Katie Betts, the owner of Shared Culture Concepts was able to sit down and chat with Louis Loprinzi Kammerer of @bonesbreathing. They discuss his circus history starting with Kung Fu fights, this experience in the Indian circus, his time performing in Cavalia, and all the fun stuff in between! While performing in Cavalia, Louis was in an accident that badly injured him and led him towards his career path as an Osteopath.
Louis utilizes an osteopathic manual approach to assist a range of conditions including chronic and acute pain, digestion, and recovery from injury in adults and children. He completed five years of training at the Collège d’Études Ostéopathiques, a Canadian school of manual Osteopathy in Montreal. His broad background in martial arts and circus performance assists his understanding of the mechanics of many complex injuries and physical complaints. Louis takes great joy in assisting athletes and dancers restore function after injury or move past physical limitations interfering with performance, which is how SCC found him after a recommendation to visit him to assist in recovery from a shoulder injury.
This is the condensed version of the interview. To read the full interview click here.
Katie: What did you do before you joined the circus?
Louis: Before, I was in University, and I met my friend Josh and we started doing acrobatic Kung Fu fights. I had ushered for Cirque du Soleil at one point, and one of the guys was like “you’re always jumping around, you should try out for circus school. So I tried out with circus school with Josh. They were starting to audition outside the Montreal that year so we went to Vancouver for the auditions. We did an acrobatic Kung Fu fight.
K: I bet they don’t get that a lot?
L: I bet they get all sorts of stuff. I heard about one guy who was doing clown, but he had like some juggling balls which came out of his underwear. He kept looking in his underwear and screaming.
L: This one guy who was an amazing acrobat, he just came out dressed in…red underwear and a superman cape and started tumbling. They get all sorts of weird s***. So we tried out the acrobatic kung fu fight and we both got in. I was surprised that I got in. At the audition there had been a sheet of French circus terms and they had said, “write down what you want to do in Circus. what you choose is not that important.” I didn’t know any of the words, but I knew Juggling in French, so I wrote down trampoline and juggling. I thought I might end up doing partner acrobatics with my friend. When I arrived in montreal and asked them they said, “We chose you because you wanted to be a juggler” and they wanted to make more jugglers–
K: Like create more jugglers?
L: Yea, Like they want to be known more for really good jugglers and they had not had a lot of well known jugglers coming out of the school.
K: Alright. So do you know how to juggle?
L: I could juggle three balls. It was a totally messed up because most people that go there are already very good jugglers and they go there to learn acrobatics and make a number. Not the other way around, juggling takes too much time to learn. So yeah. They told me not to change, and said “Oh no you’re doing fine!” then I got kicked out.
L: The official reason was because I failed my major. But there were other factors and many people were a bit confused that I got kicked out. I learned a lot in a year, a very different perspective because I came from a background of martial arts. They want gymnasts and people like that. I had no idea why you would ever want to straighten your leg.
L: Like, at all. Straightening your leg was so foreign. Even though in some martial arts they do it, I had never encountered that. So it didn’t make sense to me and when I treat people I always want to bring them from where they are, and work from there to someplace else. But they just were like, you are like a donkey, now you are going to be like a bird.
K: So they didn’t like bring you through progressions to bring you where you need to be?
L: No, no. Not in this school..
K: Ok but you had more circus after that.
L: Yeah so I did that for a year. Then I went and trained slack wire in Switzerland. So there’s a school in Switzerland started by a famous clown named Dmitri. Which is really his last name. And all of his children are well accomplished performers. One of them does tight wire and one of them does slack wire. So I learned from Masha Dimitri the slack wire walker. Then I kept training. I came back to Portland. Me and some friends were going to make some shows. It didn’t happen. Back then I didn’t have my European citizenship.
K: But you do now?
L: I do now. As of this last year.
K: How did you do that? Isn’t that a really arduous process?
L: Yeah but my great grandfather never got naturalized, he was Italian. My real last name is Kammerer. Loprinzi is my middle name. Kammerer is German. Loprinzi is Italian. I don’t know if you know the Loprinzis around here? They’re, a Portland family. My great uncle Sam was “The most muscular man in America” and did circus, they did hand to hand.
