Virtuosity

Chris C; the Bear at 185#. He made 4 full rounds before dumping it on the 5th. Great work Chris.

According to Coach’s definition, this meant “doing the common uncommonly well.” Movements I once considered as simple as a squat or push-up suddenly came alive with nuances and beauty. –Greg Amundson

In CrossFit, in life actually, there is a fascination with the complex.  People like complicated things, and that’s ok, there is nothing wrong with it.  But, this fascination with the complex can get in the way of the appreciation for the simple.

An appreciation for the simple is at the absolute core of every system and methodology of human movement.  There is a great true story about the dancer and movie star Fred Astaire, someone who knew a bit about movement.  He was once observed for half an hour practicing putting his hands in his front pockets.  Astaire was a great dancer–lithe, agile, fast, coordinated–and he had a huge repertoire of leaps and spins and steps at his command, yet he wanted that one movement, so small and simple, to be utterly smooth and effortless, full of nuance and beauty.

CrossFit has a term for this kind of mastery. Virtuosity. And we define it as doing the common  uncommonly well. Virtuosity, as defined by CrossFit is a great appreciation for the simple.  Mastery of the simple lends itself automatically to the complex without thought or artifice.  Think of a running back bouncing off a tackler and spinning in a full circle to one side and charging forward again.  I have seen that exact sequence on television.  Do you think the running back regularly practices that bounce-off-the-opponent spin move, if ever?  Probably not.  However, he does lots of simple sprints and agility practice, and he has for years.  He didn’t need to practice that spin move over and over, his feet just knew where to go and what do to, because he had mastered the common so well.  He had complete virtuosity.

Like the Greg Amundson quotation above, the simplest movements take on a whole new light when seen through the lens of virtuosity.  There is a whole world of challenge out there in simple everyday movement.  I have seen my master in Japan move with such fluidity and speed that I was just about rooted to the ground.  Yet, one of the experiences that impressed me the most was when I observed him walking barefoot on the beach.  He never got any sand on the top of his feet. That’s virtuosity of the simple, of the common.  I, on the other hand, had sand adorning my ankles as I clomped along beside him.

Take a little time and really focus on the simple movements; your air squat is a great place to start. A perfect air squat is in many ways as difficult as a heavy weighted one.  The first CrossFit Level 1 cert I took featured Coach Glassman lecturing and Nicole Carroll demonstrating the movements.  At a break, I overheard Coach G quietly giving Nicole a critique on what I had thought was a beautiful squat.  Focus on those “simple” movements is not easy, but it will have a large yield when that mastery, that virtuosity, is applied unthinkingly to the complex.

Make virtuosity your goal.

Please post thoughts to Comments.

Workout:

Weighted Dip

Work up to a 5RM, a 3Rm, and a 2RM

Then:

21, 15, 9

Deadlift 225/155#

Overhead Squat 135/85#