The Chaos of Balance

A man searching for a Balanced Life has many stories.

Pacific Pole Championships, Men’s Professional.  I wonsies.  I happy.

Before the criticisms pour in, I want to say this: I am not a risk taker.  In my community, I am perhaps the most conservative; I am the voice of safety to my peers.

But I needed to do this.

I’ve been on a quest—as many people are—to discover and create myself anew.  Can I be myself despite who I’ve been and what I’m supposed to be to those around me?

I’m told that I’m spread too thin, that I have too many interests; there is no “success” without focus; my prison is investing too widely.

I’ve chosen to deny what they say.  It’s okay to be all of myself.

But part of me still believes what I’m hearing.

I compartmentalize my life.  I say, “I am a doctor right now and not your friend.  I am a pole dancer in this room, a traceur in the other.  I am a writer first and foremost and nothing can stand against that future…except everything, it seems.”  These are some, but there are so many more.

If I continue to compartmentalize, though, there will be nothing significant left of me any place I go.

So I made this video to unify my identities, and also, to show how variability allows new perspectives and new possibilities.  I hope to show parts of this world you’ve never (and may never) see, in ways you’ve not imagined.

This video is me, even if it was conceptualized, scouted, shot, and edited over the course of…4 crammed days?

I know that people will describe me as a thrill chaser, as selfish and stupid.  But I did this for the art of expression.  For its purpose, I had to stop worrying about what other people defined me as or expected of me.  I needed to be in sync with my own soul.

The risk, heavy as it is, was worth the reward.

This is a subjective point, so as much as you may disagree, it’s true because I said it is true for me.

Especially by those who care most, I know that I will be fending off anger.  But I need to trust myself, even here.

I’m not driven by adrenaline or drugs.  I’m aware.  I knew the risks.  I made the decision as a personal one.

And I’m speaking about the entire video—not just the one move.

P.S.  I had to cut a bunch of footage to fit the music and story—if you want the outtakes and additional footage, post in the youtube comments, and I’ll see if I can put together something later.  But for now, I’m exhausted.

I hope this touches you in your own way, somehow.

Music: The Piano Guys—Kung Fu Piano: Cello Ascends.

Video Editing: cheapo Imovie+skillz by amateur me.

Camera: GoPro Hero 3+ Black

Bethany Finlay/Evgeny’s Move.

polefiend:

Marlo Fisken and Kenneth Kao goofing around. They could train for hours and hours. We finished our 8 hour instructional session and they bounced around doing handstands and sharing pole tricks for another half hour before the rest of us decided we really, really wanted to eat.

polefiend:

Marlo Fisken and Kenneth Kao goofing around. They could train for hours and hours. We finished our 8 hour instructional session and they bounced around doing handstands and sharing pole tricks for another half hour before the rest of us decided we really, really wanted to eat.

polefiend:

Marlo Fisken, Ryan Ford, and Kenneth Kao up to some crazy acro-pole antics at Vertical Fusion Boulder. 
Seriously, too much badassery for one room to handle right here. 

polefiend:

Marlo Fisken, Ryan Ford, and Kenneth Kao up to some crazy acro-pole antics at Vertical Fusion Boulder. 

Seriously, too much badassery for one room to handle right here. 

5 New Extreme Pole Strength Moves

New move I made up (I think, you never know.  Video to come soon, along with several other “recently” invented strength moves.). I’m calling this reverse skyline in Evgeny’s honor.  #pole #strengthmove #malepoledancer #powermoves #Evgeny #reverseskyline #crazy

New move I made up (I think, you never know. Video to come soon, along with several other “recently” invented strength moves.). I’m calling this reverse skyline in Evgeny’s honor. #pole #strengthmove #malepoledancer #powermoves #Evgeny #reverseskyline #crazy

Pole Violin, Kenneth Kao

An experiment.  :)

Pole Expo Experience

Pole Expo 2013, Celebrity Status, and Shock and Awe

Well, Pole Expo 2013 just ended, and I can’t even wrap my head around how to describe everything that happened.  My brain is still processing; the writer in me is trying to catch up with all the note taking.  I’m struggling not only to conceptualize just how cool everything was, but to be able to summarize this in a way that doesn’t make me sound like a cocky bastard.

Because apparently at Pole Expo, I’m a celebrity, too.

IMAG0337(yes, Nadia and Marlo staged this pic.  Perhaps to tease me in some manner ;) .)

