Category Archives: Safety

Surviving Summer Circus

A bridge too farAs a former southern lady, I do not sweat, I glisten. As a circus performer, I sparkle, and swear like a sailor when the fabric gets too friendly, the bar gets caught in my armpit, or the hoop slides right into my hoo-hah. CIRCUS! Circus comes with it’s own set of challenges when the weather gets warm, and if you want to avoid looking like an electrocuted squirrel, you might want to anticipate some of them.

Feindish Fabrics

First, hold your nose. Fabrics get universally whiffy during summer, and it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re dirty (mine stay April fresh for 24 hours, then revert to wet dog and armpit, even with no one on them). Unless you see fumes coming off them, put a clothespin to good use and get climbing.

Friction will be your worst enemy when the weather gets steamy. Humidity makes fabrics so, so sticky, and fabric burns flourish. How to make it work:

  • Cover up! No matter how hot, cover that bod unless you want to leave a lot of skin on the apparatus. (Please note: I do NOT want you to leave a lot of skin on the apparatus. That is gross. Cover up.) Layers that you can take on and off work best.
  • Ask your coach about “humidity work-arounds” – tricks to make everything from foot knots to drops less sucky in the heat.
  • Modify your workout. Minimize or modify slack drops, sliding, or other high-friction moves – save ’em for, well, pretty much any other time of year.

 

Tyrannical Trapeze, Heretical Hoop

It’s more friction-filled fun! Ropes, taped bars, so.much.joy. This is also prime time for clothing to wrap around said bars during dynamic moves (hip circles, for example – don’t train alone!!!!). Don’t be afraid to play with un-taped or powder-coated bars, or switch up tape brands to find one that works a bit better in the heat. It’s also worth mentioning that metal apparatus are, well, metal, and will get supremely hot if left in the sun.

 

“DON’T TOUCH ME” Acro & Duo Work

Know what’s lot’s of fun? Spooning and bench-pressing another person when it’s 90+ degrees in the studio and you’re both sweating like piglets. It’s so gross.

  • Work with a towel nearby – dry off often.
  • Use grip tape as needed, and play it safe when slips are likely.
  • Pay special attention to personal hygeine – don’t torture your partner.

General Summer Circus Safety

Training circus in the summertime can be a hot, sticky, stinky mess, but it can also be incredibly rewarding. You may get to work outside, or train differently than you do the rest of the year. There’s something weirdly, disgustingly satisfying about sweating so much, and muscles often loooooove hot weather.

There are some important guidelines for summer training though, mostly in regards to heat exhaustion or heat stroke. This is a VERY REAL danger, and can sneak up on you quickly. Practice safe summer circus by:

  • Drinking lots of water (duh). Every time you come down, grab a few sips. Resist downing a half gallon and then going upside down, though – it may come up faster than you can. Sassy Suggestion – freeze your water bottle (leave some room so it doesn’t explode), then bring it to class and nestle it in your bosom as you rest. You’re welcome.
  • Make good use of a fan – go stand in front of it whenever you come down.
  • Feeling a little too hot? Sit out your next turn or two. Get some ice or a cold soda can, and press it to your pulse points (wrist and back of the neck in particular).
  • Watch carefully for any dizziness, faintness, lack of sweat, cramps, very red cheeks, confusion, nausea, shortness of breath, etc. Heat-related illness can come on quickly, and requires prompt medical attention (delays can be fatal) – read this if you train outside or in a non-climate-controlled space.

 

Train hard this summer, and revel in your sweaty, stinky self! Be safe, and have fun. Love and pull-ups, Laura

As always, if you like this post, share it on your blog, the F-books, Twitter, and wherever else you crazy kids are sharing things these days.

 

What the Heck IS Proficiency in Aerial Teaching, Anyway?

Photo by Brigid Marz.

Photo by Brigid Marz.

I’m so glad you asked, Dear Dangler! If you missed the first post in this series, click here; otherwise, carry on.


Proficiency – a high degree of competence or skill; expertise.


We live in a pretty DIY time, with resources positively oozing from every nook and cranny of the internet. With a click or two of my keyboard, I can learn to re-caulk my shower, save my dying succulents, get that stain off my new white shirt, and learn advanced moves on aerial silks. All in an afternoon!

Something I find myself coming up against in the USA again and again is our disregard (and sometimes blatant contempt for) expertise (great article here). WHY should I hire someone to re-caulk my shower if I can do it myself? Well, in this case, it depends on how nice I want it to look and how much time and effort I wish to spend. Besides, the worst thing that could happen if this goes terribly, terribly wrong (and, if you know me and home improvement projects, it definitely will) is that I get a really messy, caulk-y shower and my husband gets cranky.

What about things like aerial silks? Does it matter where we learn it or who we learn it from? (I’ll give you a hint: YES. It matters quite a bit.) We expect that the person imparting the knowledge has a firm grasp on what they’re teaching, and isn’t just winging it with a “How To Do Aerial Silks” manual and a YouTube video. And by the by – if you don’t expect that, perhaps you should. Raise your standards.

