March 9, 2017 9:36 am
Dave Wardman (centre), Craig Mallett (right) & Frederik Beck (left)
[*] Physical Alchemy
Physical Alchemy is an Art of Re-enchantment – just as there are martial arts or performing arts. The art combines re-patterning, physical cultivation and alchemical methods based upon our studies, training and experience over the last 15 years.
It begins with transmutation of the physical body. Cultivation of certain meta-qualities such as aliveness and physical intuition are primary focal points with other capacities of the body such as flexibility, strength, suppleness and agility as secondary (and still important). Physical re-patterning work is also fun and direly needed in the world today. It fosters human contact, connection and play. It is immediately and tangibly useful – and relatively simple to do.
‘Re-patterning’ and ‘Reenchantment’ are the framing words we use in our teaching. The guiding principles are explicitly not those of fitness, performance, health or wellness (though some or all of these may occur as beneficial collateral). Training is primarily to free oneself of unconscious and habitual patterns of motion, speech, behavior, gesture and posture – and to forge onward into the un-knotting of breathing, mind and emotional patterning.
These are useful metaphors as they allow for seamless transition from physical to emotional and mental – all with the same truth at the heart of the training. That your True Nature is being veiled by collective disenchanted patterning and habitual personal behaviour.
Just as the alchemists heated mineral substances in their alembics and retorts in processes of transmutation, so to do we heat the physical structure of our bodies with the flames of stretch, pressure, tension and awareness. And just as metals release impurities upon heating so to does the re-patterning of one layer of dysfunction and amnesia give rise to old patterns and stagnation that bubble up to the surface to in turn be interrogated via the flame. Solve et coagula.
Undertaking the unwrapping of the many layers of conditioning around the spontaneous and nature functioning of the human being is primarily (within Physical Alchemy, at least) for collective reasons – for planetary ecology reasons. The individual benefits are certainly cultivated and celebrated but the direction of the undertaking is a deep ecological one.
[*] The Disenchantment
“A child-like man is not a man whose development has been arrested; on the contrary, he is a man who has given himself a chance of continuing to develop long after most adults have muffled themselves in the cocoon of middle-aged habit and convention.“- Aldous Huxley
People are often collapsed, hunched, weak, tight, restricted, brittle and uncoordinated when they could, and should, be open, graceful, strong, coordinated, supple, agile and Aware. They are armored against sensitivity and creative expression. Moreover, many are either unaware of this reality or rigorously deny that it is happening at all – very few simply see, accept, and start doing something about it.
Many layers of inhibition and unconscious cultural conditioning have been patterned into our bodies and minds and in our nervous systems. We work towards a re-modeling of restrictions in our muscles and releasing stagnation in the soft tissues and dissolving the character armoring that is legion among the adult population of this society (and even among the young, these days – disturbingly).
The Disenchantment is to the cultural-body what inhibition, stagnation and habitual behaviour are to the physical body. It is a web of overt and covert meta-patterns spun throughout the collective. As with the physical there are patterns interlocking in superficial and deep currents; aspects of the culture, technology, perceptual lenses and metaphysical orientations that interface with personalised physical forms in a powerful way.
We seek a return. For students and practitioners, a critical mass of the training involves unlearning and returning towards that state of child-like wonder, enchantment and creativity; not intoxication with newness or titillation of acquiring new “knowledge” – all the hallmarks of desires pursued un-discerningly. We seek to regain their spontaneous and natural functioning via cultivation of shoshin – the heart of the beginner. To ignite the essence. To create a certain substance.. Originally enchanted, patterned to sleep. It is too late an hour for these games – action is necessary.
Physical Alchemy is primarily a practical method. To echo Goethe via Bruce Lee ‘Knowing is not enough, we must do’. It gives highest priority to the doing with discernment and recognizing the diminishing returns of habitual increase in intellectual knowledge. There is obvious usefulness in some of this but the goal in this system is to become as high a level of practitioner as you can – not a philosopher, trapped in endless abstractions.