In this subculture, breaking the boundaries of thought, stigma, beliefs, and straight-up physics is very important.  And it seems like I did that by jumping.

Yup, you heard me.  I jumped.  That, I guess, makes me special.

Sure, it was a frightening jump: 8 feet on a (slipping!) static pole to a spinning pole.  It could’ve thrown me if I peeled out; it could have racked me if I jumped too straight at it; it could have been VERY embarrassing for my ego to miss it in a national competition (See?  I can be dramatic).

Anyway, I’m told that jumping between the poles has never happened before.  We’re not talking Chinese poles which are 6 feet apart (or so) and rubbery and flexible and thick–even though everyone tells me they’ve thought about it; I’m honestly shocked that no one’s done it.  I mean, I’ve been waiting for someone to pull a video out and go, “See!  I did this 20 years ago!”

Truly, it’s really not that hard to try.  You stand on the pole and jump as far as you can.  Once you know how far you can jump, you jump and grab at the next pole if it’s within a safe distance; just be ready should you hit the wrong angle and get thrown off.  So, why hasn’t anyone tried it?

I have no idea.  But people keep telling me that I’ve made pole history.

1271903_505738699514135_425704772_o

Here’s the thing, though.  I jumped, and why I jumped–and performed–and competed in a national venue that severely intimidated me and frightened me out of my wits and I couldn’t do it no way no how, I’ve only been pole dancing one year (almost exactly) and everyone is wrong about me being good enough to compete and maybe I can but I really don’t want to admit it and I JUST CAN’T…

Shit.

Now I have to.  Because I said I can’t.

Well, that’s why I was at Pole Expo.

What I’m saying is that as great as it is to have done something that’s considered a big deal, it was more important to me to create something new, and to prove something to myself.  Yes, I dream of traveling the entire world, teaching pole, performing and writing–so I do want my name out there.  But I also don’t want to become merely the guy who was the first to jump between the poles (because I assure you, we’ll be seeing it a lot more people jumping now.  I know several people with the physical capabilities of doing it at this very moment–and like the fonji or the spatchcock, it will quickly become nothing new at all).

So no, I don’t want to be limited by other people’s expectations, shoehorned into an identity that isn’t true; I want to be someone who always pushes the boundaries both inside and out, and guess what?  In this last performance, I was so excited because I thought I broke so many OTHER boundaries, boundaries which, sadly, rarely were ever mentioned (to those that did, THANK YOU).  Boundaries:

I (successfully?) put martial arts and parkour together with male pole dancing.

I THINK I discovered at least 2 other completely new moves in that routine.

I wore a ridiculous and impractical outfit that kept getting in the way.

More importantly, I broke personal boundaries:

I tried to engage the audience even though I’m shy as hell and have trouble looking people in the eyes.

I took my martial arts and made it dance-y–something practical into something “impractical.”

I put my fear on stage and I overcame it.

I performed to music that was hell to follow.

I forgot 2 passes and still pulled off, “I know what I’m doing even though I’m just standing here doing nothing.”

I put moves in there that I knew would tax me to death and there’s was little chance I’d be able to complete the performance and still be breathing–I have athletic asthma–but I went for it anyway.

I put certain emotions into that performance that, well, don’t need to be discussed but that I hope came through.  Generally, there are massive struggles going on in life, and to me, I’m in several battles that seem impossible to beat.  But I want to keep my head up and someday walk free–not without scars–but as a better person for these battles.  This performance was a reflection of that and I wanted people to feel it.

So the point is: THANK YOU for your appreciation of the jump.  Thank you for your excitement, and your overly flattering words, and making me feel like an absolute celebrity.  However, I’ve also discovered certain conflicts/issues with being “celebrity” that are a little ridiculous to admit.  Ready for this?  Ahem:

On more than one occasion I had to catch myself before saying, “Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed it,” BEFORE the person had even given me the compliment; saying “thank you” when they’ve just introduced themselves is just…arrogant.

I had to figure out how to sign my name again.  Yes, I’m a doctor that signs his name, “K.S. MOO, D.C.”  As in, “Kenneth Solomon Moo (Kao as in cow, get it?), Doctor of Chiropractic.”  At least one of you has a shirt that is signed as above, and will probably never know who actually signed your shirt.

I had to find a way to politely escape pictures with people because I NEEDED TO PEE.  It took me about 1 hour to make it from the stage to upstairs, but I’m very bad about saying, “I really need to go,” politely.  Next time, I think I’ll just say it directly: “I’d truly love to take a picture with you, but my bladder is full.  Bye!”

