

With handstands, it intersects with many things, and you will benefit a little in those disciplines by learning to handstand.  Of course if you’re a football player, it’s not going to change your world to learn a handstand.  That’s more a hobby thing.

If you are involved in any kind of calisthenics movements, then that scapular control and sensation and understanding upside down will be valuable.

EL: Just to throw it on the table, over the last few years I’ve had the privilege of working with a lot more people.  I’ve noticed something consistent: people who have trained martial arts, either as a kid, or currently do – there are caveats here – generally learn one arm handstands faster than people who don’t.

I’ve narrowed it down a bit, and maybe I don’t have enough data to say anything conclusive.  It’s definitely something that’s got me thinking and observing.  If you get someone who does kick boxing, boxing, MMA, judo – ones with a strong combative element where they fight, they don’t generally learn one arms fast.

But the martial arts with an emphasis on forms, generally slower ones, generally pick up one arms quicker.  They generally pick up handstands quicker.  The whole proprioceptive and body-in-space-perfectionism really has a transfer over.

Is it Matt Pasquet who does kung fu?

MK: Yeah, he’s really deep into that.  He also did breakdancing.  He’s had several acrobatic things, like tricking.  There’s certainly parts that intersect.

EL: One of my older than me clients doesn’t train just handstands, but a mix of everything with me.  He does handstands, bodyweight training, normal weightlifting… He also trains taiji and some other Chinese martial arts.  He’s been killing it on the handstand progress.

He has a really weird vertical strength curve and proprioceptive development curve that is rising very quickly.  Same if you think of other clients; they’re just doing things faster and getting things faster, coming from this background of martial arts.

I really do think, particularly when you have a martial art with a prescriptive form, that has to be done a certain way.  You probably see this with ballet, ballerinas who learn handstands as well.

MK: Dancers learn ridiculously fast, as soon as they get some grip strength.

EL: It’s this idea of feeling the body in space, and translating that feeling into a visual representation of what you’re doing.  Or vice versa: knowing when you see something going on, and having the ability to match that positioning to your own internal bodymap.

It seems to be one of the skills that crosses over more from these precise form arts, more so than like judo or Greco-Roman wrestling, or something.  It’s definitely…as I said, I lack enough data to say it’s a thing, but there’s enough observational data to be interesting to me, at the moment.

MK: When I think back to doing Karate for ten years, I was extremely into it, like I tend to be with the various things I do.  I think one thing that helped me a lot in the later stages – the lesson is profound in one sense, but nothing magical.

Many eastern martial arts have a focus on form and repetition, a mindless amount.  You embody the movement and do it again and again and again…that’s all there is to it.  You have an analytical part, a bunch of things you need to understand, technical and so on.  From there on, it’s an enormous amount of practice.  It’s you, and the movement.  It’s only that, and you keep doing the punch.

The teacher might give you a correction or two a month, but you do the same punch again and again, for years, the stances, and all that.  That discipline that brings, and the, for me, the deep sensation that this is working.  I have now an embodied sense that doing this works, so why shouldn’t it work in another context.  I think for me that was a very relevant eye opening thing when I noticed, it’s significant.  Just that type of practice is the same when you do handstands.  You just repeat the same task over and over and over again.

One important thing to mention, because we’ve talked about all these various styles of movement that will be beneficial and so on, and I’m sure some of you are feeling sad for yourselves because you never did these when you were young, “I’m probably doomed to stay in the cesspool forever, and never manage to do anything in my life.”  No.  Nonsense.  The practice is largely specific, and it’s going to take time anyway.  For everyone it takes a long time on average.

Again, we’re not telling you here that you need to take up martial arts and dance, to get better at handstands.  No.  Practice your handstands.  Try to find them enjoyable now and then, between your cursing.

EL: These are all observational.  Obviously there is crossover between all the acrobatic disciplines, but they’re more on the hobby stage.  The interesting this is, is the hobby what made them do well?  Or is it like most people: you try something out, do a few classes, and decide whether you like it, then stick with it.

