My journey into movement practice
The ‘MoveMore project’ began as a self-focused effort to document my transition from Bodybuilding to Calisthenics. It eventually became a lot more.
There is nothing here that needs to be said. It’s is all superfluous filling, self-reflective yarn flecked with pictures and videos of… me. But stories are important – they are the stuff that our realities are made of.
My story is the tale of a fat kid who got skinny, then got muscly, then started to explore manipulating his body in space rather than manipulating aesthetics, and then, inspired like many others, began developing his own movement practice and perspectives.
So that’s the short. If you want to read a story, it’s all below and 99% true. The remaining 1% I give over to the embellishment of memory and dramatic intent. It is ultimately a story of only two things: practice, and change. And as I believe the underlying conditioning of ‘Change’ is ‘Movement’, it is, more simply, my story of Movement Practice.
From Sumo to Skinny: A Tale of iron beginnings
2007: An aspiring young bodybuilder, at 18 I travelled from England to see my idols compete at the IFBB Australian Grand Prix. Meeting Vince Taylor – 5 x Masters Olympia champion and inspiring personality – fuelled me further on the consuming road of muscle & iron.
I share this history because it’s not unlike many others. In many cases the disciplines are simply interchangeable. Whilst we are all made of different experiences, the stories are often the same.
I was a fat kid with the nickname “Sumo”. It never really bothered me, but being brought up on Arnold films and American wrestling I was a far cry from the guys who were my first real idols.
My first “achievement” in physical practice was giving up crisps & chocolate. By the age of 14, I weighed in at 49kg at barely 160cm tall. My Philippino genes did not offer promising beginnings.
Inspired by “The Rock” (we had similar skin colour) & an older work colleague who popped dianabol like Smarties, I saved my pennies and bought a York bench-press. My journey into iron began.
I pumped the shit out of that bench-press. I saw shadows grow under my armpits (they turned out to be lats). I used up all the weights until I was hanging paint cans. I though myself a “beast”.
And then, age 16, I joined the college gym and saw a guy my age dummbell pressing 40kg for reps, A harsh reality struck – I would never be truly strong. It just wan’t in me. Despite my two years of toil in the attic, I was already far behind the genetic freaks.
'constructed bodies': 8 meals & academia
2012: A successful PT on the Australian East Coast with Nike platform shoes and demeanour drawing you to buy my 10-pack of PT sessions. I favoured a small bike, as it made my muscles look bigger.
I invested all in mass & muscle. If I could never be truly strong, at least I could look strong. Eating the prescribed 7-8 meals a day, by 18 years old I broke my ’13 stone’ benchmark, now 84kg at 170cm tall.
Why I have never felt “strong”? Because I am from a fisherman family and grew up around farmers and labourers who will teach you a few lessons in what strength really is. I was “smart” (synonymous with “weak” on the English council estates) and stuck my head in books.
At University, when back from clubs at 4am I woke again at 7:30 for (hungover) morning cardio . I set an alarms for 1:30am for casein shakes and even steaks. My undergraduate dissertation was entitled ‘Constructed Bodies: the “Built Body” and Corporeal Expression’.
But my thirst for travel and sharing bro science led me out of academia. By 2012 I was a successful PT moved to the Australian East Coast where the guns earned you girls and well-paying housewife clientele.
“Trimmed in” at 76kg – my best shape – and in pursuit of old Arnold stories (taking weights, chicken, beer, and women into the woods), I thought I was “living the dream”. But dissatisfaction grew from both in and outside as the fragile container of my practice began to crack.
If something small, such as the action or word of a person, can make your reality crumble, then your fiction was built on sand. The choice: bury your head in the sandy waste, or rebuild from the beginning.
Handstands: shoulder day or core/extras day?
2013: Back-to-wall handstand pushups – a dead-end movement if you want to achieve a real handstand pushup. Always one for taking the long-way around, I used it for a good year or two of before realising not only its poor, but detrimental carry-over.
I was shot down in my “prime” by the most debilitating back & neck pain I have ever experienced. Lightning shot in my spine as I handed clients 10kg dumbbells – I felt betrayed by my practice. Fuel to fire, fantasies of becoming the next Charles Glass faded as I saw my intricate programs wasted on people using me more for therapy than coaching.
The final blow to the cracking container of my physical practice came in early 2013 – just over a decade since the York bench in my attic – as I began conversing with a young gymnast who frequented the gym.
Rarely locomoting in the popular fashion (bipedally), she walked mostly on the hands or back & front walkovers circling the rest of us “normal” humans. Inspired by memories of jumping on my hands as a child, I tried a few kick-ups behind the heavy bags when no one was looking.
My wrists & shoulders crumbled like bricks on toothpicks. My proprioception blanked and I hurtled to the floor. My inner-child, let down beyond belief, quite simply cried. I had “shit the bed” (Ido Portal).
That day was one of death, and birth. And I knew it. I was (and still am) too immature to disrespect my child self. I wanted to walk on my hands! I still wanted to be “big” (a decade of practice and a lifetime of ideology doesn’t die so easily), but I also wanted to move… more.
Tutorials led me to “street-workout” where I saw beasts from Eastern Europe and ex pen-inmates from US repping out handstand pushups and defied gravity with bar levers and planches. Only one question remained: should I train handstands on shoulders, or core/extras day?
Calisthenics: Out of the fish bowl, into the fish tank
In May 2013, back on home-grounds in the UK, I recorded my first self-interview externalising disillusion with my decade-long passion and practice. By now, it was clear that the cracks had become a growing rift.
