I’ve always been an athlete… or at least athletic.
In high school, I played varsity lacrosse, basketball, tennis and competed in gymkhanas (Western horseback riding skill games). I went to college with the intention of playing lacrosse, but ended up joining a frat and drinking beer instead… there’s no doubt in my mind, I made the right choice there.
But now I’m training in the Circus, particularly Partner Acrobatics and Chinese Pole, but I’ve done Flying Trapeze, Contortion, Tightwire, Static Trapeze, Hoop Diving (sort of), Classical Mime, Tissu, Circus Skills (juggling, diablo, rolling globe, etc.) and nearly a dozen other Circus-related classes. It’s a blast.
Currently, I’m training in Chinese Acrobatics with my own “Mr. Miyagi,” a 72 year old Chinese man named (Master) Lu Yi. He’s been involved in the Circus for over SIX DECADES and held prominent positions in the Big Apple Circus and the Chinese Gymnastics Team.*
I’m not extremely muscular. I’m 5’9″ and weigh 130 pounds, which allegedly makes acrobatics “much easier,” but training in the Chinese style (with the goal of performing) has proven to be anything but easy.
The most important personality trait to embrace during Circus training is the ability to accept failure. No matter what you cannot suspend the force of gravity, but true Circus performances are spectacles of the battle against gravity and demonstrations of the apparent impossible. Juggling. Flying Trapeze. Handstands. They are all sculpted by the performer’s ability to convince the audience that gravity is NOT a factor.
Accordingly, most of Circus training is spent losing the fight AGAINST gravity. You fail. Over and over and over again. Failure is a requirement and it can definitely get disheartening. And painful.
Despite my natural athleticism and thin frame, my muscles are quite strong but somewhat disconnected. I’m soft. Wavy. Loose.
“The Chinese way” is to motivate the student from the inside out. They want to spark something inside you to overpower the pain and fatigue. For some, shame is a motivator, and that appears to be the course of action in my own schooling.
According to my teachers, I’m getting better, but I’m still only “5% man, 95% woman-noodle.” [This isn’t intended to be sexist, but rather, emphasize the general difference between the male and female bodies.] Translation: I don’t have a strong core.
But I have to admit, sometimes the tough love really gets me riled up.
Here is a short video of some of my training with Master Lu Yi:
I’m making progress but I still have quite a ways to go.
(Did you see the post about the time we took Lu Yi to Magic Mountain? It’s here.)