A few weeks ago I had the honor of being a student at the Progressive Calisthenics Certification in New York City. The PCC was 3 days of learning how to bend, twist and leverage our bodies into chiseled masterpieces. There was talk about being turned into PCC ninjas, which immediately had me excited. However, I was just as quickly saddened to find out that we weren’t actually going to learn how to disappear behind a ninja smoke bomb. It was then that Head Master Ninja John Du Cane quietly whispered for me to be patient.
The information of the seminar was presented in short and precise modules. Keeping the presentations concise was great because it left a lot of time for the real learning to commence through a form of play and cooperative teaching. We were instructed to pair up or form small groups to practice teaching and performing the exercises. From the start, the instructors let us figure out how to move our bodies and guided us to the techniques that worked best for us as individuals. We were encouraged to also learn the movements by teaching what we took away from the modules in our own way to our fellow students.
Along with cooperative learning, a very safe, fun and familiar atmosphere was created. The environment encouraged students to try movements that they normally wouldn’t have tried. People were laughing and smiling with each other in success and failure. In fact, failure wasn’t frowned upon, it was looked at as an opportunity to apply our new knowledge and work for a new goal.
One of my favorite examples of how failure was not looked at negatively came at the very end of the weekend during the illustrious Century Test. A student of advanced age was up. He crushed the squats, push-ups, and hanging knee raises. Going into the final exercise of the test, the pull-up, he had some trouble. But he also had the entire seminar cheering him on. When he dismounted from the bar he may not have had all 10 reps completed but he did have a large grin. Missing out on the pull-up portion of the test wasn’t a moment of sadness for him. I believe that his grin was from the immense encouragement and love given to him as his fellow students and new family cheered along.
I personally had a humbling, yet oddly comforting experience while practicing a new exercise during the squat module. Throughout my fitness journey I have been performing all sort of pistol squats from body weight to weighted pistols, pistols balancing on top of kettlebells or barbells, and even carefully doing depth jump pistols (that’s a whole other story). Needless to say, when we got to this portion of the day I felt rather confident. That was until I attempted my first shrimp squat.
This exercise appeared to be a single leg pistol regression so I thought to myself, “I got this.” Well, I didn’t. Since I considered my legs to be very strong already, I figured there must have been something that I was doing all wrong. I called Master Al over to watch and tap into his expertise. After demonstrating my new found nemesis, Al adjusted a few very minor details and told me I wasn’t doing it all wrong and that I just need to practice. I was humbled by the shrimp squat, yet at the same time comforted by Al and the knowledge that I can take my perceived failure and add it to my box of tools and goals.
Besides the amazing exercises that were taught, my two biggest takeaways were that a safe, fun and encouraging environment, coupled with the humble expertise of quality instructors, is the best way to facilitate learning for all. This seminar also reaffirmed for me that failure is just a way to add new goals in life, and not something to be discouraged by.
And don’t forget, ninja smoke bomb training is coming….
Joe Boffi is a PCC, RKC and co-owner of Catalyst Sport in New York City, which will be hosting an upcoming SCC workshop this November. If you have questions for Joe, leave them in the comments section below or contact him at Joe@catalystsportnyc.com.