Jonas, the first slackliner to join the Fellowship, has swiftly become a great friend and inspiration to the So We Flow... community. Although a slackliner at heart, Jonas' movement practice is as varied as it comes. Combined with his playful, positive and adventurous attitude, his practice is a pleasure to watch - whether it's a death defying highline across mountain peaks, to dancing free of inhibitions outside his van/home.
Jonas Konijnenberg; Slackliner, Movement Researcher & PE Teacher.
What does your perfect morning look like?
Slowly waking up with some coffee, oatmeal, fresh fruits and some mellow, groovy vinyl. Doing slow movement exercises such as static hanging and deep-squat sitting. Seeing the sun rising higher on the horizon and catching a glimpse of the rays on my face.
Tell us about when and how you got into movement?
As a teenager, I did almost every sport you could imagine. I excelled in ballet, speed-skating and road cycling. After doing these sports to semi-professional level, I started studying to become a Physical Education teacher. It made me very curious about the acrobatic possibilities of movement, such as tricking and gymnastics. At that time, around 2010, I also discovered slacklining. It was slacklining that got me completely hooked on exploring my physical capabilities. A few years of specialisation followed. In 2015 a major knee injury threw me far back. My injury came because of monotonous training on the slackline. I had to do things differently to be able to continue to do what I love. It made me realise movement is a continuous research of the body and not just perfecting one thing in isolation. Through exploring Capoeira, joining the Amsterdam movement scene and eventually studying mobility, I continued my movement journal in a wider, less specialised context.
What style of movement do you practice most nowadays and what keeps you coming back for more?
I'm doing a lot of slacklining. The pleasure of walking the highline makes me want to be in good shape at all times.
The rest of my movement training is based on moves that are transferable to slacklining. I've been drawing lots of knowledge from floor routines such as Capoeria and animal movement. The small knee angles help build the strength needed to stand up and stable on a highline. Since I've never practiced this way before, I'm enjoying the slow yet steady progress. I'm confident enough to play a bit of Capoeira nowadays, which is a huge progression. I practice flows on the ground 2-3 days a week.
During spring and summer it's all about slacklining. If someone has set a nice highline in my area, I'm always down!
Right now I'm in Costa Rica, where the waves are unlike anything I've seen in Europe. Plus the water is 28 degrees Celcius... So right now you find me most days in the water. Surfing big waves at high speed - damn, that's so special.
If you could only train or practice for 2 hours per week, how would you spend it?
I can't imagine only having 2 hours to train per week. The best practice is during those moments you don't have time to practice. While working you can sit or stand in many different postures. While walking to the bus you can do all kinds of kicks and dance moves. True gain in ability is achieved once you can integrate training into your daily routine. We can't all make a livelihood from our practice, so why not switch it around? Practice whilst you make your living.
With such a limited time I would spend it doing a fun practice - whether that's a game of Capoeira, slacklining in the park with friends, or surfing some pretty waves. I always choose play over practice. I'm practicing to be able to have more fun, so without the fun, there's no reason to practice.
What is your primary goal in your practice at present?
I'm training to maintain such a load on my body that it will be strong enough to survive a few days hard work after each other. For example, a few days of highlining in the mountains, followed by a few days of surfing big swell in the ocean. I want to be able to do more difficult moves and condition my joints and muscles with the expected loads. By this I can have maximum fun as soon as the opportunity arises - without the risk of fatigue or injury.
I also have some long term secondary goals. One of which is to follow the path of exploration. Exploration helps me stay close to my primary goal, but isn't restricted by a deadline. Perhaps I will never achieve them, but simply training them is satisfying. An example of this is the one arm chinup. Such a badass move, yet almost entirely unnecessary, other than showing off and having fun. I love the path of training a movement. It's so hard to get there, but the path is just as rewarding.
My long-long term goal is to be able to do the things I love (slacklining, surfing, dancing) with my to-be-born children and hopefully even my grandchildren. Imagine how boss it would be to be able to surf with your grandpa. The old boss who's catching more waves than all the groms.
What's your all-time favourite movement, pose or technique!
Slackline surfing. There's so many different ways you can surf on the slackline. The flow is great. There's g-forces acting on your body. It's a fast movement and you need all the attention you have. It's relatively simple to achieve this feeling - you don't need good waves - just a slackline and a couple of trees. Changing the situation is super easy - just pick different trees, go longer or go bigger!
What makes a great teacher (of any discipline)?
