Many moons ago, I had the pleasure of working with the American Mime Theater here in NYC. Among the very valuable bits and pieces I picked up was a gem I’ve recently found myself coming back to: the use of “devices” to facilitate correct form. A device, in this sense, is something you employ that prevents you from continuing a bad habit and forces you into a correct one. Seem harsh? Perhaps. But, indulge me for a moment, won’t you?
Hard Core Device Use
Paul Curtis, the late director of American Mime, shared a story with us. There was a company member who could not – COULD NOT – keep his stomach tucked in. He fought with it for over two years with no success (don’t we all know how that feels). One day, he came to class with a perfectly tucked tummy. “Holy sh*t!” said Paul. “How did THAT happen?!” The gentleman lifted his shirt to reveal a series of tiny cuts and scratches across his stomach. He had created a belt of glass over the weekend, and boom – tummy tuck.
My Bendy Arm
Now, before you all go out and say, “Miss Laura told me to make a glass belt and strap razor blades to my knees and beat myself with a hammer!” I did not. The above is an example (albeit extreme) of the power of corrective tools. Piano teachers have taped popsicle sticks to students to correct droopy wrists since the dawn of time. My (okay, sadistic) ballet mistress in college would strap yardsticks to legs to combat soft knees (she would also hold lighters under our butts if we stuck them out, but I think fire is a bridge too far, don’t you?). This ain’t new. But, you may never have thought to try it with your circus training!
I had completely forgotten about the power of devices until recently. Completely fed up with an arm that would not stop bending no matter how hard I tried to keep it straight, I taped a toothpick to the inside of my elbow, poised to impale me if I bent my arm. It actually wasn’t so bad – just enough of a prick to remind me in that second to straighten my arm. And you know what? In 20 minutes, I had a straight arm. BAM.
What’s your habit? Bent knees? Sickled feet? Floppy core? How long are you willing to do battle? If you’re not gaining any ground, consider employing a device. Get creative! Think of what needs fixing, and what might help force the correction. Some examples:
- Legs need to stay together – put a penny or a credit card between your knees and keep it there
- Straight leg or arm – tape a popsicle stick in the joint
- Jumping off the floor to start your climbs – climb with a book balanced on your head
However you do it, don’t destroy yourself. Get creative, stay safe, and vanquish those habits once and for all! Love and pull-ups, Laura
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