Is it the same mindset that goes into rote drilling of forms and other stuff?  Versos rote drilling of handstand drills?  Is it the drilling that made them successful, or the drills themselves?  Who knows.  Bear that in mind.

It is definitely one thing to consider.  Solving the problem with the body, I suppose, is one way to think about it.  Handstanders like to solve problems.  Same goes with climbing, martial arts, all these things.

MK: I noticed that.  I remember reading an article by a guy named Mark Manson.  I read an article, years ago, came across his website.  He was writing about what kind of makes people “happy.”  He’s not too big a fan of the happy term, neither am I.  What brought satisfaction to people?  He said it was problem solving.

You could essentially boil the various things we like to do down to problem solving.  You have a obstacle or challenge, or a thing that is present.  You handle that thing.  The handling of itself brings satisfaction.

Handstands have an extremely tangible parameter for this: either you stayed there, or you didn’t.  The entire circus works with that, with risk and all that.  I risk the failure by doing the thing.  Then you have the overcoming and catharsis and overstepping of your own boundaries.

In handstands, it’s so tangible.  The fact that when you’re standing there, you spend so much mental energy to build up and understand and execute, to be able to do this one skill you work on.  In the executing moment, all that process is not present.  You’re there, things are somehow seemingly reacting correctly.  Everything else is blurry and fades away; your focus is on this very limited kind of point of your existence, as you do that.

You’re constantly problem solving every single second.  In terms of the practice and why it tends to attract obsessive people is you never or not if you can solve the problem.  I think it’s the same with juggling, and many arts with high volatility – you have to test and see if you can still do it, on certain things.

Do I still have it today or not?  Can I solve the problem again?  It will almost be unique every time, compared to, like if you’re a damn good acrobat and can do a solid backflip for many years, either you need to become a slob and stop training for a number of years, but you might still be able to backflip.

EL: I know a few people like that.

MK: I know tons.  One friend became a taxi driver and hadn’t done acro for years.  We were out one night and he was fucked up drunk.  We sat on the subway and he sat there sleeping.  He said to us, “Ok guys, next stop I go out and do a cartwheel full twist.”  And he was shitfaced.  He stumbled out, and as he did the cartwheel you see the reflex kicking in.  Everything is tight and neat and perfect. Cartwheel, full twist, sticks it, goes back in and falls asleep.

So.  And that’s not saying acro is easy, but it presents itself slightly differently.  When you have a thing like a backflip, it’s not as much of a problem solving process each time.  Perhaps you need to move on to another thing.  The handstand control carries a volatility that attracts people that like that type of problem solving.

EL: I have acrobatic friends who have quit or got out of shape, or got other jobs, or Real Jobs..they can still throw down, tumble.  They can still do it, maybe not the highest level things.  Drunken backflips are definitely a feature over the years.  Whereas drunken one arm, after 5 years of not training it…

There’s that thing.  I’d like to talk about actual hobbies, I know you have a selection.

At the moment, I have leather work.  Over the years I got into sewing.  Some background, my sister works in fashion, doing this kind of thing.  I got into it because she was into it.  Then I decided to do leather work so I got into that more.  What I found really interesting was the idea of having a hobby where you manipulate an object – not object manipulation like juggling – that’s like tool usage, that requires you to be almost infinitely precisely.  Then it’s visually right or wrong.  You try to stitch it with your hands, you make the hole wrong, it looks bad.  Boom.  Yes or no, you’ve done it.

It’s a very micro view.  If we zoom out a bit, we have object manipulation like juggling.  It uses a tool, but there is bigger body movement involved in it.

Then you have acrobatics and handstands.  They’re a bit more physical but still precise, going all the way out to things like weightlifting.  It’s basically the most physical thing you can do – pick something up that’s really fucking heavy.

Having these hobbies that span this, I find it very beneficial.  Maybe not in terms of crossover between the hobbies, but in terms of my own self development.

I think this idea is missing a bit, if we talk about people into Movement culture.  No one has really sanctioned it as a thing to do in Movement, tool usage.  I’m using a ball or stick or something like that, but really precise stuff where I make something out of something, trying to be infinitely precise.  It’s what humans do, we use tools, and we’ve gotten really fucking good at it.