There's a few major things in this. First of all, skin in the game. To be able to teach and show your students a way, one must have experienced or even better continue to experience this themselves. Without knowing the feeling, a teacher can use a lot of words, but they will always lack true understanding. Secondly, a teacher should have a passion for the subject. If the teachers knows why they want to share the subject with a student, it's easy to make decisions in classes that will influence their student's experience in a positive way.
The teacher should always remember that the path of exploration is a process of the student, led by themselves. The teacher creates the atmosphere and provides them with the tools to follow their journey. But the student is leading. Without autonomy in their own learning path, students will be less motivated and less likely learn important lessons. The teacher knows a way, but the student might ﬁnd a new way. So if a students comes up with; I would like to learn this and this, the teacher should provide the space for that.
This reminds me to one of the best classes I ‘gave’ during one of the hardest jobs I’ve had. My students were very hard to teach anything. They were way more busy with each other and trolling around than with being able to put their mind to learning something (it was a lower grade school, students were ~15 years old). They wanted to do a kickboxing class for a while. As I’m not a kickboxer I told them I would like to do that with them, but they need to help me. As some of my students were kickboxers, I asked them to stay after class and I motivated them to teach the next week. I made sure there was kickboxing equipment, but they would give the class. That class was amazing, it wasn’t well organised at all, but all students were participating and the success of the class gave me goosebumps. So as a teacher you should be always open for the input and reality of your students. If they are motivated for something, there is energy and will to learn. And that is the biggest requirement to give them a true life lesson. As teachers we often tend to see the learning curve of our students as something linear (last class we practiced this, so this training we will focus more on, etc..), but in fact learning is a constant ﬂow of going back and forth and sometimes stagnated for a while before major progressions are gain. I try to show my students a path of how to grow, but try not to tell them what they should do and when. The will most likely feel that themselves. And by feeling that, they will make a choice, by making that choice, they will actually learn more than just the trick. They will teach themselves how to learn. And that is my true goal as a teacher.
In the last five years, what habit, belief or behaviour has most improved your life?
The realisation that to recover from my knee injury, I had to start using my knee again in the way I injured it. Recovery is, next to a physical process, a very mental process. I lost my conﬁdence in doing speciﬁc movements - almost to the point where I gave up on them. Of course I dreamed of doing them, but the path of relearning seemed to be too long, it discouraged me. If there was a complex situation, I was often thinking; I can’t do that, my knee is f***ed.
After 2 years of struggling I realised that, only by doing things that are a challenge for my body, my brain will adapt and will realise that I can do hard moves again. So that experience taught me, that my body faster regenerates than my brain. My brain is the key to actual success. If I do things enough often, my brain will be convinced that I can do them. And if I keep up with them long enough, I will see myself as healed instead of being a victim. This connects conveniently to the next question...
Tell us about a time failure has led you to later success.
The negative experience of being injured and believing my slackline adventures were over actually led to my current success. Now I'm experienced with dealing with a major knee injury, recovering from it and coming back stronger. I’ve gained wisdom. Only by running into this problem could I have discovered and learnt from my experience. Now I am sharing this knowledge with other slackliners. It made me an expert. I was doing slacklining on a high level, got injured and fell out of it, but got back into it and nowadays I am still doing big projects and I'm stronger than ever.
What are one to three books or films that have greatly influenced your life?
One of the biggest inspirations in my late teenage years was Fight Club. That movie made me realise that making career in an oﬃce is not what I strive for. Feeling the f*ck it vibe and going all in in their underground world, is what inspired me to go do something that I want to do. Ever since, making money isn't my goal. I see money as something I need to be able to do what I do. Money just makes it possible to live my life.
Star Wars was a big obsession in my childhood, and still I believe there’s a big important lesson in those movies. The lesson I took from them is that our energy and belief creates what we become. The force (our energy ﬁeld) should be positively orientated. If you live with love and trust, your path will be in a good ﬂow. If you live out of fear, jealousy, distrust, you’ll turn to the dark side.
If you could be any animal in the World, what would you choose and why?
An eagle or hawk. Being up high seems to be the shit. Flying above everyone and observing everything is the dream. I love how they are ﬂoating on air. Eﬀortless. Highlining brings me close to that feeling. I sometimes feel whilst being up high that I own the valley and it’s sky. I can see everything and I am the highest up there. I feel extra connected with those birds because my eye sight is also really quite good...
What's your guiltiest pleasure?
