Sunday, September 18, 2011

Catching Up: Attack 73, 74, Education and other happenings...

Kia Ora everyone!

I am indeed still alive... and I appreciate all of the words of encouragement you've all provided during this silent period. There has been much to talk about. Every time I'd sit down to write a post, something would come up... and it would end up half written again. I used to write quite a bit from work, and lately my job functions have changed and I no longer have the downtime I used to.

Life is crazy, but the good part of this is that I've been spending a lot of free time teaching and team teaching. Since this blog really wouldn't be in existence without the program, I can't help but be somewhat grateful that I've had less energy to devote to it, because I've been devoting said energy into teaching!

Now then, excuses over. Let's get into some things I've been wanting to discuss:


Yikes... This release took me on an emotional roller coaster. Although this post will not serve as my official review of the release, I am going to say a few things along the lines of a review. First of all, my expectations for this release were pretty high. The reason I say this is because Glen Stollery had attended the filming of the masterclass and talked about how amazing and difficult it was. Obviously, we all have different opinions/views on what makes a particular release fly (or, in some cases fall), but I trust Glen's opinion on things. He's extremely level headed and writes very honest/fair reviews on BodyCombat, so I had no reason to doubt him and was very excited to get my releases and see what had him "breathing out of his arse" as I believe he put it. :)

So I get the release. First of all, I had learned in the interim that Lisa was not presenting in the masterclass due to being ill post-Hunter. That in and of itself is incredibly disappointing. Lisa is like my own personal hero/cheerleader and I look forward to my quarterly Attack class with her. Her voice motivates me to try harder, push further, and just strive for greatness. It was an immediate bummer that I knew she wasn't presenting. And I'd also be lying if I said that who and how a release is a presented did not affect my opinion. I was less than thrilled about the presentation of 73, but will save further comments for the review.

With that said, I pretty much despised 73 right from the first time listening to it up until about 5 classes into launch. I had started 3 separate blog posts on the release, including a scathing short review, a post that was going to discuss "What to do when you hate a song/release" (which I still intend to post), and one that was going to ask for feedback on whether or not someone has ever just skipped parts of a release or an entire release altogether. Yes, I disliked it that much. It didn't help that my club hosted a module on that release, which meant that all the trainee instructors were prepping for videos and had to teach it over and over and over again...

My problems with the release had very little to do with choreography and largely to do with the music. This is where the conflict with me arises. Because I will be the first to admit that everyone's tastes are different, and what I like and dislike shouldn't exclusively dictate what I teach, because there will be other tracks in the body of material that other participants will be drawn to. Choreographically, there were some innovations in 73 that we haven't seen before, and I always appreciate that. Track 9 was tough, featuring plyos for the first time in 7 releases. I also admit that a large part of my initial opinion of a release has to do with how I feel about tracks 1,9,12. If I don't like 2 of the 3, odds are I will write off the release as a whole. Long story short, I have learned to love half of the release. I will discuss this in detail in my review, which will be coming soon.

But the other half of this conflict is that I know the Attack community at large (especially those of us who have either been around long enough, or somehow otherwise experienced the late 40s and 50s releases) cannot stand 73 and are concerned with where the past few releases have been taking us. The music has swayed MUCH more to the techno side, lyrics have taken a back burner to heavy beats and synthesizers, and we haven't had an original artist in several quarters now. This is aggravating in and of itself... and I know what you're all going to say. The whole PPCA thing is very much at fault for this. It's still aggravating, and I'd be lying if I hadn't shot a few choiced four letter words in Australia's direction (at the PPCA, not at them in general :) ).

But yes. Due to the music choices, as well as the training-dictated repetitions of 73, it has been largely shelved for the immediate future. I have more to say about all of this, but will let it rest for now and move on to other topics...


Unlike 73, I hadn't heard much about 74 prior to getting the release. I knew Brent McLemore and Amy Styles were back, both of whom I cannot say enough good things about. I also knew Lisa was back, which was very exciting. And once I saw the playlist, I was quite encouraged. I already knew and loved 5 of the songs. Granted, Attack uses remixes, but still. There are times when the playlists come out and I've never heard of the vast majority of the release. So this was encouraging. The time came, and I popped the DVD into the player.