Realistic Levels of Proficiency in Aerial Coaching

The first question has to be: what are you teaching and to whom? Let’s be very candid – teaching summer camp kids three moves on a static trapeze is a far cry from coaching at Ecole Nationale de Cirque. I generally think of it in the following levels:

  • Three Trick Tallulah – You know a handful of moves inside and out, and are able to teach and spot them with confidence. You do not call yourself an aerial teacher, but you are comfortable putting on this hat for an hour every day at camp.
  • Assistant Teacher Alastair – You are on the teacher track, and actively working as an assistant under the guidance of a teacher training program or a well-established professional instructor. You’re not ready to strike out on your own, but are working to increase your understanding of spotting, methodology, essential technique, communication, and other teaching essentials.
  • Recreational Rainbow – You have hung out your shingle as a Teacher to the Masses. You have a thorough understanding of the foundational moves on your apparatus, and how to teach them in a variety of ways to suit different learning styles. You understand the how AND why of technique, are well-versed in applicable anatomy and injury prevention, and are confident in modifying moves for varying bodies. Your students are primarily recreational.
  • Professional Petunia – You mostly train folks with aerial stars in their eyes, or very serious students. You have an incredibly broad vocabulary, and are an innovator in your field. You are an aerial problem solver – from technique to choreography. You demand excellence, and know how to get the very best out of each and every student. Your resume is extensive.
  • Elite Eloise – You are a badass. You are the teacher we all aspire to be, and will jump at the chance to train with (Master Teacher). You live and breathe this apparatus, and have for years. Your teaching resume is a mile long, and you are very well respected throughout the industry. You are a first-class leader and expert, and I probably stalk you on social media.

 

Many of us probably fall somewhere between two levels. Where would you be? If a professional watched you teach and evaluated your class, would they agree? Note: if you’re very nervous about being evaluated by experts in the field, you probably know that you have some work to do. Pay attention to that feeling – it’s like an arrow pointing towards what needs improvement.

Staying Within Your Scope of Practice

When I got my personal training certifications, there was a phrase that was frequently bandied about: “scope of practice”. I love – LOVE – this phrase, most often used in the medical field. To me, it’s the bedrock of honest teaching. If we co-opt it for aerial instruction, the premise is simple: teach what you know well. It varies for everyone – whether it’s 5 moves or 500. For example, I hated open drops when I was in circus school – hated them. Consequently, I only really worked on a hand full, and I consider many of them to be beyond my scope of practice. I teach the ones I’m supremely confident in, but, beyond that, it’s a no-go, even when my students beg and plead and bring me pie (but keep the pie coming, guys – someday I might cave!). Pretending to know more than you do, not understanding that there are areas beyond your scope of practice and not knowing what they are, or “winging it” puts your students in very real danger.

False Advertising

hell nawM’Kay. Shade warning (for additional shade, please see below). If you know yourself to be a Three-Trick Tallulah, but advertise yourself as a Recreational Rainbow or a Professional Petunia, we’ve got a false advertising problem. If you think it goes unnoticed, newsflash – it doesn’t. Now, most of the time, I think it’s an issue of ignorance – Tallulah just doesn’t know that she’s got a lot more to learn. But if you’re doing it deliberately, that’s not OK, and here is the face I make when I encounter this. Now that you know better, do better.

So yes – proficiency is a Big Topic, and this is a Little Blog. Here’s my action step for the week – please join me if you feel so inclined! I’m going to go through my general progressions and curriculum, give everything the “scope of practice” check, and identify 3 areas that could broaden my practice (open drops for sure, roll-ups, and planches over here). What are your areas? Post them in the comments below!

And now, for no other reason than it came up in my feed as I was searching “shade”, here is your daily dose of Ru Paul, to be watched in 6 inch heels. Werk! Love and pull-ups, Laura


 

As always, if you like this post, share it on your blog, the F-books, Twitter, and wherever else you crazy kids are sharing things these days.

 

What Makes Someone Qualified to Teach Aerial Arts?

Well, Dear Dangler, I’m so glad you asked! As you can imagine, it’s not a simple answer, but good news – it’s not astrophysics either. So many new instructors think it’s just about turning a lot of tricks, which makes seasoned veterans a little lot grumpy. There’s a bit more to it!

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be addressing each area in a series of blog posts. The main goal is to spark reflection and conversation, and point us all in the direction of resources that can shore up our weak spots (and make no mistake – there’s not a teacher alive that has no weak spots). Today’s list is not meant to be exhaustive, but more of an outline of what we’ll be jumping into. I can’t wait!

Core Areas of Competency in Aerial Instruction

For the purposes of the blog, I’ve narrowed it down to the following areas, listed in no particular order. Imagine a pie chart, in which each piece is essential and delicious. Mmmmm….pie…. This is geared towards individual aerial teachers and those hired by studios, as opposed to the studios themselves (for a great list of standards & guidelines for studios from ACE, click here). Again – this is a general outline, not a curriculum, hold your emails for the moment.

