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S3 Episode 85: Season 3 Premiere


Emmet and Mikael kick off season 3 discuss our favourite thing, the handstand.

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S3E85 – Season 3 Premiere

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Transcript of Episode 85: Season 3 Premiere

EL: Hello, and welcome back to the Handstandcast with me, Emmet Louis and my coffee swilling co-host Mikael Kristiansen. How are things going, Mikael?

MK: They are going! Rolling day by day, another one between cradle and grave. And yeah, can’t complain. Sitting here in Stockholm having been through a really intense rehearsal period with a show I used to play years ago that is being pulled back from the grave. And yeah, we’re pretty close from here. I think about two rehearsal days left and then we play. That’s been my life for the last weeks. How about you?

EL: Yeah, I’ve been pretty good. I’ve just been swerving the Rona. I feel like I have basically been like Neo in The Matrix, just dodging bullets this whole time. I haven’t got it. I mean, I’m vaccinated and all that shit as well. But I think just my hermit lifestyle is really helping.

MK: It helps to not leave the house, Emmet.

EL: Yeah, it does. It helps.

MK: It helps also living in the middle of the countryside like you do.

EL: Yeah, it’s good. That’s what I’ve been doing. It’s kind of, yeah. New Year, new resolutions time and everything. That’s kind of, yeah, I suppose. 

MK: I had the Rona during Christmas. So basically, we cancelled all the parties and stuff which kind of sucked. Didn’t have any symptoms except running nose for one day. I was pretty much fine. So, I said to my friend because I was training every day and she asked me, “Oh my God, how’s the symptoms?” My symptoms are one runny nose. Second, infinite power because I was, like, ridiculously strong all those days. But yeah, I basically was pretty much symptom free. So that was that. And yeah, now within the circus company where we were a bunch of people and there’s a lot of technicians and a lot of people are getting it, so it’s kind of hard to know. It might be cancelling for all I know, or at least some shows cancelled. Our light technician got it. Our sound technician got it like last week or two days ago or whatever it was. So yeah, basically impossible to keep at bay these days, but they all seem fine. I hope the shows will go ahead because we’ve rehearsed our fucking asses off, so we’d be miserable to have to cancel stuff right now.

EL: Yeah, that would be miserable. Kind of funny as well, though. It wouldn’t be funny at all actually. Terrible.

MK: No, actually, it wouldn’t be funny at all because we’ve busted our asses to get the show back up and running. For my part, it’s not that bad because all my training is or everything I do in the show, like my regular training is very relevant to that. I don’t do anything new. Many of the other artists are basically doing things in the show that they would never, ever do in any other context. But super specific set ups of ropes or like all kinds of very niche things that were created for the show that they haven’t trained for. The last time we played it was in April 2016. That’s the last time the show played. It was in Philadelphia. 

So yeah, many of the things haven’t really been done by people since then. And then there’s a massive setup. There’s so much shit that needs to be done with a rig and we have a new stage technician and she had to learn a million billion cues and all kinds of stuff. So, it’s been a lot of time in the production hall, just hours and hours out for people trying to figure out how things were rigged before and how to make it work again. And then people getting Covid. It’s been a little bit of a rough spot. And also, the guy in the show, a guy named Alex who’s maybe the most involved character in the show. All of his scenes basically require a ridiculous amount of setup because he walks on slack ropes, but he also plays violin.

One of the scenes involves him playing the violin, on a unicycle, on the slack rope and there being an enormous, ridiculous set up involving me to make that scene happen. And he’s going to have a kid. And due date is two days after premiere. So basically, on a show day or one day, I don’t know. But like basically, we are inside all of this mess. We are creating what we call the baby show, which is some alternate version without him, which might have to be played. But who knows? We are also rehearsing in three people who are going to be replacements for other artists that can either do just one part of the the shows and the pregnant lady, she’s also in the show. So basically her replacement is already fully rehearsed in but it is a never ending kind of clusterfuck. But other than that, we’ve done run throughs and it’s close to being there. It’s really fun to play it again since it’s six years since I touched the material and it’s really fucking physically heavy, but it’s been training really systematically for the last two months to get ready for it. And now I feel like I’m made of steel and can handle the workload. So, yeah, it’s going to be interesting to see if we 1) get to play the show and 2) get any fucking audience. 

EL: Playing the show to empty theaters. Are you going to stream it at all anywhere? Is any of the venues going to stream it?

MK: I don’t know. I kind of think they should because they have audience restrictions and shit in Sweden which means that we might not get that many in the theater whatsoever. But I have no idea. My entire attitude to this is I show up, I do this shit I need to do. I am present for whatever the others need. But all the admin part of things, there are people working around the clock to make that work, and I don’t think I have much to contribute to that work right now.

EL: It’s kind of nice when you’re in a company that has everything segregated.