YES!!! Good stuff. I am quite excited about 74, save a few songs. One thing that immediately sticks out to me is that it's HARD. We tend to say this about every release, but I've done the release myself now, and tracks 4,5,7,9,and abs are all amongst the most challenging of their slots. This one will take some practice for me to be ready to teach.

Now I'll give you a sneak preview, as well as my initial reaction, track by track:
  1. Warmup - The grapevine is back, squat taps are still around which I love. I don't like the song and it's too fast for a warmup in my opinion. We need to start a little slower and build more gradually.
  2. Mixed Impact - I like the song. Heel digs are back for the first time since 66, which I love. Another great innovative combo in this one. People are complaining about the ending of the track, I like it.
  3. Aerobic - Like the new variations of choreography, hate the song. Features a run towards the stage, turn around and run back.
  4. Plyometric - LOVE LOVE LOVE!!! The song is perfect, the moves are perfect, it's the perfect combination and a perfect fit for a track 4. Combo of plyos and squat jumps. It is HARD. I was not able to do the entire track high when I did it the first time. There is virtually no recovery time either. But if I hadn't already written my top 10 plyo tracks, this one would be on it.
  5. Upper Body Conditioning - Another great track!!! Features a walking burpee that we've never seen before. I was able to successfully execute every walking burpee, but was not able to put the focus on the pushups that I wanted to. It's more cardio then usual for an upper body track, and I can understand why people would worry about teaching it on a wood floor. It will need to be modified and/or heavily optioned based on the class participants.
  6. Running - Dull and boring. Don't like the song. Too repetitive, and the new "sprint" moves don't really work.
  7. Agility - Snow sports based. Although I know some people on the forums are bitching that this isn't a mainstream sport, I personally take the opposite view. Attack isn't dying anytime soon, so unless you want nothing but basketball, soccer, and volleyball moves for the rest of our lives, I can appreciate the diversity of the sports. There is a Combat-inspired snowboard move that is basically the same as a decoy. I like this one, but again, VERY challenging. The song is funky, but appropriately so.
  8. Interval - There has been a lot of discussion about the flatness of the last few interval tracks. I was really excited when I saw the song being used here, but I have to say, the remix used kinda ruins it. It's quite a bit like 67, where you get the same 2 lines of the song over and over, layered between sections of instrumental techno music. It's not terrible, but not great either. This song has been used in a previous Attack release (pre the format change, but still), and instructors who have been around that long WILL argue that the older version is better. I can't say I disagree. Lisa has told us directly that the choreography for track 8's will never change much, and the small variations we do see don't make up for the crappy version of the song.
  9. Power - I very much like this one, and it will be a new challenge track for me. Some have compared it to 66 for difficulty. I would say it is difficult in different ways then 66. Where 66 features sections of explosive power like tuck jumps and plyos, this one is more about endurance. For example, there are no tuck jumps or plyos, but there are really no recoveries either. I was reminded of Proud Mary from 70 when I did this track in terms of the moves and combos used (lots of jacks, high knees, drop squats), but the verses are slightly longer. LYRICS ARE BACK!!! Hallelujah!!! I do not like that the newer track 9's are using fast sprint endings, and hope that this goes away soon.
  10. Lower Body Conditioning - My favorite song of the release. So much so that it's threatening to dethrone Down from 69 as my favorite stand-alone leg track. There's a variation on the lunge here where you tap back to the side to engage the glutes... I appreciate this a LOT being a tall person. A fairly standard leg track that's not too complicated, but different enough and a great song.
  11. Core Conditioning - Great song. The track will kill me. It has a side crunch... yes, a side crunch as in you are on your side and crunch one leg in and balance on one arm... not that coordinated here.
  12. Cooldown - Don't like the song. We were due for this, since I loved 71,72,73's... Cooldowns are hard for me in their own right, as whenever I learn a new one I immediately forget the old one I'd learned. So I will save further commentary until I've actually learned this one.
Overall this is a challenge release, the likes of which we haven't really seen since 66. I'm grateful I didn't have to module on either one.