  1. Aerial skills
    1. Proficiency on the apparatus being taught
    2. Understanding of essential technique
  2. Rigging
    1. Basics (can identify equipment & it’s proper use, understands common rigging terms such as bridle, basket, choke, etc., can tie common knots such as the bowline and figure 8, etc.)
    2. Equipment maintenance & inspection, keeps a rigging inspection log
    3. Standards in place for retiring equipment
    4. Understanding of how shockloads in dynamic movements affect the body
  3. Spotting & Safety
    1. Comfortable with a variety of hands-on spotting methods
    2. Understands and informs students of contraindications for moves
    3. Solid base in injury prevention for the chosen apparatus
    4. Certified in First Aid/CPR
    5. Utilizes appropriate matting
    6. Has a student rescue plan and an emergency plan in place for each space in which you teach
    7. Upholds a set student/teacher ratio, particularly in regards to situations involving hands-on spotting
    8. Has aerial teaching insurance if not teaching through (and covered by) a studio
    9. Understands and enforces the space needed for the execution of moves (minimum/maximum height, area around apparatus)
    10. Requires students to sign a waiver, and ensures that they are well-informed as to the risks involved in aerial work.
    11. Pursues an environment & culture of safety.
  4. Communication & Environment 
    1. Strong verbal cuing skills
    2. Consistently conveys authority, and enforces risk/behavioral agreements with students
    3. Comfortable advocating for student safety
    4. Nurtures and strives to create an atmosphere conducive to learning
    5. Has and upholds a strong policy on substance use/abuse
    6. Clearly communicates boundaries and expectations when teaching a new skill
  5. Pedagogy & Methodology
    1. Employs a well-thought-out curriculum
    2. Teaches established, commonsensical progressions
    3. A written mission statement or teaching philosophy
    4. Consistent evaluation of new and continuing students
  6. Anatomy, Physiology, Kinesiology, & Continuing Education
    1. Has a good understanding of basic anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology (what it is, what it does, and how it moves)
    2. Actively pursues continuing education in related areas

 

Where to Next?

ACTION STEP check out the ACE Safety Program, and, if you meet the criteria, get the process started! If you don’t meet the criteria, start addressing that. For the record, I am not affiliated with ACE, just a member. But I DO think that the safety program is a phenomenal step in getting the aerial community on the same page, and hey – there’s power (and influence) in numbers. If you do nothing else, read their Circus Arts Program Guidelines; they are incredibly comprehensive, and well worth a read.

If you’re a well-established teacher, let’s also take this opportunity to review our practices & procedures, identify areas that need improvement, and get on that! I will be spending the next few months working on my verbal cuing, and brushing up on my anatomy. What area will you be working on? Comment below! Love and pull-ups, Laura

HUGE thanks to Bev Sobelman and Liz Cooper who are (very patiently) allowing me to bounce ideas off them, and kind enough to offer their wisdom and insight! It takes a village, yo.

As always, if you like this post, share it on your blog, the F-books, Twitter, and wherever else you crazy kids are sharing things these days.

 

Anderson Cooper Got on a Lyra and the Internet Lost Its Mind

OK aerial community – raise your hand if you’re still banging your head against your desk? Yep – me too. In case you’ve been under a rock (or are doing one of those “social media cleanses”), here’s what has us all hyperventilating into paper bags.

 


 

“This is a disaster waiting to happen.” – Anderson Cooper


If you’re an established aerial instructor watching this (through your fingers), you are dying right now. You are absolutely on fire inside. Ever since I first watched this, I’ve been pacing in my apartment trying to get away from the AAAAAAAAAARGH inside my head and chest, and wrap my brain around the only possible conclusion: we have collectively lost our damned minds.

What’s the Problem?

M’Kay. I’m going to put my professional britches on.

This video does not demonstrate the best practices commonly adhered to in the aerial community in the areas of safety, competency, and responsible instruction.

Let’s look at the facts:

  • Thin panel mats are inadequate in this situation. Generally speaking, thick crash pads are a better choice for use under bar apparatus.
  • There is no hands-on spotting. This is a post all it’s own; there are studios in NYC who prohibit hands-on spotting for reasons I will never fathom – beginners need hands! Beginners do incredibly stupid things because they’re beginners. My hand on their leg during a knee hang doesn’t just prevent them from straightening their leg – it calls their attention to their body in space, encourages correct positioning, and reduces panic (read: terrible choices) . My hands have caught trapezes swinging towards faces, held students when they lost their grip, given form corrections, squeezed little messages of encouragement and comfort, and, you know, reduced the likelihood of serious injury by using established and effective spotting techniques.
    • Note the un-spotted knee hang in the video around the 2:00 mark. Do you see how high Anderson’s feet are? Do you know how close he was to falling directly on his head? Now, note the “dismount”. This is very, very common for beginners to try, and can result in broken/sprained necks, knocked-out teeth, dislocated shoulders, broken/sprained arms & hands, and more. An instructor with hands placed firmly across his legs could have side-stepped the whole issue. More importantly, a seasoned instructor likely would have seen that coming a mile away.
    • Now – this is the one that had us ready to spit nails. See that un-spotted top bar knee hang at around 3:24? Look at Anderson’s wide, unsupported knee placement, and note how high his feet are. He is not connected with his hands. His mic pack drops off (distraction), and he has already gone for an illegal dismount. And now, we’re going to “take a leg off”. I’m just going to leave that here and let all of that sink in for a minute. Excuse me – I need to go back to banging my head for a moment.
    • But wait – there’s more. From about 4:00 through the end, Andserson Cooper makes aerial coaches across the USA freak the F out. There’s so much here I CAN’T EVEN WRITE ABOUT IT! I just keep hearing words like concussion, broken neck, shoulder dislocation, no more teeth….
  • This sequence is inappropriate for beginners – even strong ones. Foundations and progressions are things – REAL things. Essential things. One movement or skill builds off another. Jumping ahead in aerial coaching is like jumping ahead in your “How to Assemble Your IKEA Dresser” instructions – skip the first steps and it’s going to be a sh*t-show no matter what.
  • The verbal cuing is inadequate. Without a visual, the sentence, “take a hand off” is too vague for the beginner student. They may interpret that same sentence as: take both hands off, take your leg off, sit up, etc. When your student is upside down, confusion can quite literally be deadly.
  • Demonstration is best done PRIOR to the attempted execution of a move. Beginners need to come at each move by seeing it with their eyes, hearing you talk about it, and having an opportunity to ask questions BEFORE attempting a move.
  • There is no mention of contra-indications, muscular engagement, or even a “don’t let go or you’ll fall on your head” discussion.
  • Your authority must be clear from the beginning. Many students – especially media personalities, groups that are “doing this crazy aerial thing” for fun for a day, and those who have no idea how much they don’t know, require a firm hand. Add to that a high level of physical fitness, and you have the student that makes you clench your nether-bits. These students have no idea what they’re doing, but they’re strong enough to get themselves into real trouble. Stir in a dash of the “clown factor” (someone doesn’t want to look silly, so they play the clown to stay in control), an you have a student you’ll need to be glued to for the entire session.