MK: Yeah, yeah, it’s [NameOfCompany]. So, they’re a big company. They’ve been touring shows since ‘95. All of that stuff is done by a team of professionals. Whereas like with my own company, Wald, while we’re doing all of that ourselves, it’s kind of like we need to organize all that. But of course, we’re far from the size and we don’t have a massive rig set up and stuff to travel and transport all that crap. But yeah, it will be cool.

EL: I have a proposal. I just going to throw this out. Obviously, if it’s not going to work, it’s not going to work. But would it be possible to like, get a recording of the show and we could do a watch party?

MK: Hmm. Yeah, I think they have policies for that. They do have videos like old videos and stuff, but I don’t think they’re allowed to be showed to-

EL: How about a recording of your act. And we’ll do handstand coach reacts to Mikael’s-

MK: I actually have recordings of some of the pieces I do. So, we could certainly look at that someday. It would be fun. I have one from probably 2015 or something when we played it, but it’s kind of weird because returning to the show and doing everything like the body remembers all of the sound cues and where you are at the right time. And even the physicality of it, it took me a little bit of time to get the stamina for certain scenes, but I run a lot and I do a lot of dance acro shit. 

But it’s cool and I did some modifications on my acro dance piece here with the choreographer two days ago. And it was also pretty sick because, I mean, since I played the show, I’ve been developing a lot stage wise and confidence wise and as an artist. So, I was working with this lady who was helping me with making the act way back. We worked and she gave me some interesting feedback and she said, I have basically so much more to play on now as a person rather than, I don’t need to be as physical in the act anymore because I have more facets to the expression on stage.

That’s really cool because it’s a very physical piece anyway. But we found some really interesting ways of just creating more contrast between what’s very physical and violent by basically making parts of it much more minimal and much more calm. And I was just improvising a bit with her and doing the thing and I’m working with this large mess of tangled threads, and at one point I kind of crash with all of that on top of me. And I kind of sit there with all of it over me. And then it was really funny because there was a little ant that was crawling on one of the threads and I was sitting in and I picked it up. I was like, “Hey, that’s an ant.” And I blew on it. I blew the ant away from the thread. She’s like, “That! You keep the blowing on the thread! It’s great.” I said, oh shit, that’s cool. So, it’s interesting to find how just having grown as a performer plays a large role in you by making you…So that’s cool. So, yeah, handstands! 

EL: Cool. Now that we’ve done our intro. Let’s do our chat about what we’re doing. I suppose we are back for season three of the handstand cast. And as you know, it is a cast about handstands. So, I figure today we go all the way back to the start and go: What is a handstand? “The handstand.” Yeah, basically, that’s our topic today. Anything about handstands. I think in the very first episode, we proposed a definition of what is a handstand. I wonder if that definition still holds true?

MK: I wonder what we said.

EL: Yeah, I proposed, well, I think we came together. The other was the handstand is standing balancing on the hands, not necessarily in an inverted position where your hands are the only point of contact with the ground, either one or two hands or no hands, whether it’s a hand standing or floating in contact with the ground with no other support being provided.

MK: The criteria of having to balance the body is, I guess, it depends. It’s in the traditional sense maybe it’s not optional, but I mean, if you’re a hand-to-hand flyer and you just stay there as a stick in your face is balancing you, you’re still doing a handstand regardless of whether or not you’re balancing it. If you’re walking, you’re also adjusting balance but you’re not staying in place.

EL: Yeah, I think that’s covered by balance. Yeah, because you can have static and dynamic balancing.

MK: Yes, because you are moving the base of support, I guess you are by definition, balancing. I guess if you’re against a wall, in theory, you are balancing even though your feet are touching. It’s just that the way you’re balancing it is extremely much easier. You don’t need to do, even like one tenth of the balance corrections that you need to do. 

EL: Well, I suppose the balance is being maintained a different way if you’re against the wall because you’re not, let’s say you invert your position over your hands. It’s being maintained by actually locking and pushing through the hands. Whereas like, you know, you’ve had this in workshop, I’ve had these, people just haven’t got the arm strength to actually keep the arms locked and if you put them against a wall they collapse to the floor. They need to work up on their general strength. So then, yeah, their balance in this inverted position, even though it’s supported balance or not, a free balance is still being maintained via something.

MK: And put anyone up against the wall after enough time has passed, they will not be able to maintain the position anymore, like depending on their level. But at one point you won’t be able to. Gravity always wins. That is just getting anal about the details, of course, we are on average talking about like balance as something being the adjustments happening from the body in real time. And yes, a wall handstand is a handstand. A hand-to-hand handstand is a handstand. But if we’re talking about the traditional sense of it, i.e. that you are keeping yourself in balance, and if we get even more detailed, you are keeping yourself in balance in a fixed point, neither by walking or jumping. And I guess that is kind of the most, at least in the sense that we use it for hand balancing, is certainly the most relevant.

