A Mask to Move My Own Way

A Mask to Move My Own Way

by A.K. Finn

Copyright A.K. Finn 2014

Shakespir Edition




You and your body

The essence of martial arts

A history of movement

Going public as a motivation

Exercise and health

A mask


A note from the author


So . . . what is this?

Who’s this masked guy, and what does he think he’s actually doing?

Though I’d prefer not to give this activity a name (I’ll share why), I call it “moving your own way” just because that’s the best description I could come up with. Basically, moving your own way is letting your body move however it wants to.

Well, there’s a little more to it than that.

For me, moving my own way connects to an affection for martial arts that’s lasted and evolved ever since I was put in Karate in the early ’90s. It also touches on my experience with related ideas, like chi, being present in the moment, meditation, inner peace…

This book is a collection of the jotted thoughts I’ve been rolling around as I’ve gradually begun moving my own way more and more over the past few years. I found preparing to make the experience public was a huge force for motivation—something I believe anyone can tap into and use, which I’ll share more about in the section, Going public as a motivation.

My goal has not been to write a sequential book with long, flowing, fluffy chapters. Instead, I just want to give you my collection of simplified ideas, hoping each can stand on its own to provide good food for thought.

Ultimately, this isn’t about me. It’s about you, your body, and finding joy in letting yourself move the completely unique way you’ve always most wanted to.

You and your body

Children are masters of movement. They’re naturally able to allow their bodies to move in the most free, efficient ways possible.

Just watch kids race through a room, hoist themselves up, jump off of things, roll around on the floor…

Children also tend to model perfect flexibility and posture. Their bodies waste hardly any energy in all their movements.

As we age, we slowly lose these natural freedoms and abilities. I believe the reason for this gradual decline is a change in perspective that comes with adulthood, as well as related changes in habit and lifestyle.

Grownups learn to measure and account for all our time. We always feel the need to be moving toward something, or to be doing absolutely nothing (on purpose). Perhaps it’s this constant pull toward either being “on our way” or “vegging out” that leaves us unable to appreciate opportunities to simply experience ourselves in the world for no set time, the way children do.

Earth is much bigger than we are, so gravity pulls us steadily down toward it. Muscles meant to hold our bodies straight slowly weaken as our habits change, and we adjust to mostly sitting and to strictly moving intentionally.

Joints can misalign along with muscles, causing pain. Certain parts once flexible and free become tight like dry gum. Other parts once strong grow weak.

Moving only toward what we’ve next accounted time for causes us to shuffle and bounce around without a properly fixed center of gravity. This is wasteful, which is why I believe a strong center of gravity is essential if we want to transfer energy as efficiently as possible when we move.

Here’s how I once answered a question about where (within our bodies) a strong center of gravity should be located: “As bodies droop and misalign, things shift upward and detach. But if your center of gravity remains like an umbilical cord to your surroundings, you’ll feel as though the ground itself propels you forward, high or low. It’s the opposite of the way grownups tend to bob up and down as we walk.”

Some Asian cultures have a traditional concept of energy called chi (or qi, or ki). When I talk about transferring energy efficiently, and about developing a strong center of gravity that connects us to our environment, I believe I’m expressing what chi actually is.

We’ll take a closer look at energy transference and related ideas in the next section, The essence of martial arts.

This image shows my posture before I started moving my own way:

The crooked, glowing line should be almost straight.

Is it possible to reverse the effects of age, gravity, habit, perspective…? H

p<>{color:#000;}. Really, there’s no limit to the number of methods someone could use to reverse the negative effects of aging. That’s because there’s no perfect method, or at least not one that will stay perfect for anyone forever.

I’d suggest you search (and never stop searching) for the best methods that will work with your unique body in its current state—to address your specific deficits and goals.

Though some see a massive shift already taking place in society, we’re still mostly used to thinking in terms of the way things work on TV, both during and between commercials. TV commercials and paid programs (like infomercials) feature an ever-shifting selection of non-celebrities who each want to sell you their path to physical perfection. Their promise is that you, too, can be like the celebrities you see between the commercials. But to pay for enough TV time to become the ones we end up trusting and buying from, these non-celebrities inevitably have to sell a somewhat one-size-fits-all plan—a plan that caters to as large an audience as possible.

I’d say that your body is unique, due to your specific experiences, abilities, limitations, and genetics.

Yes, you could buy a mainstream plan that caters to masses, but is such a thing really still as necessary (relevant, useful…) these days?

Isn’t the same (or better) information about how to work with your own body available now for free from lots of places?

Sure, all the methods you see advertised will probably do some good if you use them. Diet books can teach you the science of optimizing and caring for your body. It never hurts to learn the facts about sedentary or overly driven lifestyles, or to hear experts’ interpretations of the research behind reversing those lifestyles. There’s a wealth of knowledge available from professionals in the field.

By all means: Join a gym or find a trainer. Go to a dietician…

My point is simply to say that your specific lifestyle has affected the unique way your individual body wants to move and operate. That’s why I believe your response should be somewhat tailored to your precise needs.

First and foremost, moving your own way reveals to you how your body wants to move. You become very aware of how far you’ve slipped since childhood from a more ideal state of freedom, balance, flexibility, strength, and control.

See the Exercise and health section for more on how to work with your unique body.

By the way, why does it seem like celebrities are some of the only ones actually able to get and stay in shape?

We’ll look at one possible reason for that in the section, Going public as a motivation.

As an adult in society these days, the idea of doing something completely free—with no external direction or time constraints—can feel somewhat baffling and uncomfortable. This is precisely because adults learn to account for all our time. It’s the reason we get all restless about things like make-believe. We want to play and imagine with our kids, but we find ourselves drawn to think about what must come next and by when.

Moving your own way can bring you fully into the present moment, causing the discomfort of having no structure to lose its anxious, compulsive grip. Instead of a driving concern for what must happen next, there’s a joyful, peaceful, renewed sense of focus and play that can last . . . as long as it lasts.

So, what do you “do” when you move your own way?

I once answered that question like this:

“What comes to mind is something like a memory of stretching my legs after a long car ride, or just the way people naturally adjust their posture throughout the day. Maybe it starts with things like that?”

Without trying to be overly cryptic, I’d say moving our own way incorporates all the ways you naturally move, bend, and stretch your body.

It’s not really trying to do something with your body; it’s letting your body move the way it wants to, being present, feeling, and allowing…

Really, what you actually do becomes secondary.

Just relax, stand up, and then move around and be physical for a while.

I find it beautiful how each individual body seems to want to move in ways as unique to the person as a fingerprint.

For me, there’s a familiar sense of freedom when I move my own way. There’s a certain coolness to it. I find I start to feel pretty good about myself.

Feel your body stretch where it’s tight and flex where it’s loose; and then do something completely different…

Should you look at your reflection when you move your own way?

I’d answer that by saying that fun is a priority. There’s something uniquely fun about edging ever closer to pure freedom and randomness, while at the same time seeing patterns of reflexive, automatic attempts to drive or control.

Perhaps moving your own way is feeling the dichotomy between pure freedom and your natural tendencies. It involves being fully aware of (and experiencing) both at once.

As you feel yourself move, I’d suggest trying to maintain a balance of focusing on the internal as well as the external.

Eyes closed or open…

With a reflection or without…

By the way, since I first jotted down these thoughts (months ago), I’ve mostly stopped looking at my reflection when I move my own way. I’m enjoying a more inward-driven, perhaps more random, freer experience.

But that’s not to say I’ll never look at my reflection again.

There are no rules. That’s the whole point.

I don’t listen to music when I move my own way. Maybe I will one day, but the pace my body seems to set feels somewhat rounded. I think the way I move would probably fit with any rhythm.

Your movements might not be rounded. In fact, your experience might be completely different from mine.

Sometimes I’ll listen to a podcast or people talking or something while I’m moving.

Sometimes I move slow and sometimes fast.

Moving your own way is whatever it is, and it doesn’t come from anyone else. It’s not something to learn or improve at. It’s just being physically aware and present within an arc that’s unique to you, and that could span your whole lifetime.

The essence of martial arts

Fighting style is not something handed down, but something created.”

-Guy’s ending from Street Fighter Alpha 2

The quote I just shared is obviously not from a canonical martial arts source. It’s just a cool idea that seems to have stuck with me through the years. I’ll use it here to pose a question: When you hear that quote, would you put the emphasis on “fighting” or “style”?

Like many kids in the ’80s and ’90s, I was put in Karate at a young age. I remember really wanting to quit at first, probably for about a year, but my dad kept me going week after week.

Then I started really getting into it.

In my teens, I’d spend hours in bookstores and libraries absorbing everything I could about the histories and philosophies behind all martial arts. Whenever my family travelled, I remember checking out all the local martial arts schools in the Yellow Pages.

My dad always told me that martial arts should stay part of my life, but that they shouldn’t become my whole life. I didn’t get it. I put off all sorts of other important things to train and learn. I was infatuated . . . obsessed.

Now, society’s opinion of martial arts actually changed as I grew up, which was somewhat surreal. Before the ’00s, martial arts were seen as this sort of cool and mysterious force. It was commonly accepted that martial artists had near superhuman powers once they reached certain levels of mastery.

Kung Fu movies had us convinced that individuals could easily subdue massive groups of attackers (after a suitable training montage, of course).

Ninjas were seen as magic, at one with darkness, and able to disappear at will and to kill without ever being seen.

Then Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) erupted onto more macho elements of the zeitgeist, and public opinion changed.

Objectivity has a funny way of dispersing smoke and smashing mirrors.

I’ll put it this way: Forty years ago, most people in most societies still believed that there were monsters . . . somewhere. It was widely held that special, hidden, foreign groups of people really did have secret, supernatural powers.

And then there were cellphones. We now all have the ability to basically see everywhere, so our expectations and beliefs about the supernatural have changed.

I mean, if there really were monsters or magic monks in the next town over, we’d probably be able to find them on YouTube, right?

My point here is not to deny the supernatural, but just to say we now tend to associate the mystery of what’s foreign less with otherworldly powers of legend and more with simple cultural differences.

I believe the objectivity I’m describing also levels the playing field in terms of hierarchical power structures and the idea of reserving “secret knowledge” for only the initiated elite; but we’ll touch more on that near the end of this section.

MMA revealed that practical arts (like Jujitsu and Kickboxing) were more effective in fights than the softer, slower, more inward-focused arts.

That’s not to say that someone who studies a less directly practical martial art would be useless at defending themselves. I’d rather not have a slew of Aikido masters show up at my door and put me through the floor for my comments here.

MMA simply seemed to remove the whole we-have-powers-that-you-don’t-understand dynamic attributed to masters of less practical arts before the ’00s.

But were martial arts ever really supposed to be about fighting?

At my Karate school as a teenager, they had a night for fighting and a night for technique. I attended the fighting night almost exclusively, which I regret. I wish I’d focused more on technique and form.

In my twenties, I saw this video where a guy went on and on about how awesome a martial artist he was. At the end, he let a confused bear out of a cage and maimed it for no reason.

I can’t describe how deeply that affected me. I like bears; but, more than that, I felt like the idea of congratulating oneself for having those sorts of “powers” was diametrically opposed to everything I’d come to believe martial arts should really be about, at least for me.

So I quit martial arts for about ten years, got fat and out of shape, and then started moving my own way. I’ll share more about that process in the next section, A history of movement.

As MMA captures the external “edge” of martial arts—pragmatic combat skills and sport—I believe moving your own way can celebrate everything else beneath the surface. For me, it touches on the “art” component of martial arts.

Actually, I believe moving your own way can resemble and incorporate almost everything about martial arts—internally and externally—except for the actual fighting moves.

According to legend, Chinese martial arts began as a physical exercise to help monks accomplish extreme meditations without getting injured or falling asleep.

Along with meditation, martial arts are a great way to practice existing completely in the current moment. Just watch an Iaido demonstration; you’ll see uniforms drenched in sweat after mere minutes. It’s incredibly focused, calm, and controlled.

Such practices can help you learn not to be distracted or pulled in all the directions that each part of you (and everything outside) might pull as you live your life each day in this chaotic world.

I believe moving your own way can serve the same purpose as the original martial arts of those legendary monks of old. It prepares you to work, to think, to create, and to be at your highest level in whatever you do.

Your life is worth preparing your body for so you can move the way you’ll need to for the rest of it.

Have you ever seen Parkour—people artfully scaling structures and doing flips through buildings and things?

According to Parkour founder, David Belle: “Parkour is the art of moving through your environment as swiftly and effectively as possible using only the human body. More broadly it might be defined as the discipline of developing the physical and mental capacity of the human being through training to overcome obstacles.” (Source: http://www.parkourtrain.net/parkour-terminology)

Sasuke (Ninja Warrior) is similar. It’s a sport where men and women train to complete difficult obstacle courses.

While those of all ages can train and attempt Parkour and Sasuke, both activities seem at least somewhat age-restrictive.

There are things teens and twentysomethings can do that most over fifty cannot.

I plan to move my own way for the rest of my life. I imagine I’ll slow down quite a bit as I age, yet moving my own way will always help me to develop focus. I’ll always be practicing living in the moment, working with my body at whatever stage it’s at, and letting it do whatever it does to be whatever it can and wants to be.

Moving fast is great. It’s exhilarating to see what your body is actually capable of when pressed closer to its limits.

But I think moving slowly is even more important, bringing you more into the present moment as you focus on control and balance. Control and balance will be far more useful throughout your life than speed and power.

Anyone can do this. You’re only competing with yourself. Start where you’re at. Do it with me. The beautiful thing is that the way your body moves will adjust as your body adjusts.

To put that another way: Rather than being something to improve at, moving your own way improves you.

Through the centuries, martial arts have come to develop their own systems of ranks, belts, titles, and competitions. These have been used to establish schools and record official progress.

I don’t want moving your own way to ever be official in any sense of the word. I never want to create an organization, or even to give this a name beyond “moving your own way.”

There are no grades or uniforms. I just wear whatever I’m already wearing. The purpose is to prepare you for your regular life, in which I’m guessing you wear your regular clothes, right?

I move my own way in slacks or jeans. It could be in a suit or pajamas.

I do it wherever I happen to be.

There are no institutions or grades because this is about doing something no one told you to do.

It will always be about this moment, alone—not the future, the past, or any hypothetical scenario to imagine or get distracted by.

Just move…

We’ll look more at identity in the last section, A mask. For now, I’ll just say this: It’s funny how clear a picture of yourself you can gain when you do something that’s not meant to identify you with anything else (groups, names, ranks, etc.).

It’s just you, in this moment.

Again, my point here is not to be critical of established martial arts or schools. I love martial arts. I’m just saying that the internal, metaphysical components of martial arts aren’t mystical superpowers to be kept from all but the elite.

Quite the opposite…

My experience with chi (ki; qi;), meditation, and working with energy transference, is that such things are really quite basic and normal beyond all the jargon and mysticism commonly used to keep them exclusive and expensive.

Everything is made of energy (and emptiness), and energy is always moving…

The mystical master who eats spheres of manifested chi in order to restore his health so he can properly harness his anger as fire to launch at attackers in waves is, well, a videogame character. Real chi and energy transfer are for the old person in the park who slowly practices Tai Chi without ever being seen, rated, or associated with anything.

When I was in Karate, there were only two ninth degree black belts in the world in my particular style. Legends arose that these men had lived in volcanoes and learned to harness power from the earth’s core to destroy opponents. To train under either would have been an indescribable honor, which very few privileged pupils would ever enjoy.

Oh yeah, there was also a third, honorary ninth degree black belt. He was said to have gone off into the wilderness for years before returning with skills more akin to Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat than anything I’ve seen in reality.

Again, I don’t believe the essence of martial arts should be an elite system for only the chosen to obtain special powers. I’d have it be for anyone, at any time, for free.

As I said, bringing yourself fully into the present moment is not something you can really get better at. You can get more used to the experience, and perhaps learn to practice it for longer; but to say there’s some extra, mystical level that you hope to one day arrive at…

Well, you tell me.

A history of movement

After walking away from martial arts in my early twenties, I experienced a ten-year blur of steady disillusionment and gradually lost focus.

My body changed, and I put on weight.

Eventually, my life seemed to swing so far out from any semblance of balance or control I saw no way back. I unconsciously resolved to just live with the dissatisfaction and disharmony I felt.

It was from that lowly state that moving my own way seemed to sprout and branch, all on its own, from long-dormant elements of my previous martial arts experience.


I can think of three defining events that paved the way.

The first occurred when I was thirteen.

Back then, I’d inhale Kung Fu movies. Narrative wasn’t such a priority.

I remember watching a fairly typical Kung Fu movie one day in the living room. Near the end, I leapt to my feet and started making up all these random Kung-Fu-esque moves.

Glancing at my reflection in a nearby nearby mirror, it seemed to me that whatever my body was intuitively coming up was about the same (or just as good) as what I saw onscreen.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if a majority of fight-scene elements used in Kung Fu films are completely made up on the spot. The same could be true of katas or forms in traditional martial arts, since many of the formal moves are never taught as techniques to practice or use.

The second defining moment occurred when I was seventeen.

Staying at a friend’s house one night, I tried marijuana successfully for the first time.

Something I can still clearly remember from that first high experience was this amazing physical sensation . . . sort of like a pulse or surge that flowed rhythmically throughout my entire body. It felt like each part of me was attached to the connected, moving components of some invisible, transcendent machine.

The third defining moment happened when I was thirty.

I’d long since given up on martial arts, health, fitness, balance, myself…

Then I was prescribed medical marijuana for a breathing problem.

After using some marijuana one night, I began to feel that same rhythmic, all-encompassing physical texture surging through my body. Letting myself go with each pulse and vibration, I felt like an inflatable-tube man in a car lot being pushed about by blowing air.

Then something clicked.

Suddenly, it was as though the very core or spirit of all my previous martial arts experience was flashing out through my body once again. In some ways, what had been rigidly, formally ingrained now felt limitless and free.

Ten years after having given up on martial arts, it was as though something else was using my body to bring me back.

A few months later, I was alone at work one night. After setting up my phone in the branches of a nearby leafy office plant, I used some marijuana and started moving my own way.

The next day, I showed my wife the video I’d made. We had a good laugh. But I was amazed by how it had felt in the moment.

Here’s a picture from that first video:

About a year later, I was home from work one day. I vaporized some marijuana and made a little video on my laptop of myself moving my own way in the kitchen.

The camera also caught the huge smile on my face when I was done. That was when I knew that this could actually be something.

I immediately pulled out all the little notebooks and emails to myself where I’d jotted down thoughts about what moving my own way could be. I started putting all those thoughts together, and they eventually became this book.

I kept making little videos here and there.

By June, 2014, I was ready to share my experience. I bought a selection of colorful masks.

Why the masks? I talk about that in the last section, A mask.

So, I’ve been asked if I’m high when I move my own way…

Many say that marijuana can enhance experiences and creative abilities. Perhaps it can help us to appreciate those sorts of things, but I don’t believe marijuana is needed to enjoy the same experiences or to create the same way.

That conviction only grows stronger as more time goes by.

Still, I’m truly thankful for marijuana as an initial source of inspiration. It’s what first freed me up to start moving my own way. It helped me to appreciate the experience enough to pursue and even share it, which is what we’ll be looking at next.

Going public as a motivation

I’ve always been drawn to a particular twelve-week diet and exercise program. It’s also a competition. Friends have completed and competed in it, some having literally changed their physiques and lives.

For the twelve weeks of the program, you follow a strict eating and workout plan. Then you send in before-and-after photos, along with the story of your physical, mental, and life transformations.

Winners are selected and rewarded. Some even win careers as spokespeople for the organization that hosts the competition.

I love the spirit of personal transformation. I believe knowing you’ll share your results can be a powerful source of motivation.

But I don’t think it’s necessary these days to compete in someone else’s game for opportunities to share your story.

Wouldn’t it be more rewarding to become your own voice instead of being picked to be someone else’s?

Or, why not be both?

Today I think it’s entirely possible to turn health, fitness, or lifestyle into a career for yourself if that’s what you want. You just have to be willing to put in the work.

But even if you have no desire to be a voice for health or anything else, I’d still recommend finding ways to share your goals and progress publically.

Not long ago, I started filming myself moving my own way every now and then. Very slowly, I began preparing the videos to share. I wasn’t sure exactly where I’d be sharing them; I just felt like what I was doing was valuable enough to be worth somehow letting others know about the experience.

Moving my own way, filming, and video editing were all quite new to me; but knowing I’d be filming gave me something concrete to work toward. It wasn’t just me waking up on my nth “Day 1” of yet another radically uncomfortable plan to change.

We’ve talked about how removing all external confines (such as accounting for time and being told what to do) is at the core of what moving your own way is all about.

Well, have you ever experienced the ineffectiveness and frustration of exercising while watching a clock? Yearning for the artificial sound of some alarm to end your set or session can keep you from really doing your best or pushing yourself.

It’s both ironic and logical that adding an external, extroverted dimension to what you want to do (doing it publically) relieves you of the need for an external source of motivation to do it—timers, trainers, etc.

By all means, learn from external sources. Never stop learning. But don’t rely on anything or anyone else to push you.

When you go public, you won’t have to.

Imagine this scenario: You’ve chosen a good time to film yourself moving your own way. You’ve set everything set up. You press record.

You start moving…

Then, as with anything, you feel like stopping. Moving is, of course, always more difficult than not moving.

But you know you probably want to go for at least . . . what? Ten minutes?

There’s no magic number, but I’m guessing you’re aiming at moving for more than a minute or two, right?

The fact that you’re recording yourself without knowing how long you’ve been going motivates you to keep going just a little more.

Just a little more…

Move your own way on camera without looking at a clock, and you’ll always feel motivated to not stop just yet.

Try it.

Filming myself as I move my own way has become a fun activity I look forward to. It’s something I’m motivated to work up to and prepare myself for by getting in shape and improving my lifestyle in every way.

In general, going public with your experience keeps you accountable to yourself, to what you say, and to the progress you’ve already made—not to those who see what you share.

I mentioned in the first section how celebrities alone seem able to get and stay in shape. Well, they don’t have to be the only ones anymore. Today, we can all experience the same degree of accountability to what we put out into the world.

Going public forces you to take an honest, objective look at where you’re really at. You’ll see your own true state—how your current body is keeping you from accomplishing your dreams and living your best life.

In another story, Facing Addiction, I talk about the power of going public to face and overcome your limitations and compulsions so you can take steps toward being the best version of yourself.

If you’re looking to make any positive changes, I’d simply recommend finding a way to do go public with your real experience. This book is part of how I share mine. Share yours in whichever ways best suit your personality.

Going public with your journey makes it impossible to ignore what will make that journey a success. It also makes the journey a whole lot more fun.

Going public connects you with others who are in the same position and have the same goals as you.

How might we connect?

I could see groups moving our own way together on video calls (anonymously or not).

We could meet and do it in person.

Why not?

First, I think it’s important to realize and even take a stand for the idea that how you look when you move our own way doesn’t matter. Moving your own way isn’t a visual art, but a physical one. It’s not to see, but to feel as you do it.

Not caring how I look when I move my own way (because it doesn’t matter) brings a beautiful sense of freedom that separates me even further from external constraints and pressures.

As I said, this will never be about competitions, organizations, or ranking systems.

If you move your own way publically, you don’t have to mention me or connect with me at all.

But maybe we could help each other reach our goals.

Eventually, I might film myself moving my own way every day.

I plan to one day make a video of myself moving my own way for hours—kind of a marathon session—wearing a tuxedo. That could be my version of a fundraiser.

Nothing special…

I love this!

Exercise and health

This might surprise you, but I don’t see moving my own way as exercise. It ends up having the same results as exercise; but, first and foremost, moving my own way is a free, physical art form.

When you start moving your own way, you quickly become aware of the current limits of your body. You feel where you’ve become tight or misaligned through years of suppression and gravity. This gives you direction.

The way you choose to exercise should largely depend on the way your body wants to move. I encourage you to find a routine that suits your body and its goals (or, “that suits your goals for it…” however you want to look at it).

In this section, I’ll share how I exercise each day. I don’t suggest you copy my routine unless you’re built just like me, move very similarly to the way I move, have the same developed limitations and weaknesses, are at the same fitness level, and have the same fitness goals.

These days, you can easily find an almost infinite number of free exercise programs online to suit any goal or body type. I’ll share some options here, but always be in the process of compiling your own knowledge, research, and experience.

Some of what I incorporate when I exercise dates back to my martial arts days, and some to high school PE classes. I’ve been a member of a number of gyms, and I’ve read at least a few decent books, articles, and other bits and pieces about how to get in shape.

I also have my own history of trial and error, having discovered over time what seems to work best for me and my lifestyle in terms of the direction I want to go.

In general, I think adults these days are all an eclectic mix of information, principles, cultures, and experiences. It’s true when it comes to learning how to exercise; but, really, it’s true for how we gain almost all knowledge in an age when information is fast becoming free.

There are millions of exercise books and programs written and sold each year; yet who will realistically stick with any single one forever? I don’t think you should try to stick with one.

Always be refining your knowledge about how to prepare your body to move the way it wants to based on your unique and changing composition and goals.

I apologize for the repetition. I just really want to make sure you get the idea: I think it’s important that we shift our focus from trying to arrive at some perfect external program to watching an ever-evolving methodology build itself out from where we are.

Let’s take a quick look at three key components of fitness that might be valuable to you as you prepare to move your own way:

  • Muscular strength and/or muscular endurance

  • Cardiovascular fitness

  • Flexibility

Muscular strength/muscular endurance

Muscular strength is the ability to lift, move, or hold heavy things for short bursts of time.

Muscular endurance is the ability to repeat an action against resistance for longer periods of time.

With my unique body and the way it seems to want to move, my goal is not to increase muscular strength (or size).

I do want to increase muscular endurance.

My muscular endurance program began as this: I’d select resistance exercises for each muscle group (listed below), and use a weight that would allow me to perform between 20 and 60 repetitions before I couldn’t continue.

When I could get to about 65 reps without stopping, I’d increase the weight.

If it was an exercise that didn’t use weights, like pushups or crunches, I’d just do as many reps as I could—even if that was more than 65.

Trust me: Doing more than 65 pushups might not seem like something you’ll ever have to worry about; but follow a muscular endurance program like this one for a few months, and you’ll see your rep capacity skyrocket.

Go slow as you lift and release. Concentrate on proper form.

Breathe out as you flex or contract the muscle. The contraction—the lifting portion of the exercise—should take 1-2 seconds.

Breathe in as you release or lower the weight; stretch this portion to 2-4 seconds.

Regularly change which exercises you perform for each muscle group. Muscles respond best when you confuse them, incorporating new exercises that work the same muscles in slightly different ways.

Though I began by performing only 1 set of each exercise, these days I do 2-4 sets with about 1 minute’s rest between sets.

If muscular strength were my goal, I’d choose exercises for each muscle group and a weight that would allow me to perform between 8 and 14 repetitions before I couldn’t continue. I’d perform 4-6 sets of each exercise, and I’d increase the weight once I could perform more than 18 reps in a set.

Train each muscle group 2-3 times per week with at least 1 day’s rest in-between.

I go back and forth each day between the muscle groups of my upper body (the first 7 muscles on the list below) and those of my lower body (the last 5 on the list below).

Record your progress (how many reps you completed, and with how much weight).

I used to record my progress on my phone. For each exercise, I’d respond to an email to myself with the number of reps completed. The subject of the email was the name of the exercise and the weight I was currently using. This slightly embarrassing, not-quite-Millennial method of recording made it easy for me to keep adding reps, and also to see my own progress as time went by.

Always push yourself. You should be able to perform more reps with increasing resistance as you make progress and your body adjusts.

My rule is simply to never complete fewer reps than I did in my last session or set…

Here is a list of the major muscle groups to exercise:

  • Chest

  • Back

  • Triceps

  • Biceps

  • Forearms

  • Shoulders

  • Traps

  • Abs (upper, lower, and obliques)

  • Quads

  • Hamstrings

  • Calves

  • Hip flexors

Specific exercises for each muscle group should be easy to find online.

Cardiovascular fitness/stamina

When you think cardio, you might think boring and repetitive. But when it comes to cardio training for moving your own way, I have an idea that I’ve found can actually make cardio fun.

When you move your own way, you’ll probably find that there are certain actions or motions your body tends to repeat reflexively without conscious thought or choice on your part.

Take note of some of your most common movements.

Try to capture a mix of different movements that together use as many muscle groups and body parts as possible.

At first, I’d recommend going through the movements you’ve captured for about 15 minutes, total. So, if you have 3 common movements, that would mean spending about 5 minutes on each (or vice versa).

You can add more 15-minute sets as your fitness improves and exercise becomes more of an ingrained habit in your life. For example, you could eventually complete a 15-minute set in the morning (performing each movement at speed), and then another at night (performing all the same movements slowly . . . even almost as slowly as possible).

Again, I don’t listen to music when I move my own way. I do, however, to listen to music during my 15-minute cardio sets. If possible, I switch to another common movement with each new song.

Here are the 5 movements I noted that I tend to always come back to when I move my own way; for each 15-minute set, I spend about 3 minutes (or 1 song) on each of these movements:

1. I stand as big, tall, and open as I can, usually with my arms above my head or wide at my sides. The key word here is “open.”

This movement was motivated by Amy Cuddy, a Social Psychologist who speaks about the amazing effects of posture and body positioning when it comes to communication, confidence, and how we come across to others.

Cuddy shares her thought-provoking ideas and research on body language in her TED talk, which you can watch here (or just search for her on YouTube).

2. I balance on one leg, shifting my weight through my hips and torso in different directions (forward, backwards, sideways, in a circle, etc.). I rise up onto the ball of my supporting foot, or bend my supporting leg to crouch as low as possible, while continuously shifting my weight around. I tend to switch legs whenever I lose my balance, but the goal is to keep my balance on each leg for as long as I can as my weight shifts at different speeds.

3. As I continue to shift my weight around at random through my hips and torso, I straighten and bend my arms, pulling one back as I reach out with the other. You could say I’m constantly punching and retracting in every direction without making fists or snapping my arms straight.

On that note, it’s important not to overextend your joints. I only almost straighten my arms with this movement to avoid injuring my elbows.

By the end of this movement, I’m about 9 minutes into my set, warmed up, and ready to extend myself by maximizing my range of motion.

4. Still shifting my weight in different directions through my hips and torso, I let my hands and arms move in flowing, circular patterns in any direction (in front, above, to the side…).

It seems as though the supposedly random motions of each of my arms are somehow connected when I do this—both hands usually circle in similar or complimentary waves.

Of the movements in my 15-minute set, this seems to be the closest to what my body does most when I move my own way.

5. I keep my arms at my sides (or hardly move them at all), and just continue to shift my weight around through my feet, hips, and torso.

This feels like a good cool-down exercise for me at the end of my 15-minute set.

Again, these are my 5 common movements. They aren’t necessarily for you to use.

See how you move when you move your own way, and note your own most common movements.

Honestly, I’ve found that these 15-minute sets can be some of the best high points of my day. They’re not boring. I’m never watching the clock. Rather, it feels like I’m developing my own, unique art form . . . practicing something to later completely forget so I can allow myself total freedom when I move my own way.

Actually, in the months since I started writing this, I stopped doing my 15-minute sets every day. I didn’t want the movements from my 15-minute sets to influence how I was moving when moving my own way.

I switched to taking long walks a few times a week, and also working with a punching bag twice a week for about 20 minutes.

I might go back to using the 15-minute sets twice daily. I just don’t want the way I move when I move my own way to be influenced by anything at all . . . even itself.

It should be pretty obvious that my goal is to keep all external influences to a minimum.

Another update: Since first publishing this book, I’ve changed my cardio routine again. Without timing myself, I now just move my own way at different times throughout the day—usually whenever I take a break from work, whenever I use the restroom, after my muscular endurance workout, after dinner, before bed…

I’d say I now probably end up moving my own way for about 30 minutes per day, but that’s not a goal I set for myself or anything.

Just moving your own way throughout the day as “cardio” might be a good goal to work toward since it’s totally free and not governed by anything external at all.

But try the different options and see what works for you.


We’re born with perfect flexibility.

Toddlers can do the splits.

Flexibility is something that naturally starts to slide as we age, locking us in ever-shrinking cages of stiffening muscles and joints.

Flexibility is actually the most important component of fitness for everyday life, though we tend not to focus on it that much outside of dance or Yoga.

Digressing again to martial arts: Back in the ’80s and ’90s, Jean Claude Van Damme became an international icon with spectacular moves like his jump-spin kick.

In fact, whenever I saw a Van Damme movie that didn’t feature his signature kicks, I felt a little cheated.

During my years of total martial arts fixation, I spent most nights trying to mimic the brutal training montages I’d seen in movies like Van Damme’s—such as the one where he’s forced into a full split on some cruel pulley device by a cool old trainer.

It was painful.

My flexibility philosophy has completely changed since then. I now believe that stretching should be one of the most calming, relaxing activities a person can enjoy.

Usually after I finish working out with weights, I spend some time stretching while watching TV or listening to a podcast or something. I do this almost every day, but in a very informal way.

I stretch each muscle very slowly, holding each stretch close to its capacity for several minutes while paying attention to whatever else.

Though I tend not to be that structured when I stretch, I do make it a point to especially stretch the muscles I’ve exercised that day.

Here is the same list I shared earlier of all the major muscle groups:

  • Chest

  • Back

  • Triceps

  • Biceps

  • Forearms

  • Shoulders

  • Traps

  • Abs (upper, lower, and obliques)

  • Quads

  • Hamstrings

  • Calves

  • Hip flexors

It should be easy to find stretches for each muscle group online. Or, just search for something like “leg stretches” or “full body stretches” and see what comes up.

Then take it easy, have fun, and see about gradually regaining some of the flexibility your body was once so accustomed to.


My advice: There’s no point going on an all-cottage-cheese diet if you hate cottage cheese.

I’ve sought out, designed, compiled, and spent money on so many would-be perfect diet plans. My biggest problem is always how unnatural it feels when I’m supposed to eat a specific amount of some new food I really don’t much care for.

You can probably guess where I’m going with this considering what’s been covered so far: We’ve talked about how your unique body wants to move in specific ways; I’ve shared how I think your exercise regime should be an ever-evolving mix of what you know, what you can learn, and what you want to achieve, physically…

Yes, I’d say the same holds true for diet: How you eat should fit your tastes and daily routine to give you energy at all the right times for whatever you need to do without ever draining or slowing you down.

As with exercise, always be moving toward the best combination of healthy foods (including vitamins and supplements).

Focus on foods you either already like, or at least could see yourself trying.

Try new things.

Keep learning all you can about the nourishment your body needs, as well as which foods can potentially keep you from performing as well as possible, physically or mentally.

Never stop learning.

Once I quit trying to force foods into my diet I’d simply never like, my challenge became to organize my eating throughout the day to maximize my energy at all the right times for what I knew I’d need to be doing.

For example, it turns out I love three things: juicing vegetables, a certain soy-based meal-replacement shake, and this vitamin supplement that mixes into water. When I incorporated each into my diet, I was happy to no longer be forcing myself to conform to someone else’s tastes.

The problem then became one of timing…

At first, I was drinking the meal-replacement shake when I got to work (at about eight in the morning), juicing at noon, and then drinking the vitamin supplement in the early afternoon.

After a continuous series of blasts, my energy levels had spiked and crashed by midafternoon. I felt gritty and moody by evening when I was supposed to start working on projects.

Considering and experimenting with my schedule, I tried working on projects early in the morning. That meant the meal-replacement shake worked well (being fast and easy) when I first woke up. The vitamins worked best around mid-afternoon when I was naturally at my sleepiest. Juicing worked best in the early evening when I was getting ready to have family time.

My schedule has since changed again, and I’ve found new ways to optimize my diet so my energy levels will be at their highest at all the most important times.

As with exercise, with moving your own way, and with so many other things, I wouldn’t recommend searching for a prescription when it comes to diet—some perfect eating plan that you can hold yourself to forever.

Where are you at in life right now?

What healthy foods do you enjoy?

When do you need the most energy in your day?

What are your goals?

I hope these building blocks are helpful as you learn to best fuel and prepare your body to be all it needs to be.

A mask

I’m working on another story that features an identityless character named Tian who creates something like a martial art for reasons he doesn’t seem compelled to share; it’s certainly not for fighting or to be seen by anyone.

I’ll give you a hint: I’m trying to focus on not doing something.”


Who or what is Tian? Is Tian me wearing a mask?

What I look like isn’t a secret. You can see my face at the end of this book and other places online. So, if I’m not trying to keep my identity hidden, why do I wear a mask when I move my own way on video?

We live in a world where doing your own thing really amounts to investing yourself in something someone else creates.

Every pursuit you choose has its own culture and ground rules already intact.

You do something you’re told you should want to do, and you do it just as you’re told it should be done.

To actually stand up and show publically that there’s something completely unique about you is totally unnatural in this world.

We’re taught to choose between existing options, or even to have them chosen for us—be it majors in college, careers, styles, lifestyles, etc.

We rely on such preformed molds to shape us from the outside, hopefully providing us with some sense of identity as we strain to embody whatever’s chosen.

Hey, that whole way of thinking actually worked incredibly well for a long time. It was particularly effective in an age of industry, when establishments with infrastructures provided a sense of purpose and a means for building wealth (on credit).

Some would say that those times have already ended. Maybe society’s point of view hasn’t quite caught up to itself yet.

Either way, I want to know who YOU really are.

How does your mind work?

I’m not talking about where you’ve found success at shuffling through others’ ideas, or at applying their systems, terms, mannerisms, or styles. What you’re skilled at doing in another’s world, I believe, should at best be a skipping stone to one day reach your own.

What’s your body like? How does it want to move?

Where does your passion come from? What’s it reaching for?

I’ve called this book A Mask to Move My Own Way because I don’t want any half-adopted identity from the outside to affect the person I really am. Not anymore. I don’t want that for you either . . . not if you decide to move your own way, or to share your experience publically as a source for motivation.

Identities you take on from the outside are meant to help you fit somewhere in society. The mask I wear is simply to not let that “outside” person keep me from being who I am on the inside . . . from being free.

And it works.

Move your own way, and you’ll feel the tension between the outward adult—the one crafted by society, who measures time, and who values things like structure and certainty—and the inward child who longs to move without limits and be free.

Whenever I move my own way, I’m brought face-to-face with years’ worth of an external martial arts identity. I feel my body falling to the techniques and forms I spent so many years training to internalize.

That might be partly why I’ve moved away from seeing my own reflection when I move my own way, and why I stopped using the 15-minute cardio sets where I’d spend time performing my own most comment movements.

Part of the journey of moving your own way is allowing such external inclinations to surface whenever they do, while at the same time returning to that inward state of true, undirected freedom. It feels like learning to let thoughts pass during meditation—not fighting, but simply returning your focus to whatever just is.

I also wear a mask because this isn’t about me, just as Tian isn’t A.K. Finn or whoever else society might be able to half turn me into at times.

Moving your own way isn’t actually something to identify with in society at all. It’s to help reveal more to you about your own true identity.

Tian might simply be a human . . . and that’s all . . . just a person like you, completely unique, who never needs to be seen or measured by anyone.


You’ve probably noticed: There are many ideas in this book I’ve literally changed my mind about mid-section, sometimes leaving important questions unresolved.

Something about me: I’ll never pretend to be sure.

For example, I haven’t definitively decided or said whether or not I’ll look at my reflection when I move my own way.

I haven’t worked out whether or not I’ll go back to using the 15-minute cardio sets that incorporate my most common movements.

Keep this in mind: If there’s a philosophy that undergirds everything about moving your own way (one that lends to every idea and section in this book), it’s that the answers are probably there and obvious—inside of you, and able to be seen only within your own expanding perspective . . . yet also ready to be worked and lived out in the moment in whatever ways work best for you.

Who knows if those answers will completely change tomorrow?

Move your own way.

A note from the author

My name is Andrew Knuon Finn, and I write stories. My writing style has been described as optimistic realism.

At heart, I’m just a person who celebrates real human experiences.

My hope is to inspire as many others as possible to use the resources we all have available today to find and reach their potential as individuals.


If this book has benefited you, consider giving a small donation by clicking on the hat[+:+]

Even if you can’t give, please consider sharing my stories with someone else.

I see myself as busker (street performer) performing with his hat out before the world. I never want to charge for any of my stories. I only wish to go on creating and sharing my word pictures for free.

What I write seems to particularly benefit those who don’t have the means to pay or make a donation. For example, I regularly give hard-copies of stories to prisoners and those who live where internet access is limited.

I’m truly humbled whenever I hear of the difference something I’ve shared has made in someone’s life.

Giving my resources away is what your small gift will go toward, so thank you.



A Mask to Move My Own Way

Finding yourself today means hoping to connect as you shuffle through others’ expressions and expertise. A vast array of voices compete to become cultures or identities for you to choose from and then try to adopt from the outside in. I’d like to share a source of identity that works the other way—from the inside out. Be empowered as you stand up, just as you are, and allow your body to move however it wants to for no set time. Rediscover a recognizable sense of freedom from your childhood. Find motivation to prepare your body to do whatever you need it to for the rest of your life. In this book, I explore how “moving your own way” connects to concepts like the essence of martial arts, freedom from external constraints, the power of your own transformation story, chi and energy transference, finding your unique identity in society, and more…

  • Author: A.K. Finn
  • Published: 2016-05-03 15:50:09
  • Words: 9498
A Mask to Move My Own Way A Mask to Move My Own Way