Level Up!

On this page I am setting myself the great ambition of touching on how to move from a beginner to an advanced practitioner of acro. I will start you with theory and move you on to acrobatic material. This page is a work in progress. The list below is an index which will take you to sections lower down on the page.

Index

First Principles

To understand a practice in the best way you need to understand first principles. Having strong first principles is like having a strong foundation for a building. Before you work on flashy moves like standing hand to hand you need to be strong and flexible. How do you become strong and flexible? With lots of time and hard work. Circus acrobats who go through circus school understand first principles. At circus school students are tortured with extensive conditioning, handstand practice, flexibility training, and repetition of fundamental skills.

Sometimes professionally trained acrobats look at us acro people like we are crazy because we do things like teach flyers icarian front flips when they can't do a front flip on a trampoline, or we teach flyers standing hand to hand who barely can do a handstand on the floor. Acro people manage to learn a lot without strong foundations but acro people could learn so much more by working on the fundamentals. The fundamentals are too often avoided at acro workshops. It can be impractical to teach fundamentals because it takes so much time to make any improvements. For instance, who would take a three hour conditioning class at Acro Love? There is a guy, Jean Luc, who teaches handstands at festivals, so thats good.

My advice... Create for yourself a regular conditioning and flexibility practice. I do mine in the morning. I got started on a half hour workout in the morning which I do before work. I got this from the Yoga Slackers. I have been going strong on this for the last five years. Does this sound hard? Acro is hard. I love acro because it is hard. If acro was easy it would be called foot ball. The the more strong and flexible you are the better. I recommend lots of plyometrics, body weight exercises.

Let's say you are just getting started on your acro journey and you want some tips on the first things to try. I will put together some material for you to work on. First you will need to try the basic poses.

Basic Poses

There are far more basic poses than this. I made videos of the common ones and I will add to this over time.

Side Stars

Work on lots of side stars. These are important if you want to learn more advanced washing machines which feature heavily in our practice. It seems that all the coolest washing machines have spinny side stars in them. These are so important that I made a few tutorial vids about them.

Dynamic Transitions

Then you will need to start trying dynamic transitions and L-Base drills. Aaron Lind's 22 Skills are especially useful for finding your skill level. You are at an intermediate level if you pass all the skills in that video. A wise woman once said, "The most common type of acrobat is the beginner who thinks they are intermediate."

Washing Machines

Next try some basic washing machines. There is also an "easy washing machines" section on the main page. Washing Machines are important in your l-base practice because you learn so many movements which you would never encounter doing poses or simple dynamic transitions. Important ones to learn first are Ninja Stars, Barrel Rolls, and High Barrel Rolls. Debbie and I use these three as a test to see if you qualify for our intermediate workshops. If you can do these machines confidently, not just barely, then you are a solid intermediate. We have a few free lessons because we want to help people get past being beginners and become intermediate. Those free ones are...

If you practice these washing machines then all the others will be much easier to tackle. Debbie and I go into great detail explaining every part. In case you are a teacher we teach how to teach it as well. The Tarzan is another notoriously difficult move. It only takes one second to do well, but if you are beginning at it this move is like banging your head against a wall. Once you get tarzans a whole new world of moves is open to you.

A regular washing machines, like a Ninja Star, goes in one direction. You should do both sides of course. Symmetrical washing machines, like a Naked Singularity has both directions built in. These are fantastic training tools. Most people tend only to work on their easy side. If you practice symmetrical washing machines you will have a stronger and more balanced practice

Symmetrical Washing Machines

A regular washing machine, like a Ninja Star, goes in one direction. You should do both sides of course. Symmetrical washing machines, like a Naked Singularity has both directions built in. These are fantastic training tools. Most people tend only to work on their easy side. If you practice symmetrical washing machines you will have a stronger and more balanced practice.

Debbie and I have made many symmetrical machines. Many of these we made from putting a few regular machines together. We have found that certain machines lend themselves well to the construction of new symmetrical machines. I made a list. If you learn all these both sides you will have an easier time learning our symmetrical machines. These machines provide the building blocks for our style of flow as well.

Symmetrical Machines on our main page

Whips

Now start working on whips. Tarzans are the most important to learn. If you get those down then harder whips will come more naturally. Debbie and I made a whole Patreon lesson on this. Usually the first 3/4 rotation whip people learn is a reverse throne back whip. It is easy because base and flyer can hold hands the whole time. Throne back whips are harder but Debbie and I made a tutorial to help you learn. Beware of whips. I know two people who have gotten pretty bad concussions. Use spotter and accurate self assessment.

Whips very well might be the most specialized type of acro. Good whippers are rare. The greatest barrier is that bases must learn how to scooch their feet in just the right way. This can be hard to teach. Debbie and I dread teaching whips because of the difficulty in learning how to foot-scooch. Students can look right at the move and we can explain it as best as we can and some bases still will not get it. If this happens to you don't worry. It just takes time and patience. We plan to make some more comprehensive videos on whipping soon.

Standing Acrobatics

Moving on to standing...Standing generally is considered to be more advanced than l-base. There is of course some l-base which is more advanced than some standing. I could even say that the most difficult standing might be as difficult as the most difficult icarian acrobatics, but still, in general, standing is more advanced than l-base. This is mainly because of the high levels of strength required to hold a flyer above the base's head. The danger goes up too, because the flyer is up so high.

That being said, easy standing moves can be easier than easy l-base. I have taught workshops where I had to give up on teaching l-base because few of the bases had enough flexibility to do even the most simple l-base moves. I had to switch to flags and thigh stands which were easier for the bases. I have seen James Hughes teach pretty advanced standing acrobatics to beginners.

Generally an acrobat will start with l-base and move on to standing. My first love was l-base but at festivals I will go to mostly standing classes because that is where my edge is. So if you are starting out with standing what moves do you start with? I like to show people flags and thigh stands first. 2 High is another good beginner standing move. I have a more comprehensive list on the main page under the standing section

Pops & Icarian

Now start working on pops. Generally you need to spend a long time learning washing machines, poses, and dynamic transitions before you have enough innate knowledge to start working on pops. I didn't learn popping until about two years into my acro practice. I thought, "Why up the danger level so much when there are so many fun non-popping washing machines to do?" Of course you can learn pops as long as you use accurate self assessment and spotters and mats.

The most advanced type of l-base is Icarian. Icarian is named after Icarus from the Myth of Daedalus and Icarus. Icarian is loosely defined as full release pops. There are some pops which are not full release, where you pop flyer butt but hold hands for instance. Icarian goes from easy to completely insane! Look at this video from the Addis Brothers.

Icarian is the only type of l-base which is considered to be advanced at festivals. Some icarian enthusiasts use icarian chairs or at least a butt pad which sets the base's legs higher in the air. This allows for more power and greater range of motion. In some icarian moves the flyer will hit their feet on the ground if the base is not elevated. Some bases prefer chairs or pads because this lessens the strain on their backs. The only problem with an icarian chair is once you start training on one then you can only do acro with your icarian chair. Some bases, including Debbie, Jacob, and Duo Die, prefer to use no chair or pad for the convenience of not having to carry one around all the time. I have a growing list of icarian moves on the main page. Click here