It is proven that physical education including acrobatic gymnastics helps to learn and develop life skills in young people. Unfortunately, according to the European commission report in 2013, there is still some margination in the school system around the globe regarding sports and physical education. Even though, studies show that developing countries have a small positive improve in teaching movement to the kids; it is still very limited. This is one of the reasons that some guys just like me have to learn to move in a late age. Luckily, there are some that have developed their skills enough to give us a new approach in the process of learning; mindfulness training, like acrobat Yuri Marmerstein, who was last week at Triller Crossfit hosting a Gymnastics workshop focused on handstands.
Yuri agreed to have an interview with Live Healthily Ever After after the workshop so, here it is:
AF: Please introduce yourself.
YM: Hi! I’m Yuri, good morning.
AF: Good morning, I wanted to ask you when did you decide to become an acrobat?
YM: I didn’t decide it. It just kinda happened. At some point I got interested in it and then my personality as well if I do something I try to do it with certain quality, I just kept doing, it was not a decision that I consciously did but at some point in my life it made it possible to happen.
AF: Childhood and movement influence?
YM: I was born in Odessa, Ukraine, I moved to the US when I was pretty young; 5 years old. A lot of people ask me if I was a gymnast, I wasn’t. I played outside as a child. In high school I started to get into martial arts, acrobatics and all that. My early influence was Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, 80’s action movies, so I got to the backyards sparred some friends, throw some kicks. I tried to do some movements. Mostly failing.
I read a lot of old school strong man books, I finished high school in 2004. There wasn’t a lot of material online but there was a website that had transcripts, a lot of these books, old school strong man and you will see a lot of gymnastics, a lot of these guys were doing handstands, a lot of bodyweight strength so that interested me so I went and try my first handstand I felt on my back.
AF: How old were you?
YM: 16-17 at that time, so I had no idea what I was doing, i tried to do once in spring break at senior year in high school, I had no idea how to do a handstand but I tried anyway. I don’t remember how i felt but I definitely hurt myself, it was a good shot to the ego.
The old school strong man was like here there is a possibility, here is something to try on, at that time the people had a lot of time and that is what I did for a while.
AF: What was your sport in high school?
YM: I played soccer. I played sports but I wasn’t very good, basketball, swimming and all that; I didn’t find anything interesting to be honest. The whole idea of “team sport” and all that; in general I found it trivial; I was more interested in learning tricks, learning to juggle instead of worrying about if the team wins or loses.
AF: Did your high school had a gymnastics team?
YM: No, I don’t know how common that is in the US, it seems…gymnastics is the more expensive sport so usually you have to go to a separate gyms. Few high schools I heard of that have a natural gymnastics high school team, so in high school I didn’t heard anyone to be a gymnast, so in College I met people who was interesting, I was fascinating because I thought you know these are wonderful magical people who can do handstands, flips but I was pretty disappointed at a lot of them because even a few years out of competition; you know in College in US is a lot of drinking so a lot of partying so some got out of shape and they couldn’t even do these basic movements and to me that was, I was very inspired that they talked about all these moves they could do and then they couldn’t actually do anything in person…Because the conditions were not right.
BECOMING AN ACROBATIC COACH
I learned capoeira, I was obsessed with different things at that point, I was very passionate about it and capoeira, the guy who ran the club left so I was more less the highest level student even thou I was not a high level student so I took over teaching in that club just to keep the community going, at that point I didn’t know how to teach but there was not anybody else either there. Because I started early it helped me to teach now.
In College I did cheerleading for a while, I was doing couple flips on the grass, I got recruited; I was interesting, I had more ego that I deserved to have but I had more access to facilities; the instruction was not a very good quality but at least I got access to facilities and been around people who were gymnast who had better technique and better experience.
I studied Physics and worked in a contract for 2 years, after that I decide I was not part of the corporate world. I earned money to pay my college so that was very helpful, from there I just walked in to a gym and said hey I am interested in a job; the difference is that this job was now part time so I had time to train, I had access to a facility, I could stay around if I was interested in. The downs were that I didn’t get pay to much money in comparison to the job I just quit.
MINDFUL TRAINING, SELF REFLEXION
AF: How much traditions and customs influence your life?
YM: Yeah, I come from a family that is very superstitious, it is an old school russian jewish family. In my personality I get very much into pattern and into ritual but at the same there is to many ideas floating around where people just follow what it is been done, and it is in sports, in religion, in yoga, in anything else, in crossfit, in all that; where rather than having a pragmatic approach in experimenting what actually works, what actually doesn’t, people are just happy to follow what somebody else told them, somebody else did before them, then sometimes could be a good thing but sometimes it is important to have that reflection that self experimentation, see if something works or not; even when I teach these basic handstand workshops there is a lot of techniques that people do because somebody else told them and there is no reason why. I say “ok this is a technique I don’t teach if you can tell me a good reason why you are doing this technique in a certain way then I am good with it but if you are doing it and have no idea why then you should revaluate and should experiment” .