With leather work, I found it really satisfying.  I would start a project, and then finish it and have something to look at.  With a lot of the physical stuff, I learn a new something.  I can do the something for 4 seconds.  I can now do it for 5 seconds.  The progress never stops; there’s no real end to it.

When you have a hobby where you make something with your hands and can get into details and everything, then it’s done.  Then it’s like, it’s just nice.  There’s a bit of development, a self pat on the back.

With hand balance, let’s face it, if you get the handstand bug and want to push for one arm.  It’s basically endless, even if you want to stay on two arms.  The Mexican isn’t deep enough this week, etc.

MK: I really agree.  I think my first thought, obviously, is all the origami I have on the shelf here.  People never ask me, so what do you do with your one arm?  But they ask me, every single time I’ve folded a model, so what do you do with them afterwards?

What the fuck does a painter do with his painting?  Hangs them on the wall.  I put them on the fucking shelf.  I make them and then they’re there.  They are nice to look at, but for me it’s more about the process.  Looking at all them up there is memories of when I made them.  I can see my progress in terms of my development through it, all that stuff.  It’s something really satisfying in that kind of having created something type of feeling.

You also mentioned something, and that’s a call out I’d like to have on the movement culture way of thinking of things.  It has a lot of good things, but it is very focused around a certain subset of skills, and somehow they have always stayed very close to those skills.

That stuff that Ido Portal did ten years ago – it’s basically in that same area, where everyone has stuck around.  You do these movements, and that movement and those stretches, then a bit of rings.  Nothing wrong with that, but those are a particular choice of movement practices, and nothing else.  They are not superior or special in any way, but simply a chosen few.

What I think is you can choose whatever ones you want, if it’s ice skating and learning popping and fishing, for example.  But that is the thing.  If you’re into physical culture, physical training, you look for loads of other things that are physical training based.  You put a lot of your sense of being or self in that, that’s fine.  I just think there are so many more things you can do that don’t need to have to do with physical training whatsoever – learning a new language, folding paper, learning to draw or play a musical instrument.

Learning to draw is incredibly precise movement work, just like folding paper.  Starting to analyze the movement work within it is a waste of time.  You try to fold the paper and make it look nice.  After years and years of experience you have a sensation and some intangible skill with it that you can’t put a name or finger on.  “Oh I have isolated my extensor digitorum longus to do this.”  No.  You just fucking do the thing and get good at it.  I think that’s also if you…when skills turn into art, sort of.  That’s when someone is able, like the jazz musician, who lets go of the plan.  When you can make a twist on things.

The most satisfying thing I did in the last couple of months is when I folded this huge origami.  I found a flap on the model that I think was used for the hair on the back side of the model, but there were two of them.  I decided to find a way to slip it through another flap, and make it into a bigger ponytail than the original had.  I’m like, “Fucking cool.  I’m so happy about that fucking flap.”  It’s the main thing I’m happy about on that fucking model.   That was interesting and fun.  It’s important..it’s a possibility of all the things to do, to play with what you have.

I think going a bit away from the regimented ‘you have to do it like this’ kind of thinking can be healthy for that.

EL: I think this idea of having a bit of skill and experience with something tactile, and then learning to tweak it.  Same with any leather work lately.

I find something I like, but I’m not going to make a pure copy of it.  I’m going to tweak or change the design slightly.  It’s partly to avoid straight up ripping off someone, but also it’s my take on this.  That’s always interesting.

Let’s face it.  There’s only so many ways you can make a bag.  But there are little details you can tweak, little different ways of construction that will make it a bit different to someone in the know.  Those things make it interesting.

Now I’d like to talk about your project, and my next one coming up.  First, Mikael is doing another huge paper?

MK: The next one is the biggest sheet since 2012, a 2x2m paper.  I basically was writing on Instagram with an origamist in Scotland named Grant.  He’s really experienced and knows a lot of people in the community.  I’ve never been to an origami convention, and that pains me.