Hopefully that's enough to keep you interested. I've already learned half the release and we are still 3 weeks out from launch. I learned most of 73 the week before we launched. That alone should tell you my difference in opinions. :) Now a few comments on what has become a sore subject for me:


DISCLAIMER: I don't mean to be a naysayer here... truly I don't. As those of you who've been reading my blog know, I have worked behind the scenes at a quarterly and have a HUGE respect and appreciation for the folks at LM and all the hard work they do to put these together. It is not easy... They virtually get no rest for the day or two prior to them, and put in 20 hour days to pull them off.

It's also possible that what I'm about to say is exclusive to the United States. I have decided that I'm going to BLAH about this somehow... I haven't decided what form yet, but somehow I will. I'm not one to just bitch about something without looking for solutions (aside from a particular track or release, but that's because there's basically nothing I can to do change those).

Quarterlies have, in my opinion, basically boiled down into nothing more than a full day of participating in classes with a large cover charge and severe dehydration. In other words, I pay $800.00 to fly somewhere and participate in a few classes. That's it. It's a bit discouraging to me to know that I'm not really missing out on much by not going to one, yet so much emphasis is placed on them by the upper ups at LM. And it's not that I'm not willing to pay when I can afford it. I've been to 2 quarterlies and an AIM this year. But honestly, I don't get much for my investment when it comes to quarterlies. The education sessions aren't really education. They are more "this is what we've done, this is what is coming up". I want more. I think that what they are teaching in AIMs should be sampled and taught at the education sessions at quarterlies. I also think that the education sessions should be done differently. I get a sense that the trainers are given a wide range of freedom on what to do in their sessions. I think the PD or someone else in such a position in New Zealand (or the program coach) should write the entire education session and the trainer should deliver it, so that the education being delivered across the world is universal. I also think the quality needs to be higher. I don't usually come away from these feeling like I've learned much which I can apply to my teaching. When it's a PD from New Zealand the session usually turns into a celebrity interview/Q&A that you might read in a magazine with things such as favorite songs, favorite releases, embarrassing stories from the past, etc...

I will be the first to admit that the energy that the presenting teams and PDs from New Zealand have is contagious and phenomenal. This is why I was willing to pay to fly to Orlando and take AIM from Lisa herself. The things I learned in AIM were true education. We did drill sessions on moves from the class, we talked about the essence of the program and how to teach Attack in the essence of Attack... all of which is extremely helpful and applicable. Quarterlies don't allow time for this. They have to take 10-11 hours just to get through all of the masterclasses. Now don't hate me, but I don't enjoy any of the other formats as much as Attack. I don't really have a desire to take a Jam masterclass even if it's taught by Gandalf, nor do I love RPM enough to take it from Glen. These just aren't my thing. I think the time at quarterlies would be better served by running mini AIMs for each format simultaneously, where you do the masterclass, but you then do specific education for the format, similar to an AIM or training module. Because honestly I'm not willing to pay such huge amounts of money anymore just to go take Attack from Lisa. I will do this for Attack 80 next year when I fly to New Zealand, but quarterlies need to be more beneficial. I can take a Pump class from Glen in my own living room every quarter... I want to learn and develop. And if LM is marketing quarterlies as a tool to help achieve this, then that's what they need to deliver. Especially when they are taking forever to release AIM 2. (I feel frustrated when my career future is in the hands of others and they are stagnant).

Similarly, the education sessions on the DVDs have also suffered. Lately I've been watching a lot of older releases from the early-mid 50s. My rule is I can't watch a masterclass until I watch the education session once. There were some FANTASTIC education sessions during this period which followed all of what I just got through describing I'd like to see. Now they are all generic and the concepts aren't always applicable. You can spend an hour describing the scientific benefits of core strength to me, but I won't be able to apply enough of this to make me a better teacher, and I'm not a biology major so yeah.

I don't mean to just bitch endlessly. As I've said, I plan to rewrite this into a BLAH with recommendations and forward it on, but it has been weighing on me for the past 2 months, since I've been solicited nonstop on every platform including my Facebook on how important and great these quarterlies are, and I just don't agree entirely. I'd love to hear your guys' thoughts.

Well, that's it for now. I have MUCH more to say, but I've got some other things to do tonight and gotta run! I hope you are all enjoying the new stuff, and ANYONE with any info on Attack 75, shoot it my way!!! Also, please give me any feedback you have on what you want to hear! I really do want to get back to doing this more regularly.

Kia Kaha!