Making Minor Major (less is more)

When we look back at the short talk by John Douillard featured in the last post we find that there is an alternative to the way we’ve learned to train the body as youngsters. When I begin to train with my mouth closed and began to resist efforts that necessitate mouth breathing I’ve found that much simpler exercises suffice.  Basic crunches, plank holds, quadrapedal motion and even jumping jacks taken in several small doses over the day can be seen in a profounder light.  Maybe in order to support longevity workouts like the following are not only not necessary but perhaps counterproductive.

I’m not saying that the kind of workout Tony Sentmanat is engaging in is bad or poorly designed for his purposes but what I am saying is that it is perhaps not optimal for function in old age.  If Tony is able to maintain such high levels of fitness into his middle fifties by continuing such workouts without interruption he would certainly prove himself to be the exception that proves the rule. To do so without significant injury would be nothing short of miraculous. For most of us the period of our life where we can sustain this kind of exercise intensity doesn’t last much past our middle to late 30’s and perhaps only then if we have already reached an elite level of fitness.

I am not an elite athlete nor do I see any elite athletes in my practice so I tend to limit my focus to what “every man or Frau” can conceivably accomplish with consistent application. Yes it’s important to train some of the population to elite levels of strength, speed and agility but I think the true measure of the health of a population is the physical and mental health of its aging population.  Is it enough to push up the statistical average lifespan of a population by maintaining a significant portion of the aged on a kind of pharmaceutical “life-support” for two decades or more?  Is there an alternative to the absolute negligence that the pharmaceutical age has engendered?

Our main goal is to maintain and optimize physical strength, flexibility, and balance for as long as possible until we reach the end of aging for our particular genetic phenotype. Our second goal is to find a way that we can really ENJOY doing this in a CONISTENT way over probably many decades. This takes a certain mentality and a willingness to be the tortoise rather than the hare. As older people we enjoy a slight advantage. We have seen our body decay, we have a tangible experience of the pain this brings but we have also had the opportunity to develop patience and farsightedness.  We should take advantage of this.  Many of the things we thought important as young persons have become relatively less or even unimportant and this is actually a help to us in staying focused on the long run.  For example, competition; while it may remain important for us to be good enough to be competitive, we may not have a win-at-any-cost attitude we had at 17.

In my personal journey to “Drewdom” I’ve begun, day by day, to reverse engineer the best kind of basketball player I can be.  This is essentially a creative process.  I then try to break these qualities down in to the simplest kinds of drills and exercises possible so that I can engage in them in a wonderfully consistent way.  We’ll look at a couple of them next time.


Taiji Ball

My experience over the years with sitting meditation, taijiquan, qigong and shiatsu has got me thinking if it would be possible to take up basketball again. However, rather than training the way I trained as a youngster could I adapt the techniques of taiji and qigong to the art of “getting buckets?”  Is there a taji of basketball? Could the secret of becoming Uncle Drew lie in such an approach?  Would this keep old fogies like me free of injury and able to enjoy the game indefinitely?


“Gentle” exercises like hatha yoga are frequently touted as perfect exercise for the aged, whereas basketball seems to have more of a reputation as a joint killer and being at best only for the young.  That’s fine and good if you’re actually interested in yoga or taiji but what if the legends that shaped you where named Julius Erving rather than Yang Luchan?  I’ve trained taiji and qigong on and off for 13 years, sometimes very intensely, but it has never taken root in my soul in the way that it has for some of my colleagues in the complementary therapy game.  I’m not one hundred percent certain why that is but I think it has to do with the lack of masters representing unbroken lineages here in Europe and the expense of learning from them of you happen to meet one.

The mainstreaming of yoga and qigong in the West is one answer to this dilemma but why not use our own arts and our own traditions where passable? Eliminating myth, fantasy and claims of god realms or supernatural powers from those traditions may make them more palatable for Westerners but I think that something is also being stripped away that is regrettable.  I’d definitely rather be able to crossover to a scissor step and go behind my back going left for an easy layout at the age of 60 than still be fumbling to issue cold Jin with no authentic master to teach it to me in sight.

Here’s a very interesting video about approaching exercise for aging and the technique he speaks of is a very good starting point for re-building the basketball body.

Awakening the Drew in You

I’m in a rather unique position.  As an African American in central Europe I was raised with a saxophone and basketball aesthetic but now live in an accordion and soccer world.  Mostly this wouldn’t matter but with a son reaching the age of sporting life passion, I’m missing out ‘cause I don’t know a thing about Füssball. Sport was a big part of my youth and remains a big part of my culture.  Although I had abandoned basketball by the age of 19 it has deeply influenced me. I’d like to be able to share some of this with my 9 year old.

I stopped paying attention to both amateur and professional basketball in the mid 1980’s so I missed most of Magic’s career and practically all of Michael Jordan’s not to mention the 1990’s and 2000’s.  Even Lebron James had reached the back end of his career before I re-awakened my interest in the sport. So this makes looking at this new, small ball-pull-up-and- shoot-a-three, game so interesting.

Basketball is not a big deal over here. Hardly anyone plays on the few outside courts that exist. And to play inside you have to join a club because there are no school teams. But for someone like me who’s been away so long that represents a wonderful opportunity to rediscover basketball from the ground up. Rather than playing all winter you have to train for the summer black top game. Working on your handles outside all winter though possible is not a going to be a task for the faint at heart.

Starting at zero for a 55 year old is a beautiful, worthy challenge.  Personally I’m more inclined to focus on developing the strength and skill to play again rather than the actual competition itself.  Such a project aligns quite well with what many of my clients have to do in relation to their own mental and physical fitness.  They have to set goals and develop a reasonable plan for attaining them and above all they have to avoid injury if they want to progress gracefully into their old age.

How do you approach the game of basketball as an aid to longevity?  How do you awaken the Drew with? I personally will start with strengthening my core and legs in particular. Winter days inside are particularly suited to crunches and squats, since a gym is not available. Why not join me as I lay a base for the more basketball specific stuff later on.  And I’ll enjoy following my first NBA season in 30 years.