In pursuit of handsprings, and other advanced moves
Every one in the pole world who knows me well knows how much I struggled with handsprings. I just could not do them.
I believed it was due to a lack of strength (as strength is not my… Err… Strength) and that my upper body just wasn’t cut out for it. But in truth I think it was largely down to fear – that upside down flipping over thing – and of course, lack of technique.
At every masterclass I went to – and I go to a lot – when we got to the handspring bit, half of me was thinking – oh no. Here’s the bit I can’t do. The other half was thinking – maybe today is the day. Maybe this is the time when someone will spot where I’m going wrong and steer me onto the right track and I’ll nail it. And every time, when I asked “can you have a look at my technique and see if I’m doing something wrong?” They’d say “no, you’re absolutely fine. Just keep practicing” Grrrr. How frustrating.
But they were right. It was just practice. I was hoping for some magic wand moment, where they’d say ah! You’re doing it completely wrong! And the problem would be solved. But pole isn’t always like that. I’m not naturally strong. I have to work at it. And sometimes, hard work beats natural talent, when natural talent doesn’t work.
|First handspring. Not shown: victory dance afterwards|
It took me 17 months to handspring, from the first time I tried it to managing it, just once. Just four weeks short of a year and a half. However, I have spoken to pole icons, world champions, who admitted that despite their amazing strength and talents and all round awesomeness, it also took them a year and a half to handspring too. If it’s good enough for a world champion, then it’s good enough for me.
What seems to have happened in recent years is that advanced moves – like handsprings – have been “demoted” down the difficulty scale. Girls want to handspring in six weeks. Instructors want to jam those girls up in legs-off positions and photograph them to make themselves look good. It seems to have turned into a race for the super advanced moves, rather than building up to them.
If I had one piece of advice for students of pole, it would be this: SLOW DOWN.
Slow down your moves – less kicking and jumping and more lifting. It will make you stronger and fitter, and improve your technique- which means that when you come to attempt the more advanced moves, you will be ready, and prepared, and able.
Slow down your performing – don’t rush, we want to see what you are doing and appreciate it and feel it. Hold your moves, even if you are not on stage. It will look better, more polished, more beautiful. And if you can hold a gemini or a scorpio with no effort or struggle, then moving from there up to the next move will not be such a stretch. It will feel challenging, sure, but it will feel possible, and most importantly, safe.
Slow down your pole training – spend time nailing each move, perfecting it and holding it, not rushing on to the next one. I know it’s tempting to want to invert on week one and handspring on week two but THERE IS NO RUSH – You are in competition with no one. You have the rest of your life to spend on this journey. Savour it, enjoy it, and you will be a far better poler for it.
The world of pole has come so far. The moves are crazy now, as these athletes take it to the next level, with gravity defying feats, mind blowing strength and flexibility that would put an elastic band to shame. Those moves are amazing and inspiring. But those moves are not the norm – a handspring is still, in fact, an advanced move. Just because more people can do it now who have been training and learning for a long time, it doesn’t make it any less of an achievement.
For me, I realised that being self-taught and trying to handspring without a spotter probably wasn’t the best way to learn, and I invested in some lessons with a fellow instructor I trusted. Boom – I got that handspring in about 15 minutes with her. A combination of technique, support, time, continuous training and getting over the fear. I was so happy, but not as happy as when I taught a student to handspring for the first time myself. It’s a big landmark, as it is nailing any nemesis move, as is inverting for the first time, as is just getting your feet off the ground, as is just walking into class for the first time.
It’s all a personal journey. It’s about hard work, support and fun, There are no shortcuts. There is no competition