I was supposed to go to one before Coronavirus came.

There is an enormous model of King Geedorah from Godzilla movies.  He’s a three headed dragon with huge wings, two tails, etc.  I’d seen the model before online, but it was so astounding that I was like..-

There’s something called Kirigami, which is when you use several sheets.  I was wondering if it was a Kirigami model.  It looked on the extreme side.  The size of the wings were immense.  How the hell did he make this?

When I was speaking to Grant, I showed him the model and said I’d love to fold it.  He writes back, “it’s your lucky day.”  He sends me the crease pattern to it, some pictures and stuff.

When I fold the complex models, a lot of them go on a 64 grid.  There’s a lot, lots of opportunities.  But this is a 128 grid and the head is on 256.  So it means that you need a massive fuck off sheet.

EL: Let’s explain the grid thing for a second.  When you’re folding a grid it means you’re folding 128×128…128 folds like an accordion in one direction, and 128 in the other.  You’re making squares, basically.

MK: The tiny squares reference certain coordinates. It’s a large matrix of coordinates, and you can then draw diagonals between those coordinates.  It’s rather simple in both theory and practice.  It’s of course complicated in doing it.  The theory behind it is rather simple; you just make all the lines.

With this I needed a 2x2m sheet.  When people think 2x2m, they forget that you take 4 sheets of 1x1m and put them into a massive fucking square.  It’s an enormous pain in the ass to move.  I will need to rearrange my room when I fold the model.  It’s not enough with 2x2m.  I also need to be able to move…

So right now, I am basically pre-folding 4 sheets, 1x1m, making 64 grids on all of them.  Then I will tape them together, with masking tape.  I’ve done it before and it works.  Then I will spray colour it so it gets an awesome colour combination I want.  And then I will start actually folding it.

I don’t know how many weeks it will take.  It’s also extremely boring to do all the lines, and stuff.  I hate my life when I do it.  You get loads of back pain because you just sit on the floor.  There’s no table that’s big enough in here.  It’s dreadful.  I’d rather big project this one.

Again, it’s problem solving and it’s what I love about it.  I’m doing a long planning process, thinking about what kind of paper, how to solve it, which shops to go to, what colours to buy and spray.  Where do I spray it?  I go to the garage, put some cardboard boxes down on the ground and let it dry…All these things make you excited because you are actively trying to solve one problem.

Now I’m making it sound like this guy is so productive in Coronavirus.  No, he’s not.  It’s fucking boring, he’s hitting the wall.  It’s at least something that makes time pass, that’s what it does.

What about yours, Emmet?  Now I want to hear.

EL: So, one of the things I’ve looked at is this dude on Instagram, @princearmory.  He makes fantasy comic book armour, and fancy stuff.  He’s been doing it for years.  His suits for armour start at about 10 grand, and go up to about 25, if you want all the details.

Obviously I’m not going to buy one.  I mean, obviously I’m not allowed to buy one.  Do we have a deposit for a house, or does Emmet get a suit of armour?

Anyway, he started an academy where he’s making practice patterns.  Then, on Black Friday, whenever that was, he did a sale for all the pattens at once – everything you need to make a full fancy lettered suit of armour.

I’ve got it.  The only problem is all the shops I buy my leather from in person are shut down.  Support local when you can.  So I’m unable to go in.  I’m waiting for them to reopen.  Then me, and the podcast editor, Isaac, are going to make a suit each.

The nice thing about the pattern is it’s the base suit of armour, nice but not fancy.  Because I know how to modify patterns, I’m trying to figure out, who should I cosplay?

It’s a hard debate.  If anyone wants to suggest who you think I’d make a good cosplay character as….

MK: Holy shit.

EL: Check out the armour as well.

What I like about leather work is, I taught myself what we call European style leather work.  It’s what you associate with classic leather brands like Hermes and shit like this.  This was a completely new construction style.

Obviously making armour is very different than making a wallet.  So I get to learn new techniques.  This is really interesting when you have a hobby like this.