K: You have a really cool circus background!
L: Yeah, you know the strong men all did stuff like handstands and partner acrobatics. I have pictures of them. I even have video of my great uncle Joe on the Phyllis Diller show.
K: I don’t even know what that is!
L: An old talk show. Back when jumping jacks were revolutionary.
L: Cause physical fitness, it’s kind of new right?
K: I guess relatively speaking, it’s kind of new. Right. That’s so bizarre. Ok so the part I knew about was when you were in Cavalia. So what was between Switzerland and Cavalia?
L: I worked the street a lot. I busked a little in Portland. It’s not great. Busking needs certain cultural ideas. Or you need to be real good. So I busked a little bit here and in Montreal. I worked in a couple circuses. I worked in a Norwegian circus.
K: Ok so I’m wrapping my brain around it all. So you did circus for how long?
L: About 10 years. I miss parts of it. I still think about making acts sometime. Like anything, there are parts that you enjoy. I really enjoyed being on tour. I liked how much I was in the world. I performed busking in Denmark mostly, And then a lot of my significant experiences in life and circus were in India working for the Indian circus. Which is entirely different – it’s based on an old model that came over with the British…all their acts are meant to be able to be done 6x a day if you need to.
K: Right, you would have to construct them to be…
L: …pretty fail safe, yeah.
K: So you did slack wire?
L: Yeah I did slack wire and chinese pole.
K: Oh chinese pole, I love chinese pole.
L: But 18 shows a week, and I was getting paid $15/day the first time I went there. Which is kind of a lot in India but not really? Anyways, India was a lot of crazy experiences. So that’s what I liked about being in the circus, just throwing myself into a place…dropping yourself into a difficult experience makes your brain work. There were some accidents of course. The Indian circus is super intense. I got attacked by an elephant.
K: [laughs] you got attacked by an elephant? Do they still use animals? Or was that just back then?
L: They are no longer allowed to use wild animals. Elephants are kind of a grey zone and they have been phasing them out. They’re much harder to get. Lions and tigers are officially illegal. But anytime there’s a grey zone, India will just pay someone and…you know…for many years Indian circus was all about the animals. That’s why people would come. And actually the 2nd time I was in India we tried to do this whole new hip hop circus show, there weren’t going to be any animals,..so my they said no animals and no clowns. The boss didn’t put it up front when advertising show like he was supposed to, and there was almost a riot afterwards. The security guards were getting knocked around because people were saying “Where are the clowns? Where are the jokers and where are the elephants??” anyway, lots of stories about Indian circus.
K: So eventually you did Cavalia.
L: Eventually I did Cavalia.
K: And somewhere in there you had your accident?
L: I was IN Cavalia.
K: Oh you were IN Cavalia when you had the accident?
L: I had some bodywork done earlier that day and I had scheduled it on a day when we didn’t have rehearsal. But they decided to have rehearsal that day. And so I got bodywork and then did a little chinese pole….that was probably part of the whole thing. Then I was going through an intersection and someone turned in front of me and –
K: Hmm. On a motorcycle?
L: On a motorcycle. My motorcycle was entirely destroyed…the front forks were shorn off the motorcycle. I hit the mustang. I flew over. And when I say “Mustang” I mean the car. It’s just kind of funny that I did a show with mustangs and I hit a mustang. I hit the car, and my helmet came off at some point. I flew over the car. I woke up on the ground. Fractured my nose quite badly. Injured my knee quite badly.
K: So…you couldn’t perform after that? But you could and you just had to get…
L: Um, so after that I couldn’t perform initially. I couldn’t even go onto the circus lot because I had a lot of cuts on my face because it was too dusty and didn’t want to get an infection. But really it was my knee. I tore both of my cruciate ligaments, my ACL, PCL, LCL and posterior lateral corner.
K: So you had your knee reconstructed.
L: Yeah but for whatever reason, it took 8 months to get my surgery.
K: So you were done with the show at that point?