If I were to make this change, a whole new body of physical education would required to support it. And so I did what I had always done – research, trial, error, practice failure, glimpses of “success”, and repeating. I learnt on the move. I moved to learn. I started moving more.
In the second interview, taken only a couple of months after, my battle-plan was drawn. Despite my training age in this field essentially zero at the time, I came equipped at least with an understanding of effective programming – my guiding light through the new territory & to this day.
I started with a couple of basic goals inspired by the “street-workout” (now gentrified as “Calisthenics”) moguls of the time, such as ‘Hannibal for King’ and Adam Raw. My eyes were set on planche, free-standing handstand pushups, and figuring out a half-decent leg workout…
Every session was another failure. But it fuelled me. Though I maintained reservations over losing mass and my aesthetics (and would do so for some years to come), I was slowly transitioning my practice and accepting the burden and blessing of being a beginner.
Ultimately it would be a slow and profound transition drawn over two years. It would grow in tandem with an itching desire to live within different cultures, to learn from the challenges, hardships, and rewards that come with accepting and facilitating movement into your life.
Learn: The sky is the limit (and even this is not true)
I moved to Czech Republic in 2014 and a stay of what I expected to be 6 months turned into 20. During that time, I did something I had not consciously done for a very long time. I practiced. And I learned.
Half-kilometer sets of lunges, sets of 30 pistols each leg, handstands until my eyes bled (my childhood self gleefully at the whip), variations of dips, pushups, and pull ups you won’t see at the calisthenics parks nowadays because you can’t dance while you do them, levers for breakfast, and “core” work that’s illegal in most civilised countries.
I was moving more. But I could still counts those movements. And, little did I anticipate, the list was actually pretty short, as were the movement possibilities within the practice of street-workout.
Sure, I could bomb down the path of linear development to the sweetness of a full planche. I could keep calf raises in thousands and marathon lunges to “take care” of the lower bit. I could believe that mobility would come with the mighty will and passive stretching alone.
But I knew the ultimate outcome. I would get it. I would get all of it. I had already seen what embodied action can do in others and what it had already done for me too. I already knew that power of blind certainty. But it was still too early. My injuries hadn’t quite caught up with met, and I had yet to be given any profound “permissions” to move.
나는 영어 선생님입니다: Rings hung in cherry blossom
2015: My rings often hung amongst cherry-blossom trees under the suspicious eye of many a Korean 아줌마. I’m thankful for for having realised the benefits of this great tool (neglected by many calisthenics colleagues) early in my bodyweight explorations.
In September 2015 I arrive on the beautiful volcanic island 제주 in South Korea to romantically “isolate” myself for a year. Just me, my practice, hoards of elementary school children, and many a spectating 아줌마.
Under the calming fall of cherry blossom against a wondrous volcanic vista, amidst the world of 반찬 and delicious 제주흑돼지, my “kill it” practice approach caught up with me. Bouldering super-set planche practice broke the camel’s back and this camel had some baggage.
I felt it again – destitute. Done over by my own dogma. What’s worse was the growing discontent over not hitting full front-lever, over my handstand pushup numbers, my pullup numbers, my numbers…
Dejected and licking wounds as the wintry island blizzards blew in, I encountered the work of Ido Portal. Ido had affected the birth of ‘Movement Culture’ and inspired many with his practice & perspectives.
Ido voiced what I had felt years earlier – the restriction of my physical practice at which I had toiled until ruled by it. The solution he proposed? Invest not in the isolated practice – explore the fundamental principles which underlie them all: principles of Movement.
the three "wheels": learn, share; connect
2017: The MoveMore ‘Movement Workshop’ has been presented extensively throughout Switzerland. Sharing what I thought was relatively little, the positive response made me appreciate the value this subject has to offer to… every body.
In that year of practice in Korea my movement ability developed more than all previous years combined. My growing experience with effective programming, a relentless research & work ethic & dedication to a new “beginner” mindset completely changed the landscape of my practice.
Toward the end of 2016 I relocated back to Europe, making Switzerland my new base of operations. I quenched a ravenous thirst to learn more by visiting workshops from influential movement teachers & connected with those who shared what would become my professional field.
The more I connected, the more I found myself with and learnt from people who were exploring the same subject: Movement. They affected and contributed to my practice and helped clarify what we were doing, thinking, and being. I learnt more, moved more, & the cycle continued.
In the years that followed I began sharing the the limited knowledge I had in local classes and workshops. The unexpectedly positive response clarified one thing to me: people were yearning for MOVEMENT.
2019: The continued development of my movement practice whilst living in Barcelona. Not only a city filled with movement in its many forms, from physical to cultural, but also the home of many great pracitioners, teachers, and friends.
Inspired to continue in this effort, I researched more, practiced more; moved more. I travelled in South America and Europe learning, connecting, & sharing whilst continually developing the Online Support program and presenting the ‘Movement Workshop’ internationally.
Learn, Share; Connect. The three wheels which initiated the inward “MoveMore project” drive what is now ‘MoveMore: Movement Practice’. It is the platform through which I present continually evolving practices & perspectives on the incredible subject we call simply “Movement”.
I hope this short account of my journey serves as inspiration to begin or continue your own. Whilst everyone’s experience is necessarily different, the constants remain the same: MOVEMENT and PRACTICE. If you need guidance and support along the way, do not hesitate to reach out.
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