I have something precise.  I have a group of hobbies.  This would be the difference between learning to paint with oil and water colours, something like that.  Very similar, but very different.  I’m excited about that, to have my own suit of armour.

That’s my big project this year.

The other one I want to do is take up bookbinding.  This is my task for the year.  I want to make an epic wizard tome for myself, a big spell book – that will probably have nothing in it.  My hand writing is absolutely terrible.

These are my two big goals, in terms of hobbies for the year.  It would be cool, a letter book to go with my suit of armour.

These are physical hobbies, doing stuff.  What about hobbies where you don’t do anything?

MK: Like video games?

EL: Video games, board games, things that pass the time.  When it’s done, it’s done.  That’s interesting for me as well, in terms of hobbies.  I block out a period of time to do my thing.  It’s not too physical, which is important, but I get enjoyment.  Then it’s done.

Particularly nowadays, when we’re all locked indoors, it’s important.

MK: Video games have always been a large part of my life, in different levels at different times.  I’ve found there is a distinction, every single one of us, particularly you who are listening to this, are way too much on our phones.

Most people can agree they are too much on their phones.  I remember when I was younger, there used to be an argument in the 90s idea, that [technical cut out of sound] –

  • like watching TV, that was not so bad for some reason. Anything that tends to go into idling, such as the phone, sitting indefinitely on the internet doing nothing, refreshing the same 3 fucking pages…. If I play Path of Exile, that is also a problem solving game to an enormous extent.  It’s so complex I can barely grasp, after playing for many years.

Since there is a problem solving element, it’s relaxing and I think I like to do.  I like to chill out with it.  There is still a limited amount of it.  You sit there, and let’s say you do nothing all day but play it for 7 hours.  It’s rare but at some point you can’t do it anymore.  It requires something of you.  If you’re on your phone idling, it requires nothing.  It can sort of go on indefinitely.

That’s why checking the phone, zoning out, scrolling, it gets your brain hoping for maybe the next swipe to be interesting, somehow.

EL: It’s how they hook you to Facebook and everything else.  You get slowly radicalized to some weird conspiracies.  It’s the only interesting different thing that happens.

Some people I know, we had to ban World of Warcraft for one or two of my clients, if you’re listening…

Video games, I have a love or hate thing.  I can get into one of them for quite a while if it grabs me.  But I can equally just say fuck that, can’t be bothered anymore.  Looking at you, Skyrim.  Sometimes they get a bit stupid.  Even Kaizo, at the moment, it’s too difficult at certain stages.  I don’t have a lot of spare time, I can’t do 3h sessions.

MK: You need to grind to get good enough.  That’s where it stops for some people.

EL: I’ve reach my level cap at the moment.

I’ve been playing a lot of D&D, got two games at the moment.  I got some of my high school friends into it.  It’s funny because we’ve been friends for a long time.  I’d always be the weird nerd or weirdo of the group.  They’re normal people, basically, doing normal people things.  They watch football and rugby.

My friend’s girlfriend is German, also a weirdo.  We kind of coopted the group.  We got everyone playing D&D online, which is fun.  If you go all the way back to high school and suggested it, they’d say, “No, nerd shit.”  But now they’re into it…

Then we have another games night once a week where a friend comes over and plays games.  I’m not the most social person, but when you’re socializing with a purpose – that I can do.  Like to meet up and play games, yes.  Let’s meet up and talk about politics and weather?  Nah, let’s play a game.

MK: It’s always nice to have a purpose in that sense.  I do tend to see that aspect of hobbies, or these types of enthusiastic endeavours.  If you have a hobby there is some level of enthusiasm and genuine interest for the subject matter itself, to whatever degree that might be.

It’s not your hobby if you’re indifferent to it.  I don’t play violin; there’s nothing wrong with it.  But it’s a far stretch to get there because nothing grabs me at the moment.

Nurturing that level of fascination and enthusiasm for something is very healthy in general.  Of course it does bring joy and challenge and problem solving and all that.  To pull the parallel back to hand balancing, if you want to get really good at it, and are analyzing what mind state you should be in etc, a tendency people perhaps tend to over analyze.