EL: And then I think that’s kind of a good point because we could extrapolate this. Like what is standing on the hands? What is leaning on the hands? Let’s say I’m standing up and I lean against the wall because I’m slightly tired or just chilling out. Am I still standing or am I leaning? Whereas with, say, a handstand against the wall, am I  standing? Or am I leaning or is about is a combination? Is leaning a form of standing? You know, if I’m really drunk, my friends are holding me up. Am I still standing? Or am I being supported? Whereas if someone is doing a handstand on a flyer, they still standing ought to be being supported or handstand on base. Think that this is handstand philosophy

MK: Handstand existentialist questioning. Looking at if we kind of move away from all of the various different methods of staying up there. If we assume that we need to keep balancing ourselves by rebalancing the body because rebalancing is not strictly necessary in hand-to-hand and it’s not strictly necessary if you’re leaning enough on the wall. All you need to do is just exert the appropriate amount of pressure to not fall down through your shoulders and then you are able to stay there. But if you had to handle the movements off the body structure and off of everything that’s going on when you’re trying to stand on your hands in free space, then of course, rebalancing as an action is also a defining factor, I would say. 

And again, the rebalancing will be very dependent on a myriad of parameters, while exerting force upwards so that you do not fall down while you’re on the wall is very  linear. It’s very simple in relationship because you just do that. That force, that’s it. Whereas if you need to rebalance like that, that can depend tons on your body structure and your flexibility and your ability-

EL: Your strength, your control.

Your balance is dictated by your ability to exert force in the correct direction. But also it’s, you know, controlled by your ability to sense where you’re going. Calculate the vector needed to apply the force in the correct counter direction of where you’re falling. Apply the force and then reduce the force at the right point to come back into balance. So, there’s a hardware thing of like, OK, am I strong enough, or then there’s the software thing of like kind of actually sense which direction I’m going. I think this is one of the things that’s very captivating about handstands is there’s not just a simple strength problem or a simple coordination problem. It’s a bit of both mixed together. 

MK: Yeah, I mean, it’s a of it mixed together. I think the strength thing is certainly very, very important. And as we’ve talked about before, it’s so easy to put the wrong connotations to strength in a handstand context. It’s being influenced by general cultural ideas around strength that if you can apply less strength, that is better. You see it a lot in martial arts. I remember when I was younger, it’s like, “Oh yeah, but if you move the right way, you don’t need strength.” Which is true to a degree, right? I mean, but it’s like the classical kind of aikido myths of the guy who doesn’t need strength because he has ascended past the need of strength. So, he moves perfectly and then people fly out the window when he sidesteps. To a degree, it’s true if you move absolutely perfectly and you need very little force. But on average, you will usually not move exactly perfectly every single time. 

So. Building up the hardware. It’s a very basic thing that is necessary. And I think as we talked about before, the number one one place where it’s evident, are you able to keep your body weight on your arms? To some degree, that is a very defining one. And then the other more elusive one is if you’re in a handstand and you grip with your fingers, are you able to move your body structure with the absolute hardest force of the grip on the floor? And if not, if your absolute hardest gripping force on the floor is not enough to move your body at all in a straight handstand, then it needs to be built. If you want to maintain the position.

EL: That is definitely one of those things. If you have them in, then technically you have all you need to do a handstand, whereas everything else is just style points on top of that, I suppose, and aesthetic choices. 

There’s something you said back there was kind of interesting actually, way back to the aikido idea that there’s this great YouTube channel I watch a bit, or it’s very well done, where some guy, I think it’s Martial Arts Journey, I think. But if you look it up, aikido fail or something like that. This guy was an aikido instructor like balls deep, had a dojo, had everything and then got mugged or something. And then he tried his aikido, and none of it worked in a real pressure situation. So, he just basically, “Oh, why isn’t it working?” And then abandoned aikido. Went into MMA and, you know, proper kind of going around. How has actually come back to someone who was actually able to show him that aikido can work in a live, pressure tested situation, but just not the way you would think? So, it’s kind of just interesting that a lot of these things, oh we need perfect technique. And if your technique is perfect, you don’t need strength. Like, well, yes, but how do you get to perfection of stuff when you’re in a chaotic environment? Or does the abstraction…? 

I think it’s one of the things that’s very important that I’ve only really learned from juggling and object manipulation kind of things, but in a more intuitive sense. But it’s the thing that I really think of on how important it is in the last year or two, where it’s a bit more formalized, where we have the training and we have the doing. The training is not the same as the doing and they can be very similar. But if you’re still in this kind of zone where you’re like thinking about what is the optimal alignment of my elbow. Is my elbow focusing? You’re not doing. You’re focusing on a correction and you’re trying to do a correction and that’s fine. It’s a very important part of the training. But then at a certain point, you kind of have to just do the thing and see what happens. And that’s when you begin to see where the actual holes in your technique are or where the actual flaws are. And it’s abandoned correction is the idea of just do it. We have it in some of the programs in the play section. Just do stuff, see what happens? 

