The method behind the madness, part 4

You’ve come a long way since the thrill of the first knee-hang catch. By the time you complete your Level 2 Sign-off Sheet, you’ve developed an impressive list of several key skills for your flying trapeze progression. You have begun to consistently put your body into a good position at “catch point” and as you land in the net on your stomach and, as we discussed last month, your one-handed takeoff is consistently putting your body in the optimal position so that you’re ready to move in time with the Lines Instructor’s calls. In many ways, Level 2 has been about learning to control your body position when you’re in the air.

The journey to Level 3 is ultimately focused on learning to maintain height in your swing and there are multiple elements that contribute to your ability to do so. Last month, we covered the starting point of a good swing: the takeoff. Once you have achieved a degree of consistency and good form with your takeoff (which usually comes after you’ve caught the Pullover Shoot or the Penny Roll), we begin by teaching the “back half” of the swing. Starting here allows us to focus on two essential components of an effective swing: the extension at the front of the swing and the general flow of the movements within the swing.

As with just about everything in flying trapeze, each movement you make will have an impact on the next movement. At the front peak of your swing, it is critical that your body be extended and long. This “flat” position puts you in line with the fly cables and optimally positions you to begin the movements that follow. The tricky part to this is that you have to ease yourself into this position at the same time as you arrive at the front peak. Often, if you are fully extended before you reach peak, your momentum is likely to result in your body continuing forward as the swing begins to move back towards the board. It can be helpful to think of your feet arriving at peak just ahead of the rest of your body, followed by your hips and chest. This involves a controlled opening of your shoulders. Once again, this is a question of being tight and controlled without being rigid and your Instructors will guide you through it.

From this extended (or “flat”) position at the front peak of your swing, you’ll begin a series of “kicks”: forward, backward and then forward again. (Note that the last “forward” kick is not yet a seven. The seven comes later.) The key in the beginning is to make your movements long and fluid while keeping your body tight and controlled. This will help you to get a “feel” for the rhythm of the swing. As you begin to demonstrate a sense of flow, we add the front half of the swing and eventually build to starting those kicks right from your takeoff: backward, forward, flat (and pause), forward, backward, forward (and pause). This is known as the “basic swing”.

As you learned in Level 2, your trick isn’t done until you’ve had two bounces in the net. The same principle applies when learning the swing. In Level 3, your control and awareness as you land those secondary bounces represents a fundamental skill for your progression on the flying trapeze.

Your swing will always be in a state of evolution. Before you even start to learn the swing, your Instructors will tell you: it will, at times, be a great joy and, at other times, a great (and frustrating) challenge. The goal at this stage of your progression is consistency and form. You’ll have the opportunity to begin learning basic backend tricks, all of which depend on having a solid swing in order to even get into position. Learning to maintain height in your swing will make your backend tricks high enough to have a smooth catch. (And let’s not forget the importance of good body position as you come off the bar!) The importance of height at the moment of the catch plays an important role in what comes next: learning to return to the bar—which is the focus of Level 4 of our Curriculum and our topic for next month’s installment.

As you continue to practice your swing, there are some things you can do to help you along with way. Our Strength & Conditioning programming will help you to build the strength needed for that big swing you’ve been dreaming of…and our Trampoline Program will help you to develop your awareness and control while you’re in the air. Consider taking your flying to the next level with a bit of cross-training. You’ll be glad you did!