L: I mean I got let go, fired, whatever. Couldn’t perform anymore. I could have stayed on and done office work but…[laughs]
K: That would be kind of depressing I think.
K: At least for me. Going from performing to that.
L: Yeah and I actually enjoyed busking way more than Cavalia.
K: Oh yeah?
L: Cavalia I felt less connection with the audience. I was so far away. You can’t see anybody. I enjoy interaction more than just like gazing out and reaching into space…
K: Ok. So your nose and you knee got jacked up. At what point were you interested in bodywork?
L: So before my accident was trying to decide between osteopathy and rolfing school. I faxed some stuff into the rolfing school because I had decided I would do that first. I was actually going back to get the papers to re-fax and that’s when I got in my accident, when I was going to get those papers. And then I went to Montreal to wait for my surgery because I was in Toronto at the time.
K: You had a lot of time to kill.
L: And I didn’t know a lot of people in Toronto. So I went to Montreal. The surgery never happened in Canada – I went to the US to get it. In Montreal I saw an osteopath and then was like “Well I have to go osteopathy school.”
K: What compels you to do this job? I know you had that experience so that kind of made it a little more personal. Why do you do what you do, is what I’m asking.
L: Largely because it’s interesting to me. Some people really feel the need to help people. And I do feel good helping people. But at the same time, I have to be interested in what I’m doing.
K: Because problem solving?
L: Yeah, well there’s two sides. There’s the clinical problem solving. I take a history, and try to find what history might be contributing to their current issues. And there’s more the experiential side of things. And a lot of times the best results are things that I don’t necessarily catch in the history but I find with my hands. Some people go really one side or the other. The osteopath that convinced me to do this, she is the ultimate in listening to your body. She puts your hands on you, she waits, she listens. The way they engage the body is really trying to find what the body is already trying to do. And then just giving it what it needs.
K: Show it the way?
L: No. Follow. Follow.
K: So the body is leading?
L: The body is leading. You know how you’re standing on one foot. If you put your hand on something. It’s 10x easier to stand on one foot.
K: Does it get into energy stuff?
L: I don’t like the word energy so much. I use it sometimes because there’s no better word. But what is energy? Everything is energy.
K: So like, amplification? I’m trying to figure out what…
L: I mean, I don’t know what it is really. What is really feels like is…the way the osteopaths talk about it is you’re giving someone a fulcrum.
K: What does that mean?
L: So you’re giving something to push off of, rotate from. Like the fulcrum of a wheel.
K: That makes sense, that’s a good description.
L: Let’s say your body is already trying to correct your rib. And it just can’t do it. But your body has motion already. So if you just give it the right kind of…
L:…something to push off of. It can do it itself, is an idea. We use a lot of indirect techniques in osteopathy. So, you can either pull something into position, which is a classic chiropractor adjustment and it can be effective. Or you can move the vertebrae into the most comfortable position, and the idea is that once you move it into a comfortable position and all the ligaments are balanced, then they actually relax.
K: Because they’re in their rightful place.
L: Yeah so it’s almost like you’re just really listening to the vertebrae and giving it what it wants. That’s a little more of that idea.
K: Because the idea is that the body actually wants to be aligned and wants to be in its rightful places everywhere.
L: I think the body is always working at 100% efficiency for what it can do.
K: For what it can do in the moment that it’s in.
L: Yeah. So a lot of people are like “I have horrible posture:” And I’m like “Well your body is working out the best posture it can.” Then if you try to stand up straight, what you’re doing is taking one pattern and trying to overlap another pattern on top of it. And you just get two forms of tension that you’re moving in. And you’re not getting actual freedom.
L: So, if you can give it another option of movement, that’s more what I think. What people think of as bad posture…the badness is not the shape itself. It’s the fact that you can’t get out of it. Between slouched and totally arched, there’s something in the middle. Maybe every time you go back into an ach, you can only really do that with your head back. Maybe you need to learn to do it with your head forward. That’s just a different shape, a different option, or maybe you can arch your lumbars but your thoracics are totally in this hunched forward position and they can’t escape. So everytime you straighten up you’re not actually doing anything to your thoracic vertebrae, you’re just extending your lumbars more. And so if you can re-educate it by freeing it up with your hands…and maybe the reason your thoracics can’t extend is because some vertebrae is totally jammed forward. So if it were to extend, it would cause more problems. So the body is protecting itself. So then you can fix that vertebrae, and open up the fascia in the thorax…
K: Maybe people know what osteopathy is, but I didn’t know what it is until someone recommended it to me. Are there any general misconceptions around it?