But it is more common in circus because f we think about it, we have our training, our classes and all this stuff. You have your rope, but then you also have your improv sessions where you have, “I’m just going to try this.” You’re going to see what happens. It’s going to do this. Yeah, it’s an important side of the training. I’ll do my handstands, I’ll do my rebalance, I’ll do this. And then this has to be like, I’m just going to do some handstands and you just do it. And you don’t bother thinking about your technique or if you have your toes pointed or anything. But I think that happens at beginner stages, because there’s that, you’re learning, you’re working your wall drills, you’re doing everything you learn to rebalance, you’re getting all this and then at a certain point you can do handstands. Ok, awesome. I can just do a handstand. And some people are perfectly happy and that’s where their handstand career stops. And that’s great. But then at a certain point, people get a bit more technically focused and on this constant quest for constant perfection, they kind of forget about that stage just standing on the hands.

MK: Yeah. I think it’s also the quest for perfection thing. It’s kind of inverted in one sense because it’s easy to imagine that we have this person does perfect technique and hence so easy. While the reason the person can do perfect technique is because they’ve done like a thousand and thousands of hours of suboptimal technique, which leads ultimately to just all of the required attributes to be able to do it properly, including strength and flexibility, including awareness, speed of corrections, etc., etc., etc. 

That comes as a result then that look of the technical perfection comes from that, rather than from applying a single point of technical or even of a technical idea. And yeah, I think that it’s um, I was thinking about or I was talking with my colleague, Joey Martino, who I work with now, in this show about this the other day. And in regards to when you’re learning and applying something, you need to oscillate between being self-conscious about what you’re doing and then letting go of that self-consciousness as you do. Yeah. Because if you’re expending brainpower on focusing on every part of your body, you’re not focusing on the doing the actual execution of the movement. And it’s the same with anything like when you learn in the beginning, you are very self-conscious about everything, think language, think dancing anything like you’re insecure, you’re trying you’re kind of stumbling forwards, but that’s how it has to be.

There is no way to just suddenly snap and you have it. You need this time of inching forwards. And the self-consciousness thing is something that you over time start getting rid. You don’t need to be in that brain space anymore. And sometimes when you’re learning something new, you need to go back into that brain space of thinking and analyzing and so on. But then when you do, you do. 

The reason that we were talking about this is because in the show Joey is doing, her act is basically all these canes that are about five meters in the air from floor to where the cane is. Yeah, so it’s pretty high. There is the platform is very small. The platform kind of wobbles weirdly because it’s attached to the stroh. The canes move and then the platform moves. It’s very awkward to be up there. And I’ve done one-arms up there as well, and it’s it feels a bit sketchy, obviously, because it’s really fucking high up and you, you see the floor below you. So, you need to just focus your eyes in the middle of the platform and just ignore the fact there is there is a drop. What I was thinking about is like for both of us when we go up there, what happens is that suddenly we are self-conscious again.

Suddenly we are in the same mind state as someone who’s going to go up on canes for the first time. They experience the same holy shit, like, I need to go up here. This feels scary. And that puts you in a very self-conscious mode where you suddenly are prone to doubting your ability or doubting your execution. And when I go up on those canes like I press up slowly, I transfer slowly, and I do these things which are completely unnecessary. But it’s because you are in this mind state of hyper focusing on things that you don’t need to. But obviously, once you’ve been up there a few times and you start getting comfortable, it’s not that bad anymore. 

But I think that being too self-conscious when executing can be detrimental because you’re literally trying too hard. You need to be able to let go of that so that you can be in an intuitive mind state as you learn and practice. And then you apply this conscious mind state in pieces and when necessary, when doing technical analysis, when trying to understand. But if you’re only there all the time, it just feels that you’re not really giving your brain the space to learn. And yeah, I think that is like a very recent kind of experience I had with that.

EL: It actually shows a bit of on the training journey that I’d say for a large part of your early training would have been in that state, the hyper focus on detail and other stuff. We probably wouldn’t have been able to actually label it because you didn’t have enough time with the just the doing stage. 

So, you can see, it’s that kind of tentative movement like just thinking of, say, first kind of dance classes or first kind of theater classes before you kind of get into this easiest state to relate to or pull off? Probably. Really. Oh, I’m going to try to do this. You know, you have to do a solo across the floor, you know, Oh, I’ve never really done that. I’m not certain what the moves are. I need to replicate the choreography. But once you kind of learn the choreography, got it into the body, then you can just do it. Is that kind of like, you know, it’s that beginner’s mindset. I don’t know. Enthusiastically open mindset is very good, I think. But the beginner mindset isn’t actually necessary, I suppose. 

Before I start ripping on the beginner mindset, but not so much as a concept. But it’s that idea of “Oh, why would you want to be a beginner when you’re searching for something that’s indefinable in your practice?” The context that can only come through – I don’t even know how to say – an expertise, because you don’t need to be an expert to experience it, but you do need to let go of thinking. And just do.

