As someone who always scores very low on spatial reasoning tests, cries while trying to assemble furniture, struggles to comprehend and learn (floor) dance choreo, has no idea what southeast means, and panic-clicks my way through multiple-choice algebra tests, I assumed I would not be very good at aerial silks, let alone creating new sequences.
However, I've turned out to be highly intuitive in aerial arts, I very strong body awareness, and I am able to design new-to-me pathways rather easily on a regular basis. As a teacher, I can quickly discern tangles and help a student free herself through step-by-step instructions.
I wondered if aerial silks had improved my spatial reasoning, at least according to standard tests. The answer was a b s o l u t e l y n o t. I got an F. 4/10. And I saw it coming because as soon as I looked at the first question I wanted to give up.
How are your spatial reasoning skills? Take the test to find out. I'm curious if most people who find aerial intuitive are good at this kind of spatial reasoning or if it's totally unrelated, so please take a second to fill out the survey at the end of this post! You do not have to indicate aerial intuition if you prefer not to :)
Hello fellow aerialist (or random bot or rope nerd)! This week's Theory Thursday may help you if you are working on your Puzzle of the Month! (Boy do I hope there are some bots working on this one...)
Swing seat: beloved for that it lets us sit when our hands and arms get tired. But what is it? What are you sitting on and how does it hold you up?
If you didn't get a chance yet, you can take a look at last week's thigh hitch lesson here.
A swing seat is also a hitch. But for the theory I'm about to lay out to make sense we need to think of thigh hitch as two parallel hitches instead of one unified hitch. Once we do that, we can then move on to realize that swing seat is your thigh hitch with split poles and a body part to hold them in that shape. In this case, that body part is your booty. So it's still a hitch--or a rope structure that depends on an object to hold its shape (unlike a knot).
When you push one pole out and around your bottom hip and under your butt, it crosses OUTSIDE of the other wraps and tails. It has tension on it because that pole is connected to the ceiling (or rigging point etc.). This means that the tension pulls this wrap upward against the rest of the wrap and your body, thereby creating a secure system. What makes this such a versatile position in part is that it secures around one leg and leaves the other free.
Understanding this can help you to design other ways into the swing seat. You know the elements, all you need is a bit of creative thinking.
Several months ago I woke up from a nap and thought "I want a new way into swing seat." I have never liked the look of slicing an arm through the poles no matter how much I tried to finesse it. I thought, "I just need to get above a thigh hitch." An idea popped into my head and since I had silks in my cabin studio at the time, I could test it right then and there. It was a winner. Since then I've worked to elaborate on the sequence and named it after my friend and fellow instructor Caitlin's dog Jasper. The tutorial for this sequence is available on Aerial Silks Online.
If you have a solution to the puzzle of the month (access swing seat without slicing an arm through your poles) be sure to tag @sara.liana.silks and @wakefulascentaerial and #aerialsilkspuzzles.
Okay, if you made it this far, thanks so much! It means so much to me to be able to share this fun topic with you. Have fun!
Before I dive into the theory of thigh hitch, a short story and reflection on theory.
When I first started aerial silks I thought, "Well, I probably won't ever get REALLY good at this, because all this wrapping is really confusing. It's not how my brain works. I mean, I'm a writer, not a mathematician." If a teacher told me to do something, I'd stand there feeling guilty for forgetting it instantly. Often, my body figured it out, but always to my brain's bewilderment.
Spatial reasoning confuses me. Physics is not my bread and butter. Algebra makes me cry (complete the square?!??!?!). Calculus and geometry were better, but math was never my thing. But the salvation for non-math type aerialists is that we repeat the same things over and over and over. We become literate by way of this repetition, and we have the opportunity again and again and again to look at what we are doing. The concreteness makes the analytical side much less menacing. You can touch the physics and the geometry--you don't have to imagine it. And, what may at first seem hopelessly complicated may seem utterly simple 100 repetitions later.
I encourage aerialists to inquire into the wraps that hold us up in the air for several reasons:
If you read these posts, you WILL become more knowledgeable in aerial silks theory. Even if the concept of theory intimidates you or you think it's too difficult. I promise, reading about theory helps you connect the dots. I also make an effort to not completely bog you down in with tedious details. I try to keep it straightforward and in plain speak.
This week's exploration of aerial silks theory is the thigh hitch. I've also heard this called a tourniquet.
But what is a hitch in the first place? One definition is that a hitch is used to connect a rope to an object. I understand it better as one or more loops whose form and function depend on an object. Unlike a knot, which holds its own shape, a hitch loses its shape when the object is removed. In the case of thigh hitch, it's pretty self-explanatory: the thing holding your hitch together is your thigh. There are many types of hitches, with this example being considered a "single hitch."