[*] Physical Re-patterning Work
To have a modus operandi of repatterning disenchanted patterns from oneself calls for a new paradigm [Physical Re-patterning Work]. Some methods employed bare more than a passing resemblance to those used within performance or therapeutic modalities but the intentionality means that the usage and outcome is often completely different. Many new exercises have been created or existing ones modified greatly to enhance the reenchantment potentiality.
Physical Re-patterning Work encompasses the whole ‘outer shell’ of Physical Alchemy and covers the vast majority of work we do in classes. It includes more rigorous injury-proofing and capacity enhancement work for those that desire it. Students who are particularly interested in certain capacities are encouraged to pursue them – an expression of personal preference and character rather than a robotic command to be a particular way.
Physical re-patterning is more a way of using physical cultivation practices and movement exercises to cultivate qualities (both superficial and deep). The intention is in the direction of self-knowledge and aliveness in every aspect of life, not just the training.
[*] Training [ the wonder thereof ].
Training.. for those who have experienced even a small taste of the transformation that can occur from high quality hard training sustained over time there is no need to elaborate. Some virtuous forms of training enhances all aspects of one’s’ life – enchanting the ordinary and buffering against misfortunes.
Training for the joy of it and to bathe in the wonder that you can take hold of your resources (however meagre) and begin work upon yourself in positive direction. One can become not a victim of circumstance with proper training. With training, the seed of one’s life can properly germinate and evolve.
If one peers too long and too deeply into the troubles of the world the likely outcome is some form of alienation, depression, pessimism – an inauspicious crystallisation that can be overwhelming and all encompassing. Through training, a mobilization of ones’ frozen resources occurs. Even without getting into too esoteric a topic – simple, humble physical training done well and carried over time can and does produces wonders.
Regular training of methods with sufficient potency produce changes in the physical form and in the human being as a whole. Hard training done consistently and for long enough duration produces results not known before – some rarely seen on this Earth.
We believe if we are to survive and flourish in this 21st century we need people coming forth at full capacity and full creativity. Working at transforming your own physical body and mind to some degree is a great place to start.
At Physical Alchemy we have all been seeking and studying the best training methods we can find and have all been blessed to study with some truly exceptional Teachers in some deep traditions. Classes currently taught reflect this and also our own experimentation, marrying the traditional with the creative and new.
[*] Re-patterning Stretching [Physical Re-patterning Work]
The Re-patterning Stretching exercises are primarily concerned with removal of culturally conditioning movement and tension patterns from various systems of the body. Pain removal is not emphasized. Dave recently developed this syllabus as a divergent phylogeny out of the wonderful work of one of his teachers [K] (Kit Laughlin) – under whom he studied as an apprentice (Deep Well Being and Stretch Therapy methods).
Stretching in this manner also has the traditionally emphasized beneficial effects of improving the soft tissue texture and tone (suppleness) and the acquisition of new range of motion (flexibility) in the muscles and soft tissues. The Re-patterning Stretching work alone is a massive study and many years work for most people raised in our society. It remedies many patterns associated with biological aging.
Re-patterning Stretching occurs when you simultaneously focus upon increasing range of motion and increasing the quality of sensory impressions from the new area – but with a hierarchy towards the sensory impression quality.
The breath, sensations and various protocols and parameters become more important in this sub-syllabus. The intention is not so much on the maximum range of motion (flexibility) but in the quality of the ‘cooking process’. We are using stretching here, not primarily for flexibility increase, but as the primary vector in an internal alchemical process – as tissues on stretch ‘light up’ in the awareness more strongly and can be focused on and worked in a number of interesting and specific ways.
[*] Alchemical Stretching
The only middle shell level class currently on offer is the Alchemical Stretching class. This is a progression from the Re-patterning Stretching. This is currently an invitation only experimental class for students with the requisite training experience, embodiment and qualities.
This syllabus also makes use of a number of ‘nuclear strength’ stretches and multiple assistance strategies for working on the body (when it has undergone thorough preparation, of course) which are applied in a different way and are for experienced students and practitioners only. These Body Tessellation level and other very strong stretches are truly remarkable re-patterning tools. And they are fun, too!
