Q: Raphan, you're originally from Paris, tell us how you came to live in London?
A: The journey started by my travelling to London in 1997 working as a photographer, I spoke no English at all then, I just arrived with my bass guitar and a bag; that was over 18 years ago!
Q: How did you find your way into movement and coaching?
A: As a kid I did a lot of different sports, four or five activities each week, so my generalist approach today probably came from that - I never did the same thing over and over on a daily basis. In terms of martial arts I was into judo for a long time, then a bit of boxing, taekwondo and muay thai later on. I've always loved capoeira but only recently have I found a group that i've actually become a part of and committed to. Eventually though I picked up an injury from my bass guitar playing so I had to refocus on my physical side; it was through injury that I started looking at neck pain, posture, back pain, wrist pain, all the unpleasant stuff basically.
Q: We hear about our clients' injuries almost every day but mainstream fitness classes like High Intensity Interval Training continue to pay remarkably little attention to proper mobility work. How would you introduce the importance of this approach to someone who trains strength and conditioning but no mobility for example?
A: Well, lets take something like the squat. Not everyone is designed to squat in exactly the same way, 'tuning in' to your body and learning to listen to it is often the most challenging phase of that process, especially if someone's new to it. What sensations, feelings and shapes do you pick up on during the squat? What is your body telling you? You'll often need to work with an expert coach who can help interpret what's happening for you, at least at the beginning, so a one-on-one or small group training format would be perfect. It's then about consistency, hard work and commitment, then you will really start to see what your body is really capable of.
Q: Do you see strength and mobility as two completely distinct practices?
A: The strongest people I know treat mobility as strength work. It takes longer that way and it takes more coaching skill but ultimately the two things are inseparable, that's the point.
Q: Who would you say have been the main influences on your personal development as a coach?
A: The Feldenkrais method is a big one, and trainer Larry Goldfarb in particular, has been a huge help in developing the way I teach Space & Flow. People like Jon Monks and Frey Faust, who I think of as my big brothers really and people like Tom Myers (the author of Anatomy Trains), Ida Rolf and Irmgard Bartenieff are also big influences. I find the work of Ido Portal and of Cameron Shayne very inspiring too. I think that many people have been doing these things we do for a very long time and possibly even going a lot deeper, they simply aren't as well known today. In short, I consider myself a student of the somatic schools so I study and read and look for lessons from the past as well as the present.
Q: Do you think mobility and the freedom of movement it offers is more relative now than it was in the past though, given the number of people living sedentary, inactive lifestyles?
A: I think of it more in terms of the industrialization of the food industry that meant not having to go out and fight hard for our food every day. So these themes have actually been relevant for a very long time, much longer than you might think.
Q: Finally, if you had to give readers one key mobility move for the upper and lower body to get them started, what would you chose?
A: For me it would have to be a full-body and mind challenge as I believe constraints and limitations can give the greatest lessons; I'd ask someone to lie on their back and come up to standing without straining or tensing their neck and jaw. What would need to be done and what can be learned on the way up?