Guide: How To Learn A New Flip Fast

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Most of us have been there. No formal tuition, a bucket load of enthusiasm and a desire to progress faster than we may be ready for. It develops bad habits, can result in injuries, establishes a template of fear (when failing), encourages others to try something that they may not be ready for, looks untidy, skips key skills to advance safely to the next level of moves, etc etc.

Whichever way you look at it… learning anything following this route isn’t great. However it’s not all bad. In fact learning this route is full of positives and depending on your upbringing, character & personality may be the best method to progress.

In the absence of formal tuition, what would you recommend? Not trying at all? Surely not. So how about a guide for people that can’t obtain success they way health and safety would like. So I’ll start the ball rolling and if anyone wants to add, challenge or refute my suggestions, I welcome it.

Therefore without further ado, here is my guide to learning flips in the absence of a trained coach:

Softer the better. Water, foam, snow, sand, wood chip, trampolines, grass, mud – anything you have access to, should be explored. my list here, is in order of preference and in my eyes safety… if you’re using Mud, damn, you’re really desperate!

First up: Water. Water rocks, just don’t use water with rocks in it. That’s a different type of water called ‘hospital’. A great place to try anything scary as long as someone official there doesn’t like you trying stuff. Be careful of the wet edge as it’ll wipe you out if you’re trying something spinney or you’re a complete newbie. If that’s the case try a different surface.

Foam. My favourite. However not idiot proof, as I’ve seen plenty of people give themselves serious injuries thinking that the foam will save them. It won’t. But out of the options, this is the one I prefer. Seek out your local gymnasts space or failing that, circus skills, acrobatics, martial arts dojo or any other which may have the pits, mats or foam that you may need. You could even go to the extent of buying your own mat off of Ebay, or getting really ghetto and learning on old mattresses.

Want sand and not near the beach? Try those school long jump pits, or risk it for a biscuit in a golf bunker. Depending on your location you may have more luck finding a pile of sand on a building site – check it’s clean and safe first.

Snow? if it’s powder, why not? Just realise that it will get hard quickly, really is no better than sand for saving your ass. Plus you’ll get soaked and cold. But, it may be your only option, so at least it’s something, and depending where you live, may be in abundance.

For wood chip, grass and mud, you’re obviously getting desperate – good luck with that.

For Trampolines, personally I hate learning on them, because they can do more damage than good. Some people swear by them, so it’s horses for courses. They me out when I need more height on something because I want longer in the air to aid a slow spin or figure out my hands and legs without worrying about the airtime. Again, search google and youtube for trampoline tips, techniques and tutorials and watch in abundance to get the feel for what people have tried and failed with.

That’s the options – so choose your weapon wisely.

Take the lead from people that can already do a move you want to do. Can you also do the other moves they can do? eg: if they can do a clean backflip, can you? If they can do a solid handstand can you? If you’re at equal standards, then you have a equal chance of making that new flip together.

Here’s a great tip. Don’t take advice from any friend that can’t already perform the move beautifully first. In formal training Coaches are trained to teach. They don’t have to be able to perform the move. Your mates, bless them, probably haven’t been trained in anything other than a welding course in college. So unless they can show you well, explain what they are doing, well, aaaand tell you what didn’t & doesn’t work for them. Then move onto the next friend. So remember your first statement to anyone dishing out advice, should be ‘Show me!’.

You’ll be doing this automatically anyway’s, but it’s still valuable to point out. Use fear as a benchmark to your ability. Your vocal chords can say yes, as many times as it likes, but if the limbic part of the brain (the really old bit which deals with emotions, not language) doesn’t let you do it, then you aren’t ready. If you try and force something whilst in this state, the blood will retract from the non essential parts of your body, into the essential parts of your body (heart, lungs, brain etc) and you will faint. Period. I’ve watched it happen. So don’t force something just because everyone else is egging you on. Life doesn’t work like that, however Death does.

Whatever you want to learn, there’s a right an wrong technique for doing it. I guarantee someone, somewhere will have documented it. Get on or and search for [flipname] tutorial, [flipname] tips, [flipname] techniques and finally, [flipname] spotting. The first few searches will educate you much as you can to what you need to do. The final one will be a guide to how it is performed safely under tuition.

Eg: here’s a wallflip guide:

Sure it’s not the greatest, but it’s a good start. As long as you have someone that is confident in spotting you – ie: can support your weight if things go wrong and know how to follow through the correct movement with their hands, then you’ll be off to a good start.

Boosting moves:
Just like my thought above about using trampolines to help boost my height, you can mimic that effect by using a rock in the ground, or a sandbag or if on the beach take a yoga ball buried at least 80% depth into the sand. Any less will cause it to pop out of the ground. So really bed it in there. Low walls can help, those springy board things in gyms, as well as those little trampy things (trampets) too. Use whatever feels comfortable to aid yourself round to safety.

Ok, I’m outta ideas. This is a good start though. Add in your tips for learning in the absence of formal tuition and please leave the horror stories for another time. We already know how scary learning this stuff is!


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Filed under free running, Gymnastics, technique, training, Tricking

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