Yeah, OK – All That. But What’s the Real Problem?

The real problem is that there are people teaching who have no business teaching. They are not ready to teach. They have taken a few years of classes and assume that they are ready because they can turn so many tricks, or they’re a dancer or personal trainer who got “certified” in this cool new workout, or they’re in a small town with no aerial instructor, so…

There is no meaningful certification for aerial teaching readiness in the USA. There are some excellent teacher trainings for experienced aerialists (NECCA, AirCat Aerial Arts, I’m looking at you), and ACE/AYCO are making excellent steps in the right direction with their safety program, but no real certifying body. This leaves us with a big problem. It’s not a new problem, nor is it an easy one. We tried to address it here in NYC by founding NYATA (NY Aerial Teachers Alliance), but were quickly overwhelmed by the scope of the issue. Add to that the fad of fitness spaces trying to tout circus as the next great fitness craze, and dance schools all over the US wanting to add an aerial component to their curriculum (but not hire an actual aerial teacher), and the fact that we do not value expertise in this DIY country, and it’s easy to see why we are so. damned. angry.  The public has no way of knowing whether a teacher is safe or qualified.

What the Hell do We Do Now?

I’m not done writing about this, but – ha ha – I have to run and teach my classes. I’ll pick this up tomorrow. BUT, I’d like to leave you with this.

Before we get too far up on our high horses, and make this woman the poster child for all that is wrong in our teaching industry, we may want to pause and remember that we have created this. I have, and you have. This is a community problem, and we have allowed it to happen. We have seen it coming, watched it unfold, and now it’s here on our doorstep.

My question for you is this, aerial community. What shall we tackle first? We have an unprecedented opportunity to turn this from a thing that makes our hair collectively fall out, into a triumph for our community. Every aerial teacher safe, qualified, competent. Comment below – if we want change, we can’t wait for someone else to make it happen. Love and pull-ups, Laura

 

 

Be Progressive! Why Progressions are Essential in Aerial and Circus Training

Marcee Corner PocketWith political campaigns heating up (if I was clever, I would figure out how to put a GIANT EYE ROLL HERE; you’ll just have to imagine it), I figured now is as good a time as any to bring up one of my very favorite topics: progressions! Turns out, you can be progressive AND conservative in your aerial work, which just might make you a superhero.

What is a Progression in CircusLand?

Simply put, a movement progression is building off of foundational skills to achieve or pursue an advanced state. For example, Lulu comes to my aerial silks group class here in New York City. She has never taken a silks class in her life. I do not allow or encourage her to start with a triple star (duh) – we work on simply standing on the fabric.

This seems pretty common sense, right? Well, I started with an easy one for you. How many of you are trying to execute a hip key in the air before mastering in-air inversions? Oooooh – I see a lot of hands. Dear Danglers, inversions in the air come before hip keys in the air – I’ll bet you’re in bad habit city right now. Good luck with that.

Every single move in circus is built on foundations of proper body positioning, strength, and mental readiness (it’s a thing). Every. single. one. Ultimately, a progression map looks a lot like a tree: there’s a solid trunk (inversion in the air), then branches start forming (hip key in the air), and so on, all the way to the fancy leaves at the end (drops from a hip key). Trying to bypass those progressions is NOT PRETTY, people!

