Leon Fagbemi for Augustinus Bader
Each of us has the potential to activate the power within us to be the most remarkable version of ourselves. In the case of the successful gymnast, this best version becomes an awe-inspiring spectacle that reinforces our appreciation of the human body. Leon Fukdume is a former international gymnast who has adapted his physical skills and training for the stage as a circus performer. His displays of strength, agility, grace and precision may seem effortless and almost otherworldly, as they appear to defy the laws of physics. But these beautiful forms and movements are born of hard work, unshakeable dedication and the cultivation of a particular mindset that harnesses the body’s potential, pushing further towards the limits of physical possibility. We caught up with him to learn more about what it takes to make explicit the wonder of the body.
The body is…
The body is a remarkable device, but it’s only as good as your mind. If you really want to be able to do it mentally, then really train hard, then physically you’re more likely to achieve it. One thing I think is amazing is how durable the body is. A lot of people want to give up at that moment when they think that their body is broken, but there’s normally that little bit extra you can push as long as you’re sensible. That extra little bit will separate you from the others when it comes to competitions.
On the pain of training and the pleasure of performance
Gymnastics might look like it’s quite easy to perform – it’s performed elegantly and effortlessly, but the truth behind it is it’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears to get anything that’s near ready enough for competition standard these days, which is really, really high.
When gymnasts are performing our elements, there are moments where you feel like you’re flying, which is quite a nice sensation. It’s probably the closest thing I’ll actually get to flying in my life. There are times when it’s quite painful, like performing today, I’ve managed to rip my hand – so that just goes to show if you really want it you’ll have to go through the pain. No pain, no gain.
On body awareness
When we practice you have to be very aware of what your body is doing. Some days you may have had a workout in the gym where certain muscles are tighter than others, so when you’re going to go on a certain apparatus you have to make sure you’re stretching the right muscles just to protect yourself and continue with your training.
From my experience of doing gymnastics and the circus, I really try to adopt a better awareness of my body and a better awareness of other people’s bodies. So I really try to look after myself, make sure I’m putting in the right fuel so I can maintain my training to the highest level. I always give someone a little nudge and say ‘maybe cut out that burger or sugary drink and try to have something more healthy’ as it definitely helps with everything.
On wisdom gained
One thing I’ve learnt over the years, and if I could go back in time to tell my younger self, would be to persevere. There will be a lot of times where you’re going to want to give up and quit, but it will be worth it in the end if you really want it.