MK: Yeah, yeah, true. It’s interesting you say that because there’s a couple of things that have annoyed me a little bit. With seeing many people getting into it and like you say, having this always beginner mindset. This way too humble thing. You need to always revisit the basics like this and like that and like, be so…humble bragging about it. And it’s such a complicated thing. If you think about it, you know, but you can fucking do it. You’ve done it for seven years. So, in one sense, I totally agree. Yes, there’s  loads of things you can sense and feel and perfect all that. 

But what does it actually contribute with other than you spending extra time being extra aware of things that you can only make use of when you try to be extra aware? Because once, let’s say, just a two-arm handstand, if I go and I train an entire hour, I’m just placing my weight in one certain perfect spot in my two-arm handstand, making it feel exactly like this and exactly like that. And I spend a lot of time on that. While if I’m going to do a two-arm and then transfer to a one-arm, I will.

I will run my autopilot program and just do it because those that like hyper awareness can only be experienced and used during a moment where you’re extremely focused on a certain part of it. 

So, I don’t say it’s unnecessary because it has a lot of value in revisiting and sensations and stuff. But I have seen people that I’ve talked to that have gotten so obsessed in this that they just stop training handstand and stopped developing their ability to do things because it was suddenly so extremely important to focus on. 

And again, like two weeks ago, you were doing very advanced stuff that now you’re like regressing quite far to get into some very hyper conscious feeling thing. I’m not saying it’s 100 percent unnecessary, but I’m questioning the use it has because of the difficulty of using that very conscious mind state when you’re executing. And I think it connects to that concept of Kahneman Thinking, Fast and Slow the system one and two of brainpower. If you haven’t read the book, it’s hard to read, but it’s a good book. 

But essentially what you want is you want to transfer the execution of your skill to system one. And for those of you who don’t know what system one and two is, basically Kahneman’s concept is that system one is a very intuitive, very effective and efficient, quick way for the brain to work, i.e. when you do things you can like. When I speak English language, which I’m pretty comfortable with, I’m not being in a very focused mode when I do it like it all flows. It’s all kind of intuitive and easygoing. And this system is effective for quick thinking, as he calls it: thinking fast. But it’s easy to do cognitive flaws with it. While system two is slower, it uses more brainpower, i.e. it uses more sugar for your brain to do and you’re very focused. You can solve complex problems with it, but it’s slow and you can’t always be in that mind state when you’re trying to move fast. If you’re on a stage, you need to have built up response speed so that you can just act and show that you get that state where it feels like your body is just doing it.

EL: Yeah. No, no, it’s kind of interesting those, too. I haven’t really thought of linking it to the school of Daoism. I mean, we divide the brain or the mind into five separate parts. And one of the parts, the two parts that are opposed to each other is the yi, the thinking logical analytic side of the brain. Then the doing. We say to do something one time correctly, it’s a matter of clarity with your thinking side of your brain, your body. Basically, if you can see something and replicate it and you’re able to go within your abilities, then your yi is kind of working correctly. Your ego isn’t getting in the way and you’re replicating something and then you think it’s perfect, you look back in the video and shit. But the ability to do something repeatedly goes into the other side of the brain into the zi, which is more to do with the willpower, as much as anything else where you’re just like, OK, I’m just doing this, I’m just doing it. I’m just going to do it. And that’s kind of where you get if you’re overusing the yi to do something, you’re thinking about every conscious detail, you’re just not going to actually be able to string 10 or 15 of them together in one go.

MK: Hmm. I’m using this very consciously right now, actually where I’ve started to train breakdancing power moves again, spin stuff, and I used to be way too analytic to just try once, film and analyze. It would be very problematic because what would end up happening is that I try once I look at the video or something, I look at it and I think maybe if I do this and then I try again, you look, you think, maybe if I do this or what happens? And I mean, this is a bit of science, but what it feels like happening is that I’m trying to do something different each time, almost. I have different cues or I have a cue each time so I’m focusing on different parts. And I’ve also done this with handstands, like even when I’m coaching where I caught myself like, “Hey, I just need to give you cues because the person just needs to fucking try.” They need me to shut the fuck up and just get some time attempting. And now with practicing power moves just getting out of that mindset and going, OK, I’m just trying to do the thing, and I try to get a couple of rounds of some things and I’m seeing great progress.

And it’s interesting when I look back at the days where I used to do this and I saw all the guys that got really good. They were the ones they were just going they had actually very little analytical focus on it. They would just go for trying to do the move again and again and again. And I do think there is a lot to the fact that I mean, the brain and the body is a learning machine, and I think its way of absorbing knowledge and absorbing. And learning ability is its default setting almost so, giving it the time to just sort this out and to trust that the body’s very capable at sorting things out is important. And again, it’s not to say that you should only try and not think there’s an oscillation between the two states is important.