So what makes hitches so useful to aerialists? Are we not exploring the art of tying ourselves up in knots?
Actually no! Knots are not particularly useful to us because the nature of our discipline requires ongoing change of positions. It wouldn't be practical to take 30 seconds to tie a knot and 30 seconds to untie a knot. Plus, your body weight would make them hard to untie. Instead, we use hitches, tension, friction, and other forces to secure and remove the fabric from itself and our bodies. Hitches are perfect because they are easy-on easy-off. They allow us to be fluid and free.
The thigh hitch structure:
A thigh hitch can be thought of a same side knee hook that has been moved to your upper thigh. Holding tension downward on the tail in thigh hitch helps prevent slipping, but you should be able to fully stop movement without the aid of the hands (scroll down for tips). In our traditional thigh hitch, keeping your body in a horizontal position is important for making the hitch function. Going vertical and upside down pulls the loop apart, opening and destroying the hitch.
Theoretically, if the tail were on the other side of the pole, it would still be a hitch, but we don't traditionally call it a thigh hitch in that case in aerial silks.
A thigh hitch is commonly entered by climbing above a same side knee hook or by passing the tail overhead in a hip key.
Yes, you could stick a pencil in there and it would be the same thing! The pattern of the wrap is what matters. The object in it could be anything.
A thigh hitch can lead you to swing seat, catcher's wrap, thigh hitch rollup, and other shapes. It can be built on one fabric or with poles together.
Additional tips and discussion available on Aerial Silks Online.
Congrats you reached the end! Now imagine a gleam in my eyes as I tell you this information can help you solve this month's aerial silks puzzle.
Hip key! One of the most important skills in aerial silks (and other apparatuses)! But why? What makes it SO INCREDIBLY VALUABLE?
Also known as a hip lock, this wrap puts you in a position of relative restfulness. I say "relative" because no matter what you're doing, when you're training aerial you're working hard.
But it supports you around your hips, allowing the hands to come completely off if needed. You can describe the wrap as a form-fitting shelf under your bottom hip.
The shape of the hip key: The fabric descends from the ceiling, passes the junction of upper body and lower body to continue under your bottom hip/upper-outer thigh, and is then redirected UPWARD between legs with the tail draping over the low back. In short: down, up, down.
The wrap doesn't fall off because by winding into the pole with your body you have "closed the loop. " Winding into the pole involves stacking your hips, which causes the tail to go UP, in toward the pole, and then down. If your hips unstack (unwind), your loop opens away from the pole and it unwraps. If you go vertical, your loop opens and falls off. It is only the stacking of the hips that allows the wrap to be secure.
Now let's look at that shape (high qual courtesy of MS paint).
If the tail does not land on the back it will slightly "open the loop" and can fall off, but this is less likely to happen if the legs are trapping the tail with a good squeeze.
The wrap works because your center of gravity is close to your hips. If it were at your feet or chest, you would tip out with gravity.
From a hip key you can rest and spin, transition directly to your hands and be wrap free, or transition to a thigh hitch or an unsupported knee hook. You can roll up all the way to an s-wrap, split your poles to get to swing seat, and build a variety of wraps. With the fabric securely wound around the hips, there are many possibilities for how to use the tail(s) and work with the pole(s).
A few common mistakes:
A hip key executed without applying technical cues.
A hip key executed with good technique.
This week's Theory Thursday is dedicated to last month's Puzzle of the Month. The puzzle was to find a way from thigh hitch to catcher's without "swimming" to hip key, AKA passing the tail overhead with the hands.
To get started on the puzzle, it's helpful to ask how Catcher's works in the first place. What is it?
In the catcher's wrap the pole trains from ceiling, through a same-side knee hook, to behind the back to over the upper thigh of the unhooked leg with the tail draped on the upper inner thigh. The name refers to the fact that this wrap "catches" you, most clearly demonstrated by a bullet drop. Let's think of it in three parts:
1. Same side knee hook
2. Back support (crossing from hooked-knee side to other side of the back)
3. Thigh wrap from outside in with tail descending from inner thigh.
If we can get into a thigh hitch by climbing above a same-side knee hook, then that means that a thigh hitch can be thought of as a same-side knee hook wrap that was moved to the upper thigh. This tells us that if we lower a thigh hitch from hip to knee, we have 1/3 of our catcher's wrap in place. We still need back support and a thigh wrap. The task is to get the tail to cross the back and pass over the opposite leg from the outside to inner thigh.
P.S. You may have noticed I have started posting videos to my Wakeful Ascent Youtube instead of my personal one (because videos on how to cure poison oak are mostly unrelated to aerial!) So PLEASE help me rebuild by subscribing, it helps a LOT!