This nugget of inspiration is itself inspired by the concept of “repetition” in Thom’s Flow Festo, which I very much recommend giving a read. I changed the name because I felt that he was more closely referring to repetition in the form of positive addiction or routines. It’s the repetition of an activity that you’ve made a conscious commitment to pursue. And in the habits that you form, you find a sense of fulfillment about yourself and the art that you’re exploring, and in that way you have structured play.
Transient Play vs. Structured Play
As Thom mentions in the Flow Festo it can be extremely enticing to view poi as a transient passion, or perhaps a fickle obsession, because habits just seem so icky. Habits have a way of feeling like you’ve gotten yourself stuck in a rut, or that you’re simply repeating the process for lack of any other drive. But this loose collection of concepts and unexplored avenues will actually lead to more habits in your spinning style than habitual practice will. Only understanding half of a concept, when combined with many other half learned concepts, will inevitably lead to a stunted and constricted style, and complete lack of flow.
But structured play is a way of holding yourself accountable for the goals you wish to accomplish with any skill. It’s a commitment you are making to yourself. And with all forms of structure it’s dependent entirely upon your commitment to the learning process and really delving deep to understand the concepts. And in this way a positive addiction or habit can form.
There was an article by Philo on Hooping.org entitled “Are You a Hoop Addict?” which explored this very concept of positive addiction in the hooping community. In the article he references Psychologist Yun Hoi’s thoughts about positive addiction, and the notion that addictions which are not detrimental are actually a fantastic way attain a “Zen-like” state of mind, or perhaps what we might consider a flow state of mind. Here he notes the importance of repetition or habit in achieving that state of mind due in large part to the fact that muscle memory is freeing your mind from many of the concerns associated with the learning process.
Focusing on the Details
Structured Play is simply a way of convincing yourself to practice skills on a regular basis. That’s not to suggest that you should repeat the exact same moves over and over again. By all means, pursue different concepts, but do so in a conscious and concerted manner. If you want to learn the anti-spin wheel plane flower, then make sure that you really spend the time needed to explore the concept, break it down, and implement it. Then learn it backwards. Then put the forwards and the backwards together. It takes time and effort to really learn, and that’s why structured regular play is so important.
If something is hard, do not simply skim over the details once you “kinda” get it. Focusing on the details is a key aspect to Structured Play. Examining whatever skills you’re pursuing from all angles is the only way to truly understand a concept. Thom even mentions that before Zan and Aurora taught him these skills, his learning process was pretty chaotic. And look at this Zen Master Jedi Flow Artist now!
In the end, it’s all about you and your passions. But no matter what your passion may be, the idea of Structured Play (or practice) is a useful notion in any field. With that said, stop reading and start playing!