Try to find out what kind of state are you in, in activities you know you’re good at.  The ones that are intuitive to you.  You can always play the piano, you barely have memories of not playing it.  Where are you in your fingers, brain, existence, when you play the piano really well?

I can guarantee that the mindset for doing handstands at whatever level that is and doing them very well will be a similar type of mind state.

If we should be speaking crossover, this is the more relevant one than anything else.  When I was a teenager, me and my friends were talking about flow state.  What we were describing was having the smash feeling, when playing smash brothers.  If you had the feeling you’d constantly do the right thing and know you’d win.  The others would not stand a chance.  The next night it was the other guy, as we were equally good.  You could get so frustrated and try 100 times, but you always got wrecked.

That mind state, you just respond appropriately at the appropriate time.  It’s a weird zone where you almost see the future.

When I was out dancing, really good mood, had a beer, jamming to a tune.  I react to things in the music I didn’t know was coming.  Holy shit that was cool!  I had no idea that was coming.  Somehow you were so on…of course it’s not seeing the future, but the likelihood of being in tune with what is going on is very high.

In any context where you have this enthusiasm or joy or ease for it, that you inevitably get when very good at something, that’s the state you want to reach.  It’s the intuitive state, you entering your ‘system 1.’  You’re not spending loads of precious mental energy or brain power trying to deduct…you just allow the body to do the job for you.

One other short thing.  Now I’m ranting and raving here, but with this enthusiasm thing with hobbies and having something to do – it also helps you connect to other people in a nice way.

I know jack shit about leather work, but when I hear you describe doing this pattern etc, I get invested and I want to try, hear, see you do it.  Like, what the fuck is this guy doing?  He’s got it.

What you’re describing is a sensation and state.  I can recognize that state, being in or having that feeling.  I think that helps a lot in terms of connecting to others.  Then you have one level of discussion.  If you meet someone who plays clarinet or something, woke up at 6am and went to the roof to play clarinet because they had so much feeling – tell me more!

Or, I collected stamps from 1954 in France – tell me about the stamps, yeah!

EL: There’s definitely something in there.  I found a YouTube channel last year some time, some master carpenter who had hour long videos, hand joinery and other stuff.  Clearly he’d been doing it a very long time.

There are lots of people doing tutorials on YouTube who are pretty good at what they do.  But this guy was a true master.  He was a grandmaster.  He had a video, hour long, talking about steel rulers.  It was literally your normal steel ruler in 3 different sizes, but he spent an hour talking about them.

For one of the most simple of tools, talking about that.  It was unreal and awesome.  I watched his other stuff.  It’s equally as good.  There’s less simplicity, because he uses a specific tool like a chisel or plane.  There was nothing fancy about his ruler, like a fancy coated ruler from the King of Prussia for doing his whatever.  It was just a ruler he bought for $8.  “Let me tell you everything you didn’t know about the ruler.”

It’s that kind of ultimate passion.

What is interesting about passion or enthusiasm is it’s cultivated, over a long time.  You don’t start out passionate about anything.  You get into something, or the reason for starting something is always a projection.  It’s fake, it doesn’t exist.  You don’t have experience.

You see someone ballet dancing.  Oh my god, they must feel so graceful and so alive.  Most of them are just grinning and bearing, possibly thinking about dinner.  Yes they are graceful, but they probably don’t even notice it.

Then you do a ballet class and the first thing that happens is your quads cramp, your glutei cramp.  Your arms get tired because you can’t hold them up in position for so long.  Then you get the reality of it.  Once you’ve had enough of the reality, you can get to know yourself in relation to the actual practice.  This is what gives the passion.  If you can keep it going and find it, that’s when you basically put the seed in the soil, then you started to water it.  You water it like a bonsai tree.

Eventually you have to start making choices.  “I’m into dance, but not into hiphop.  I cut the hiphop branch off my tree.”  “I’m into painting, but don’t want to do watercolours.”  These kinds of things.

