Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era?
We pole dancers, are we not drawn onward to a new era of pole moves?
OK, don’t panic. This isn’t really a poetic and pretentious blog topic about the dawning of the age of a million new pole moves. As an English scholar, former journalist and word geek, I kinda have a thing for words. This doesn’t mean I am silently judging your grammar. But it does mean I have things like a “favourite palindrome”. In fact, I have a top three. But my favourite is:
A palindrome, for those not as desperately nerdy and tragic as me, is a phrase that reads the same backwards as it does forwards. You’re checking it now aren’t you? Go on, check it. It really does. Unless I have made a typo which occasionally happens, even with grammar nazis.
But what does all this have to do with pole?
Whilst reading lists of palindromes on holiday (yes that happened), it got me thinking, about things that work backwards as well as forwards. And this applies hugely to pole.
I am a strong believer in training down as well as up. There are so many different forces at work during pole training, from strength and lifting to gravity. We all know how to work up to an invert, lifting, pushing the hips up, using the arms and the core, the change in weight distribution. But what happens when we get there? Do we – or our students – slide down the pole (controlled and steady of course), or do we unhook the legs and go back down the way we came?
I think there is great value in the slide-down-the-pole technique – it is a safe way down (tuck chin to chest, thereby arriving at the floor on your shoulders and not your head); it improves and practices grip, and teaches how to release it a little, but not too much; and it is a reassuring way down for the nervous student, easy for an instructor to spot and a good go-to comfort move for students progressing on to more inverted moves.
However, as students get stronger, I like to introduce “training down”. I don’t mean let go with the legs and *splat*. I mean engaging the core and upper body, and trying to reverse the invert, coming down slowly and controlled. Take, for example, the chopper/overhead straddle/flying V/whatever you call it. Anyway this move:
Now, this move looks great when a poler lifts into it, with straight legs from ground to air. But we also know that’s hard, and it’s much more likely that – certainly whilst learning this move – there will be an element of kicking and/or bent legs going on (I’m not going to get into whether we should or shouldn’t kick into inverts – maybe another day. But suffice to say whether we should or shouldn’t, people WILL kick into this move).
My favourite way to train for the straight leg deadlift into this move is to train DOWN. Take this position as the start, and slowly, slowly, lower down, using the abs, the arms, the shoulders, the back, hell using ANYTHING and EVERYTHING to lower, lower, lower. You may only lower a few inches before *splat*, because gravity will be pushing you down. (Don’t be hard on gravity – that’s gravity’s job. We just have to fight gravity. In a nice, pacifist way of course. Let’s not forget we need gravity for many pole moves) But the more you train this move down, the further you will get.
Now let’s apply the same principle to other moves. Before learning to handspring or ayesha, lower into those moves from an invert. That way you practice the move without relying on momentum. When you are familiar with those positions, then work on training up into them – and don’t just work on lifting up into headstands or handstands – bring them down slowly. Don’t just kick up into handsprings, come back down in a controlled manner too. LOWER you shoulder mount until eventually you can lift it. Lower your ayesha to the ground until your can deadlift it. If you want to take it further, lower it and HOLD it there, in a shoulder mount planche, or an iron x. Go back up if you like, and lower all over again , you badass b*tch. Get into the habit of lowering EVERYTHING, every invert, every move, instead of taking the *splat* onto the crash mat option.
Remember pole is 90% training and 10% show. The final move will be a great achievement, but that isn’t what’s making you fit. The training towards it is what’s building your strength, your ability and your fitness level. Build training down into your 90% and your 10% will be easier, faster and more awesome. Make gravity your friend, make her your b*tch if you like, but make her work for you. Gravity is a law, and like all laws it can be broken. Some things work just as well backwards as they do forwards. Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era? Yes, of course we are.