EL: Yeah, no. I definitely think that assessment phase has to end at some point. And getting stuck in it is – it’s a trap, but it’s also a trap to not do it like we can also, you know, give the counterpoint of the person who is one of those ones I remember. I remember seeing this a lot in…There was one circus group that would meet up in Dublin where it was meeting going to park on a Tuesday, and it had for certain points of time. It had a decent amount of acro yoga partner acrobatic crowd turning up as well. And, you know, it was quite a nice open session. So, there was some high level people. There were some low-level people, there were beginners, intermediates, people been doing it for ages. That kind of informal hobby session, basically. But there was like a lot of people, obviously what they would be trying to do. 

Handstands and their technique, like a lot of them, were say, coming from yoga. They were, you know, strong enough and had, you know, decent alignment. They knew what a hands-on shape was when they got it, but they just didn’t get it every time. But the odd time you’d watch them, they might kick up.

When I started counting people one day just to be my normal, voyeuristic self. I was watching and there was kind of this chasing the dragon kind of effect. You never catch the dragon, but they’d be kicking up and then occasionally they’d stick a 10 15 second handstand. But every other attempt was like four seconds or less or something like that. I was like, oh, but this person has just gone the other way instead of thinking about the technique. And, you know, I could see, you know, mistakes they were making or repeated mistakes or you just need to work on this. You’d need to work on that. If there were a student or if they’d asked me, then I’d be like, oh, you need to work on this before you can work on that or this needs to improve and then you’ll get better. But if they just go the other way of just like kick and stick. And then what was interesting I think more so than if they were just constantly always doing three second handstands. They probably would’ve just given up and done. Maybe they’d go handstand isn’t for me I just can’t do it. Or they’d go, OK, I need to actually get some coaching and go to class. 

But because they’re having these kind of success moments that they’re latching onto and they’d go my best handstand is like 20 seconds. Awesome. Cool. But then we go, well, what’s the actual median of the handstand? I’ve been thinking a lot about it actually. The thing about statistics a lot lately is the misuse of statistics and the misunderstanding of numbers, because it’s fucking prevalent at the moment. It’s something that is annoying me, but we’ll leave the pandemic topic away. But this idea of the median, it’s like, oh, my best handstand is 50 seconds. If I get rid of that 50 seconds and I get rid of my eight second handstand side of the story, and then I take the average of, say, five attempts. Then if I take the median, my median handstand is actually only 12 seconds. And I think that’s kind of an interesting benchmark that is very neglected in training in general. It’s like, what’s your actual median? It’s like, Oh, my PR. A bench press is 150 kilos, but you know, if I tried PR, whatever you know, working out this way.

So, it’s kind of interesting where, you know, I’m going to put this up on the Handstand Factory Instagram. I want to make a post on like setting some median as your baseline rather than your peers. That’s kind of it is, you know, it’s what would you do? Here’s a a little challenge for anyone who wants to try this at the start of your handstand session. You’re going to pick an entry like whatever you want to kick up, straddle, whatever, and you’re going to make 10 attempts at it. You going to do it every session for a week. And of those 10, you’re going to see on those days, you’re going to go: How many did I hit? How many did I stick to a three second handstand? And then how many did I not hit three seconds or record the numbers? And then over five days of training in the week, you’re going to get rid of the highest number. So, when they get 10 and get rid of the lowest number, we stopped none of them. And find out what the three middle ones are, the average of the three middle ones.

MK: Mm hmm. I think, yeah, that’s actually a good one.

EL: I think it’s good because it’s one of those, I’m not working on private coaching at the moment because with all the writing I’m doing at the moment with the books and the other stuff coming out. So, I’m thinking about setting baselines. How do we actually set a baseline? If we’re working with, say, percentage programs, I set a PR of like five presses and I went to work on four presses. I want to do five sets of five as my goal. But then actually your median presses or you could do over the course of a week would only be two. Well, then maybe you should be setting a goal of five sets of two to first get that and then think about bringing it up. I haven’t thought this concept out too much, you know, or translated it into conceptual baselines. But I think setting the median can be quite an interesting regulatory thing because we all have that kind of thing where you have a peak day, training is amazing, everything’s working, you’re fresh.

Blast and you go, oh, blasted my pants and do a minute and a half on my hands or, you know, I done 30 seconds on one arm or something like that, whereas like, well, what’s the median? As a coach as well, I’m thinking about the tendency when you’re working with your clients, when they send you video, they send you the best. And sometimes you have to poke them a little go OK, that’s really good, you don’t know everything, right? But I need to see some of the shit ones to decide how we’re actually going to train. 

Oh, here’s my kick up the hand side that kicks up held if someone’s starting ten seconds. I kicked up but held it for 10 seconds. And I don’t know exactly as you programmed. That’s great. Everything was right. But I need to see why. Where are you making the mistakes in the program? 