Then you have your own cultivated passion over a long period of time, that kind of grows with you.  Maybe that branch will sprout again, but this idea of expecting to be into something and it’s amazing the first time you do it.  Then you see the reality and it’s a lot harder and more painful and annoying than you thought.  Then it dwindles out.  I saw this coming a long time.  I won’t say people fake the enthusiasm; it’s the initial burst but it’s not realistic yet.  It doesn’t know what it wants.  That’s great, that’s how it is to be a child or adolescent.  But you see whether or not you stick with it long enough.

That’s fine, things change.  Nothing wrong with quitting and finding something else.  Never get up is bullshit.  You might just see it wasn’t for you, and go spend your energy on something else that is equally a good choice.

One thing I was thinking about in terms of the steel ruler.  One thing I’m hugely into is speed running video games.  There are few things as nerdy and niche and insular.  Now it’s more mainstream, but the stuff these people do and put themselves through to speed run these games…you would not believe the hours – thousands of hours – to shave off microseconds in Super Mario Bros 1, for example.

They have ran the code through various programs to find the exact amount of frames, as the game runs at frames per second.  How many frames from powering on the console, is it possible to finish the game, if everything was done absolutely perfectly by a computer, then see how close a human can get to that.  It is mental.

They are breaking games apart, finding ways to exploit the code.  To any of you wondering what I’m talking about, go check out a video of Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time world record speed run by a guy named ZFG.  You won’t understand anything going on, because Link is running upside down on a diagonal underneath the floor for long parts of the game.  I don’t get anything that is going on, but it is glorious.

The amount of dedication and passion and interest and love, ultimately, put into this.  I have nothing but the deepest respect for it.  Sure, these guys are not curing cancer, but they are putting everything they have into this.

These communities are often kind of fringe people that finally found their thing, kind of.  It’s enormously..I have loads of respect, even though the things are weird and quirky.  Standing on your hands is weird and quirky too.  No difference between standing on your hands and speed running a video game.  It’s just one makes you look cool.

I think these things are very…also for quality of life.  You wake up, I’m going to shave off half a second.  You know you’re going to do the fucking thing.  You have a purpose, a reason.  It might seem dumb, but then again, we’re all just strange monkeys anyway.

One thing I’d like to add: one of my all time greatest inspirations is Rodney Mullen, the skateboarder.  He’s the father of a lot of modern skateboarding.  There is an interview by this YouTube channel called Impact Theory.  I think the guy is kind of cheesy, there’s a lot of success porn.

He interviews Rodney, and has loads of respect for him.  It seems like Rodney surprises him with the honesty and the answers he gives.  Few people are as pure in intention as Rodney Mullen.  He’s like 55, still skateboarding.  He wrecked his body in so many ways and he just had to fix it.  Because he had to skateboard.  That’s such a big part of him.

What he says, and it’s so lovely to hear him speak about it, because few lived it as genuinely as this guy.  He won everything, was everything, THE greatest skater of all time.  All that crap.  He still goes out at night with his board.

He says, find the thing you love, become one with it.  Put everything into it.  In the end, as he says, these things, you go through so many experiences with them and they ultimately change you as a person.  Hopefully for the better.

Check out the interview.

EL: I’d like to throw a counter point out to that.  There’s almost a pressure to find the one thing you’re good at, to be the best at.  It’s also ok to do a lot of fucking things.  There is this thing of, just doing ‘this’.  Then you stop doing that, and take up this.  Then learn a language.  Then take up guitar.

There’s a lot of pressure to be really fucking good at stuff.  Which is good.  But it’s okay to know when you’ve had enough of something.  With hobbies, I had enough side hobbies where I had enough fun and put it away.

There is that thing in life.  Yeah you can go deep, and there’s loads of benefits.  Or you can do ballroom dancing, climbing, this, that. Do a lot of things.  That is an equally valid point of view.

MK: Of course when I speak on these things it’s with my biased perspective.  I tend to do things the way I do.  It’s certainly important to not feel pressured in that sense either.  Then you end up doing it, not because you like it.  It’s because you have FOMO and better do something with your time.

