Leveling in acroyoga can be difficult and complicated. What does it mean to be "intermediate" or "advanced" in a practice so new that even some of the original acroyogis still call themselves beginners? In our last post from 26 June 2018, we discussed some of the limitations of trying to fit into a level. And we talked about a few of the more pragmatic reasons for reflecting on where we fit into this community.
So here, we'd like to keep it simple and share some of the physical and intellectual skills that we consider signs of a maturing practice. Below is a list collated from pre-requisites, skills tests, and requirements from around the world to help you...
A) Accurately self assess your current level;
B) Place yourself at your next class/workshop;
C) Set short and long term goals for yourself; and
D) Get a sense of the global acro community.
When am I proficient in a skill?
Some of the skills listed here are physical poses and transitions that are super popular and often pop up as required skills for classes and events. In our estimation, we are proficient in a skill when we can...
1) Perform easily and comfortably without assistance from spotters;
2) Perform with different partners and/or in different roles;
3) Spot the skill effectively;
4) Help others in trouble-shooting the skill.
In other words, we need to have experiential AND observational knowledge of a skill to claim it.
Others listed here are intellectual skills that do not often appear on requirement lists, but that we consider crucial to a maturing practice. These are more subtle and difficult to define. And they come with experience, practice, reflection and time. But for those of us who like setting goals, these are a great place to begin! So, let's begin.
Accurate self assessment
We discussed this more in the 26 June 2018 post, but basically: Know thyself. Know your capabilities. Know how much training you can take before you get sloppy. Know how to gauge your own energy levels. Know what you need from your partners and how to ask them for it.
Possibly the biggest gauge of how well we will work with others is how effectively we can communicate. This can be as simple as using our eye contact and breath to connect, our touch to broadcast direction changes or sides, and saying, "DOWN," in time to move safely to the ground. It can also be complex, as in the subtle shifts of weight we can detect from a familiar partner that guide us through a silent jam. Definitely something to reflect on and constantly improve.
While it may seem like a physical skill, because we are certainly using our bodies, spotting is possibly the most mindful aspect of acroyoga because it is so much about shedding ego, staying aware and focused. We MUST be willing to be spotted, be willing to spot others, and be aware of when we should not spot a skill in order for this practice to grow. For example, I do not spot foot-to-foot because the flyer is usually too high for me to effectively spot. That's ok. I can still offer support and cues. We MUST be willing to give 100% of our attention to the people we are spotting without letting distraction rule. We MUST spot without interrupting communication between base and flyer. And we MUST be gracious and grateful to our spotters. A mature practice demands good spotting skills.
Poses typical of intermediate requirements:
Standing Thigh Stand
Reverse Straddle Throne
Low Reverse Foot-to-Hand
Free Shoulder Stand
Transitions typical of intermediate requirements:
Bro-grip the base down and back up
Mount to Bird without hands
Bird to Back Bird
Walkovers into and out of Back Bird
Back Bird to Straddle Bat
Tic Tocs from Inside Side Star to Inside Side Star
Tic Tocs from Rev Inside Side Star to Rev Inside Side Star
Mount to Straddle Throne/Reverse Straddle Throne without hands
Barrel roll (Hand-to-Hand and Rev Hand-to-Hand grips)
Simple Pops (like Throne to Bird and back again, or Throne to Whale and back again)
What did we miss?
Generally speaking, if we are proficient in these skills, we will hit the requirements for many workshops and classes, and are good to go for something labeled "intermediate." We all get good at what we practice, and we generally practice what we like doing, or what is popular in the community around us.
Are there physical skills that are popular in your community that are not listed here? Or intellectual skills that you find crucial to acroyoga that we've left out? Let us know in the comments below!
A fabulous video from the LIFT School of Acrobatics demonstrates many of these skills: