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Posted: Hey fellow Flow Artists, Here is an essay I wrote last year about the benefits of the Flow Arts. Feel free to leave any thoughts, experiences, ect. that you have.
The Physical and Psychological Benefits of the Flow Arts
The flow arts are a branch of the performing arts, and are somewhat like a cross between the circus arts and martial arts. Flow is a term coined by the Hungarian psychology professor, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, which he defined as completely focused motivation. Flow is the mental state of being completely absorbed by the task at hand. Other terms for this include: in the zone, on a roll, centered, or singularly focused. There are six factors that encompass flow: intense and focused concentration, a merging of action and awareness, a loss of self-consciousness, a sense of control over the situation, a distortion of your perception of time, and autotelic activity. Flow is the state in which we are most productive. There are no negative feelings present, but all emotions are channeled into the task at hand. The flow arts are arts that facilitate flow, arts that can help you achieve the state of flow. This makes the flow arts highly addictive. Now that we've defined flow and the flow arts, we can move on. The flow arts can provide many physical and psychological benefits.
First of all, the flow arts can provide many physical benefits. These include increased hand-eye coordination, balance, dexterity, and body awareness. The flow arts improve hand-eye coordination, as well as general body coordination. Manipulative exercises with various props teach body control very effectively. Many practices that make up the flow arts provide instant feedback. If you are attempting a move and the Poi hit you in the face, you very quickly realize that you did the move incorrectly. The process of learning the flow arts is mainly a combination of immediate negative feedback (pain) and immediate positive gratification. This system of immediate feedback allows you to improve coordination very quickly. Balance is improved though motions done with the body, and many moves in the flow arts require balance. One example is the matrix move. In the matrix move, you must lean to the front, the left, the back, and the right, (in order and in a short period of time). Poor balance will result in falling over. Fortunately, balance is improved with practice. The flow arts can also improve dexterity and improve your ability to use your hands. Staff twirling and Poi finger wrapping (as well as many other moves) help with dexterity. Body awareness can also be greatly improved through flow arts. In short, body awareness is knowing where different parts of the body are without looking for them. This means not tripping on stairs, or running into door-frames. Body awareness is inextricably linked to proprioception which is the sense of the positions of parts of the body and the strength used in a movement. The flow arts can strengthen your sense of where the parts of the body are to the point where you can close your eyes and still "see" what you are doing. After enough practice, props become extensions of your body, and you are able to know where the props are, just as you would other parts of your body. (This, of course, is more due to muscle memory and experience and not to proprioception, but it is a very similar feeling.) On top of all of these benefits, the flow arts can provide a good workout. Most practices work the arms, chest, and shoulders. The flow arts can also provide a good cardiovascular exercise.
Secondly, the flow arts can also provide many psychological benefits. These include but are not limited to: increased focus, alertness, perception, patience, persistence, and self-esteem. Focus is an absolute necessity when practicing flow arts. Learning moves takes focus. You need to pay attention to the prop and figure out how you must influence it to achieve the desired effect. Without focus, you will go nowhere. Focus, like coordination and so many other physical aspects, only improves with practice. The flow arts will force you to become alert. You need to be aware of where the prop is, and what it is doing at all times. The flow arts seem to prime the novelty detectors of the brain, quickening your reaction time and seemingly slowing time. This new level of alertness will carry over into other areas of your life. Much related to alertness, perception can also be improved through the flow arts. Having to take in every detail while spinning will cause you to notice things more, even when not spinning. You may see a dramatic improvement in your peripheral vision. You may find that you are now able to dodge objects thrown at you from the side that previously you would not have even been noticed. The flow arts will improve your patience and persistence. People will either be impressed by your persistence, or they will think you have gone nuts. Most people do not keep swinging something around after hitting themselves in the face ten times in the last minute. Call it commendable or insane, either way it is persistence. The flow arts can also improve your self-esteem. Probably seventy percent of flow artists thought they could never learn when they first saw the flow arts. But once they started they soon found they could do it! Words cannot quite express the joy of doing something you never thought you could do. After that first initial moment of ecstasy, something clicks, you may start wondering, "What else can I achieve?” It can really be a life changing event. You start to see that anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
In conclusion, I hope you can now see the tremendous physical and psychological benefits available through the flow arts. From coordination, balance, dexterity, and body awareness, to focus, alertness, perception, patience, persistence, and self esteem, the flow arts can help you in almost every area of life. Best of all, there are many props to choose from. With Poi, Contact Poi, voi, staff, Double Staff, Contact Staff, three-section staff, nunchucks, whip, baton, devil-sticks, flower-sticks, juggling, Contact Juggling, buugeng, Rope Dart, meteor, puppy-hammer, Levitation Wand, kitty-wrench, fans, fingers, Palm Torches, clubs, hoops, mini hoops, jumblymambas, (and list only gets longer), you are sure to find at least one that suits your fancy. So go! You have nothing to lose! Learn a flow art!
May i ask, what defines a flow art? If we are including all those different types of toys, then what else? Does it just include what happens to be popular in the community? Does it have to have performative value? Does it have to involve an aesthetic driven by physicality? Or be convertable to fire?
Before I provide my definition of just what defines a flow art, I have one thing that I would like to make clear.
First off, I believe that most things in life are RELATIVE. Definitions are subject to change. I have my idea of what a "flow art" is, and everyone else on this forum has their own beliefs. I just want to say that there really is no true definition. A flow art is whatever you want it to be, and just because 90% of us say it is one thing, does not mean that it cannot be anything else. Who are we to shape your reality?
Now that I have that out of the way, here are my thoughts on how we classify something as a flow art.
Lets start by defining our terms. Flow: the mental state of being completely absorbed by the task at hand Art: the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power
So a flow art, (by common and direct definition), would be: A practice, which leads to a mental state of complete absorption in the expression and application of creative skill and imagination, and produces visual works of aesthetic or emotional value.
Using this definition, nearly anything could could be used as a prop for flow arts.
We could narrow the term if we wanted to. This would exclude certain things from being "flow arts". Flow Arts, [as defined by the majority of the community, (myself included)], are a branch of the performance arts. Performance Art: an art form that combines visual art with dramatic performance
Now let's modify our original definition of "Flow Art" to now be a subcategory not of art in general, but of "performance art". Flow Art: A practice, which leads to a mental state of complete absorption in the creation of visual works with aesthetic or emotional value, through the expression and application of creative skill and imagination in dramatic performance.
I apologize if this is a little wordy, but I believe that it is a definition that the majority the community would agree with.
We can derive from our definition several rules to help us figure out just what a flow art is: 1: A Flow Art must lead to flow. 2: A Flow Art must create visual works. 3: A Flow Art must involve the expression or application of creative skill and imagination. 4: A Flow Art must have performance value.
Using this definition, we can find better answers to your questions. -Yes. We could add all sorts of toys, so long as they lead to flow, and are used in a creative, appealing, and dramatic ways. -No. A flow arts prop does not need to be popular to be a prop for the flow arts. -Yes. By our definition, a flow art must have performance value, as flow arts are performance arts. -Yes. It will include an aesthetic driven by physicality, as all performance arts involve an aesthetic element and motion (performance cannot exist without motion). -No. It does not need to be convertible to fire as fire is not necessary to performance, art, or flow. (Although it does sure help!
I hope that I have provided you with sufficient information and that this will be helpful to you. Keep in mind that this is only MY interpretation of what a flow art is. Feel free to find your own!
If you have any more questions, I will be happy to try to answer them.
Take care and may the Flow be ever with you, -Trybal Wolf
I can speak in terms of Poi spinning and it's development. First, neither there is no drama and no need for it, nor a must for performance. Performance value? What you call an aesthetic could be brilliant for someone else..
Second, the points in your essay are so general they can be applied almost to any object manipulation, leaving only a little predictive value. There is much more into spinning..
My definition above was only my attempt to go the the absolute base of all flow arts in order to answer some questions by TheMovingMan.
He asked how we define it, so I gave him my answer.
I realize that there is so much more to the flow arts than a basic definition will show. The flow arts provide a community for all of us. A community that is warm, accepting, and for the most part, nondiscriminatory. There is a mutual love and friendship, a certain kinship between artists, and the joy we possess is hard to find in most of society.
So yes, my definition does leave out certain things that the flow arts provide to us, but that is because in my opinion, these things are not necessary for a flow art to be a flow art.
Finally, my definition does cover almost all object manipulation. I personally do not see a reason why any form of object manipulation could not be a flow art.
I hope I have cleared some things up, feel free to let me know your thoughts.