AF: How is your training nowdays?
YM: Now I travel so, it is whenever I can. At home it depends because I do a lot of disciplines, I do a lot of different classes; I do a lot of work for body maintenance as well so I don’t know if that could be consider training or not. But my physical practice could be 3-5 hours a day and all that, people think all it is strength training, little of that is strength training, a lot of that it is skill work, a lot of that is just warming up, serving my body; flexibility work, soft tissue work, body maintenance, all is part of a physical practice. And there is the training approach; there is the cardio approach, and there is the skill work and there is the other side of building the attributes to make skill it more efficient.
AF: Since when are you more aware of your body?
YM: I am still learning to be more aware. That is a big part, you know, the word meditation is used very loosely just because there is so much information so I won’t call myself to have a meditation practice but I practice a lot exercises to help me increase awareness and really what it comes down to it, is that the body gives you a lot of signals there is so much sensorial information that it takes and you can process but a lot of people are numb to it. In the world of physical training people get into this workout regime where they have their numbers, they have their sets and reps and not only listening to specifics sensations of the body. So that is what I am trying to teach as well, all are teaching these tricks, flips, handstand and all that stuff, but it is more so how finally tune of a body control, body awareness you want to have.
In handstand, one of the things that makes it very unique, is that you have to have an awareness of your body and space, the accuracy of the couple millimeters, to understand that it takes a different level of self awareness that you don’t see in a lot of physical practices. I don’t teach sets and reps, I do not give people a workout to do because it is up to them to understand their body enough to build, modify, manipulate, to make it work better.
I use a lot of analogy, if you think of an instrument, the guitar is a good example, every day is a different humanity, there are a lot of factor they can change the way the guitar sounds. So If I just pick it up and play it might not sound like I wanted to, so the idea, is everyday adjust couple cords and it might sound better, in the body you can work much in the same way if you know what to listen to and know how to use it.
In my workshops I like to know peoples background; and what are they looking to learn, sometimes they are there to develop their own practice, sometimes there are teachers and and trainers, they are looking for more ways to teach someone else; sometimes they don’t care about either they just want to be entertained. So I have to account for all of that and I have to see where people come from. And then, as well I like to work with information so I try to have an idea of peoples background. And then I look how they learn a skill.
I don’t like online coaching, it is too exhausting, there are certain ideas that cannot be expressed online so what I do I give someone a video tutorial, they send me their video doing the assessment, I let them know where they are, the mistakes I see, any concepts that need to be develop and what to do further. The idea is to give them a month or two, if not more, of information, concepts to develop.
Online coaching has a lot of limitations. It can be useful, specially when you want to work with someone and you do not want to fly across the world. But it is completely different online and in person coaching.
AF: How your nutrition looks like?
YM: At home I am very picky and very precise, I cook 100% my meals, I am very careful what I put into my meals. I am not as big as counting macros but I still keep a general log so I have a general idea of eating meals. This much fat, this much protein, this many carbs, what am I doing today to earn this. A lot of high carbs but clean food, I know where they come from. In Europe is generally high quality food but I am eating out a lot, my sleep schedule is off and it is challenging. Because I travel a lot I cannot be picky.
Nutrition is one of those things that is like everything else for a while you don’t care and then the more you learn, the more complex it gets, so part of it I talk about macros but also dealing with the foods themselves, knowing what foods go well with your body, and what don’t. At home in the US I don’t eat bread because the quality is pretty low quality, here I can do a lot better with the bread, but I’ve been eating probably to much. Last night at the photos my abs were not quite as I remember them before I left. Again it is complex, you have all the macros and you have the food your body doesn’t go along with.
Couple years ago this guy in Australia explained that in the foods there is a inmune response of the body so the stronger the immune system is the more you can process different foods and the older you get you won’t be able to process as many specially when it comes from the raw plant food where every plant, at certain degree has some amount of poison and toxin to protect itself. But it is a very individual thing like anything else, that is awareness.
Maybe I am going to far to a hippie spiritual round but from contemporary physics we can influence the nature particles by just observing, so a lot of it is metal as well. You know for someone who eats horrible diet and be still super ripped and super healthy.
Yuri Marmerstein is on tour in Europe, catch him and learn his mindfulness learning by attending one of his workshops if you are interested in becoming an acrobatic coach or are interested in approaching your gymnastics in a more pragmatic way.