Smiling that long makes my eye twitch and spasm so that I must look like Jack Nicholson.

Elevator rides suddenly become, “who’s going to talk me” paranoia moments.  It’s not bad.  I like talking to people.  But…

While I like being liked, I also am a very bad conversationalist.  Not saying anything back to a person who’s excited to talk to you feels like being a jerk, so sorry if I did that to you.

Being offered payment for a performance, or being invited to perform internationally, or to teach privates, or to have people talk about flying in to study with you should not be met with, “REALLY?”

In the same way, assuming that someone will recognize you when you check into a workshop because you’d performed the previous night also comes across as arrogant.

Protocol for friend requests should be considered before making decisions.

When a pole celebrity that I admire says, “Let’s do a doubles performance sometime,” I should have an answer beyond, “Wh…H…HUH?”

When several pole celebrities say things that are so complimentary, throwing your arms around them and thanking them is probably acceptable, but not very mature.

When you’re in a room alone with Anastasia and Evgeny, bouncing around like an excited puppy also isn’t very mature.

When those two stars say, “You could be a very rare performer.  Don’t stop.  I want to see you compete in the future.  BUT POINT YOUR TOES.”  I should really listen.

2000+views of your video in one day, with personal comments and shares by Natasha is really overwhelming but also very cool.

1231634_10101751801637373_1820011318_n

Other highlights/notes to Pole Expo (There are SO many!  I have too many amazing experiences to ever get them all down):

All the competitors were amazzzing.  I couldn’t believe that I was in the same room as them.  The energy and the talent in that one room made me feel so happy and blessed that it calmed me down before my performance.  Thanks, everyone.

Pole stars are human and friendly and open to chatting.  In particular, they treated me like a peer immediately, and yet I’m still too much of a fanboy to realize it or know how to deal.  I simultaneously wanted to be around them and chat, and also to constantly ask them for pictures–or to record the whole freaking interaction.  Big thanks to Marlo for being patient with me and being REAL ;) .

Meeting celebrities and seeing them everywhere is exciting but saying, “OMG it’s YOU,” and then seeing another one and IMMEDIATELY running to the next one with, “OMG it’s YOU,” is a really really bad idea.

Meeting people that you’ve been friends with on FB for some time should not be started with, “What’s your name?”

People are funny.  Pole people are even funnier.  Generally, I was stuck in so many different foreign situations (not to mention that this was my first time to Vegas), that I didn’t know what to do and at some point, my mind became numb–probably in shock.

I’m told I got a standing ovation from the audience and the judges, and some of the judges reported to me with super flattering information on their experience watching my performance.  This.  Is.  Awesome.  HOWEVER, I didn’t even notice because I was so in my head.  Figures… ;)

I wish I could go over all the other cool things that happened during Pole Expo.  But this blog is already twice the length of what I would normally post.  Pole Expo, like all of my pole experiences, was life changing.  I do want to thank some people, though.  And while I know I’ll miss people, I’m gonna take the risk of offending someone in order to get a couple major thanks out there.

To Rachel: For reminding me to be a performer instead of a trickster.

To Mel: Without VF, I wouldn’t have experienced this.

To Mimi: My training buddy.

To Waeli: My coach.

To Kris: For my costume, and much more.  Best alpha reader ever.  And a great friend.

No one mentioned above is from Pole Expo, because they and several others were the ones to support me to this point–and it’s them I really owe thanks to for where I am now.  In the future, we’ll see, but for Pole Expo?  These are my peeps, as well as so many others.

Not to say that I don’t owe a huge thanks to the many people I met at Pole Expo, too.  So many cool people there that are just great, exciting, real people.  I love the community and I wish I could’ve talked to so many more of you.  I hope to be at other cons in the future, and definitely hit me up for some chit-chat if I see you there.

Oh, and here’s a link to my performance video.  I won 2nd place (Marshall won first, and he totally rocked it–look him up), and I also got the People’s Choice Award which was awesome, but I had to go downstairs and I couldn’t find the stairs and the elevator took FOREVER.

(this second view includes dramatic cuts and the announcer losing it at one point in the performance)

Enjoy, and thank you, everyone–organizers, admin, attendees, celebs, instructors, etc, for making Pole Expo 2013 one of the most memorable events in my life.

Ken