The method behind the madness, part 6

Let’s do a quick recap. You came to us, all bright-eyed and full of wonder and we taught you how to do a knee hang and a backflip. After that mind-blowing first catch, you began practicing your first release tricks: Set Heels, Set Straddle, Set Whip, etc. It was during this period of your flying trapeze journey that you had your introduction to important skills such as your one-handed takeoff and learning to stay tight at catch point and for your landings in the net (two bounces!). Several ‘set’ tricks later we likely introduced you to a more complicated trick, such as the Pullover Shoot. Even at this relatively early stage, the importance of trampoline practice and strength and conditioning was becoming more apparent as your ‘addiction’ grew, so you may have started working on pull-ups and taking trampoline classes.

It’s at this point that you likely ventured on to learning the swing. Make no mistake, the swing is incredibly fun…and at times, it can also be incredibly frustrating. Finding the right rhythm and the right ways to move your body in order to ‘make sense’ of it takes a different amount of time for each flyer. Eventually, the swing began to make more sense, so we began teaching you some basic backend tricks. It is usually somewhere along this part of the journey that many people begin thinking about swinging out of lines.

Swinging out of lines isn’t for everyone and it’s certainly not a foregone conclusion. For TSNY, doing anything on the flying trapeze without safety lines on is serious business—and well it should be! There are a large number of variables that contribute to your safety when swinging out of lines. First and foremost, you’ll need a solid swing.

A few things to consider: Is your takeoff functional? The bottom line at this point becomes a matter of whether your body position allows you to smoothly and effectively ‘sweep’ off the platform. All of the criteria we mentioned in part 3 contribute to making your takeoff functional.

Is your swing smooth and effective? When you get a chance, look at video of your swing. It should be free of any ‘jerky’ movements. Your legs should stay together and straight (particularly when you sweep) and your toes should remain pointed. Your body should be tight and controlled without being rigid. The key criterion we’re looking for here is whether you are able to maintain height over the course of two to three swings after taking off.

Have you demonstrated that you have the physical strength that a solid swing requires by meeting the Strength & Conditioning requirements? There’s no doubt that getting stronger will help your swing and all of your tricks, but strength and fitness can also play a significant role in injury prevention.

Do you demonstrate control and awareness as you land secondary bounces in the net? Being able to cradle in the net is a valuable skill—especially if you fly somewhere with a very bouncy net.

This idea of landing in a bouncy net brings us to a worthwhile consideration: you’ve probably spent a great deal of time growing accustomed to the net at your School, but we don’t presume you will only ever fly at one School and land in just one net. You might go and fly somewhere else with a different net and we want to do our best to make sure you’re ready for that.

It’s more than just the net though and this is why we have added the rigging test to Level 3. You trust your safety to the equipment you fly on and it stands to reason that it’s good for you to have an idea of what is safe and what is not. The rigging test is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a good place to start.

Beyond the rigging test, all of the skills and tricks we’ve taught you up to now have been geared towards building a movement and awareness repertoire, if you will. Different positions and situations in the air each provide you with an experience to add to your repertoire. Everything from the trampoline skills to the different release tricks and learning to position your body for a catch or a miss, all of it is designed to prepare you for control and awareness in the air.

We should be very clear here: the senior instructors who are working with you on your swing will be looking for all of these technical elements from turn to turn in any given class, but also over the course of multiple classes. Consistency is a tremendously important consideration when determining whether a flyer is ready to perform anything out of lines. You may or may not realize, but your Instructors have been paying attention to how you perform in every class leading up to the point where taking your swing out of lines might be an option. Just as with taking your lines off in the net or climbing the ladder without safety lines, it is important to understand that simply meeting the criteria outlined on the Level 3 Sign-off Sheet does not automatically qualify you to swing without safety lines.

In addition to the technical elements of swinging out-of-lines, there is another important consideration that the Logbook describes as ‘demonstrating safe practice and awareness’ (which actually refers to more than just when you are on the board). From the very beginning of your journey with us, we have been developing a partnership. In your first class, you and your Instructors made an agreement: from our position, we’re going to provide you with cues about when and how to move so that you can have an effective and safe takeoff and so that you can get into your knee hang position in ‘catchable timing’. Your part of the agreement has been to do your best to move and react as authentically as you can. We watch your movements and reactions and adjust course accordingly, so that we can get to where you want to go safely and effectively.

If you think about it, this partnership between you and the various instructors you work with has evolved and grown since then. We’ve been working together with you throughout every class to navigate each step of the journey from the first attempt at a new skill or trick to that magical moment of the catch. Together, we’ve navigated the moments of triumph and of frustration. The not-so-obvious goal of all of this is to develop a shared understanding of your own awareness and control of your body when you’re in the air. We are also seeking to develop your awareness of safe practices, such as how and when to move around on the board or whether you check in with your lines person before you takeoff from the board.

When all of the pieces of the puzzle begin to fit together, your Instructors will prepare you for the big day. You’ll have your trampoline stamps, your Strength & Conditioning sign-off. You’ll meet with the Rig Manager to make sure you are aware of the various implications of swinging without a safety belt on. We’ll ask you to show us that you can swing with no calls, that you can do bullet-drops from various heights and perhaps an additional test to demonstrate your awareness in the air. No less than two Senior Instructors will have given you the thumbs up. And then the moment will arrive for you to take your first swing without safety lines…and when that moment comes, be sure to get a friend to take a video and then share it on our Facebook page!

If you have questions about swinging out of lines, be sure to ask one of the Senior Instructors or the Rig Manager at your School. They’ll talk through all of the steps involved.