[*] Daoist Physical Cultivation [Physical Re-patterning Work]
The Daoist Physical Cultivation syllabus uses stances, drills, and cosmology from a Daoist and Chinese martial arts background to repattern the physical body and awaken the ‘sleeping giant’ of the central channel. Jibengong [Foundational Exercises] are exercises that are trained in a sustained and systematic way to inculcate the qualities required to practice skillfully and transform the sinews (connective tissue and muscular structures). Transformation comes by way of heating particular tissues and pathways in the body with either static postures or the rhythmic cadence of simple motions.
Simple does not mean easy, however. While the motions or postures do not change much in outward appearance, they are built upon with layers upon layers of increasingly complex details that refine the desired qualities. As the structure is established and the tissues are wrung of their protective tension, the possibility to approach the central axis opens. Operating out of the central channel gives birth to an extraordinarily agile and robust physical form and with this the available energy and feelings of vitality increases dramatically. Once these qualities are properly embedded in static and simple motions, the practitioner is able to move onto more outwardly complex movements and transition seamlessly and swiftly between postures without losing the qualities.
[*] Daoist Alchemical Work
Both the Re-patterning Stretching and the Daoist Physical Cultivation classes prepare the physical body and the mind to undergo deeper training. We are lucky enough to have access to an authentic and ancient Daoist Alchemical work tradition for those who are interested and disciplined enough. Those who want to see how far a human beings transformation can go with correct training. This aspect is not yet available to the public.
[*] Other Physical Re-patterning Work syllabuses
Besides these two major wings of the Physical Re-patterning Work shell classes there are a number of sub-syllabus in development, take a look:
[*] Upside Down [Vestibular Re-patterning]
This class involves the re-patterning of the vestibular apparatus and cultivation of good basic (though not extreme) level agility. A class to have some fun and feel more spry. A class to prepare the vestibular system and physical form for activities such as parkour and freerunning, circus, pole dance and some martial arts. Movement and spatial games are also trained in this class.
[*] Harmonious Strength
Strength training applied in a physical re-patterning work framework. Complementing very nicely the Re-patterning Stretching and Daoist Physical Cultivation syllabuses. All types of modalities are entertained and used: bodyweight exercises from wrestling and martial arts, barbell work, kettlebells, gymnastics exercises, physical culture and bodybuilding exercises – all these realms of physical cultivation have useful training methodologies to partake in.
[*] Ninja Skills
Also with an emphasis on agility, this class develops our capacity to move fluidly and with ease – navigating silently through the obstacles of urban and wild environments. It focuses particularly on the skills of silent movement, balance, climbing, sprinting and jumping.
[*] Transmutation [Re-enchantment]
If one changes profoundly enough in an auspicious direction the experience is that the view of one’s’ previous incarnation (our self before the change) as only being partially alive – embryonic.
Unlike an embryo in utero that experience one birth the human being in the world can undergo multiple births and deaths – cycles of solve et coagula. After each step has stabilised the reality one is in is so radically different that one is forced to re-evaluate what was essentially (essence-tially) ‘me’ and what was simply unconscious patterning and habit. Often difficult, sometimes painful – nevertheless what is happening each time is alchemical. Transmutation. More than a ‘gaining’ it is an incineration within the flame of training and awareness.
Physical Alchemy in its middle shell involves a process of seeing – a system of unlocking meta-communication and meta-observation. This is exceptionally useful in teaching others and cultivating deeper qualities in one own training. It also opens up one’s perception on human relationships with each other and deeper currents running silently through the world of today.
As with all training of this nature it is difficult to define in the conventional vernacular. And as of this moment it is current not on offer to the public, so there is no need. Further experimentation is underway on this most exciting of the syllabuses. Designed by Dave this syllabus profoundly influenced the other two members of Physical Alchemy – Craig and Fred (the only two humans to have successfully undertaken the ‘reenchantment process’).