  • An uphill battle. Without the supportive skills, moves higher up the progression tree are f*$king hard.
  • Higher risk of injuries. Not only are you more likely to fall on your head, you’re practically guaranteed repetitive stress injuries (tendinitis, bursitis, etc.), popped hammies, or soft tissue injuries like a torn labrum.
  • No understanding of the theory behind it. Yes – circus theory is a thing! You should know the why behind what you’re doing. WHY do we cross two times behind the back for this move? Why do we take our heel out of the knot? Why do we “clench for Jesus” as we slide in front of the fabric? The *why* is important.
  • Ya’ll – it’s ugly. Seriously. Know what’s lovely? A beautiful progression that doesn’t result in just heaving yourself into a position, hauling your body over, and flopping around like a deranged mackerel.
  • BONUS: extra panic! And fear! A good progression also prepares you mentally for the experience of advanced moves. Some motions MUST be executed with confidence, some require some mental reconciling with fear, and some just hurt like hell. There’s no skipping the preparation for that (unless you really like falling, injury, extra pain, debilitating fear, peeing in panic, you get the picture).

 

How do I Work With Progressions?

Hopefully, your teacher has given a great deal of thought to their methodology and pedagogy. (Psssst! If you suspect that this is not the case, it may be time to seek out a new coach.) This looks like a consistent and careful progression that is similar for every student. Everyone will progress at wildly different paces, but the stepping stones should remain the same, with small variations for special needs. It does NOT look like allowing students to jump in wherever they’d like.

So, let’s all be progressive AND conservative! It’s the best of all the aerial worlds! Love and pull-ups, Laura

 
 

 

As always, if you like this post, share it on your blog, the F-books, Twitter, and wherever else you crazy kids are sharing things these days.

 

Man Bits Part 2! Mr Bobby Hedglin on Keeping the Tiger Caged

Bobby PromoWARNING! This blog post contains slang references to male anatomy. If you’re under 18, or squeamish, you’ve been warned.

Hello Dear Danglers! Everyone’s favorite Bobby Hedglin talks about his favorite danglers, in his typical irreverent way. I would like to mention that he included a lexicon of over 200 euphemisms for man bits which, for (ahem) matters of spacing, I had to omit. Enjoy!

“I’d like to chat with all the men in the room.   It’s that thing we all love to talk about… our business, our Johnson, Biggy Smalls, Baby arm, python, dragon, lizard, and finally… my favorite subject in the world my penis.  His name is Wilber (I named him after the Pig in Charlotte’s Web).   I’ve come face to face with some penis trouble, and choose to share my experience head on and give you some suggestions on how to approach your own turkey baster when training acrobatics.

As male acrobats we all come up to that uncomfortable moment when our little friend gets caught, snagged, kicked, bumped, pulled or smashed.   It’s never the  happy meeting of body parts this prince is ultimately meant for, so let’s put our heads together and have a meeting of the minds.  Since some women think our brains are down there, let’s use our “brains” and come up with some solutions to not running over our poor trouser trout and turning him into Muppet roadkill,  that mangled ball of fur and flesh after a crash and burn crashing head on with a circus apparatus.

First and foremost, keep him caged!!  Nothing is more dangerous to the John Thomas than letting him out to run freely off the leash by going commando when training!   This is where the dance belt comes in.   Ah yes, that medieval torture device that takes your mister and his set of throw pillows and thrusts it up into your pelvis while taking an elastic strap made of steel wool and placing it in your butt crack…. yes, that old thing.  Giving new light to the term “Asses of fire”.   Created to stop ruptures and hernias from blooming the dance belt has been a life saver for my wooley jonhson.  The necessary evil we need to protect the little fellow.   Couple of notes.  There ARE dance belts that don’t have the butt crack strap and are fully seated for extra comfort.   You can also sew a patch of fabric over the elastic butt floss and it will be more comfortable.

Boxers or briefs?   I’ve always been a briefs or tighty whitey kinda guy so I was used to the “lift and separate” but it’s been drilled into our collective unconscious that if you want to have the honor of bringing children into the world you need to create world class swimmers and you do that by wearing boxers.   A common misconception in the cultivation of a crop of minnows destined to find an egg.   I’ve known several men who have fathered children who have shared that they only wear briefs.  It is better for you to wear boxers, but it’s not impossible if you prefer a more streamline hipster penis look.   Now, there are you guys who are free spirits who want to let the little Llama run free in boxers, that’s totally acceptable and always a personal preference, but I digress, let’s get back to the “business” at hand (All puns intended).   Boxers are deadly to the little Frank if you’re training.  Not only do they create unsightly wrinkles in your skinny jeans, they also create “frog butt”, the bunching of fabric in the back of your pants… not cute fellas, not cute.   Chicks dig guys with nice butts, (and some guys like them too) don’t mess it up with boxers…you could try boxer briefs too, they are quite comfy and no undie lines under jeans or pants 🙂

Now, on to tricks, moves, training in the air.   Once you’ve caged the monster, you have to remember in the air PLACEMENT IS KEY!   When you wrap fabric, rope, trapeze bars, make sure you lift the thighs high when inverting, and when climbing above wraps, climb higher above any wraps and sinking down, make sure the fabric or rope rolls up your inner thigh and not through center, splitting your tower lamp and back up generators in two.  This can be very painful.   Finding placement on the apparatus with your apparatus is key.  Work your tricks “slow and low” especially work the wrap for drops several times before going for it.  Any drop, wrap or move that needs to go through the center of your crotch, make sure the material of the apparatus goes to one side or the other.  No need to test your high notes in singing class by placing it front and center.   You will eventually find a move that does cause some kind of snatch and grab and you will have worked through the most part of the trick and it won’t be as bad.   On a personal note, I had created a very cool slack drop on Hammock about 15 years ago… I went for it and caught my tropical mushroom in the fabric at the bottom.  I was in excruciating pain, and the resulting bruise on the barrel of my rifle was about the size of a quarter.  I sent a photo to my partner at the time because he didn’t believe me, and he laughed and nicknamed my delicate flower “Barney the Purple dinosaur”.    Luckily this wasn’t an accident that needed medical treatment but it could have been really bad.   BE CAREFUL with your wacky inflatable arm flailing tube man !

