The creative hub of Berlin is facilitating an unlikely collaboration between post-modern dance and the sport of Mixed Martial Arts.
Long flagged as the fastest growing sport in the world the MMA is a full contact sport that allows the participants to fight an opponent using an array of different techniques from different disciplines from conventional western boxing to Greco-Roman wrestling, muay thai to jiu jitsu.
With its roots in the Brazilian jiu jitsu and shoot wrestling. The sport really came into being in the 90s and was regulated in 2000. In the 00s the sport exploded however, particularly in the US where in 2006 the sport’s viewership surpassed some of Boxing’s biggest Pay Per View audiences of all time. However, not without attracting its share of controversy. A sustained media campaign against the sport, resulted in the sport garnering an undeserved representation as brutal; the sport remains illegal in New York to this Day.
However, one place where the sport is flourishing is Berlin and of course Europe’s creative capital is the perfect place for the cross pollination of ideas and disciplines. The German city is has a vibrant art scene and is a magnet for dancers, circus and acrobatic performers, and easily rivals LA for its cutting-edge bodywork scene.
It now also is home to several MMA clubs most notably IMAG and Golden Glory and it is the is this combination of Mixed Martial Arts, post-modern dance and bodywork that attracts 34-year-old Irishman Diarmuid Brannick to Berlin. Dubliner Brannick spent 13 years unable to walk without the aid of crutches after being diagnosed with a rare form of arthritis at the age of 19.
Thanks to a life-changing surgery (a double hip replacement) in 2010, he has come a long way on his road to rehabilitation and is ready to pursue his dream of becoming a professional mixed martial arts fighter. He has already competed in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and is now embarking on a project to become a professional fighter within 3 years of full-time training. Due to his medical history Brannick’s training is unorthodox, and so perfectly suited to the Berlin scene.
Contact Improvisation is a dance technique in which points of physical contact provide starting points for exploration through movement improvisation. It is a form of dance improvisation and is one of the best-known and most characteristic forms of post-modern dance. Berlin is undoubtedly the Mecca of Contact Improv. with more jams and classes taking place in the city than anywhere else in the world.
"An improvised dance form called Contact Improv is a very important part of my training. It allows me to gauge my own and my partners balance points, allows me to simulate grappling scenarios and improve co-ordination without taxing the body.” Says Brannick.
“Then there is a lot of remedial bodywork done in the water here, and some very skilled elite practitioner such as Colin Edina Leach. Not a lot of athletes know about this type of improvised, half dancing, half therapy so its kind of a well-kept secret. In all my years of seeking relief for muscle and joint issues this has to be one of the most potent things available"
Brannick believes despite the odds that he can become a professional athlete in the most difficult sport in the world within 3 years of full time training. The project is called Pro In Three. He will begin a 4-month, full-time training trial in March 2013 at IMAG Gym Berlin under Frank BurczynskI. Brannick says "Frank to me exemplifies the spirit of a true martial artist, not only is he highly skilled, he is a very cool, friendly and relaxed person"
Brannick's regime will also include an unusual mix of other disciplines such as Contact Improvisation dance forms with blindfold, Hot Yoga and Ice Water Bathing designed to keep his arthritis at bay, meditation, anti-inflammatory diet and a special herb protocol.
Photo credits: Owen Mc Cann