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Roslyn
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I've been doing a bit of web surfing and stumbled across this article written by our very own Stuart Burrell --- http://www.thecheers.org/Extreme-sports/......-Be.html --- is the page.

An article that got me thinking.

Should escapology mutate in to more of an extreme sport? Escape artist against escape artist like you get with snow boarding.

In fact, should escapology take a similar route to that of juggling? Check out what Jason Garfield has done with juggling through the WJF if you don't walk in those circles.

After reading Stuart's article I could see escape artists gathering for an escape competition in the same way as bartenders gather for a flair comp.

Escapes and challenges have always gone hand-in-hand. Escape artist versus escape artist is nothing new. So why not do this in a competition environment? If flair bartenders can have a league table, and create a thriving business from competition why can't escape artists?

Could this be the way of getting escapes back on the map in the 21st century?

Discuss...... Smile
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Chance
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Let me answer you with another type of example.

I have a classical martial arts background. I am a master instructor, who had a master, who had a master, and so on, whose identities I am familiar with. Knowledge imparted to me in this manner was collected and practised and modified over a thousand years, and it is extensive. Going from white belt to black in this manner can take 5 or 6 years, slightly less if the student has prior experience. I have been known to openly scoff at (read: laugh at derisively) karateka that say they earned their black in 2 or 3 years, even more so if they happen to teach.

Having said all that, nothing galls me more than watching videos of guys jumping around a gym claiming to be experienced karateka. It's all the rage now to perform complicated sommersaults or flip backwards off a wall, etc., and somehow tie that in to real martial arts, which it is not. Every time I see this @#$% I feel like the graves on my masters are being trampled on and their memories disrespected. Parcour is parcour, it is not true martial learning. And no matter how many movies try and lend credence, even Ninjutsu never employed such tactics.

I'll be the first to admit that escapology is not 1000 years old, but for me that changes nothing. I have always approached both the same way, and I have given equal energy and dedication to each. And it gall me to no end should what you mention ever transpire. I have not given nearly 40 years of my life to an art just to see it reduced to something on par with flair bartending or parcour.

Some things are just too important or special to be broadcast, and reducing them to the intellectual equivelent of "whatever" just to get your name in print just doesn't make sense to me AT ALL.

The best things in life are not about "me". There are things bigger than us. There are secrets worth protecting. Art is one of those things. Instead of making escapes more available, how about we do the exact opposite and make them much harder to learn? Rather than "dumb down" our art how about we become much more possessive and protective of it? Instead of teaching every Tom, Dick and Harry, why don't we become more selective and only teach those with a proven dedication?
Steve_Mollett
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My take: Hell no!

As a part of show-biz, escapology should remain an art, not a regulated sport.
Part of the appeal is being able to display ORIGINALITY.

Do we all REALLY want to be just "another guy in a numbered jersey," limited to the 'regulation' restraints and tools of the 'sport?'

I don't and won't. FREEDOM!
Author of: GARROTE ESCAPES
The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth.
- Albert Camus
Harley Newman
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Escapes are much older than 1000 years.
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus” -Mark Twain

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Chance
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Sorry Harley, I forgot how far back you went! LOL
Harley Newman
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You're barely out of diapers, you whippersnapper!

And so am I.

First recorded one I've found was Vasistha, one of the great pre-vedic philosophers. The man had a stone tied around his neck, and was thrown in the ocean. He was tied with ropes and thrown in a river. He threw himself off a cliff, and the flowers rose up beneath him to cushion his fall. Since his work was preserved in oral tradition, for long before it was written down, his actual dates are unknown. Vedic tradition places him around 6000 BC.
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus” -Mark Twain

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Chance
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What tongue was it finally recorded in?
Harley Newman
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Sanskrit. The Aryans, who'd migrated from the central Asian steppes circa 2300 BC, left no archeological record, except language. Their linguistic strictness was much stronger than even modern-day French. They felt that sounds were magical, and needed to be correctly formed. They developed a syntax that was equally rigid. It was part of the basis for their religion.

When anyone starts to chant "Om", they're probably unaware that they're maintaining one of the oldest linguistic traditions of the entire human species.
“You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus” -Mark Twain

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Roslyn
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Chance,

As always you add something interesting to the debate.

