The method behind the madness, part 7

Last month we discussed the rather serious business of taking your swing out of lines. Beyond the need for consistent form and technique, we looked at the way that every skill and trick that you’ve been practicing serves to prepare your body for this possibility. Additionally, we began discussing the way that your performance in every class leading up to this point has served as an ongoing demonstration to your Senior Instructors of your awareness and readiness for performing without safety lines. In this month’s installment of The Method Behind the Madness, we will focus on the even-more-serious business of taking tricks out of lines.

As we do every month, let’s recap how far we’ve come together. Right from the beginning, we taught you about catch hands. Soon after that, we introduced you to release tricks. Around the same time, you started to learn that “catch hands” is actually a whole-body presentation: good catchable hands, head up, body tight and oriented at the best angle for the catch. The early release tricks are, among other things, intended to introduce you to the process of learning to position your body well for either a catch or a miss (which means landing well in the net). You refined your one-handed takeoff and once it became consistent, along came the swing.

Your swing was a joy to learn (and maybe just a little frustrating at times), but it opened the door for you to learn backend tricks. As your swing became more consistent and you began maintaining height, we introduced you to the wild idea of turning around on the bar and swinging towards the board. You worked on making your turnaround swing similarly consistent so that you could throw a good Half-Turn and learn how to roll-up on the platform. At the same time you were learning how to swing in the catcher’s hands and figure out the art of turning out of hands. It takes longer for some than for others, but catching and returning three backend tricks tends to be the most challenging part of the journey to your Level 4 sign off. By this point in your flying career, the importance of Strength and Conditioning should have long since become apparent. In fact, for most people working towards Level 4, conditioning for flying tends to be a part of the fun.

Once you’ve been signed-off as a Level 4 flyer, taking basic backend tricks out of lines becomes a possibility. “Possibility” is a key word here because it’s important to be clear: simply meeting the criteria outlined on the Level 4 Sign-off Sheet does not automatically qualify you to take flying trapeze tricks out of safety lines. This level of flying requires a high level of dedication to trick training as well as an overall dedication to safety, strength and fitness.  Most significantly, in order to have your trick considered ready to take out of lines, you must demonstrate a high degree of consistency with position, control and awareness.

Let’s consider the position element first. At the most basic level, taking tricks out of lines requires good form, which often means drilling your trick over and over and over. A solid swing is necessary to make your trick high enough and you’ll need the ability to consistently land (or “miss”) well. Height at catch point is important because, with few exceptions, the higher the trick the easier it is to have a smooth catch. A smooth catch always makes it easier to return the trick. Sufficient height also makes “missing” the trick and landing safely in the net easier and safer. We define a safe landing in the net as a square landing on the back followed by a demonstration of control and awareness with a back drop or cradle for your secondary bounce.

Landing well means doing so not only when things go exactly as you expect them to, but also when things do not. This is where the elements of control and awareness become critical. Your Senior Instructors need to be confident that you will be able to react appropriately when things in the air don’t go the way you expect them to and there are several factors that contribute to their assessment of your readiness for this.

At the risk of sounding a little creepy, we—your Senior Instructors—have been watching you closely. As we said last month, we’ve been paying attention to how you handle the good and the bad over the course of every class leading up to the point where taking tricks out of lines becomes a consideration. We can see how you move when things go well and the decisions you make in the air when things don’t go well. We have also been watching hundreds, if not thousands, of other flyers before you and that’s given us a really good picture of what “aware” looks like.

We’ve also spent a fair bit of time investing in your ability to handle whatever comes up. We’ve taught you key skills like keeping your body tight—and thus, responsive. You’ve trained a variety of skills on the trampoline and you’ve prepared your body through conditioning. We’ve prepped you for the seriousness of it all by gradually passing some ownership of your own safety on to you: you take your own lines off in the net, you climb the ladder without ladder lines, and you even took your swing OOL.

As with taking your swing OOL, the pieces of the puzzle begin to fit together over the course of several classes. There are the technical elements, all of which are listed in your Logbook, and then there are the non-technical elements, such as consistency, control and awareness. No less than two Senior Instructors at your School will have signed-off on your trick and then the time will come when the belt must come off. By this point, you will have practiced it so many times, you can do the trick in your sleep…but sleep will be the furthest thing from your mind as you enter into that hyperaware state that tends to come at moments like these. We’ll put clams in the net for the first time—and the second and the third times—you do the trick without the lines on. Video all three and then share your favorite one with us on Facebook!