With all acrobatics, aerial, duo work, partner acro, trapeze, gymnastics always remember that it’s better to be safe than sorry.   You only get one member in this life and you should protect him, love him and hug him and call him George!(or whatever name you might give him).    With all jokes aside, I’ve found a dance belt to be key to safety for the man bits.   Stretching, warm up, as well as proper attire is always the first line of defense in protecting your one eyed trouser trout.   Working through every transition “slow and low” and trying new things, testing the waters in a controlled, safe environment with a trained coach.   Always keeping in mind that our little one eyed trouser trout on a bed of pubic hair pasta is resilient, and will bounce back into shape quickly after any injury, but let’s not test fate by being reckless.

If I missed any slang terms for Penis, you can add to this list by commenting below.”

Bobby Hedglin Taylor
Why walk when you can fly!
www.BobbyHedglinTaylor.com

 

 

As always, if you like this post, share it on your blog, the F-books, Twitter, and wherever else you crazy kids are sharing things these days.

 

Ballsy Moves! Trevor Kafka Talks Man-Bits with SassyPants New York

Trevor 1It’s a touchy subject and far under-discussed one at that, but it’s definitely one of staggering importance in any aerial community. That’s right, everyone, we’re talking about man bits and how we can make sure that the way that those of us with external genitalia can perform aerial movements allows us to stay safe, uninjured, and “pain-free” in our most sensitive region.

Just a quick note before I go any further: When I say “man bits,” I’m referring to any sort of external genitalia. Aerial instructors should be aware extended applicability of this advice to people who we may not immediately identify as “men.” For example, a transgendered or intersex aerial student may bear full or partial male genitalia and therefore may find aerial work challenging, but the fact that this is why they are finding aerial work challenging may not be so evident. So, while I will call them “man bits,” don’t confuse all of this advice as strictly “advice for aerialists who are men.”

Almost every aerialist with man bits has had at least one highly unpleasurable experience where an aerial apparatus squeezed or pinched in a bad way or where a bar or rope caused painful bodily shifting. The most commonly prescribed solution from aerial instructors as to how to prevent these sorts of mishaps is to wear a dance belt. For those who are unfamiliar, a dance belt is a form of supportive underwear similar in function to a jockstrap that is equipped with a thong back in order avoid edge visibility underneath form-fitting clothing.

The dance belt advice is very common, but there is one extremely important problem: DANCE BELTS DO NOT PREVENT INJURY. Man bits can still get hurt quite a bit as a result of poor aerial technique, even for the most diligent of dance belt wearers.

Well, if they don’t prevent injury, what do dance belts do, you may ask? The answer is that they keep your man bits in place, which means that they will be where you expect them and you can can position them in a predictable manner. The only way beyond supportive underwear to ensure ideal comfort and safety is to employ strong aerial technique, and the proper technique to perform aerial moves comfortably on an apparatus may be more involved than you have been instructed in the past. Here are my words of advice, broken down into three fundamental concepts.

ANTI-MAN-BITS-PAIN TIP 1: know WHICH DIRECTIONS OF PRESSURE cause pain

Use these rules to predict if an aerial skill may cause intense pain.

  • Inwards pressure on the man bits (pressing into the body) = TERRIBLY PAINFUL
  • Upwards pressure on the man bits (sliding towards the chest) = TERRIBLY PAINFUL
  • Downwards pressure on the man bits (sliding towards the feet) = not great, but generally tolerable

Example: the canonical “kick in the balls” is both an upwards and inwards hit, which, as you can see by my categorization here, can be quite terribly painful indeed.

Here are some examples to demonstrate how you might employ these rules to recognize situations where extreme pain might result without care.

  • Directions of Pressure Example 1: Consider horse position on trapeze or hoop (basically, sitting on the bar sideways with one leg on either side of the bar). If you sit backwards a bit, there’s no pressure at all on the man bits, which is great, but if you lean forward–WOAH NELLY–that upward pressure is HORRIBLE.
  • Directions of Pressure Example 2: Consider hip circles on trapeze or hoop. If you rotate in the forward direction, this puts downwards pressure on the man bits. This is no big deal, and generally does not cause pain. However, reverse hip circles are VERY SKETCHY INDEED. If the man bits slide along the bar during a reverse hip circle, this can apply EXTREME upwards and inwards pressure. Thus, great care must be taken when performing reverse mill circles to ensure that the man bits press into the bar VERY LIGHTLY if at all when the skill is performed.
  • Directions of Pressure Example 3: Think about a hip key on silks. If this is done POORLY, the silks may lie directly on the man bits, pushing them directly inwards towards the body (you do have your full weight in the fabric, after all). This can be extremely painful.