MK: Yes, it’s for sure. I mean, yeah, consistency in in general, I mean, I think that is something that most people that chase handstands, they do chase consistency. It’s kind of the consistency being the main parameter for the display of control or not. Can you do it? And yeah, I think past a certain level. When I see really high level hand balancers. Very often they are bored with consistency. There are some that only chase consistency still. But there are many that go into this area where I’m just going to try to mess around and do a really difficult switch or a really difficult this or that. Because you’ve experienced most of the sensations of doing things and then there is maybe less satisfaction to derive from “I did it again.” I could execute the same function one more time. And you just want to try something stupid. And yeah, I’m certainly in that category to a large degree as well.

EL: The dopamine switch of the brain has gone off, huh? The dopamine switch of the brain has gone off. It’s like I’ve done the handstand so many times. I get nothing from it.

MK: Yeah, I’ve done this and I’ve done that. And even the consistency itself, it’s important for certain things that I’m going to use on stage. But past that, it’s not that important. It’s cool for certain things, absolutely. But to only have that you want to have enjoyable experience with this as well as all the frustration that you are bound to have. So, yeah, in one sense, it’s definitely fun with all this because it can be linked to the thing of how much do you play and how much do you train? And then the training for some of the people being very much the driving force for some, the kind of play being much more. 

What is interesting to me, at least, I think right now I’m better at having a good combination on that than in a very long time. I’ve been doing a lot more training than I’ve been doing play, particularly because of the show where I’ve just had more rest days a week, which has been good. But I’ve done a couple of harder sessions, pretty heavy and then have left it alone because I knew, OK, tomorrow we need to run this and that scene and stuff in the show where I don’t really need to use my handstand skills but there’s other things going on. So, there is no point trying to train handstand six days a week. And I’d have rather done maybe four handstands and maybe even three or I’ve trained like hard.

It depends a lot on the period. And I think again on what the person enjoys. Which again, it’s one of the things that we’ve talked a lot about before and still remains to me the most important thing that you’re feeling that there are… You’re getting some sort of value out of doing this. And I think for many there it becomes kind of this thing where you sit and you imagine that you could learn and what you want to do and the things that are cool and you start creating how can I call it like you fantasize about it? 

It becomes this entire thing as I think humans do most things like you find some system and then you adhere to that system or you create the system in one sense. I think that’s cool but it needs to be enjoyable, so if you don’t find any joy in only training, then maybe you might want to fuck around a bit more and try and play. And then for those who just try and play and you think that’s all right, but you make no results and that’s a little bit annoying to you, well, then you might need to get some structure on your things rather than just flop around with whatever you feel is fun at the moment. So, there’s certainly a balance to be struck between those, I think for most individuals.

EL: Yeah, definitely. It just popped in my head: is would we have such a big focus on the perfect technique and the perfect stuff if you didn’t have access to a camera in your training session? Like, say, if I said to someone, here’s your program, you’re not allowed video yourself. I find video one of the greatest innovations for training we’ve ever had in terms of stuff. But the easy access to it, rather than having a VHS that runs and then having to get whatever old camcorder style bought at the same time. If you were to just do a program, this is the way. Like I learned most of the answers that you’d have a class, you know, it wasn’t training the Handstand set up in school. We’d have a teacher every day or every second day. You just have a couple of handstand classes during the week. You know, kind of your general flow is, oh, my knees tend to bend. So, I just work on that, but you’d have to do it all through feeling. And I’ll be kind of interesting. And that would just be, you know, there wouldn’t be so much of a… Well, technique was definitely a focus. There wasn’t a hyper focus on the details of technique because you just didn’t have access to see what you’re doing every set.

Actually, on your breakdown stuff. Don’t film yourself for a week.

MK: Hmm. Yeah. That might actually be pretty good.

EL: Yeah, just go in and just set it. Whatever you’re doing, set your block a time or have any attempts you’re going to do or whatever and just do it and don’t actually film yourself.

MK: Yeah, that might actually be pretty good because the thing with right now, I’m all through most of the training, I do conditioning.

EL: Yeah.

MK: Because the body can do a bunch of the moves, but I did it yesterday and I’m so fucking smashed in the entire body in the way that I haven’t been in years because I’m pushing further and I’m doing longer combinations and trying to keep going. And around the hips and obliques and the lower back. And everything is, it feels good, but pretty darn trashed today. I’m off switch. Just going to go and do the fucking stretching program you gave me. Yeah, that’s what I’m going to do afterwards.

EL: Nice. Nice. Yeah, it’s a good thing to do. I don’t blame you. I’ve been doing my own stretching programs lately. I have this rough idea. I’m going to throw it out there towards the end of the cast. Where I’m approaching 40, and I said, let’s get some catchy goal from the next year and a half for training. I was thinking Figa by 40 as a challenge.

MK: How old are you now?

