Movement Meta Discipline: Ivan

Interview by: Timothy J Kline 

Art by: Grappler 

The movement meta discipline has just recently gained international attention, especially in the martial arts world. Most MMA fans were first exposed to movement techniques through Ido Portal, one of Conor McGregor’s coaches in past UFC fight camps. Grappler Mag’s Tim Kline was lucky enough to meet Ivan, a disciple of the art who learned from the same instructor that taught Portal.



Grappler Mag: What is your athletic background? How did you come to learn about movement application?


Ivan: I spent 13 years swimming semi-professionally. After retiring I went into gymnastics, bouldering, boxing, capoeira and most recently Jiu-Jitsu. Midway through my athletic development I found Ido Portal, and that lead me to the meta discipline of movement.


GM: What are important areas of the body that people neglect in terms of mobility/flexibility?


Ivan: Not having an accurate roadmap, not knowing what joints can do and how far you can open and close them. By having a clear roadmap, you can know how to move each joint and try to increase its range and mobility. Some people are locked simply because they don’t know what is healthy as far as mobility.


GM: What are some of the benefits to learning these techniques?


Ivan: The best way to understand movement is to study gymnastics strength training. Not the acrobatics, but specifically the strength training. Here you can see how anatomy is used through difficult body movements. A good source for this information is the website which is ran by a former US National Team coach, Christopher Sommer. Coach Sommer has dedicated his teaching to developing adults who are inactive and physically ‘locked’ or stiff, into super humans. Learning anatomy through gymnastics strength training will give you a very solid foundation.


GM: How do these movements transition into martial arts? How will it help me as a competitor/martial artist?


Ivan: We wouldn’t need movement training at all if we lived in a natural way, but we sit in chairs and wear shoes and tight jeans and so on. These things take away our natural movement intelligence. We all need to regain our natural movement intelligence.

When you understand movement mechanics, as taught in gymnastics, you understand how you support your body weight while on the feet, how you support your weight on the knees. Especially as a martial artist, grappling, punching, kicking-it’s all a way to understand your impact. If you have the right mechanics for push/pull movements you will unlock your full potential in applying strength.


GM: Can you do these movements everyday? Do I need a partner?


Ivan: Of course, we all move everyday and we all SHOULD move everyday. This idea of splitting your training everyday, arms one day and legs the next, I think is ridiculous. We should have our strength and mobility ready every single day.

A partner is always better, simply to check each other’s alignment. I also believe the best tool for training is another human.


GM: How long does it take for someone to gain an understanding for each movement?


Ivan: It could be understood in an instant or it could take years, depending on what we’re talking about. When we talk about movement practice there are so many layers, and each layer has different challenges. When we talk about something like softness, it has to be felt: how the body CAN be soft, how the body CAN be liquid. It has to be felt, and then it can be applied or practiced. The same goes for speed, for strength, for agility and so on.


GM: What's the background on the movement arts?


Ivan: If we look at movement arts as a meta discipline, then the objective that we have is to move well. Since movement can’t be measured, such as strength or speed and so on, we can look for the quality, which means good movement, efficient movement. An indicator here would be minimum movement. In other words you should just move enough to get the job done, instead of overreaching and over-moving.

You really have to look at the big picture of movement and what it means. Only then can we go into detail. Movement is like music, that’s a simple guideline to try and understand it. There are so many things in music: rhythm, tones, chords. Music can be created with different instruments, there is so much with music. This is the same with movement. It can’t really be pinpointed and grasped fully, it is always subject to change.


GM: Are these movements good for warming up? Or should these movements be treated as a class on its own?


Ivan: I don’t look at movement as a collection of classes, it is the mindful practice of how we move. So it’s the ‘how’ that is most important. It is good to work on specific areas such as mobility or flexibility before training, but [movement] is always with you. Being mindful while you roll and train is key, it just depends how much attention you are giving it.


GM: Are these techniques good for someone with injuries or post-recovery?


Ivan: Definitely. Injuries usually come from poor movement habits which are usually developed from our lifestyle. We create bad habits and drill ourselves into injuries. Again, it’s not a collection of drills or movements, it’s just an approach of how we look at movement and the body. Movement is everywhere, we all move everyday. Movement never stops and movement never starts, it is constant.

Words are a bad medium for conveying these concepts, they really have to be felt.


GM: Can you give us a simple breakdown of the movement meta discipline?


Ivan: When we look at movement, we should look at the three layers that we have. Number one is the human layer, you have to take care of yourself. One thing we all share is being human, which means we all have to do certain things to stay alive and be healthy. Things like sleep and eat, and you know, shit and so on, this is all part of the human layer.

Second would be the movement layer, we all have to move. This is the layer we are focusing on and I’ll come back to that.

The third layer is specialist. This is specializing in something, for instance a tennis player or grappler.

Even specializing we are all still human, we all have a torso and four limbs and a head. What we’re doing here is looking at the movement layer and trying to develop these qualities we use everyday.  No matter who you are we all have to squat down to tie our shoes, so we need to have a deep squat. In a deep squat you need to have your knees in full flexion, you have your ankles in flexion, the hip is in flexion, the lower abdomen is compressed and makes for better digestion, so it’s just makes your overall health better.

So the movement layer allows you to easily travel into different fields, whether it be into the water or into the trees. By knowing how the human body moves and by developing these basic human conditions, you will have more longevity and thrive more as a human, whether you are focusing on a specific discipline or not.

This is the basic focus of the movement meta discipline, just general physical attributes and basic patterns. Hanging, squatting, inversion and so on, will give you a good foundation for becoming a great specialist as well. If you only focus on your specialized technique you may have a career in a sport, but you won’t have longevity as a human being simply because specialties can lead to overuse injuries. What we’re looking at here is how to live as long as possible, as healthy as possible and to move as good as possible for the longest time possible, so that at 90 years old you don’t need crutches because you took care of yourself and moved wisely and your body can still function. I hope this is helpful.

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