ANTI-MAN-BITS-PAIN TIP 2: know which nearby areas DO NOT cause pain

Pressure on the man bits hurts; pressure directly to the left, right, above, or below does not (at least, does not in the same, horrible, horrible way). As we will see, this allows us to use the “Pick A Side!” technique with our apparatus in order to comfortably support weight.

How do you know which side to pick? The answer depends on the skill! “Pick a Side!” is most relevant for aerial silks, so I will provide a general rule some examples to illustrate.

THE BIG “PICK A SIDE!” GENERAL RULE: the left/right placement of the fabric on the front of the body immediately after it passes between the legs directly corresponds to whether the fabric should pass through on the left or on the right of the man bits.

Why is this the case? Since the man bits are located on the FRONT part of the pelvis (instead of directly underneath the pelvis), whatever the fabric does in the front of the hips must be matched with what the fabric does immediately below the hips in order to prevent the fabric from wrapping diagonally across the man bits, and thus causing uncomfortable inward and upward pressure!

Here are some examples to illustrate:

 

  • “Pick a Side!” Example 1: in a hip key, the fabric section running between the legs should be ABOVE the man bits when keyed in (that is, on the ceiling side of things when the body is piked over), because the portion of the fabric running through the legs that goes to the front of the hips runs towards the top leg (that is, bottom to top, we have: silk, leg, man bits, silk, leg, silk–quite the sandwich indeed). Positioning in this manner will allow for maximum hip key comfort (…or should I say “maximum hip keymfort”? Maybe I shouldn’t…).
  • Trevor 2 Photo (c) Cristian Buitron

  • “Pick a Side!” Example 2: get into an opposite-side hook (outside leg hook), let the silk go behind the back, wrap the free leg, and climb over the hooked leg into a opposite side dive (salto) position. This position is typically very painful when not done carefully. Since the opposite side leg was hooked, the side that is climbed over is opposite to the side that the portion of the fabric running through the legs ends up on at the front of the hips. Since the weight will be supported on the side of the man bits which corresponds to the leg that was climbed over, the fabric will force lots of uncomfortable pressure because by doing so we are forced to violate “Pick a Side!” rule that I mentioned above. A flourish of the hips can allow one to “switch sides” when climbing over, avoiding this painful result (described in Anti-Man-Bits-Pain Tip 3, Pain Prevention Solution 1 below).
  • “Pick a Side!” Example 3: get into a same-side hook (inside leg hook), wrap the free leg, and climb over the hooked leg. As far as aerial skills go, this position does not hurt much at all, since the natural placement of the weight-bearing portion of the silk is on the side of the leg that you climbed over, which is the same side as the fabric wrap in front of the hips, so our “Pick a Side!” rule is satisfied! Hooray for no terrible, terrible pain!

ANTI-MAN-BITS-PAIN TIP 3: know how to PREVENT painful pressure during movement

In general, aerial skills can be very painful if a wrap involves switching sides while the silk is bearing weight. There are two workarounds.

 

  • Pain Prevention Solution 1, “JUMP THE HIGHWAY”: If you find that you have chosen the wrong side, or that the wrap that you are using simply violates the “Pick a Side!” rule (as is common for many opposite side hook wraps, as illustrated by the “Pick a Side!” Example 2 above), proceed with “Jump the Highway” by lifting up the body with the arms on the silks, switching the fabric from one side of the man bits to the other, and then sitting yourself in. This is a fairly reliable technique that works for most situations on any apparatus, but it does require a little bit of foresight to prevent pain in the first place as well as arm strength to actually perform the maneuver.
  • Pain Prevention Solution 2, “BE CREATIVE!”: Try choosing a different wrap! Ask your instructor if there are any variations on the skill that you are working with that does not involve switching sides while weight-bearing. If none are evident or known, try figuring out something for yourself under the supervision of an instructor. Very frequently there are multiple ways to enter the same skill or many ways to produce the same shape, and very often these variations are accompanied with various degrees of pain. You just may come up with a brand new piece of aerial vocabulary!

 
 

 

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Your Nails and Jewelry Are Destroying the Apparatus

Pop Quiz!

This is a quickie today, Dear Danglers! Multiple choice pop quiz!

  1. Do you wear jewelry when you train? (watches, rings, belly-button rings, intimate piercings, etc.)
    • Yes – every damned day.
    • No – I remove the metal from my body before I train.
  2. Do you have long finger (or, gross) toe nails?
    • Yes – I love my long fingernails!
    • No – my nails might make a manicurist weep, but they’re great for aerial work.

 

GripAnswer Key

If you answered anything other than NO to the questions above, you are probably responsible for at least one tiny hole in my fabrics. Watches, rings with protrusions, and long nails frequently snag fabrics, interfere with grip, and get in the way of certain wraps. Necklaces can get caught and tighten painfully around the neck, belly button rings can tear out (I’ve seen it – it’s horrifying), earrings can tear out of lobes, and intimate piercings can, well, use your imagination. Ouch.

What’s fine? Plain rings (think wedding bands) with nothing that could snag the apparatus, and small stud earrings. Nails – toe and finger – are best kept short-ish. If you don’t want to take your belly button ring out (I get it!), cover it with athletic tape or something similar so it can’t get snagged. If you have intimate piercings, you may just have to bow out of certain moves, depending on the nature of the piercing and the move being contemplated.