L: The complicated thing is that I was trained in Canada. In the United States, a DO is a Doctor of Osteopathy, and they are physicians and they’ve gone through med school. Some of them do manual stuff like I do. The majority of them don’t. So I don’t call myself officially an osteopath here.
K: Yeah, you have “an osteopathic approach.”
K: I wonder how that morphed in the United States?
L: Oh, it’s because the medical association tried to destroy them.
L: Yeah, so osteopathy was created by a frontier doctor, back around the time of the civil war.
K: Oh wow. I didn’t know that.
L: Yeah he fought in the civil war, before he was a doctor.. After becoming a Doctor he lost 4 children in the space of about a month to spinal meningitis. Then he decided that what was passing for medicine at that time was kind of garbage. Mostly just whiskey and medicine that made you sick. He started studying anatomy and took about 20 years before he started teaching. That’s kind of a consistent theme with osteopaths, they’re a little slower to do things like that. That’s one of the reasons I don’t really teach because I don’t feel I’ve had the clinical experience that I need to be like “This is how it is.” Sutherland was another osteopath, he took about 20 years before he even introduced cranial osteopathy to the osteopaths…because they were like “I’m not sure about those cranial bones moving.”
K: How long have you been doing this?
L: I just finished school December 2017.
K: Did you start your practice right away?
L: Yeah and I treated when I was in school. Anybody who is going to be good when they leave school, you have to treat as many people as you can when you’re in school. Depending on how you look at it.
K: What are some challenges you’ve had with your business overall…establishing it.
L: Like you said, I didn’t know what osteopathy was when I got to Canada either. And my first experience with and osteopath was I had back pain doing Korean Cradle/Arnatov Cradle. I saw acupuncturists and other people and nothing helped. Then I saw an osteopath and she worked on my feet and the pain disappeared.
K: That’s amazing.
L: Yeah I thought it was pretty amazing.
K: This is really hard to describe to people, by the way.
L: Yeah. That’s a difficulty. It’s even hard for ME to describe to people.
K: So someone will be like, “How did he fix you?” and I’ll be like “pshh I don’t know.”
L: People will call and they’ll be like “I have this medical condition with my knees, can you help?” and they’ll ask me all these questions. But it’s like “Come in and get a treatment and we’ll see.” And there are some issues which I’ll be much more effective than others. They might seem identical. But one of them might be entirely different than the other. And some people respond better to manual therapy or acupuncture or medication or whatever. If it’s something I’m good at finding the source of then I do better with it. If it’s too convoluted for my brain or my hands and I don’t find it I’m less effective. Or it could be something like a side effect from a medication they are taking. I don’t tell people to stop taking medications so I’m not going to fix that issue. I might help their body work better and maybe that will help. But explaining what I do and the difficulty in me using the word “osteopathy” – it’s definitely a difficulty. So that’s one thing. Also I started my own business. I thought about trying to go with certain clinics. There was one clinic that seemed very promising, and I wanted to work with babies since osteopathy is good with babies. They said, “you have a lot of skills we can use but you don’t fall into our job description of a massage therapist”
K: Cause you don’t actually do massage therapy right?
L: I don’t rub muscles, no. I don’t do Swedish and stuff like that. I only do the manual therapy techniques I learned from osteopathy school. And I also don’t do a standard deep tissue either. A lot of people will associate clinical and manual therapy with deep tissue. For me, deep tissue is good for some things and some things it’s not. But people have this association that pain means that you’re doing something. But it’s often not the case.
L: I use a lot of things from Chinese medicine and study with someone that teaches from the Nei Jing [oldest book of chinese medicine]. I also do the Anatomy of Motion. Which are movements that are based on what happens in the gait developed by Gary Ward. that’s kind of like osteopathy that you can do yourself when you figure it out.