[*] Embodied Paradox
One must be able to pragmatically and skilfully extract information from multiple physical training systems, the sciences, contemplative and spiritual training and at the same time escape the trap of the net of abstractions and be a living current of the training. It requires a leap of faith to do this. If you truly feel an intuition to follow some tangential aspect of your training (or life more generally) we would highly recommend doing so. What the planet needs is more people to take this leap and less ‘discourse’ and discussion. The deeper work of Physical Alchemy is to create a person who is themselves a living paradox. They embody paradox. We have meet a very small number of people who do this and they are the best and most interesting people. The praxis is not how you conceive it to be. It is not conceivable. It must be lived. Onwards!
[*] Bio – Will Colebatch
Will spends a large portion of his time teaching little humans. The interplay of the layers of beings is of great interest. The classroom is the lab where this experimentation happens most clearly, but his ever present curiosity is always watching, testing and probing. A wonderful unfolding of life continues with experiments drawing more and more auspicious results as time unravels. Lines of inquiry include music making, improvised acting, Capoeira Angola, riding bikes and some other special activities. Emanating through all of this is a prioritizing of the passion that one brings to what they do.
[*] Bio – Michael White
Physical Alchemy for Michael currently takes the form of teaching ‘Repatterning Stretching Classes’ and physical therapy. This is partly delivered clinically (Wahroonga) and part private.
Michael made his beginning with an undergraduate study into Exercise Physiology followed by a Masters degree in Physiotherapy; early involvement in competitive sport and physical cultivation; and more recently a number of years as an online student of the Ido Portal Method. This has culminated in an extended ‘direct transmission’ style apprenticeship with Dave in the art of Physical Alchemy.
His main stream of personal inquiry is blending movement, alchemy, bodywork and the framework of ‘Physical Repatterning Work’ into his approach to therapeutic intervention. The facilitation of the much needed initial transmutation and preparing of ‘the fertile soil’ that is required for humans to be able to tinker with re-patterning and physical practice. Allowing a possible forging onwards towards Reenchantment Work.
[*] Bio – Frederik Beck
Frederik is a tinkerer at heart. He has spent more than a decade exploring and experimenting in the realm of Physical Culture: gymnastics, stretching and lifting weights. He hails from Denmark where he received his Masters Degree in Medicine which has given him an extensive background knowledge in anatomy and physiology to draw on. More recently he has been studying the art of Physical Alchemy under Dave. This apprenticeship-style learning has allowed for an integration of previous theoretical and practical education. Fred is currently residing in Dublin where he teaches strength and flexibility classes following a physical repatterning framework.
[*] Bio – Craig Mallett
Craig is a student and instructor of the Da Xuan tradition of Daoism under Serge Augier and formally the creator of Aware Relaxed Connected. From 2003 – 2012 he studied the arts of Xin Yi Liu He Quan, Cha Quan and Yang style Taiji under his first Teacher Dapeng Wang.
In 2011 he began expanding his education to include gymnastics and gymnastic strength training, various natural/global movement modalities, parkour, strength, conditioning and flexibility. Craig’s work has now been absorbed by Physical Alchemy and has become an integral part of the Physical Repatterning Work. Besides Da Xuan material, Craig teaches classes in movement and agility, body awakening and a new experimental repatterning syllabus called Daoist Physical Cultivation.
[*] Bio – Dave Wardman
Dave is the creator of the Physical Alchemy method. An eclectic mixture of practices and metaphysics were drawn upon for that was used in the genesis of the method: influences from human ecology, biology, soft tissue therapy (particular the Structural Integration school [Rolfing]), traditional and modern martial arts, Western physical culture, Stretch Therapy, shamanism, alchemy and more.
The true prima materia of the method lies in the alembic of the deep relationships and learning he has undertaken with his 4 Teachers. This includes an apprenticeship with Stretch Therapy creator Kit Laughlin; an initial transmutation in the martial arts; studying in the Da Xuan Daoist tradition and being a student of [L] his spiritual Teacher [Korean Zen, Shamanism, Advaita, Enneagram].