Interview: Wojciech Furman Brings The Fighting Monkey Practice Concepts In Dancesport
Matteo: How did you get in touch with dancesport?
Wojciech: I’m connected with dancesport at a very young age. It was more or less a 16 years journey. But actually, for me it has never ended. I competed mainly on a national level and then started teaching Standard.
I didn’t achieve any spectacular results as a competitive dancer. Probably the best one was the Semifinal U21 at the Polish Championships or the Final in Junior 10 dances at the Polish Open Championships. Nevertheless, I fell deeply in love with dancesport and teaching was like a rebirth of this relationship.
Matteo: You started to develop a new kind of training for dancers. Where did it come from and why do you believe it’s effective in dancesport?
Wojciech: It came from my huge fascination with Fighting Monkey Practice by Jozef Frucek and Linda Kapetanea.
The learning process in dancesport is quite academic, but the world of movement has much more to offer. In short terms, the training process should be maximally effective, providing immediate results.
I understand the reason and I’m not here to judge, but I think that this orientation has its consequences. As the creator of the BMC (Body Mind Centering) said: “What you look for and the way you look for it will determine the kind of answer you get”.
Speaking about consequences, there is a moment when it could be very hard to take your dancing to the next level with that approach. There is a moment where nobody can teach you literally the complexity that is happening inside of your body.
What I’m trying to do is to propose a certain frame, establish situations and circumstances in which you can evolve. My experience in contemporary dance and movement culture along with being inspired by Fighting Monkey naturally led me to this idea of adapting this practice to dancesport reality.
Check out this video to watch an introduction to one of the Fighting Monkey Concepts:
Matteo: Can you give us some examples of the exercises included in your training?
Wojciech: The training is quite complex, plastic, alive, evolving with me, my ideas and my observations. It’s quite complex to write in the details about it, but I’ll try to give a general overview of it.
Let’s start from abstract tools:
- the practice ball – a tennis ball on a string
- wooden sticks or small wooden blocks.
Other methods I use are body-body games/tasks and coordination drills. I also work a little with a topic of observing your structure, your current state through fixed, mindful movements, which comes from Fighting Monkey section called “zero forms”.
Fighting Monkey practice lets you observe your mechanics in order to improve your structural integrity and neutral communication. It’s meant to refine your performance through irregularity and complexity – exactly what you see on the dance floor.
Paraphrasing the Fighting Monkey creator: we want to build a body structure that is interconnected in an adaptable way by establishing open connections that are ready to transport information to the entire structure of yourself and your partner.
Matteo: How do dancers react to this kind of training? Do they see improvements once they do your exercises regularly?
Wojciech: So far, I only worked with couples in a workshop format. This means that I don’t supervise them after. What’s crucial is that I need, especially from dance trainers, a bit of trust in something that is unknown or different.
Those who believed me so far and gave me the opportunity to apply these ideas really made me proud. It also gave me the possibility to develop and improve the overall project even more.
I made a study on a small group of dancers as a part of my Bachelor thesis. They attended a workshop with me and after, I asked them some questions in an anonymous form.
Let me share some of the findings with you:
- Do you think that this kind of training has an impact on better awareness of mechanics of your body in ballroom dancing?
- 100% of positive feedback (71% definitely yes, 29% rather yes).
- Do you think that this training has an impact on better sensing and organizing your body in ballroom dancing?
- 100% of positive feedback (43% definitely yes, 57% rather yes).
- Do you think that this kind of training has a positive impact on technical aspects/movement qualities required in ballroom dancing?
- 86% of positive feedback (43% definitely yes, 43% rather yes).
There was also an open question: “What are your feelings about training inspired by Fighting Monkey Practice in Ballroom Dancing?“
Here some of the answers:
Matteo: Would you suggest any dance teacher to include in their teaching system this kind of training?
Wojciech: Surely! My ideas are not here to change a technique but to explore it, to expand it, to rethink it.
I encourage teachers and dancers to explore it as a community. At the same time, give a sense of independence to your students. Fighting Monkey serves as a platform which gives you a quality of observation, so you can get valuable feedback.
Another important aspect is prehabilitation – building “earthquake architecture”, offering a proprioceptive variability to your joints and state of play to your mind. Like this, you’ll avoid burn out and keep your freshness. Diversity breeds immunity.
Matteo: On what should dancers focus their training to get the most out of it and to develop constantly, without any “ups and downs”?
Wojciech: Firstly, as far as I know, it’s impossible to develop without “ups and downs”. Let’s be honest and just take your time. Secondly, to get the most out of your training is not the same as developing constantly without “ups and downs”.
Jozef likes to tell the story about going on a journey up a mountain, let me quote it from the brand new, unpublished to the public, Fighting Monkey book:
“How will we go about this journey? We like to move forward in a good pace, happy to see results, we like to be first, special, different and better than others. I hardly ever hear anyone saying “I take my time”. It does not matter how long it takes. Yet, we are in a hurry, stressfully looking for maps to advance faster. We want to get there now, and to do so we are told that we need to be efficient. But in order to be efficient we need the maps of other people, fast highways that others have created for us, highways that take the straightest possible way. Without rest, we just go. We try to stay focused, invest time, know what we are doing, look for how to get to the top of that mountain as soon as possible. I call it “flower practice”. Results are quick, beautiful with many colors and shapes, often very impressive, but the flower fades away also very quickly. We all know it. No, you can not hack the system and speed up things, it will result in failure, severe injury, and deficiency.[…]”.
I like this perspective that the great athletes are great not because of their “effectiveness”, but because of the love for what they do. This love made them want to explore, to look out for the best solutions, and to dig deeper.
I know that all of this may sound poetic, but that’s a good thing, as I don’t want to be only physical and I hope dancers wish this too. We are all artists in the end.
What I would like to suggest to all dancesport enthusiasts is to not be afraid to explore and to improvise. You should shut down the automatic pilot and don’t settle on the answers that were handed to you – always question yourself. Like so maybe, you’ll enhance your dance and refine your performance.
Explore more about Fighting Monkey in dancesport:
Italian, dancing since the age of 5 and currently based in Moscow. With his partner Ekaterina Utkina, he is in the top 50 WDSF Adult Standard World Ranking, representing the Russian Federation.