K: Everything you do is fairly subtle from an outside perspective. But obviously it’s not. Because it’s making dramatic differences.
L: It’s like adjusting spokes on a bike wheel. You’re just making small adjustments on the spokes.
K: You’re not hammering it back into place.
L: Right, you’re not hammering it back into place. You’re not going to bash it. You’re going to unscrew the wheel and align it. That’s the idea there.
K: What things are you good at that lend themselves to what you do? Is there anything you’re not good at? Like challenges with certain kinds of patients, and things like that.
L: One thing that helps me a lot is my background in circus and martial arts. A lot of people don’t understand the stresses of the body that are put on the body in those. Or doctors often say “you don’t need any more toe point than that”
K: Or “Oh that hurts? You should stop doing that.”
L: Right, “just stop doing it.” I was working on a very good hand balancer. He had some shoulder and back pain. I think a lot of the reason I could assess it correctly is because I could put him in a handstand, see how things are moving in a handstand, and find the source of the issue. One patient was doing swinging trapeze. And she was having some shooting pains down her leg. And I understand that spotting belts can be very extreme. Really it was her diaphragm, lower ribs, and the mobility of the kidneys that seemed to be at the source of it because she was getting squeezed by the belt in her lower ribs so often. I understood that because I’ve been ravaged by a spotting belt before.
L: I’m good at what’s happening in the moment. I’m less good at long term treatment strategy planning in general. Because that’s a very philosophical….
K: There are so many factors.
L: A lot of people will have a very strong model of what they think “correct” and healthy is. The map is not the territory. You look at a map and it can be helpful. And it can be more or less accurate. With map that shows everything, we wouldn’t be able to figure anything out. A good map gives you as much information as you need and not more. Different maps are going to need different approaches. Some people have a very strong map.
K: In their head.
L: In their head, exactly. People who do cranial sacral only…they’re often going to say “it’s the cranium and the sacrum and what’s in between. We want that working.” and I think that’s important. But I also think that the way people stand is important. And the river channels from Chinese medicine are important. And I think that the body doesn’t think that any of those are particularly important, necessarily. It’s always the way you approach it. You only have so much brainpower to look at anything. I can’t look at ALL my models.
K: [laughs] That would be a waste of energy and inefficient.
L: Yeah maybe. So when see somebody and I look at them from one perspective, and the next time that perspective is maybe doing better, so I maybe look at different perspective. So perhaps it would be better to solidify that one model. Or maybe it’s good to do what I do and say “well their spine is doing fine but one of the river channels is not” Approach it that way.
K: [laughs] A lot of our audience is circus related. Or they are educators or bodyworkers like you. What general business advice would you give someone who wants to start their own business? I know a lot of circus performers who also want to go into massage, or become an acupuncturist, or they want to be a PT…
L: Find a school that you actually like. I thought about doing acupuncture for many years but it wasn’t until I experienced osteopathy that I was like, “I have to do this.” And I liked my school. But All schools have issues, especially health schools. But you just have to hunker down and do it. I’m really happy that I did a longer program because a lot of massage therapists, and naturopaths are envious of my education. I learned so much in this longer program. So that’s one thing. But really finding something that works well with you and your approach. I think that there’s some stuff out there that’s really good. Gary Ward’s stuff is really fantastic. He’s got a bunch of podcasts and workshops. His stuff is really smart. I would just say get really immersed in whatever it is, health-wise.
L: And sometimes there are two options: there’s a longer amount of school and with the shorter amount of school you just get out there and have to piece everything together yourself. Which I think is a little more difficult in some ways but necessary because of the lack of osteopath schools here. It is what it is. Get a business account. Put business things on your business account.
K: Yeah, separate your personal from your business. That’s important.
K: Thanks for letting me interview you!
L: No problem.
Louis treats in Portland, OR Fridays and Saturdays at 4314 N Mississippi Ave as well as Sunday and Monday at 521 SW 11th Ave. Once a month he is available for treatments in Newport, OR. Contact him for specifics.