So, play nicely with other people’s things! No jewelry + short nails = a happy coach! 🙂 Love and pull-ups, Laura

 

 

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Junk in the Trunk – Haulin’ Your Butt Over Your Head

Hello Dear Danglers! If you’ve ever been in my class, you know there’s one aerial habit I despise above all others.

“Straighten your damned leg!”

Nope. Not that one.

“Point your toes!!!!”

Nope. Not that one either.

“Put your boob back in your unitard!”

Nope. And that’s not a habit (I hope… unless it’s SassyPants Friday Night!!!!).

The thing I hate above all else is…….. HAULIN’.


Haulin’ – verb – when, instead of executing a complete inversion, you cut it in half – inverting only far enough to haul your leg over the fabric.


 

Why It’s Dangerous

Haulin’ can easily become a habit (hey – it’s way easier to only invert half way!). But, aside from being an eyesore in the air and making us look awkward and heavy, it’s also dangerous.

  • You are more likely to hook your knee too close to (or on top of) your hand, resulting in too much weight on your digits. No bueno.
  • Inversions are among the most vulnerable moves in aerial fabrics; if your grip fails, you are likely coming down. Sloppy technique increases your risk of an injury.
  • If you’re tired or rushing, I’m more likely to see you try to heave your leg up, or just go for it – even when you shouldn’t. Grip fatigue or a feeling of panic do not pair well with aerial silks.

 

How to Make Haulin’ a Thing of the Past

If you’ve been cleared to invert in the air, I expect a complete inversion, or we have more work to do on the ground. In the early days, you may need to use a foot-assist to get your tushie up – totally fine! You’ll get that snappy, clean invert soon. In the meantime, don’t cultivate any bad habits!

  • Every time – EVERY TIME – you invert, make sure you complete your straddle (even if it looks like a spastic chicken in windstorm)
  • I often see haulin’ when students are tired. Tired is one thing, but if you can’t fully and safely execute an inversion, you’ve got to try this one close to the floor. Period.
  • Make inversions a regular part of your conditioning – it’s foundational.

And there you have it! Let’s make haulin’ a thing of the past, cause ain’t nobody wants to see all that. 😉 Love and pull-ups, Laura
 
 

 

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Rigging From Trees – Magical or Moronic?

With summer in full swing, the hot topic of the week is:

“Is it a good idea to rig from trees?”

GREAT question! Is it safe? Why is there so much controversy? I see so-and-so doing it, so what’s the big deal? More great questions! Let’s chat!

 

The Allure of Trees

What aerialist hasn’t looked at a gorgeous tree branch and thought, “Man, I would love to hang on that!” Trees are beautiful, seem strong, and totally whisper to our just-a-little-bit-and-sometimes-a-whole-lot-granola side. And don’t we all have fabulous memories hurling ourselves off a tire swing or rope into a river? Or climbing until we were positively giddy with our own daring? Besides, it seems like a super cheap alternative to renting studio time. Why shouldn’t we just grab a branch and get to making the fabulous?

 

The Problem With Trees

It’s not that you CAN’T rig safely from trees – for sure, it can be done. The big question is, do YOU have the expertise to do it? Unless you’re a professional rigger with an arborist for a best friend, I seriously doubt it. It comes down to what all aerial rigging comes down to: accurately assessing the structural integrity of an overhead anchor, understanding the forces likely to be placed on it, and then rigging accordingly.

 

Accurately assessing the overhead anchor – Are you SURE you know what’s happening inside that branch? Do you know signs of disease in trees? What about how weather conditions (lots of rain, drought, etc) affect them? How to check for signs of distress in the branch you want to hang from? There are SO MANY things that factor into the health of the tree.

 

Understanding the forces likely to be placed on it – How familiar are you with rigging REALLY? Do you understand how much force you generate when you climb? What about drops? Were you planning on crawling out on that branch and rigging 5 or 6 feet from the trunk with a span set and carabiner? Or, better yet, were you going to go out and choke your fabric directly to the branch? If you were thinking about doing either of these things, friend (and I say this with love), you have no idea what the hell you’re doing. Get off that poor tree. I’m not trying to ruin your fun, but there are a lot of complex factors at play here.

 

Where This All Leaves Us (Ha Ha – Get it? LEAVES?!)

The bottom line is that it’s a horrible idea to rig to ANYTHING if you don’t know what you’re dealing with. Most of the students who come to me with questions about trees do so because they’re looking for a cheaper alternative to studio space. HEAR ME NOW. By the time you hire a rigger, arborist, and purchase proper equipment, it’s unlikely to be a cheaper alternative. Know what’s also not cheap? Hospitals. Lawsuits. Funerals. Get what I’m saying? Don’t be a dufus. Don’t be an ARROGANT dufus. A wise aerialist knows the limit of his or her expertise, and respects it. For the sake of our community, I hope you’ll do the same. If you’re determined to rig from a tree – do it right. Hire professionals!

 

Here’s a great article (thank you Jordann Baker & Sadie Hawkins for posting this!) on tree rigging – give it a look. It really points out the particular challenges of rigging safely from our leafy friends without hurting the tree or us. Read it read it read it now! Love and pull-ups, Laura

 

Rigging From Trees Article

 

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