Smoking weed. There’s deﬁnitely been times where I was on the stoner side of the line. Close to addiction, waiting to be done with my obligations before I could spark one up. Nowadays I feel like I’m way more in control of this pleasure. The interesting thing about this is that kind of comes at the same time with surrounding myself with people that don’t see smoking weed as a bad thing. Smoking weed can be seen as a medicine when used with intention and moderation. Since I’m surrounded with less judgmental people, the urge to smoke one, is so much less. It seems to be a thing, when it’s not allowed and ‘bad’ it’s a cool and exciting thing to do. Most of the days I actually feel like not smoking at all. But when I do, I enjoy the blanket of relaxation and it helps me to ﬂow in my current state.
When you feel stressed or unfocused, what do you do to resolve it?
There’s a difference in this for me. If I feel stressed, I’m mostly very focused. Why? I watched one Ted Talk once where they explained how good stress actually is for us. It makes us aware of the situation. Gives us clarity and priority for our goal. And they found out, that the people who believe stress is good for them actually live longer and healthier. Of course there’s a limit; If you don’t have time to do the things that are import to you anymore because of expectations of jobs and other people, then there’s a problem which you need to solve. But if you believe that that stress is also good, you might ﬁnd the strength to actually change the situation to something that’s closer to your beliefs.
Being unfocused is a bigger problem to me. I deﬁnitely have moments where I am just distracted and strolling around timelines, reading unimportant news etc.. If I want to get something done, it helps me to thing me best desirable outcome in life. What small steps can I do now to get into that direction? I like the quote in that; “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars.”
What advice would you give to someone who is about to embark on a movement and wellness journey? What advice should they choose to ignore?
Don’t strive for perfection, try to do what you can, where you're at. Examples and inspirations are good, absolutely mimic who they are. Take them in your mind, and hopefully you’ll get somewhere close to your desire. Remember that everything you’ll do toward that direction is gain. Every movement you’ll do is a deposit in your bank account. There’s no good or bad, hard goals and expectations can only bring you down when you don’t achieve them. So better stay present and enjoy the road that you’re moving along. Even if it’s a dirt road.
Try as many things as possible, things that excite you. Try some YouTube classes, watch some examples on Instagram. It will help you to get familiar with the movements and the possibilities. But remember never to put any timeframe on your goals. It will come when it comes, exactly at the right moment. If it doesn’t come yet, it’s not the moment yet. Explore a bit further. For example; I feel very inspired by some movers and see them move (for example: So We Flow... athlete @movementdecoded). And I will watch his moves and print them in my head. When practicing I might turn on a video of him and try to copy some moves. But achieving them is not the goal (yet), trying them and training them is already good enough! It will help me to ﬁnd my own routines and moves suitable for my body. The hardest is to start your practice, so doing it is the best you can do. Every minute I spend on it is one. My body is not so conditioned yet as my examples. But by doing this day in day out, a few years later it might be.
What are the worst recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
I’m kind of allergic for the following quotes:
- “Don’t do this, because you’ll get injured”
- “You can’t do that, you got to do it like this”
There’s so much more nuance behind this. Of course there’s a truth in these quotes. Imagine you are trying to set a PB for a deadlift, you're at your limit and you’ll get injured if you don’t execute the movement well. But that seems to be one of those single moments, all other moments, you’ll probably beneﬁt from exploring a weird, unaccepted movement. Because one day sooner or later your body is going to encounter that and then all the information you’ve had from this will help you. I often ﬁnd it really hard to hear that kind of advice when I am following someone else’s class. When doing some kind of stretch someone shows me, I tend to do it a bit diﬀerent (A; because I’m stubborn, B, because my body is diﬀerent than the perfect conditioned teacher’s body). When I am training myself I'm never thinking if the position is bad for my body, I explore all possibilities (of course with moderation). How could it be possibly bad if I do this for a single moment? Of course, if you do this everyday for an hour it will be probably bad, but that’s most likely because you’re doing it too much, not because the move itself is bad. So please dare to say this to me in the class I’m following from you next time!
Another thing - PE teachers tend to keep control at all time in their classes - “don’t do this; don’t do that!”. If I ask why the kids are not allowed to do what they want; they’Il answer; “because it’s dangerous”. I hate this. If a kid has the guts to jump a backﬂip oﬀ a vaulting box, do it. Only the kids that are able to do this will do this without asking me. The only thing I’m telling them; if you wanna do something crazy, ask me to spot you. If you want to learn something crazy, ask me to help you. And if someone does something dangerous, crashes and feels the harsh consequences, he/she will learn more than you could ever possibly taught him/her by words.
If you could share one message to every single person on the planet, what would you say and why?
Go play! All life and world problems become relative if you play and have fun. Your mind needs some play everyday, take a moment to forget everything around you, no worries, no troubles, just play like a kid.