I don't see creating a competition as being something that would reduce the art. A flair competition bases most of its points scoring on routining and originality. If you pull off a routine that uses unique moves then you score higher.

Couldn't this be a good thing?

I was also thinking about the last WEAR event. The whole point of WEAR was to promote escapology and show that it didn't die with Houdini.

Couldn't some kind of international competition help lift the art in this way?

Thinking about it the International Jugglers Association (IJA) also has a competition held every year during its annual convention. This is a competition based on entertainment as well as difficulty etc...

In fact in the world of circus they have the Monte Carlo Circus Festival which is a highly respected competition thought of as the world championships of the circus world.

And doesn't the martial arts world hold competitions too?

I would just like to say that my post above was meant to provoke debate about the future of escapes, which direction it should be taken it etc...

I'm very interested to hear about everyone's views. I'm undecided as to the direction. But I do feel something needs to change. Maybe Chance is right?? Maybe we need to become more secretive?

I really don't know.
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Chance
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Not secretive, protective. The same as I treat martial arts.

When I had a school I'd advertise it like any other business. My studio was smack in the middle of a busy city park with large lettering covering the most visible sides of my building. I had radio ads running that cost hundreds each week, some coming live from my studio.

This is hardly being secretive is it? I was available to one and all, the same as any commerical enterprise; anyone could walk through my door and many did. But I was highly selective about who I took on, and that's what makes the difference. Prospective students had to 1) have extensive previous experience, or 2) prove to me they had the drive and dedication to persevere.

Why should I treat escapology any different? That's the real question here as I see it: I've already decided what we need is more protection of our art, and you need to convince me it's a good idea to go against that. Your task is not an easy one I grant you, but since you brought it up...

And please DO NOT get me started on MA competitions....

And finally, here's a true story that I've kept to myself pretty much since I was 12. But I think it's appropos to the current discussion so I'll let it slip:

When I was 12 I was befriended by a retired actor from early Hollywood. If I dropped the name all the Americans here would know this guy right away. He was a child star and had a major part in the Little Rascals, but that's as far as I'll go. We were close friends for the next six years, until I graduated high school and moved away. He mentored me in the ways of early, orignal Hollywood. And trust me, they were VERY protective of their secrets!

Since his own mentor was Bella Lugosi he was a makeup & special effects master, and he passed this on to me starting at the age of 13 or so. But he didn't just "give me the knowledge", I had to earn it. First I had to earn his trust. I had to show that I was already deeply involved in stage craft and an art of my own. I had to perform for him and agree to let him critique my work, and show that I can take direction or even ridicule. And most of all I had to show that I could keep a secret, starting with who he was and what he was teaching me.

So he taught me makeup the same was Bella had taught him: by example. I would be called into his dressing room and his face would be half made-up into a monster character of some kind. There were rules. Neither of us could speak, and I couldn't ask for help or the session was over. But any tools he had used were there on the table and it was up to me to figure out how to make the plain side of his face exactly match the side he had created. He would sit there as long as it took, and I could take all the time I needed, but not a word was spoken.

People today have never heard of this type of patience and dedication. It takes an artist to create and preserve an art. It can't be left to the public. I carry many secretive traditions in me, but I am never secretive. Some of it will die with me, but I'm always willing to pass it on to the deserving. I just wish there were more out there.
Roslyn
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My mistake Chance. I interchanged two words that really don't mean the same thing at all.

My apologies.

I also don't want you to go against your belief that escapology needs more protection. In fact I agree with you.

But I can't see why what we both are talking about can't co-exist.

By having clearly defined guidelines, like with other sports/arts, you are able to ensure that only the truly dedicated get the "good stuff".

There would be a path that those new to the art would be able to follow. A proper starting point. Then as people drop out, as they do, they've only learnt as much as their own determination has taken them.

I know very little about martial arts. But I do know that there is a path you take from beginner (white belt) to master (black belt). And all the stages in between. If you drop out early you might only have gained the knowledge of a yellow or green belt. Those that stick with it over the years, like yourself, make it to the higher levels and become a master of their craft.

What I propose is essentially the same thing.

A path.

Once there is a route beginners can take, why not have those skills judged by the then living masters in competition?

Competitors get feed back from those with the most experience. The art grows stronger, but at the same time it is protected because only those with true dedication will be able to take the criticism given to them and use it to get better. Returning year after year, each time stronger than before. Eventually those who stick with it become masters themselves. Those who fall by the way side don't.

