Not Ninja (yet)

31 10 2012

A blog post for everyone who would quite like to be, but quite frankly is not fit (yet) or is not fit (enough).

Those brackets are the key: what you are now is no limitation against what you can become. You’re here thanks to your ancestors extraordinary capacity for adaptability and change, so don’t piss on their parade by thinking youself into self-limiting mind games.

Autumn owns England now, and with the turning of the leaves – always more noticeable here than my native Australia – I am reminded that the natural world exists in a state of perpetual change, within which, ironically enough, only humans choose to remain still.

Mankind emerged the winner of brutal eons of evolution by adapting to given environments but also by adapting the environment itself. In our modern environment, we mould the world to our own convenience, often producing a very physically static existence.  And this, alas, is not always to our advantage.

Kensington Gardens

Nature: beautiful AND educational

But what IS ‘fit’?

For many given definitions of the word, I can safely raise my hand. I have good strength, reasonable power and endurance to burn. I can move correctly, safely and efficiently in several planes of movement. I am rarely (touch wood) injured, despite dealing massive punishment to my body on a weekly basis.

Do you need to be as fit as me? God no, unless you also happen to be a fitness instructor who needs to be able to handle over 20 hours of exercise a week, week after week, year after year. What are you, mental?

For you see, ‘fit’ is a relative concept, unique to each of us, and dependent on two factors:

  1. the type and amount of energetic output you physically require of your body to fulfil the demands of your daily life, and
  2. the type and amount of energetic output you aspire to be capable of, without necessity but for the sheer hell of achieving it

The first is entirely practical. If your body is stopping you from doing things you need to be able to do – walk up stairs, run for a bus, turn around to look over your shoulder, bend over without back/knee pain – then you are not fit (enough) for the daily demands of your life.

The second is where sports, dreams and ambitions come into play. Not everyone wants to be able to lift their own body weight on a bar, perform clapping pushups, do a cartwheel with two/one/no hands, or to run a 5km or marathon. But if you do have fitness aspirations which are not yet amongst your current achievements, then you are not fit (yet) for those activities.

As a fitness instructor and personal trainer, my job is to help people close the gap between what currently can do, and either need or want to be able to do. Or feel. Or look. And sometimes that gap looks bloody enormous, and this post is to tell you that I get that, now more than ever.

Why now?

Because although I have 1) above in the bag, I’m currently man-ing up to 2), where I have discovered a bloody enormous gap between what I can currently do and what I aspire to be able to do. Because – and don’t tell anyone – it turns out that for all my talk, cosplay and fantastical photoshoots… I AM NOT NINJA.

Wonder Woman - Adele Kirby + Sean O'Malley

Ok, ok, I’m not even Wonder Woman, really… 😦   –   (Photo: Sean O’Malley)

Not for any given definition of the term.

But that doesn’t stop me from trying (Photo: Sean O’Malley)

But I do want to be ninja (if not Wonder Woman) for my personal, relative concept of the term. And what does that look like? Something like this, a new demo video from stunt and performance team I.C. Movement:

If you just watched that video, I’ll let you in a little secret while you pick your jaw up off the ground: these guys have put together Skilltown, a genuine Anything Goes school of martial arts and movement ninja-ness in London, to help people like me bridge the gap between looking at that video and going ‘damn, I wish I could do that shit!’ and actually doing some of it. I will safely assume not to that level – unless you’re 10 years younger than me and with a lot more time on your hands – but something like it.

I’ve been going for three weeks now, starting with Girls Only Tricks and Tumbling, then T&T + Capoeira, then last week T&T + Capoeira + Parkour, and baby, do I have the bruises to prove it. War wounds, people. I am PROUD.

The teaching team are AWESOME. And very, very ninja.

Just as a good personal trainer, fitness instructor or teacher of any description shows you the shortcut from ‘WTF?’ to ‘OMG!’ , these guys make semi-crazy stunts immediately achievable. I don’t know about you, but my brain and body have some pretty solid ideas about what IS and IS NOT possible for me to do.

Flying, vertically scaling walls, leaping from tall buildings, more than one hand-stand push-up (or just one with out aggressive grunting) are things they don’t really believe Adele does. And until two weeks ago, there was NO WAY I could do a handless front somersault…

…haaaang on, the HELL…?

…and I sure as hell don’t do ANYTHING that involves going backwards, unless at least two limbs are connected to the ground…


Of course you’ve probably noticed the crash mats and a helping hand from Afonso on the back flip. I made these videos because, when I leave Skilltown, although I’m  clearly not ninja (enough) there’s still a whole lot of hard wiring and body conditioning which firmly informs me that I never will be, either. When I go to practice on my own, outside of Skilltown and without the watchful eyes of people who believe I CAN hand balance and flip and jump and aerial kick… I still suffer a reality-paralysis that scoffs in the face of the new awesome.

So I say to myself: Adele, you’re not ninja… (yet).

And a (yet)… a (yet) makes all the difference. A (yet) = infinite possibility. It is the call to adventure, the challenge of a new world. It takes a statement and makes it into temporary state, a state that can be CHANGED.

My challenge is to overcome that old programming and become ninja. For my personal, relative  concept of the word. I’m the only judge and jury here.

Your challenge might be getting ‘fit’ for your personal, relative concept of the term. You might ne not fit (enough), or you might be not fit (yet). But believe me, if I can become my idea of ninja, you can become your idea of fit. Whatever your journey, we are all on one – probably more to be honest, and soon as you finish one, a good life will throw you another, and another, and this is life out of stasis, life in motion.

Don’t waste energy and draw despair from wanting to be as fit as me, or a friend or an athlete you admire – no-one else has what you need or is what you are.

Know what your journey is. Be clear about about your goals. Be your own judge and jury.

All worthy journeys involve a gap, a chasm which must be breached between where we are now, and where we want to be. Use the (yet) to lay a bridge of faith over that chasm.

You’re going to need some faith, Indy.

Honour your billions of ancestors who died to make mankind the adaptable miracle we are.

You are stronger than you think.

SKILLTOWN is open now at Hackney Wick and is EVERY KIND OF AWESOME. Also, unbelievably affordable.




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