My Body

Frank Forencich on The Vital Importance of Play and the Seductions of the Modern World

[Frank Forencich is the creator of Exuberant Animal, which combines the study of human performance with play-based movement training. He's also the author of Play as If Your Life Depends on It.]

How old is play? This is something very few people have thought about. If you break it down, all mammals play, and all primates play. It’s older than fire. It’s older than stone tools. It’s older than our species. It’s fundamental to good social behavior. If you deprive a young animal of play, it will almost invariably grow up to have distorted social behaviors. There are ominous signs in the modern world that we're depriving ourselves of play, and it’s not a trivial matter. It’s really very important. On the flip side, the more we promote play, games and sports, the more creative and resilient people become.

I got involved in martial arts about 30 years ago, at the same time I was studying human biology at Stanford. And I thought there had to be some relationship between human evolution and the really joyful movement I was enjoying at the dojo. At the time no one was really talking about Paleo perspectives on the body. You were in sports or physical therapy. That was about it. So I started reading and diving in and thinking more about the history of the human body and how it related to training. I really studied up on animal play behavior too, and how important it really is.

At Exuberant Animal, we have a primal, practical, playful approach. I get away from the whole bootcamp thing. I think that’s an adversarial approach to the body and the process. I’m also not a big stickler on form. I think people need to educate their own bodies on what works for them. I know a lot of trainers tell you exactly how to move, but I want people to explore and discover what works them.

In terms of eating, I’m pretty omnivorous. I encourage people to concentrate on real food and avoid processed stuff. I eat meat and vegetables whenever I can. I don’t go in for the extreme Paleo perspective. I know some people lately who do these things where they fast for two or three days and work out really hard and then eat a lot of meat. For me, I think the Paleo world was a lot more diverse from that. I think there was a lot of gathering going on and people ate whenever they could. So a lot of vegetables, and I’m like everybody else — I love sugar and caffeine and alcohol and the whole thing, but I moderate. That’s the thing about living in the modern world, the seductions are immense.

Frank Forencich


Hey Frank! Glad to see you're still at it. One of these days we'll have to compare notes as I suspect our approach (Punk Rope's) to play is somewhat different and we can always learn from each other. Hop on.

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