The method behind the madness, part 5

Up until this point, catching has likely been a big highlight of your experience. And well it should! Some call it one of the coolest things they’ve ever done. By the time you start working on your Level 4 Sign-off Sheet, you have probably discovered another of the joys of flying trapeze: watching videos of flying trapeze on YouTube. In watching those videos, you’ve probably noticed that catching your tricks is only half of the journey. After the catch comes the return and learning to return to the bar and eventually to the board truly represents taking your skills to the next level. It also happens to be the focus of Level 4 in our Curriculum and there are several elements that contribute to your ability to do so.

A significant part of this equation is the catch itself. Throughout the Curriculum up to this point, your Instructors have stressed to you the importance of good position and body control at catch-point. Another factor that warrants consideration is the height of your trick. With few exceptions, higher is always better. We left off last month talking about learning the swing and your first backend tricks. You may have noticed that our discussion of the swing only went as far as the “basic swing” (kick back, forward, flat (or extend)…forward, back, forward) and you might be wondering “what about the sweep and the forceout?”

Your swing will always be in a state of evolution and as you progress, the calls will change—and that means that what you do when you hear those calls should be changing as well. That first backward kick after your takeoff eventually becomes your “sweep”. What started as a legs-only backward kick evolves into a full body movement where you drive your lower body backward as you perform a controlled opening of your lower (and to some extent, upper) back all the while maintaining tension throughout your shoulders, core and legs. Your connection to the bar, which is a product of how well your shoulders are engaged, determines how effective your sweep will be.

Once again, each movement you make on the bar will influence the next and the sweep is no exception. That first sweep off the board is, in many ways, just a big wind-up for what will become your forceout. You probably noticed the first time you really put some effort into a backward kick that you found yourself rushing forward with a little more momentum than before.  A part of the journey to Level 4 involves developing a functional forceout that will help you to build height in your swing. Possibly the biggest key to developing such a forceout is to make sure that after you sweep, the entire movement of your body forward is active rather than passive. Your Coaches will guide you through the nuances of developing your forceout. The take home point here is that continuing to develop your swing will result in higher tricks and better catches.

After you begin catching backend tricks, your Catcher will teach you about working your swing in hands. This can be one of the more challenging skills to learn, especially since in the early stages of learning to do this, it all seems to happen so fast. Practicing the half turn (the trick) will prepare you for turning out of the catcher’s hands. Turning out of the catcher’s hands requires you to perform a half turn, followed by spotting and reaching for a possible return bar.

Once you have displayed awareness and control when turning out of the catcher’s hands, your Instructors will make an assessment of your readiness for a return bar. Prior to catching a return bar, your Instructors may ask you to demonstrate your ability to judge ‘good’ and ‘bad’ return bars in the air. Prior to catching a return bar, your Instructors will ask you to practice your turnaround swing and ‘roll ups’ in order to show that you can safely remount the platform. Ultimately, a return means precisely that: a return to the board after the catch.  When flying in safety lines, your Instructors may ask you to only roll up to standing on the board, rather than remounting completely. In order for a return to be signed off by your Instructors, you must display body control and awareness as you catch the return bar and afterwards. Ideally, you will be able to roll up to standing on the platform.

There’s little doubt that making a successful return can be one of the more challenging and satisfying accomplishments of your flying trapeze journey. As we said in the beginning of this series: Our aim all along has been to build a strong foundation of skills that will set you up for success with the tricks and skills you’ll learn down the road. Everything in the Curriculum up to now has been building to this point. Level 4 also includes important skills such as the Face Off and learning to take off from the first rise. Each of these key skills, combined with your hard work on those Strength and Conditioning requirements and extra work on the trampoline, along with the support of our extended trapeze family will make it all a reality!