EL: So, I’m 38, so my brother was two months ago, three months ago. So, like thirty-eight and 10 months or so a month, a year and 10 months to go.

MK: Well, seems possible, since you did have one-arms before…

EL: So, this is the kind of thing. I also kind of pick a figa because I never had figa back in the day. Never had it. Back in the day, figa wasn’t really a thing. It just wasn’t the move that people were doing back then. Or in London, anyway, it was kind of more of a Russian move, and then it got popular across the thing. OK, there’s a challenge. Then I kind of set some tiers: A C tier figa would be doing it from four finger support and then taking the hand off. B tier will be going from a straddle to it. A tier will be going straddle figa, hold times greater than five seconds will be the goal and then back to straddle, then an S tier would be from full to figa. 

MK: That’s a hard one. Two years for that would be impressive.

EL: I’m going to do a three-month training because I need to basically work out some of the things, the benchmarks I need personally for it. So, I know, like my best hand balance happens at eighty five kilos. Right now, I’m about ninety-six and a half kilos. I mean, I need to lose 10 kilos. That’s fine. So, I need that. And then also, some more benchmarks along the way. So, it’s bit more like block periodization to the training. So I think that’s going to be an interesting project because I can like essentially map out the stages. This is going to be the way we use Block Periodization. We’ll map out the stages of training for a section of training. This and this are benchmarks, the other things we’re working on. Everything else can go fuck itself.

MK: Hmm. Yeah, you need to keep me updated on that. 

EL: Basically, there’s going to be some new video from now on once I get past a certain point. But it’s going to be an interesting kind of two yearS. I’m going to start to do a bit more public stuff as well, just because I’ve had a few requests. Yeah, it’s interesting just to have this before you hit that, you know, “age 40 decline” and just have to take steroids. If someone wants to pay for testosterone replacement and send it to me, that would be fine. I don’t mind if it’s from some guy in your gym.

MK: Some bunk gear from like Estonia?

EL: Yeah, I’ll be a Barbie. You sent me the bar. I’ll take it. That’ll be amazing.

MK: Barbie yeah.

EL: OK, I’ll stage out first stage, get down 10 kilos. I can do that in about two or three months. Then bring presses back up. So, I need to get, pressing sort of five, six presses in a row, I think it will be good.

MK: Yeah, it’s good to have…

EL: Yeah, basically those kind of things just kind of stage it out. It’ll be also just interesting to see how fast things come back because right now with one-arms I literally just am not strong enough to keep my weight over the balance point, but I can see when it clicks it actually balances so like losing 10 kilos will fix that very quickly, I think. 

MK: Mm-hmm. Sounds like a plan. 

EL: I think it’s something I’ve worked at roughly. And I think it’s just about doable. In terms of training,

MK: I’m thinking like, I mean, if you stay uninjured for two years and you have solid progress, you get to a decent one arm in a year and then, yeah, work pretty hard towards a figa, it could happen.

EL: Yeah, basically staying wrist uninjured is the biggest challenge for me. 

MK: Yeah, that is a very big one.

EL: All right. This is the other challenge I could have an ultimate tier S plus and a C plus tier on the left hand. The left hand is objectively worse at balancing. It’s uninjured. 

MK: The classic just do it all on canes, though, that could be…I have four figa is huge, so get it.

EL: Oh, definitely like the cycling in a lot of canes all comes down to if you know, the top secret project comes to fruition as well. Project M.

MK: Now that is important. Yeah. Can’t wait. 

EL: Top secret project, hopefully to be announced towards the end of the month. If it works. If not, we just forget that I ever mentioned top secret project.

MK: Yeah. And then it’s like it was secret service shit. It was all fake news.

EL: The Earth is flat, the Earth is flat and it’s actually just a giant set of canes. That’s how it balances in space. Right. I think we’re approaching the hour. We are approaching the hour. It was a bit rambly, but on topic. 

There’s an interesting ramble on no topic. Kind of get into a deeper level, the Handstand. So just to wrap up once again, welcome back to the Handstand cast for a third season. Thanks to everyone who listens and keeps us going are still. Oddly enough, we are still getting into the top fitness charts top 250 worldwide over the last quarter when we weren’t making episodes. So, people were obviously catching up and doing that. And that’s great the enthusiasm we get off you guys. If you have any topics you would like us to do, just DM Handstand Factory on Instagram and say, Podcast topic, this is it. We’ll see what comes in. Maybe someone will cover it already. If you’d like us to cover a topic again that we’ve already covered, but go back to it. You know, let us know. Just let us know what you’re interested in. If you’re listening, you can send it to me, Mikael as well. Uh, yeah, we’re kind of planning our guests as well. We’re going to have some cool guests going up or over the course of the year. Uh, other than that, shall we let them go?

MK: Yeah, I think it’s time.

EL: It is time. Hello. Where’s my? Where’s my thing? Why do you make me do this.


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