There is already a lot of material freely available online that teaches escape technique.

Books, DVDs, props. You name it.

If someone wants to know the secrets then they only have to stick their hand in their pocket and buy them. I don't like this.

Although this is essentially how I've learnt the art myself. I've become very aware that anyone else could do the same.

They don't have to be dedicated. Just rich enough to be able to blow $50 on a book or a DVD. Read it. Watch it. Done, the secret is out!

With an "official" body. With competitions and other EA events dealers in escape material would have a means of selling their wears to those who need them. There would be an alternative to the web that can only add to the protection of escape artistry.

With Monte Carlo those who compete are the cream of circus talent. Only the best get invited. Only the best of the best win.

I don't want to go down the road of fastest straitjacket. Fastest handcuff escape. Fastest lock picking... etc...

That's boring at its best.

But compete as escape artists.

Produce a good show. Entertainment as well as technical skill.

I've been thinking about Norm Bigelow's Door's of Death and to me that has everything.

Its technically fantastic. It has picking, rope work and the timing has to be 100% perfect. It also oozes entertainment. Drama. Suspense. I can't think off the top of my head another escape that has all this in such large quantities.

Its an escape performed by a master. A master that has a lot of knowledge that given to the right person could propel the art in ways never before seen.

Competition also makes you train hard. If you're the only EA on the bill all you need to do is be good enough to keep your audience happy. But if you're up against a number of EAs then you need to produce something special to stand out.

Competition can fuel creativity. And that can't be a bad thing either.
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Steve_Mollett
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Why do we want to 'tie the hands' of escapology?
Author of: GARROTE ESCAPES
The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth.
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Alexanderia_the_Great
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Roslyn,

Speaking a someone new to escapes I think this is exciting. WEAR gave me a chance to show the world what I could do. I am very interested in moving to the next level and such a competition would allow more exposure to the art. I like the path aspect and a way to call attention to budding stars. I also think competition would drive EA's to go to the next level and be more creative.

For me there are very few women in escapes. Morgan, Kristen and Dayle all female escape artists that have posted here and I know I am probably missing someone but few others have. 3 women posting in escapes. we must be doing something wrong here if we cannot attract more women and more new EA's.

Without WEAR it would have been hard for me to start out. I had an excuse as to why I was to perform as it was a worldwide escape artist competition. Explaining that I was competing in such a competition gave my requests for a venue clout and added some sizzle so that I had a couple of newspapers a morning drive time radio interview in studio and videos on Boston.com and a local cable channel of my escape. Without the worldwide competition I am not sure I get that coverage ( of which I pulled off in just two weeks).

The bottom line is a competition gives people a reason to watch and gives new artists a place to show there wears (pardon the pun). I think anything that allows more coverage of escapology is a good thing. I am all for it.

So Roslyn what is the next step? Maybe you and the WEAR organizers can think about a competition format and how that could be done. This would give a reason to many to perform. Also don't you think a TV channel wouldn't jump at a chance to cover such an event? If I can be of any help please let me know. I think this could be very exciting.
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I suppose you could do what some escape artist did years ago, jump out of a plane in handcuffs, in a bag, in a cage, with a parachute attached to the outside of the cage. It made for good TV, and is about as extreme as you can get. The problem I see is that the more extreme the escape, the more gimmicks I would think to be involved. Not always true, Steve Baker was not using gimmicks when he did race for your life. In any case Ros, what is your goal? if you are looking for publicity, follow Houdini's example. Stir up some bad blood between you and another nearby EA and have it build to a head with a showdown. That always works when you get the right publicity involved.

As for TV, this is very tricky. I think if you don't know the right people, it doesn't happen. I would love to see WEAR covered on TV, and I don't even have a clue who to call to start. I once mentioned it to a local news anchor and got the brush off. Still, it makes a great goal.
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Roslyn
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Hi Cliff,

This isn't about publicity for me. I'm thinking about the next evolutionary step for the art of escape. Things have been pretty much the same since Houdini's time with very few EAs making waves since the great man himself. And as time goes on there are less and less people coming through the ranks.

Of course there's the old saying "if it ain't broke don't fix it". But likewise it's the natural course of things to evolve or die out. The last thing I want is for escapology to die out. So I believe it needs to evolve.