I’m sure most people have that now with Corona.  You’re forced to not do a lot of things.  I’m just sitting here like a piece of shit, I don’t get stuff done, 5 hrs go to nothing.  It’s a weird thing to take in, both how we are conditioned in society and by the thoughts we’re discussing now, and so on.

You have to go at a slower pace.  I remember you said it earlier at the beginning of COVID shit.  You said something like, don’t expect as much from goals and all that stuff.  Maybe it’s not the time for that.

I certainly agree, thought about it too.  I wanted to heal my shoulder, get back to where I was again, la la la.  I was always thinking, I want to get back in a month or two.  Now I’m like, maybe by summer, doesn’t really matter.

EL: Once you develop a passion for something, it can be like a nice old pair of shoes.  You can put them away in the closet for a while, but when you put them back on they’re still your old shoes.

I get this with juggling a lot.  I pushed juggling and object manipulation the highest of anything I done.  Then I got bored at a certain point and stopped.  It’s interesting that every now and then I pick it up and it’s like, oh yeah, I still got it.  My old bicycle.

On object manipulation I put in 10 000+ odd hours of work.  I attained my peak that my physicality would allow.  There wasn’t much more to do, in raw technical stuff.  I do it every now and then to pick things up..but I done it, got to where I wanted, got all the things.  Now I put it away, can still take it back out and have a lot of fun with it.  But there’s this weird, I’m still passionate and keep up, but I don’t have the feeling that I must be doing.  I still enjoy it and the side benefits I got, without it.

MK: I had that with origami.  In several periods.  I remember I bought a book called The Works of Satshi Kamiya.  I must have been 20-21.  “This is the really advanced book of the guy with the cool model I saw online; I better get it.”

I got it, and folded a couple of the advanced models.  I thought it was really cool, oh shit, getting somewhere.  Then I left it alone for several years, folding a model here and there.

7 years after circus school, I decided to try and do a model.  I don’t even remember what the reason was.  I was trying to solve a crease pattern for some reason, and I did.  I did a simple one, then decided to do a more complex one.  Then as my third one, I decided to do Ryujin 3,5, the big dragon with all the scales.

It was maybe not a great play but I did manage, with help from a guy from Lithuania who sent my messages on YouTube.

It’s very much like that.  I had long periods of no folding, a year, half a year.  The interesting part was with that kind of work, because it’s so “old shoes,” it feels entirely ok to leave it.  It feels like there’s a deep trust, I’m just not doing that right now.

With hand balancing that is a bit tougher because it’s on the physique and the micro corrections and balance and all that.  It’s tough to take time off.  Even if you do, and it’s healthy, things come back rather quick.

Everyone tends to do this.  “Oh shit, I’m injured, oh no, I lost some stuff.  It will take forever.”  Then a month or 3 months pass, and you’re back to where you were, or better.  Remembering no one stays on top all the time forever either.  You fluctuate and there will be phases.  Accept that.

A new client I will start working with wrote me.  He wanted a program, I asked how many days a week he wanted.  He said, you know what, I have 2.5 kids, not enough sleep.  Let’s try 3 a week, 4 is asking too much.

Great.  He knows that this is not the time to go all in.  It would be pointless to do so.  He’s probably going to get those 3 sessions done.  Maybe not all 3 every week, but he will do what he can.  Knowing your limits of what is capable at the moment.

EL: I quickly have to say – If you have a client with 2.5 kids and no sleep, and you think 2 sessions a day or 10 a week is a good idea, it’s not.  Even if they think so.  I’ve come across that situation so many times.

I think we should wrap it up there.

If you got to the end of the Cast, the true secret to one arms is…..

MK: Don’t fall down!

EL: Thank you for tuning in to the Handstand Cast with me, Emmet Louis, and Mikael Kristiansen.  We didn’t have any questions this week.  But if you would like to ask any questions on all or anything, or suggest cosplay characters to me, you can send them to us at @HandstandFactory on Instagram, or to us directly.  Other than that, we are back next week.

Have a good week.


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