Something that will train those who want training and give eas a platform to show what they can do.

How many of us regularly get the facilities to perform a hanging sj, underwater escape or other large scale stunt. I don't know what it's like in the US but just fighting through the red tape is an act in itself!

Steve,

I don't want to tie the hands of escapology. If there were such a competition then as well as scoring for technical ability you'd also score on creativity and entertainment value.

Your WEAR escape from the chair was one of the most creative escapes I've seen. Imagin, there's a comp. Most other acts are based on the usual stuff. Then someone comes on with something like your chair escape. The following year everyone will be like "sh!t I need to pull something decent out of the bag this year" and from there the art grows. The standard becomes higher.

When I talk about a "path" I mean that for those just starting out.

As a well known EA said to me, kids should learn about every rope tie there is. They should tie eachother up and be able to get stuck in safety.

And I agree!

Having a set path, curriculum or what ever else you want to call it means beginners get to learn technique in safety. We're always saying the best way to learn is from another performer. This could give an opportunity for that to happen.

Master classes, lectures, workshops etc.. could all take place. A safe and secure environment to learn.

So I guess there's 2 sides to it:

1) competition to encourage creativity and promote escapes as a whole as well as the individual.

2) a safe place to learn and teach.

Alex,

Nice to have someone on myside. I was beginning to doubt myself.

More women in escapes would be amazing!

There are too few. Which I think is crazy because I'd rather watch a female escape act. And not (just) for "those" reasons Smile

As for the next step, I really don't know.

The unicycle community have UniCon, which is the unicycle world championships. They happen every two years in different countries around the world.

Maybe to take that as a starting point?? Looking at all the other competitions out there too. Juggling, circus, magic, dance, bartending etc...

Draw up an actual plan and present it to the community.

If the escape community as a whole isn't interested there is no next step. Maybe evolution has different plans? Who knows...
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I think any art should evolve NATURALLY; not by making it a 'sport' with artificially-imposed 'rules.'
There's a reason I don't do magic contests: they tend to drift toward club-based elitism. I suspect escapology competitions would drift into the same trap.
Let the TV producers get hold of it, and it will be 100 times worse: standardized formats and hokey titles.
Also, I would hate to see a new batch of young performers being told, "Look, if you don't follow OUR prescribed sequence of training, we will turn our backs on you."
None for me thanks. While some zig, I will continue to zag.
Author of: GARROTE ESCAPES
The absurd is the essential concept and the first truth.
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Chance
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Ros, the moment you involve sponsors, advertisers and producers, as you will need to do to get this off the ground in any meaningful way, you will lose control over your own dream. And yes, it will digress into EXACTLY those very things you say you yourself would despise, and it will do so within the first time out.

Because your sponsors will fire you and anyone else who stands in the way of a quick and full return of their financial investment. Someone paid to do so will soon invent ways for us to humiliate ourselves for their (the sponsors) profit. The first time they suggest a "wet t-shirt escape" between the ladies and you balk, you will be gone. Ditto with "who can hold their breath the longest in jello", or "who can escape a SJ the fastest whilst covered in tarantulas".

No matter how noble your intentions ,these things WILL happen the moment money and advertising comes into play. And I'm not heartened at all to see you still relate my craft of 40 years to bartending flair or unicycles. It makes me feel like you really don't "get it" after all.
Roslyn
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I'm sorry if I have offended anyone with my posts. It seems I have and that was not my intention.
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Alexanderia_the_Great
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So a world wide competition would stifle performers? Why and how? Wouldn't everyone have the choice to perform or not?

Ros your suggestion IMHO sounds very very interesting. It would be a great way to call attention to our art. Bringing the very best together I would think would only bring about more creativity not less. I can think of some of the major sports all star games. The NBA has a dunk contest and hockey has a skills competition. In both the sports, the greats challenge each other to do something even more special than when they play in games. In both cases, it brings in new fans and gives great exposure to the sport as the world's best gather together.

How could this be a bad thing? I know I am new but isn't getting people together if nothing than to else celebrate an amazing art form a good thing? Why would we not want to make such a celebration happen? Ros again if you need help I am in.
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The word entertainment has not cropped up very much on this thread and I find that a bit of a worry !!!!

Ken.
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